7714 completes this idyllic branch line scene leaving Arley on 3rd April. Alan Corfield
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
Have you managed to get back to the SVR yet this year? It certainly feels good to be back to full-line running! Open House got us off to a great start, then Easter continued the feel-good factor. We have comments from the managing director and others as they celebrate the SVR doing what it does best.
Undoubtedly the most important news this month has to be the launch of a £1.5 million Survival Fund appeal. If you’re a shareholder, member or donor, you’ll very soon receive a personal letter, explaining why the Railway is making this appeal for support, which is one of the ways in which it’s taking proactive steps to secure a robust future. Any help you can give will be warmly appreciated.
As we go to press, many folk around the Railway are still preparing for the first Gala event of the year. Tomorrow is the first day of our Spring Steam Gala, and what a line-up we have on offer. The Railway is looking busier than ever and we hope you’ll be able to join us for this superb event. Plus, in your packed April edition of Branch Lines, we have rolling stock, stations, Junior Club and other news. We hope you enjoy reading it!
Lesley and Patrick, co-editors
The Branch Lines team is Lesley Carr, Patrick Hearn, Amy Baker, Nicola Fox and Pete Cherry
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Back with a bang at Open House and Easter
After a long break to allow for essential infrastructure works, the Railway fully reopened on 1st April for the Open House weekend, and followed this with services over the extended Easter weekend.
Managing director Gus Dunster said: “it was great to see so many people visiting, and the Railway doing what it does so well. The atmosphere was buzzing, and I loved seeing the enjoyment on the faces both of our visitors and all those working so hard to make sure it all happened. Thank you to everyone for pulling out all the stops. It really is appreciated.
“We must remember this is just the start, and we mustn’t be under any illusions about the effort and hard work that lies ahead this year. Attracting as many passengers as possible will be key as will managing our costs very carefully, and we’ve also launched our £1.5 million Survival Fund appeal (see separate article) which is another essential part of meeting the challenges we face.”
Across the Railway many volunteers stepped outside of their usual roles to help in other departments, making a tangible difference, and we are extremely grateful for this.
Head of traction and rolling stock engineering Martin White, added: “Visitors to the loco works during Open House were all impressed by the facilities we now have there. Many visitors to the carriage works said they had never been in there before. The feedback at both was universally positive, with many commenting that they had no idea of the amount of work which is undertaken.”
At The Engine House during Open House, volunteers from other departments gave guided tours of the exhibits, organised by Ian Hollis, and these proved very popular. One of the regular Royal Saloon guides, Stephen Pendry, said, “They added to the interest, and the attitude of those carrying them out was outstanding. So too were the Juniors, and if this the future of the SVR, it’s fantastic."
One visitor to The Engine House was Sally Jones. The 8F Society’s Jeff Ryan said: “Sally's grandfather was Railway Sapper Albert Crowder of 190 Railway Operating Company, Royal Engineers. In 1942, the locomotive - now our engine 48773 – collided with a camel, flinging Albert off the footplate. Sally stood on the spot where Albert's undignified exit had occurred!”
Head of marketing and communications Lesley Carr was another of the senior leadership team working across the Railway and added: “I was at Kidderminster to see the 5.30 train returning filled with happy, satisfied passengers who’d had an amazing day out at Open House.”
Gus concluded: “Thanks to all our visitors and to everyone across the Railway. The Spring Steam Gala is almost here and I’m very much looking forward to yet another premium event showcasing what the SVR does best.”
Click on the gallery to see larger images and photo credits.
The SVR launches £1.5 million Survival Fund appeal
The Railway has launched a £1.5 million Survival Fund appeal to enable it to overcome the current financial crisis and to implement longer-term plans for its future.
Letters will soon arrive for more than 25,000 shareholders, members and donors to explain the SVR’s current predicament; the past three years have seen it profoundly affected by changes in the financial climate. These have come about because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, post-Brexit supply-chain issues and the cost-of-living crisis.
“We’re facing the double whammy of escalating costs and lower revenue,” said Chris Walton, interim chair of SVR (Holdings) Plc. “Costs across the railway have spiralled, including utilities, coal, diesel, steel, copper, catering supplies and interest rates. All these factors are outside our control.
“Put this against the fact that passenger numbers were down last year by about a third, compared to pre-Covid. That equated to around £1.5 million in lost revenue, which has left us badly weakened.
The Railway has already put many cost-saving measures in place, including recruitment freezes for non-essential roles as well as redundancies. For the first months of this season, fewer running days per week will cut operating costs. This will be reviewed in May.
Managing director Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster has given a reassurance to visitors:
“Our programme of events and services this year is as vibrant as ever. It is crucially important to us to continue to attract visitors, as this will play a huge part in getting us through the challenges we face. We’re confident we can deliver on and surpass visitor expectations.”
“However, operating a heritage railway is a cyclical business,” he continued. “For several months at the beginning of each year, there’s very little income, because we’re not open to the public. Pre-Covid, we got ourselves through this lean time by having a cash reserve in the bank. But that option has been taken away by the combined financial challenges of the past three years.
“Unless we address this situation urgently, we won’t be able to lift the railway out of the financial difficulties it’s now facing. The Survival Fund will help us through the coming, very difficult year, to start 2024 with a sufficient ‘reserve’. Then we’ll stand a real chance of getting the Railway properly back on its feet, so it can thrive and be fit for the future.”
The Survival Fund appeal has been launched jointly by the three companies that form the Severn Valley Railway – SVR (Holdings) Plc, the SVR Company Ltd and the SVR Charitable Trust.
“We place huge value on the support the SVR has received over the years,” added SVR interim chair Chris Walton. “We would not be making this appeal if it wasn’t completely necessary for the survival of the Railway, and we hope our supporters will understand the difficulties we face and give us their backing.”
Donations to the SVR’s Survival Fund appeal can be made at svr.co.uk.
The SVR’s spectacular Spring Steam Gala is almost here!
Celebrating the GWR and a century since the grouping of 1923, the SVR’s annual spring festival of steam locomotives returns on 14th to 16th April for a three-day intensively timetabled extravaganza.
Special guests will appear alongside the home fleet and, ahead of the gala, guest locomotive 4079 Pendennis Castle is today (Thursday 13th April) making the first heritage railway appearance in its 99-year history, with an excursion-style service.
This departed Bridgnorth this morning non-stop for Kidderminster, and is comprised of three round trips. Following this exclusive service, 4079 will join VIP guests GWR Small Prairie 4555 and recently announced BR Standard Class 2 78018 to headline the SVR’s Spring Steam Gala.
Although 78018 will appear on the SVR surrounded by the flowers of spring, it is best known for featuring in a 1955 British Transport Film documentary, ‘Snowdrift at Bleath Gill’. Hauling a goods train, 78018 became stuck in a snowdrift on the Stainmore line, and the film presents a first-hand account of the heroic struggle to rescue it.
Head of steam engineering Duncan Ballard said:
“This is a solid branch line loco. It brings a more modern twist to our event to give us some variety and interest on our smaller formation services. With 78018's last BR shed being Shrewsbury, our Gala sees the loco returning to Shropshire after a number of years away.”
The timetable for the event is now available and visitors will have the opportunity to rack up mileage behind their favourite locomotives, hop on and off at the SVR’s carefully-maintained period stations, and experience a few special surprises across the 16 miles of SVR line.
For more information, to view the timetable, and to book tickets, please visit svr.co.uk/all-events/
4079 Pendennis Castle passes through Arley on test on 9th April 2023. Bob Morriss
78018 climbing towards Windpump Crossing during the North Norfolk Railway's Spring Steam Gala 20.4.2018
Bridgnorth Yard – On time and on budget!
Phase 1 of the project was successfully completed, on time and on budget, for the commencement of services at the start of April.
The successful delivery of Phase 1 included:
Lifting and renewing the first turnout for the yard and station
Installing the double cross-over giving access to the yard and platform 2
Improving draining on the embankment against the bridge
Strengthening the embankment
All that remains to be done is to re-pack the ballast as the new trackwork beds in over the following months.
Volunteer Project Manager Nick Yarwood said:
“There was a considerable amount of very detailed and careful work undertaken. All of this was completed by our extremely dedicated permanent way, and signals and telegraph staff and volunteers. Our appreciation for their hard work goes to everyone. Thank you!”
Further work is planned for 2023, including refining the track design with space for a potential future extension of Platform 2, and for a locomotive inspection pit. The position of a turnout for a future new turntable is also being accommodated.
Nick added, “Over the summer, new and usable second-hand track components will be sourced and transported to Bridgnorth. As much advance work as possible will be carried out by volunteers, without adversely affecting trains and maintenance. This includes clearing working spaces and lifting some track in the autumn that doesn’t need to be in use for a few months.
“As items are sourced and tasks carried out, the detailed programme will be refined and updated ready for the next winter shut-down in 2024. There are ways in which people can help, and this will be vital in enabling the completion of the project. Anything that can be sourced free-of-charge or at a discount helps a lot, particularly in the current financial climate of the Railway.”
Resources needed are:
Usable second-hand track and pointwork
Volunteers with construction experience
Permanent way volunteers – if you’re interested in getting involved, let us know
Drainage pipes, particularly 150mm and 225mm twin-wall pipe and chambers
Please contact the project manager with any potential offers at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bridgnorth trackwork (south end) on 29th March 2023. Matt Fielding
Phase 1 completed image. Nick Yarwood
Top-level recognition for the Railway by two prestigious organisations
The SVR showed its strengths once more by securing recognition in two very different awards ceremonies last month.
Firstly, at the Heritage Railway Association awards, 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’ received the runners-up prize for the Coiley award for steam locomotive engineering. Then, at the Visit Worcestershire tourism awards, the Railway was ‘highly commended’ in the large visitor attraction category.
Keith Hall of the Friends of Hagley Hall group and 4930's project leader Dave Insull proudly receive a runners-up award for 4930 'Hagley Hall
What's coming up?
Photo charters are back
Next week, the Railway will trial the return of photo charters, after their temporary withdrawal two years ago because of concerns over safety. The trial event takes place on Tuesday 18th April, featuring Spring Steam Gala visitor GWR 4079 ‘Pendennis Castle’ paired with a set of Great Western carriages.
Tickets for the day-long event sold out within hours. It’s being run in partnership with Timeline Events, and photographers will travel to carefully-selected locations along the line using their own transport or transport provided by Timeline.
“This type of operation is commonly used,” explained managing director Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster. “It has proven successful at other heritage railways. Very importantly for us, it greatly reduces the risks that were previously identified when large groups of photographers had lineside access, and which led to us temporarily withdrawing photo charters in 2021.
“It’s clear there’s an appetite for them to return, and we’re delighted to be working in partnership on this occasion with specialist photo-charter organisers Timeline Events. This opportunity to capture ‘Pendennis Castle’ with our own set of GW carriages is extremely popular, and we’re very much looking forward to hosting this exciting day.”
Depending on the success of the trial photo charter, the SVR will be looking to host further events during the course of the year.
4079 Pendennis Castle at Eardington bank on 10th April 2023. Bob Green
The 2023 publicity leaflet is out there!
As the running season started, a massive 180,000 copies of the SVR’s 2023 publicity leaflet were distributed to high-footfall areas across the Midlands and beyond, including tourist information offices, railway stations, holiday sites and caravan parks. If you know somewhere that could benefit from a supply of leaflets, please don’t hold back!
A group of volunteers distribute supplies in their local area every year, but more are always needed. Whether you want leaflets to put into your local florist, chip shop or pub, or want a handful to give out to your workplace communal area or church, chess club, cheese and wine club or you’re attending a model railway event, please get in touch with marketing manager email@example.com . The further we can spread our message to potential ticket buyers the better!
Digital marketing is everywhere nowadays and the SVR is at the forefront of this, but leaflets and print advertising still have an important place, and your help is much appreciated!
Kidderminster station's Richard Herington with 2023 visitor leaflets
A diesel event like no other
Two further guests have been announced for the SVR’s ever-growing Spring Diesel Festival guest list. Class 57/3 ‘Thunderbird’ and an as-yet unknown Class 60 will appear at the event, which takes place between the 18th and 21st May, celebrating 50 years of diesel preservation.
The Class 60 will be visiting the four-day event courtesy of DB Cargo, marking the first time in four years that a Class 60 has run on the SVR, since 60065 appeared at the 2019 Spring Diesel Gala.
57311 ‘Thunderbird’ will attend on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st May, appearing courtesy of Avanti West Coast. 57311’s name is based on Gerry Anderson’s children’s TV series and was given to reflect its primary role as a rescue vehicle while leased to Virgin Trains. A Class 57 has not made an SVR event appearance since classmate 57012 visited the Autumn Diesel Gala in September 2000.
These special locomotives join a bumper roster of fellow guests and the SVR’s unrivalled home fleet. Several locomotives will be sporting new liveries, including, for Class 42 D821, one that has never been seen before. Managing director Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster said:
“This is a truly momentous occasion that we think deserved a locomotive line-up on a scale that has never been seen before on a heritage railway. The line-up for our Spring Diesel Festival gets better and better, with a traction type to suit every taste.
“With support from our main line partners, we’ve rostered a selection of locomotives spanning multiple eras. We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors to celebrate the momentous occasion of 50 years of diesel preservation, as they crank up their mileage at what’s going to be the biggest-ever collection of diesel locomotion we’ve ever had.”
Further guests are set to be announced in the coming weeks.
Tickets for the event are on sale now, with savings available on tickets purchased for multiple days. Visit svr.co.uk/event/spring-diesel-festival-2023/.
Click on the gallery to see larger images and photo credits.
Bumper weekend for the Coronation
The 6th – 8th May is set to be a huge weekend for the SVR as the Railway not only hosts the Spring Model Railway Weekend but also celebrates the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III.
Bewdley Station will mark the occasion with the planting of a Coronation time capsule in the Orchard at 4pm on Monday 8th May, with the contents of the capsule on display in the waiting hall for the week beforehand. The Mayor and Mayoress of Bewdley, Rod and Lynn Stanczyszyn will be in attendance. A plaque will mark the site and commemorate the event.
Trains will run all weekend, taking in the bunting-festooned stations across the railway, and as well as steam-hauled services, the weekend will also see diesel-hydraulic traction take centre stage on the 6th and 7th May to celebrate D1062 Western Courier’s birthday weekend. The Western Locomotive Association is currently planning to have D1015 ‘Western Champion’, and ‘Teddy Bear’ D9551 in action too.
As if that weren’t enough, the Spring Model Railway Weekend will be taking place on the 6th and 7th May at The Engine House, Highley, showcasing the very best of locally built model railways. Many of the UK’s most popular displays and layouts will be on show accompanied by retailers, major manufacturers, and interactive exhibits. Entry to the Spring Model Railway Weekend at The Engine House is included in the price of a day ticket.
And, on Saturday 7th May, budding photographers can take part in a photography workshop with Lee Chapman, travelling along the line and learning how to capture both the full-scale Railway and the model railway layouts in all their glory. To book visit svr.co.uk/event/coronation-day-photography-workshop/
To purchase travel tickets, please visit svr.co.uk .
Across the railway
Speedy work to reinstate passenger walkway at Bridgnorth
Last week Bridgnorth’s ‘Wailing Wall’ gang worked tirelessly to reinstate the unusable foot crossing to platform 2.
This had been previously removed in order to access the point-rodding. Team members cut the wood and fitted a complete replacement, this time using screws to facilitate easy access in the future.
“All credit to the Wailing Wall team for completing this task just in the nick of time,” said Bridgnorth station’s Sue Thomas. “Believe it or not, just 45 seconds after they’d placed the final screw, the walkway was used by a wheelchair passenger to access to the other platform. A cracking job by our WW team!”
Click on the gallery to see larger images and photo credits.
TLC for Bewdley stonework
Over the last few years, stonemason Philip Chatfield has been steadily working his way along the car park elevation of Bewdley Station, gradually replacing all the perished stonework.
The Exchange Room bay window had previously been dismantled but the work sadly abandoned and the rest of the stonework all along the car park elevation was equally in need of attention.
“It was a technically demanding job to salvage that initial bay window project,” Philip told Branch Lines. “The new stones were large, heavy, and badly stored, but we got there in the end. The next ‘angled’ bay window to the station house was also tackled in my own methodical way. I am pleased that the look of the station is now more handsome and right again. It is important to keep the infrastructure in good order to match the fine work done by all the other departments in the SVR team.”
The last section of stone renewal Philip is working on is around the historic Post Office phone box. A new cill, lintel, plinth course, and the upper string course are currently going in.
Originating from a quarry near Barcelona, the stone used is a good colour and consistency match as well as being an economical choice.
Removing the existing perished stonework and installing new masonry is awkward work that needs careful thought. The new upper string course has been fixed and now extends round to the platform side, but much work on the cills and lintels remains to be done in the next stage of the project.
Philip added, “Bewdley is perhaps one of the finest original stations in the heritage railway portfolio and one the SVR, its many visitors and staff are justly proud of.”
Smoothing the way in Alveley Woods
In March, much of the PW team and plant moved to Alveley Woods from the Bridgnorth Yard project to rectify a long running ‘dip’ in the track, where land movement means the level had sunk. Head of infrastructure Chris Bond explains more:
The line through Alveley Woods (between Hampton Loade and Highley) is built on poor geological conditions, like several other areas of the line. Today, we face similar problems to those faced by the GWR and British Railways.
The permanent way (PW) team removed five panels of track, revealing a similar picture to that found at Sterns (see February 2022’s Branch Lines) where years of ballasting to even out the dip had added weight to the affected area. In the event, there was rather more ballast than expected, and it was 6 feet deep in places.
A hired tracked digger was moved by rail from Eardington. It dug out all this heavy material, replacing it with three layers of ash, terram (geotextile sheet) and geogrid mesh topped off by a thin layer of ballast. Quantities of ash were moved from the Stourport line to supplement material already collected on site.
After some late finishes in the last week of March, the last panel of track was relaid in time for the Open House weekend. The teams have worked incredibly hard to get all of this done in time for the full line opening. Further ‘fettling’ works are taking place now that traffic has passed over the site.
In a way, we’ve replicated the work carried out at Sterns (which used light aggregate), but at a vastly reduced cost. This is, however, not a permanent solution and we will continue to monitor what happens. Later in the year we’ll consider possible further drainage enhancements. [February 2022’s Branch Lines also included earlier drainage works – Ed.]
Click on the gallery to see larger images and photo credits.
The transformation of Bridgnorth loco shed, six months on
Following 2022’s successful project to upgrade the loco shed at Bridgnorth, funded by the SVR Charitable Trust through the generosity of individual donors and grant makers, Branch Lines caught up with mechanical team leader Will Marsh to find out how the work of maintaining, overhauling and restoring the SVR’s steam locomotives has been revolutionised:
Half a year on from moving back into the shed, we are still commenting on a daily basis how each of the improvements made has transformed it into what is most likely the best-equipped steam locomotive repair facility in the UK.
The overhead crane has made our working methods vastly safer and more flexible. A year ago, if a heavy item was in the way, a long process of shunting and clearing a path for a forklift or JCB handler was required, distracting up to four skilled engineers from their work, sometimes for an entire day. Now, one person can move any number of items in a matter of minutes.
The new roofing panels, insulation, state-of-the art lighting and resin-coated flooring all come together to produce a bright, dry and pleasant working environment.
This is a far cry from a year ago where some engineers were – quite literally – working beneath umbrellas! It was also impossible to work in some areas of the shed without multiple additional lighting sources.
The total clear-out of the shed prior to the works taking place granted us a real ‘blank canvas’ with which to totally rethink how machinery and equipment is laid out, grouping together equipment and machinery that are likely to be used sequentially for a variety of tasks, reducing the amount of time that heavy components are moved around manually between processes.
On a more personal level, I never thought in my wildest fantasies we would have such an incredible facility to undertake our work in. It really is a dream come true and all the volunteers and paid staff here are so grateful to all those whose support and donations allowed this project to happen.
Visitors go behind the scenes at the loco shed during Open House weekend. Kevin Whitehurst
Making the most in the Carriage Works
When finances are tight, donations are always welcome. However, donations made to the SVR aren’t always financial. Sometimes alternatives are offered, as head of Traction and Rolling Stock Engineering Martin White told Branch Lines:
During March, we received a couple of significant donations at Kidderminster Carriage Works. Apart from the fuel for the Bridgnorth works van, which was used by volunteers to collect these donations, there was no cost to SVR whatsoever.
On 6th March a van-load of hardwood timber and plywood sheets was picked up from Weston-Super-Mare, and on Wednesday 8th March some machine tools, suitable for use in the C&W lock shop (where carriage door locks are overhauled) and other carriage-repair departments, were collected from Newport, South Wales.
Many thanks to the SVR donors and supporters for offering these items and to the volunteer van drivers, lifters and shifters, who come from several different departments across the Railway.
Photos show some of the hardwood timber from Weston-Super-Mare, and a lathe, one of a number of machines donated by a supporter in Newport.
Kidderminster station defibrillator
Last Wednesday, a new defibrillator was put up at Kidderminster Town station for public use.
To use the defibrillator in an emergency, just call 999 and state the code on the box. The call handler will give you a code to gain access to the defibrillator.
Station master Geoff Smith said, “It's great for us and the public to be able to see where the nearest defibrillator is, in the event that we should we ever need it in an emergency.”
Test season at Bridgnorth MPD
Steam locomotive and boiler testing has been a key and sometimes highly visible activity during March at the Bridgnorth loco shed and works, as Bridgnorth’s volunteer shed master Martin White reports:
The recent testing has taken many forms, some of it involving boilers and some of it focused on the mechanical aspects of the locos.
Firstly, the boiler from 13268, the Stanier Mogul, passed its formal hydraulic test, a test which is conducted with the boiler out of the frames. This is part of the formal examinations that a steam loco boiler goes through after it has been overhauled and marks the commencement of its 10-year boiler ‘ticket’.
A formal steam test will follow in due course, and after that we hope there’ll be a fairly rapid final reassembly and period of running testing, prior to re-entry to traffic later in the year.
21C127, ‘Taw Valley’, was next, passing its annual boiler exam/test and then having a running test up the Valley to ensure that everything was running smoothly following its winter maintenance. It should be remembered that towards the end of 2022 the loco had started to sound off beat, which was subsequently found to be a failed valve on the middle cylinder.
This was replaced earlier in the winter and the recent testing was carried out to prove that the new and refurbished components are fit for service, along with the air brake system, just ahead of it hauling a special air-braked charter train on 6th April.
The post-overhaul testing of 7812 ‘Erlestoke Manor’ resumed after some re-working was carried out at Tyseley Loco Works. Initially this was light engine running, which preceded some loaded test runs and then a return to public operation on the last steam service from Bridgnorth on Easter Monday.
75069 also had a successful annual boiler exam and subsequent loaded test running on 4th April, after some extensive work on its valves, pistons, motion and numerous steam fittings.
And last, but by no means least, 4079 ‘Pendennis Castle’ has undergone a number of days of testing, culminating in loaded test runs during the Easter period. Previously, it had never hauled more than a few coaches, nor anything over any reasonable distance, since the loco’s official recommissioning at Didcot in 2022. As one of the stars of the forthcoming Spring Gala, it was absolutely essential for the Castle to be tested and proven before it was put on a fare-paying passenger train.
At the time of writing, the delivery of the other two visiting engines, 4555 and 78018, is awaited, and I have just been called, at 21:00 on Tuesday 11th April, to be told that 78018 is on Hollybush Road, outside the entrance to the loco works! These visitors will also require basic testing as part of their ‘fitness-to-run’ examinations, prior to working SVR trains.
7812 Erlestoke Manor loaded test Eymore wood on 7th April 2023. Bob Green
Great Western Railway heritage carriages
The Railway operates many GWR-designed (GW) coaches, mostly owned by groups or privately. Almost all* are fitted with a ‘snap lock’, without a secondary door catch, and the handle has to be physically turned once the door is shut in order for it to be secured shut. For safety reasons, the use of these carriages has been temporarily suspended.
Health and safety manager Richard Morris explained: “There have been some events where GW carriage doors have been found to be open on arrival at stations or mid-section. Although there have been no injuries, given the lack of a secondary door catch, the Railway’s operations department raised the issue with the SVR’s safety committee. The Railway has suspended the use of the snap lock-fitted GW carriages.”
The situation is exacerbated by recent guidance from the Rail Accident Investigation Board on trains longer than platforms, following an incident on another line. This guidance exerts that those in control of heritage railways need to understand all risk factors involved and to be proactive in the measures required to keep staff, volunteers and members of the public safe.
An initial review is being led on behalf of the SVR’s safety committee and operations department, and will provide recommendations that may be implemented in order to return the carriages to use.
Richard continued: “The SVR has by far the most GW coaches in operation on a heritage line, which are operated in long formations. Coupled with short-length platforms, lack of awareness from a younger demographic of visitor and ever-increasing pressure from the regulator, the Railway has to be proactive.”
Interim managing director Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster added: “The SVR Holdings and Guarantee companies’ boards and the senior leadership team understand that this decision will raise concerns, and steps are being taken to ensure that the sets are returned to traffic as quickly and safely as possible.”
*Around 20 passenger-carrying vehicles are involved including those most recently in operation, those awaiting repairs, auto-coaches and observation saloons. Further vehicles are undergoing restoration. There are wider-bodied GW coaches (such as 6045, 9103 and 9527) that already have double-acting locks.
Close up of GWR Toplight Coach 9055 at Kidderminster on 7 January 2023. John Sherratt
New boiler ordered for ‘Warwickshire’
In Bewdley down yard, a team of volunteers is overhauling the 0-6-0 saddle tank MW2047 ‘Warwickshire’. In June 2020’s Branch Lines we reported the launch of the 'Warwickshire' appeal.
In a major step forward, the owning group, The Warwickshire Industrial Locomotive Preservation Trust, have now ordered a new boiler from Israel Newton & Sons Limited with delivery due in 2025. The Trust hope to complete the locomotive’s restoration in time for its centenary in 2026.
This historic locomotive was the last locomotive to be built by the Leeds firm of Manning Wardle & Co. Many will remember it as the green locomotive on display at Kidderminster Railway Museum between 1997 and 2010. Only those older will remember it as the third locomotive to join the newly formed Severn Valley Railway in 1967. Its last spell in steam was in 1977.
Views of the old boiler off 0-6-0ST MW2047 Warwickshire at Bewdley on 1st April 2023. David Cooke.
New directors for SVR Company Ltd
The SVR Company Ltd (aka SVRG or the ‘Guarantee’ company) manages SVR memberships which, in turn, provides the volunteers to make the Railway tick. The chair, Diane Malyon, told Branch Lines about two new directors of the company, and requests a further applicant:
I am pleased to announce the co-option of Charlie Wright (upper picture) and Howard Bowling (lower picture) onto the SVRG board. These appointments will be formalised by membership vote at the AGM on 15th July. Information on all the current directors, including Charlie and Howard, is on SVRLive.
These appointments follow the resignations of James Cooper and Jordan Taylor during November 2022. I’d like to thank them for their contributions to the board during their time as directors, and their continuing contributions on the presentation committee and other volunteering roles.
There remains one vacancy currently, that of the late Tony Bending. Tony was also one of the three Guarantee company representatives on the SVR (Holdings) PLC board along with myself and Michelle Bevon.
In order to best support the needs of SVRG and the SVR business as a whole, we are seeking someone proactive who feels they have the skills, time and enthusiasm to become a director of a small company such as ours. We would ideally prefer someone with experience in HR, IT or education and possibly from a different location to Bridgnorth and Bewdley.
If you would like to know more about being a director, information can be found via Companies House website – www.gov.uk, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or company secretary email@example.com .
The funds that the Guarantee company raises are ploughed into SVR in the form of assisted project funding for volunteer projects across the Railway, and also donations (in exchange for shares in SVR Holdings) towards SVR projects that might otherwise be unaffordable. It is the largest shareholder in SVR Holdings.
Mike Ball retires as chair of SVR Holdings
Mike Ball (upper photo) has stepped down as chair of SVR (Holdings) Plc with effect from 31st March. As a volunteer of 37 years standing, Mike’s contribution ranged from being a member of station staff, signalman, guard, and a director of both the SVR Company Ltd and SVR (Holdings) Plc.
Managing director and deputy chair Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster paid tribute to Mike:
“I don’t think any words from me can adequately describe the monumental contribution Mike has made to the SVR over the years I have known him. His efforts have been magnificent and have literally saved the Railway on more than one occasion.
“On a personal level, Mike has been a true inspiration to me ever since he first suggested that I might consider joining the Board, in his words "to give something back to the Railway." His wise counsel has always been available and his considered, broad-minded approach, always looking at the bigger picture, has been an example to us all as to how senior leaders in a business should behave in order for the organisation to flourish.
“I wish Mike all the very best for the future and I’m really pleased that he will continue as both a volunteer and supporter of the railway going forward.”
Chris Walton (lower picture) has agreed to step in as interim chair of SVR (Holdings) Plc. Chris has been actively involved with the SVR since 1969, as both a guard and then as Bridgnorth station master for 33 years. He’s served at board level for around 40 years. Before retiring as a chartered management accountant, he held roles at senior management level across several leading automotive companies.
“I am extremely grateful to Chris for taking on this key role,” added Gus. “His longstanding experience both as a volunteer at the railway and from his professional life mean that he brings to the role of chair a very welcome blend of financial acumen and passion for the SVR.”
A station staff meal for volunteers at Arley is better late than never!
Arley station is a very busy place around Christmas, as it’s the destination for the Santa services. It’s only after the decorations have been well and truly put away and spring is in the air that the staff get a chance to let their hair down!
Assistant station master Catherine Martin volunteered to organise the station staff meal again this year, and told Branch Lines: “The chance for everyone to get together and have a lovely evening was even more special this time around, after everything we’ve gone through these past few years. So, although organising these things is quite time-consuming it is really worth it, and everyone had a super time.”
After a short speech by station master Ian Latimer, thanking everyone for their hard work, the evening continued with music and socialising until late into the evening.
Catherine continued, “the event was held at Wharton Park Golf Club on 18th March, and it was such a wonderful evening that I’ve already re-booked for 2024 – judging by the number of our staff that have already said they have put the date in their diary it will be another great night!”
Catherine took some photos on the evening whilst people relaxed after their evening meal – no silly Christmas hats [shame! - ed] but plenty of smiles!
Smile! You’re on camera at the SVR
Last week saw two very special photo shoots taking place on the Railway. Renowned photographer Jack Boskett undertook the assignment to produce a new library of photos to promote our services for families and older visitors, as well as the superb on-train dining offer that’s being lined up for the 2023 season – dates will be announced very soon!
A steam service hauled by 7714 hosted the family shoot on Monday, and on Wednesday 20048 hauled dining carriages, 7960 and an observation saloon for the on-train dining shoot.
“Our photo library had become very out-of-date,” explained marketing manager Dan Shorthouse, who organised the publicity shoots. “This was a much overdue chance to refresh our PR images, and we’ve now got a library of literally thousands to choose from! Huge thanks go to the volunteer team of footplate and on-train crew, including our very own travelling signalman. Our models for the shoot were absolutely fantastic, including the SVR’s own Bob Dunn who recruited three generations of his family to take part.”
Click on the gallery to see larger images and photo credits.
Unusual visitors to Kidderminster TMD
Two former High Speed Train (HST) power cars were delivered to Kidderminster TMD (the diesel depot) in March for a short stay, to undertake a compressor change. This was a new commercial contract job from operator Rail Adventure.
HST Powercars visit for a compressor change at Kidderminster TMD in March 2023. Bob Dunn
Junior Club - guarding the future
The Junior Club have again been busy in The Engine House. Firstly, on 25th March the juniors enjoyed an outline of the role of a guard. Then, over Open House weekend, juniors joined others in giving guided tours. These activities give the juniors a great background in the safe operation of the Railway, and much wider development. Nick Willcox from the Club told Branch Lines more:
Clive Collins gave the juniors a brief introduction of the guard’s role. To give an idea of the range of activity, they started with the simple four-wheeled wagon and a demonstration of the basic three-link coupling, then progressed to the more complex bogie passenger coach.
With the assistance of volunteers Howard Bowling and Max Stockin, all the youngsters were able to simulate coupling up, using a screw coupling, including wrestling with brake and steam-heat hoses!
Thanks to the loan of a scale-size model from the SVR archives, this was followed with a simulation of the sequence of uncoupling and coupling stock-fitted buckeye couplings, along with a discussion of appropriate hand signals that would be used.
A walk-through of the beginning-of-the-day brake test and the different headcodes used rounded off the useful session in The Engine House itself.
Whilst waiting to return to Bewdley, the juniors watched the service train arrive from Highley signalbox and begin its run round; a useful introduction to the next session which will be about signalling.
Thanks go to The Engine House and archive teams, Highley box and all the supervisors.
Open House saw three juniors joining the senior apprentices and members of Bewdley MPD to give guided tours of the exhibits and the normally off-limits locomotive footplates. They also helped with the successful raffle, instigated by volunteer Ian Hollis.
As usual, if you’re interested in assisting with the Juniors, please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Turning the clock back at Arley, chapter 2
In last month’s Branch Lines, David Skitt of Arley Station house related the unusual tale of a lady coming to the Station House with a clock inscribed: 'Presented to Frederick Tame by the inhabitants of Arley, in appreciation of his 9 years’ service at the Railway Station. April 1902.’
Chris Haynes has further researched census, GWR and other records, and discovered further information about Mr Tame.
Frederick Edward Tame was born in Lechlade, Gloucestershire and census records in 1891 show he was a labourer.
GWR records say he started as a porter at Droitwich in June 1892 and moved to Arley on 3rd
November 1894. He married Sarah Lawley in summer of 1899 at Kidderminster.
In 1901 he and Sarah lived at No 1 Skeats, Upper Arley and Frederick was now a railway signalman. Significantly, some members of the Lawley family shared the property with the Tames, and others living at No 2 included William Lawley, 33, also employed on the railway as a platelayer.
Tame transferred as a signalman to Yarnton on 10th March 1902, when the gift was made. Sadly, his death aged only 30 was recorded that November at Woodstock, both towns being in Oxfordshire.
Chris said: “He obviously was much liked in the village, hence the gift.” Chris speculates it might have been Tame’s connection through Sarah to the extended Lawley family that gave rise to the gift, when he and Sarah moved to Oxfordshire.
A private charter visited on 6th April hauled by English Electric Class 40 No. D213 (40013) 'Andania'. It was worked northbound over the SVR by 21C127 ‘Taw Valley’ in air-brake mode.
40013 Andania near Blakedown working a private charter to the SVR on 6th April 2023. Alan Campbell
21C127 'Taw Valley' at Stourport Triangle awaits a private charter on 6th April 2023. Kieran Hardy
V2 17th April 2023, Gallery caption relabelled
v1 13th April 2023
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Any opinions or views expressed in this newsletter are entirely the opinions of the contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Directors of Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) PLC. which owns the Severn Valley Railway, Severn Valley Railway Company Limited, the members of which are responsible for its operation, or the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust.