Spring Steam Gala 2018 - 8572 departs Hampton Loade with the 9.25am from Kidderminster on 16th March 2018, by Ian Murray
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
We hope you’ve managed to visit the Railway already this year – but if you have, you might have been dodging the showers and the snow flurries! As we go to press, the good old British weather continues to plague us all. Now it’s endless rain, and during the recent Spring Steam Gala, we even saw the return of the snow! However, there is a lot to look forward to in the coming months at the SVR, including, we hope, a fair share of sunshine.
The Railway is poised to launch a major fundraising campaign, to pay for the much-needed restoration of Falling Sands Viaduct. Find out how you can get involved with supporting ‘Helping hands for Falling Sands’ in this edition of Express Points. We’ve also got the lowdown on how the stalwart volunteers, Friends of Eardington Station, have been working their magic to bring back authenticity to their platform, and we’ve news from the loco shed, and much more.
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Simon Turner & Lesley Carr, Co-Editors
Picture by Ian Murray
Appeal launch for Falling Sands Viaduct
During next weekend’s Open House event, the SVR will launch an appeal to fund extensive, urgent repairs to Falling Sands Viaduct. The Railway needs to secure £275,000 from the public, supporters, businesses and grant-making organisations, to help it unlock a further £1 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The total of £1,275,000 will enable it to restore the viaduct, which is an essential link in the Railway’s operation.
As part of its ‘Helping hands for Falling Sands’ appeal, the SVR is offering members, shareholders and supporters the chance to add their name to a specially created acknowledgement wall, in exchange for a donation of £50 or more. Whilst some will choose to add their own name, others may wish to nominate that of a friend or family member or make a gift in memory of a loved one. This will be the SVR's first ever donation wall, and will be installed at The Engine House Visitor Centre, Highley as a testament to the determination that exists to save Falling Sands Viaduct.
A new website is being developed and will go live at svrtrust.org.uk next Friday 6th April. Here, you will be able to add a name and make a donation directly online.
Infrastructure manager Chris Bond explains why the viaduct needs such complex and costly repairs:
“Since it opened in 1877, Falling Sands Viaduct has carried millions of people from Kidderminster, along the Severn Valley, but the years are now taking their toll. Water has seeped down through the structure, and has caused cracks and erosion to the brickwork.
“If we don’t tackle this head on, we may eventually be forced to shorten the length of our trains to lessen the wear and tear on the viaduct, or even face temporary or permanent closure. Already, we’ve had to impose a speed limit on trains crossing the viaduct.”
The SVR Charitable Trust is leading the appeal in partnership with SVR Holdings plc and the SVR Company. Trust director Shelagh Paterson emphasises the urgency of the appeal:
“Without Falling Sands Viaduct, Kidderminster station would be cut off from the rest of the line. Not only is Kidderminster home to the SVR’s carriage and wagon restoration workshops, heritage diesel depot and its connection with the mainline, but it’s also where 80% of our passengers begin their journey. Without an operational viaduct, our entire operation would be compromised, and we are determined to make sure that never happens.
“The Railway is one of the region’s main attractions. It holds a special place in the hearts of the millions who visit and live nearby, and it’s a key contributor to the local economy. We’re hoping people and businesses will really get behind our appeal to save Falling Sands Viaduct, which in turn will secure the long-term viability of the railway, a truly wonderful heritage asset.”
The Heritage Lottery Fund has already awarded the SVR a grant of almost £72,000 to carry out further structural investigations and to develop and refine its plans for restoration, and engage the community. The SVR will submit its full bid for £1 million in October 2018, with a final decision expected from the HLF early in 2019.
If the bid is successful, the project to restore the viaduct will be able to go ahead. Furthermore, the SVR will use it as a springboard to highlight the history of the original Victorian railway. It will devise exhibitions and activities that focus on the people who built, worked at and travelled on the SVR through the years.
Open House next weekend
Next Saturday and Sunday, 7th and 8th April, see our annual Open House event, and there’s a host of special attractions.
More than 30 model railway layouts will be on display in the Kidderminster Diesel Depot and The Engine House Visitor Centre at Highley, and there are behind-the-scenes tours Bridgnorth Locomotive Works and Boiler Shop and Bewdley Yard. The signal boxes at Bridgnorth, Bewdley North and Kidderminster are all open for visits, and there’ll be an intensive train service.
Bellerophon is still with us following its appearance at the Spring Steam Gala. Built in 1874 and one of the oldest working steam locomotives in the world, it will join our home fleet of steam and diesel locos.
And do visit the ‘Helping hands for Falling Sands’ appeal stand in the Kidderminster concourse. Throughout the weekend, you’ll be able to sign up to add a name to the SVR’s first ever donation wall, helping to raise funds to restore this essential and iconic part of the Railway’s infrastructure.
Gin & tonic, anyone?
Here’s a summer treat to tempt you – a gin tasting trip, travelling in the luxury of Gresley teak carriage No 7960. The SVR’s Gin Train will run on Saturday 23rd June.
You can choose either Kidderminster or Bridgnorth for your departure. The trip begins with a welcome cocktail, and includes a professional overview of the tasting gins on offer, and a tasting sequence of three artisan gins, comprising different botanicals, to offer a wide spectrum of tasting notes. You can round off with a full-size G&T of your choice and you’ll take home a complimentary 5cl bottle.
Your gin tasting experience will take place with reserved first-class travel on a single journey from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth, or Bridgnorth to Kidderminster, and your full day 'Freedom of the Line' ticket permits travel before or after the tasting experience on our public service trains, so you can spend a whole day on the Railway.
The whole experience costs £50 and places for each of the four trips are strictly limited to 30. Book your tickets now at http://www.svr.co.uk/SEItem.aspx?a=128
Cold snap slows Bridgnorth progress
The return of cold weather in the second half of March set back work on site at Bridgnorth as infrastructure manager Chris Bond explains. “The cold snap has again delayed the installation of the zinc roof, and this in turn has delayed the slate roof, which had to follow the zinc roof, due to the overlapping arrangement where the two meet.
“The good news is that the long awaited Penrhyn slates have arrived at the building merchants and can be delivered very quickly to site when required. All of the sarking felt and battens have been fitted in readiness for the pitch roof, and we expect this to start on 2nd April.
“Fascias have also been fitted to both east and west elevations and indeed some of the cast iron guttering is being mounted in place. The bespoke hopper heads for the zinc roof are now installed to allow the formation of the rainwater run offs into these.
“Internally, the drainage points required for the kitchen floor have been fitted in preparation for the screeding that will be started shortly. The walkway boards in the loft space have been laid, which will allow the ceilings to be started.
“The extension to the terrace which allows the doubling of the area available for external seating has also commenced. A series of small piles are being driven in the small segment of land that became available when the site was cleared and graded. This area had not previously been identified as being usable but some clever design work has allowed this to be utilised.”
Bridgnorth MPD update
Shed master Martin White reports on a busy and eventful month:
34027, ‘Taw Valley’ has been having a routine valve & piston examination, whilst 2857 is having an intermediate overhaul. Good progress can be reported on both of these tasks over recent weeks.
34027 has now been reassembled -another example of paid and volunteer efforts. However, on a number of occasions during March, the paid staff team on Taw Valley reached a position at the end of their working week where they were able to leave a list of tasks to be continued by the weekend shed volunteers. Typically this tends to lean towards relatively unskilled work, but often it involves considerable physical endeavour.
One such task was the refitting of the rear valve cover on the inside cylinder. The available space between the loco framing, with the smokebox saddle immediately in front, steam brake cylinders underneath, plus frame stretchers and lubrication pipes etc all around means that this is a task for the smaller and more flexible members of the team. So flexible in fact that one of the volunteer gang actually put their shoulder joint out twice! The recipe of two chain pulley blocks, numerous lifting slings, miscellaneous bars and ropes, a generous helping of grunting, and a pinch of coarse Anglo-Saxon achieved the desired result. Lack of room prevented any fist bumping, but one member of the gang certainly gave a yell of delight when the cover eventually came to rest in the right place.
Mick Flint took the opportunity to give 34027 a quick rub down and a fresh coat of varnish. As a result of everyone’s efforts, last Thursday ‘Taw Valley’ was steam tested in Bridgnorth yard and on Good Friday was tested by going light engine to Highley and back. There were one or two minor niggles, but we should see the Bulleid back in action on SVR trains very soon.
Meanwhile 2857 has also seen considerable reassembly. On 22nd March, Midland Cryogenic came to Bridgnorth with a large quantity of liquid nitrogen in their van, in order to freeze and shrink the cylinder liners. From an installation perspective all went well, with the liners being slid in very smoothly on the specially made jigs. The actual freezing was a bit more of a challenge as the bath that was filled with the nitrogen actually split, with a bang! Fortunately, it was a double-skinned bath with a layer of insulation between the walls, and the second wall remained sound. It just took considerably more nitrogen than was expected and they very nearly ran out. The photograph shows the RH cylinder just after the frozen liner was installed. The bar across the front of the bore is to ensure that the liner remains fully inserted. Fastened to the front of the cylinder at the bottom are the special constructed jigs with roller bearings to enable the liner to be placed on them and then pushed into the bore.
Work has since continued on 2857 with the installation of locking screws to prevent any possible movement of the liner and then the reassembly of the loco, with pistons, cylinder covers, etc being fitted and the pony wheelset put back in place. On the boiler, all of the small tubes have been fitted and expanded. More work is required to finish both the boiler and mechanical activities, but it is well on track to be completed this month.
Finally, mention must be made of the Spring Steam Gala. Many people will be aware that there were some last moment changes due to the non-availability of the B1 and the fact that Tornado had to be delivered by road instead of via the mainline. What people may not be aware of is some of the extraordinary lengths that people went to in order to make this happen. The A1 owning and supporting group worked wonders to get their loco to SVR and to have it ready in time and Allelys
Heavy Haulage managed to find sufficient vehicles and crews to make five additional deliveries to SVR, at all hours of the day and night. These additional low-loader movements to Kidderminster and Bridgnorth meant that members of our paid staff were diverted from their planned work to handle them. SVR operations personnel had to deal with additional loco moves and members of ESMP had to carry out additional examinations and testing, some of them quite literally burning the midnight oil, as they completed the work on 53808 2 am on the Friday morning. And, I won’t even mention the snow!
Next month will see mid-week running, boiler work on 43106 and hopefully the return to steam of 2857.
Team SVR put on a cracking Spring Steam Gala
Last month’s Spring Steam Gala delivered many heritage highlights, and what can only be described as some challenging weather! The Friday and Saturday were spring-like, if a little windy, but the depths of winter hit the Severn Valley with force on the Sunday.
Inevitably this affected the passenger numbers, as event co-ordinator Lewis Maddox explains:
“We’d budgeted for 5,250 passengers to attend, and we got 4,541, four more than last year. However, the daily figures show that the snow on Sunday took its toll. Just 1,010 passengers came that day, compared with 1,657 on the Friday, and 1,874 on the Saturday. Without the weather, I think it would be fair to say that we would have hit the target!”
Highlights included the sight of LNER apple green liveried B12 No 8572 paired with the teaks and the blue King on the Great Westerns, both a sight to behold. Three of the visiting engines will be staying on the Railway, with No 80072 here until early April, Bellerophon operating on April 7th and 8th for Open House, and the King with us until May, running on selected dates in April, then May 5th-7th, subject to availability.
Lewis adds: “It has been said many times before that the organisation of these large-scale events is a considerable commitment made by a large team of staff, both volunteer and paid, and I would like to thank the Gala Committee for continuing to undertake this task. Finally, a massive thank you to all staff who undertook to deliver the event on ‘Snow Sunday’, including all the operational and non-operational teams, it’s amazing what Team SVR can do against the odds!”
Wribbenhall Viaduct repairs
Work started last month to carry out repairs on Wribbenhall Viaduct as part of an ongoing programme of investment on this important structure, as infrastructure manager Chris Bond reports.
“This tranche of work is focussing on the long wing wall that runs out from the Kidderminster Road arch towards the town centre and supports the embankment above. Although it’s not in any danger of imminent collapse, the effect of erosion on the sandstone and the poor condition of some of the pointing mean that attention was required to keep the integrity of the wall at an acceptable level.
“Our contractors, Walsh Construction Ltd, are using the same Cumbrian sandstone from St Bees quarry that we’ve used to make repairs elsewhere on the viaduct. The eroded sandstone is chased back and the new facing blocks fixed into place with stainless steel pins.
“This replacement is especially important just under the north side of the road arch, where lumps of stone have spalled off a horizontal band of stone onto the footpath.
“The wing walls’ coping stones will also receive attention by being lifted and reset onto fresh lime mortar. At the same time, the vegetation will be cleared to around 600mm behind the coping stones and the long disappeared post and wire fence will be reinstated. We expect to finish the work in the next fortnight.”
Although trains only stop at Eardington on high days and holidays, this little country station has a robust band of supporters. Recently, the Friends of Eardington Station have gone all out to restore the platform to an authentic and much improved condition, as station master Steve Downs explains.
“In 1984 half of Eardington's platform was deemed to be out of gauge and was dismantled. A sloping face supported by concrete sleepers was installed - hardly a great advert for the SVR's commitment to heritage! But that was the 1980s, and in 2018, with different attitudes prevailing, things were about to change.”
Throughout the first two months of the year, around 15 volunteers were involved in the transformation, which started with contractors JSR dismantling the unloved sloping face. A week later, the foundations were in place, including a short section of the original 1868 foundations that was still in good condition.
The blockwork was clad with bricks with an impeccable railway pedigree, donated by the GWR Mainline Electrification Project, with Friends of Eardington Station financing transport. The volunteers cleaned more than 6,000 bricks by hand, and the platform was backfilled to give a useable surface.
The project has been funded jointly by Friends of Eardington Station, the SVR Charitable Trust and the SVR Guarantee Board. Steve was delighted with a superb job, completed to time and to budget. “We're really grateful for the help and support we've received from the Trust and Guarantee Board which shows the commitment of both bodies to the built heritage of the SVR. To complete the job, we need to raise a further £5,000 for the edging slabs and then we'll have a useable five coach platform.” If you’d like to help financially or practically, please contact Steve at email@example.com.
And don’t miss your chance to inspect the Friends’ handiwork yourself, when Eardington Station opens to visitors during the Goods Gala on the weekend of 2nd and 3rd June. This occasion will mark the station’s 150th birthday, and although trains won’t be stopping, the platform gives a fantastic location for photography, and refreshments will be available.
Steve’s photos show the work in progress and the end result.
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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.
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