On a cold and frosty late January evening in 1987, 18 railway enthusiasts arrived at Peter and Heather Foster’s home in Dorchester to watch some railway films and so the Dorchester Area Group of the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust was born.

Thirty years on, around 40 members of the Dorchester Area Group celebrated their 300th meeting at the Colliton Club, with a special celebration programme by Antiques Roadshow personality Dr. Paul Atterbury. He has a special interest in railways and spoke about some of the social aspects- how the coming of the railways enabled ordinary people to travel longer distances and so popularised resorts like Weymouth. Dr. Atterbury, who lives in Weymouth, showed a number of slides illustrating the growth of the railway system in Victorian times and then the decline resulting from the Beeching cuts in the 1960s– including the controversial closure of the Somerset & Dorset Railway in 1966, which ran from Bournemouth to Bath, via Blandford.

Dorchester couple Peter and Heather Foster were asked to start-up the group in 1986, part of the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust, which is based at Washford on the heritage West Somerset Railway. From small beginnings at their house, the meetings have grown and ten years ago the evening programmes moved to the popular Colliton Club.

“It doesn’t seem like 30 years since we started, but presenting 300 programmes over that time is quite an achievement,” comments Peter Foster. “Our success is thanks to the loyal support of a regular core of local enthusiasts who stick with us. We have a good atmosphere. I do thank Heather Foster for all her hard work behind the scenes and our small organising team- which includes Jim Boudreau and Jeff Mowlam. We are glad that our members have appreciated our varied programmes and there is a feeling of achievement that we have been able to entertain them for over 30 years.”

Peter and Heather Foster are very active in other organisations and run Harmans Cross station on the Swanage Railway, where Peter has been Stationmaster for ten years. They have been involved with the steam railway for 21 years. Peter is a Life Vice President of the Old Hardyeans, the old boys of Hardye’s School, being elected President from 2013 to 2016. He is a member of the committee of the Osmington Recorded Music Society. Peter and Heather have been with Ridgeway Hospital Radio for over 40 years and Peter is Director of Programmes.

The next meeting is on Friday 24 November at 7.30pm when noted local railway historian Brian Jackson will give an illustrated programme on “160 years of railways in Weymouth.“ Meetings are on the last Friday of every month- except in August and December- at the Colliton Club. Further information from Peter and Heather Foster at 01305 262121.

Photograph attached: Peter Foster, Dr. Paul Atterbury and Heather Foster [front centre] with Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust members gathered behind at their 300th meeting.

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