steam railway dorset

To provide a comprehensive illustrated account of everything that has happened at Shillingstone since the early days of restoration would result in a very long document indeed. Whilst it might possibly be of interest to dedicated historians, much of what happened is now water under the bridge and the accuracy of what we might think we remember as fact has become clouded by the passage of time. There is also the problem that, in the early days, there were few photographs taken so illustrating our historical progress is that much more difficult.

Clearly, a compromise is needed for this section of our website. We have therefore put together a brief but by no means complete timeline of some of the major events in Shillingstone’s history since the beginning of the twenty-first century. It will give you a feel for what has been done and to those who say that progress seems a bit slow, we would just ask you to remember that everyting you see at the site today has been achieved by the hard work of purely volunteer labour. Until recently, the work has been undertaken with the minimum of resources, both in terms of finance and equipment.

So enjoy this short potted history and then catch up with our most recent achievements on the ‘Recent News’ page.

shillingstone railway project

dorset railways

Around the late 1990s the North Dorset Railway Trust (which supports The Shillingstone Railway Project) was formed by Michael Paulley and it was at this time that the hard work really began.

In August 2001 North Dorset District Council (DCC) applied for the station to be granted listed status. Although succes with this was not achieved, it did highlight just how important the station was, both architecturally and historically. At that time, the station was placed on the local council’s "Buildings At Risk" register.

In December 2002, DCC declared the station and its associated buildings (platforms and parcels shed) to be surplus to requirements and on 9th September, placed the property in the hands of Blandford Estate agency, Chaffers, for a sum of £20,000. After an emergency meeting of the North Dorset Railway Trust (TNDRT), on 13th September it was unanimously decided to proceed with the purchase of the leasehold of the station. The Committee pledged the amount necessary to acquire the lease and announced the launch of the restoration fund. On the 19th March 2003, TNDRT managed to establish that thirteen interested parties had placed offers for Shillingstone Station and its platforms when the council placed the lease for sale.

The Council reduced the potential purchasers to a shortlist of the six preferred schemes for the site. When approached for more information it became evident that only two parties remained interested, one of these being The North Dorset Railway Trust.

railways dorsetOn 13th August 2003, after three years and two months of correspondence and negotiations, Dorset County Council finally agreed to grant a lease of Shillingstone Station to The North Dorset Railway Trust. From 1 November 2003 the Trust embarked on what would become a lengthy and undoubtedly expensive restoration programme. From the outset, It was the Trust's intention to restore the Station to how it would have appeared in the early to mid 1950s.

The legal process involved in drawing up the 99 year lease document was a lengthy process and whilst this was being prepared, a "Right of Access Agreement" was signed by the North Dorset Railway Trust's then Vice-Chairman, Mr Keith Bottomley, to allow urgent restoration work to begin and prevent any further deterioration of the site.

After two years of to-ing and fro-ing, the lease was finally signed on 22nd July 2005 and tenancy handed over by Dorset County Council to the North Dorset Railway Trust. The picture (left) shows the ceremony at the station which was attended by local Conservative MP for North Dorset Mr Bob Walter, Mrs M Higgs Chairman of Shillingstone Parish Council, Mr A Campbell Councillor for Hills and Vale, Mr P Webb Deputy Leader of North Dorset District Council, Lt Col M Oliver Chairman of North Dorset District Council, Mr M. Paulley Fund Raising Manager NDRT, Mr Keith Bottomley Vice Chairman NDRT, Mr Syd Howlett Secretary of NDRT.

Thus saw the start of the Trust we know today. Though there have been a number of personnel changes over the years, the aims of the Trust remain true to its original intention - to see Shillingstone station restored to its former glory and create a visitor attraction that is a credit to North Dorset.