April 2019

5619 is heading for Hampton Loade with the 13:10 from Bridgnorth on the 24th March 2019. By Ian Murray

Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!

Did you manage to get along to our Open House event at the weekend? Judging by the crowds at Kidderminster on Saturday morning, it was proving very popular indeed. There’s now only a week to go until we return to daily public services and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for a busy and smooth main running season. 

This month we’re celebrating the fantastic news that the SVR’s campaign to restore Falling Sands Viaduct will be going ahead, thanks to a substantial grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the generosity of thousands of individual supporters and organisations. And last Thursday, hundreds of SVR shareholders were in high spirits when they travelled the length of the line to inspect the new facilities at Bridgnorth. How much good news can we cram in? Well, there’s more because the official figures are out, and despite some very challenging weather conditions last year, our passenger figures for 2018 are up! 

Plus we visit the Junior Club, the education team at Highley and the Bridgnorth loco shed. And, did you know Kidderminster station still boasts 14 fully gas-powered lamps?  We meet the man whose job it is to keep them in order.  

If you have friends or family with an interest in the SVR, please let them know that they too can sign up to Branch Lines. All they need to do is drop us a line at branchlines@svrlive.com and let us know they’d like to receive email reminders once the latest monthly edition is available.     

We’d love to hear your SVR-related news and views. Whether you’re on the other side of the world (as a number of our readers are) or you’re just down the road from one of our stations, please do get in touch with us at branchlines@svrlive.com . 

 

Simon Turner & Lesley Carr, Co-Editors 

Picture by Ian Murray

National Lottery boost for the SVR 

The Severn Valley Railway is celebrating after winning a £853,800 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. It will the grant, along with other funds raised, to restore Falling Sands Viaduct in Kidderminster, and to launch an exciting programme of community engagement and exhibitions that will explore the Railway’s early history.  

The announcement of The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant came hot on heels of the news that the appeal to raise £397,000 in donations had succeeded. This money was given by thousands of individuals, community organisations, charitable trusts and foundations, and businesses.  

The joint successes mean the Railway can now go ahead with essential repairs to the 142-yearold viaduct, as Shelagh Paterson of the SVR Charitable Trust explained: “Our iconic structure has suffered badly over the years, with water seeping deep inside, causing cracks and erosion to the brickwork. Now, thanks to the support of National Lottery players, and our many generous donors, we can get it back into shape. When the work is completed, we’ll be able to lift the current speed restriction on our heritage trains, and look forward to at least another century of service from the viaduct. Restoring Falling Sands Viaduct will help safeguard the SVR’s future.”  

Welcoming the good news, general manager Nick Ralls explained the impact of the restoration work on the line’s operation: “We’ll start to remove the formation of the structure in January 2020 to allow the viaduct to be waterproofed.  We are planning to have the Kidderminster to Bewdley section back open by Easter 2020, and services will run from Bridgnorth to Bewdley from February half term after the usual winter shutdown.  In the summer of 2020 the viaduct will be re-mortared and bricks replaced where needed, and this work won’t affect service operation.”  

 

As well as ensuring the long-term viability of the viaduct itself, the project will engage a wider audience for the Railway, encouraging an appreciation and understanding of local heritage and the fascinating world of structural engineering. More details on the timetables and events will be released later in the year. 

A ‘grand day out’ to Bridgnorth for shareholders 

Last Thursday even the heavy rain could not dampen the spirits of hundreds of SVR shareholders and their guests who came to view the new refreshment room and facilities at Bridgnorth station.  There were four consecutive services laid on to take guests from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth, to accommodate the large number of people wishing to attend. 

The day out was a commitment made to people buying at least 1,200 shares in the 2016 Share Offer. More than 650 shareholders responded to the invitation, and were given tours of the GWR-style refreshment room and facilities. One of the guests, Margaret Flint from Hereford, said she was extremely impressed with the improvements: “The new building is truly amazing. It’s totally in keeping with the type of structure that would have been in use around 1910. It’s incredible how it looks so authentic, yet manages to comply with all the modern safety requirements.” 

Photo: One of the many shareholder tour groups visiting the new facilities (Bob Sweet) 

2018 passenger numbers up on previous year 

The passenger numbers for 2018 have been fully collated and followed detailed work by the external auditors, can now be circulated. 

In total, we carried 245,031 passengers in 2018, which compares favourably to 2017 when the number was 240,686.  These figures include fare paying passengers (pre-book and on the day), annual pass holders, shareholders and working members. Commenting on the figures, SVR accountant and company secretary Simon Hart said: 

“It is fair to say that we were impacted by the weather in 2018; early in the year when it was too cold and in the summer when it was too hot! Fortunately our December and post-Christmas period operations weren’t impacted by the weather!  

“The extended festive period to 6th January 2019 along with some very successful special events underpinned our performance. After the unseasonably cold March where the attendance at the Spring Gala was impacted, we saw solid numbers at the Family Fun and Step back to the 1940’s events. During June/July we had the challenge of the very hot, dry period and our self-imposed ban on steam locomotion to minimise the risk of line side fires. Our passenger numbers reduced as a consequence, but at least we were able to continue operating using diesel traction. 

“ Our popular 2018 Autumn Gala attracted 6,334 passengers (an increase on 2017’s figure of 5,357) with an attractive line up of star locomotives. The Class 50 ‘Golden Jubilee’ diesel gala in October proved to be a very worthwhile and successful event with an additional 3,617 passengers visiting the SVR, helping us replace the lost numbers from the weather impacts in the spring and summer.  

“Ghost trains continue to be a popular event, selling out again in 2018. Last, but not least, in December and early January the weather behaved itself and we were able to run our Santa and post-Christmas operations without any incident. In this period we carried over 45,000 passengers, the highest number since 2013. This is a very busy and financially important period for the SVR and many people are needed to ensure its success.”  

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A smart new look for the Junior Club 

 

It’s all change at the SVR Junior Club, as members model new baseball caps, sponsored as part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s support for 4930 Hagley Hall’s restoration.   

 

Members of the club have played an important part in helping to clean and restore many of the locomotive’s individual parts. The club has also received a complement of new tool boxes, wire brushes and paint scrapers, in recognition of their valuable work on this engine. Club secretary Pat Heap said how pleased everyone is to receive the equipment: 

 

“The new tools will really come into their own when we work on engines such as Hagley Hall, where our members help clean and restore parts, ready for reassembly when the appropriate time comes. Sometimes they clean the wheels too. We are very conscious of safety and our members are only allowed to work at ground level.  The tool boxes are a great improvement on the buckets we normally carry our tools in.  Everyone loved the baseball caps, and will wear them when they go to their various day’s work.” 

 

The Junior Club will celebrate its 30th Anniversary next year. A high percentage of its members have gone on to work in various departments throughout the railway - two are now directors! Pat added: 

 

“We try and start their time with us as near as we can to their 11th birthday, but this is not always possible as we have a long waiting list.  At 14, they leave us to join appropriate departments where they have a mentor to help them. 

 

“We have two groups with eight youngsters in each. Group 1 is for the younger ones who do the more practical things such as painting the fence at Country Park Halt and helping with the restoration of Hagley Hall.  As well as working with Hagley Hall, Group 2 have more theoretical sessions, to cover what’s involved when working in different SVR departments. For example, our next meeting is all about time tabling.” 

 

Photo: SVR Junior Club members at the recent AGM (Les Adey) 

Shining a light at Kidderminster station 

Plenty of heritage railways have gas lamps adding a touch of authenticity, but look closely and you’ll see that most of them have in fact been converted to electric. Not so at Kidderminster station, where there are 14 lamps that are still gas-powered. 

Mike Anderson only recently transferred to the volunteer platform team after spending a year and a half as on train buffet staff. It’s his job to tend to the gas lamps:  

“Mantles can last indefinitely providing they’re not touched.  After the lamp has burnt, even for a short while, they become extremely brittle and will break.  I’ve recently completed a deep clean of all the lamps, and managed to break quite a few of the mantles. Luckily, station master Geoff Smith has managed to track down a new supplier. It’s a German-owned company, with a branch in the UK that imports them from India!” 

Fortunately Mike doesn’t have to go round each lamp with a ladder in order to light them.  In a nod to modernity, a clever fix has been made so that each lamp has an electric solenoid to trigger the gas through to the three mantles within it.  With the flick of a switch, he can turn them all on.  The exception is the lamp that stands above the ticket collector’s booth, at the entrance to the platform.  This one is still operated by pulling on a chain that hangs down through a small hole in the ceiling of the booth. 

Anyone brave enough to suggest that the Kidderminster gas lamps be replaced with LED bulbs has not found an enthusiastic reception for the idea. Mike is a keen amateur photographer and says the quality of light that’s produced by the gas lamps at night simply can’t be bettered. Station master Geoff meanwhile sees the gas lamps as yet another part of the experience for younger people who visit the railway, and he always takes time to explain to people how they work.  

Photo: Geoff holds the ladder, while Mike inspects one of the gas lamps (Lesley Carr) 

Putting the fizz into afternoon tea 

  

Members and shareholders are warmly invited to take a trip aboard the recently-restored teak Gresley-designed restaurant car No 7960, to enjoy a glass of prosecco and an English afternoon tea  
 
A welcome sparkling drink is followed by a selection of freshly prepared finger sandwiches and fruit scones, clotted cream preserve, alongside handmade cakes served with choice of tea or coffee.  
 
On selected dates throughout the year, the luxurious 1936-built LNER restaurant car No 7960 is attached to certain trains for our English afternoon tea specials for a single journey starting at either Kidderminster or Bridgnorth.  
 
Or join us for one of our specially themed events:   

  • Follow the White Rabbit Afternoon Tea  

  • Homefront 'Best of British' Afternoon Tea  

  • Autumn Themed Afternoon Tea  

  • Christmas Festive Afternoon Tea 

  

  

For dates, timings and bookings please visit https://www.svr.co.uk/AfternoonTea.aspx 

Controlled burning team goes into action 

A dry spell of weather in late March led to several fires along the line on one particular day, with an interruption to train services.  

General manager Nick Ralls consulted with operations manager Matt Robinson, engineering services manager Neil Taylor, infrastructure manager Chris Bond and permanent way supervisor Keith Brown to agree a list of actions, which included undertaking further controlled burns of the lineside vegetation. Acting quickly was very important, as Nick explains: 

“As well as helping to prevent further fires as soon as possible, there was only a short window available before the start of the nesting season. Fortunately our permanent way team have recently undertaken training and accreditation in controlled burning, and the Bewdley team have been very busy indeed undertaking controlled burns in known risk areas, including along Northwood Lane and Devil’s Spittleful.  

“They have burnt back around two kilometres of lineside in a very short space of time, given the time limitation and suitable weather window. This is arduous and tiring work and I would like to express my appreciation and admiration to the Bewdley P Way team who responded with gusto and professionalism to the problem of lineside fires.” 

Photo: The team at work (Rob Steward) 

Progress on restoring GWR 9581  

The LNER Carriage Group’s Richard Hill writes with news on the progress of 9581’s restoration, and an appeal for financial support via the SVR Charitable Trust for this important and unusual project. 

 

You may have seen our article in the spring edition of SVR News (No.205) about this important £100k-£150k project to provide wheelchair access and a buffet facility in the Railway’s public set of restored Great Western Railway coaches (Set ‘GW2’).  

 

We turned 9581 recently turned at Kidderminster, so our Bewdley volunteers could get working access to the remaining body section. The pictures show the work now in hand to fit the fourth quarter of the body wall’s framing. With 9581’s new wall framing coming into place, the vehicle is gaining a purposeful image. Much still needs to be done, of course, including fitting of the new doors (currently on order), making the roof secure and watertight, the costly fitting out and decoration of the interior, and making the braking system fit for SVR operation. In short, there’s a long and expensive way to go, but sound progress is being made. 

 

 One of the pictures shows the kind of rot and decay problem that is inevitably encountered in this sort of work. GWR 9581 is a vehicle that has seen little structural maintenance over the many decades since it last saw active operational service. Total replacement with new materials is our only option. 

 

 All this worthwhile work is very costly. SVR News readers will have received raffle tickets with their latest edition, and I urge you to buy these, as the proceeds will come to the 9581 project. 

 

And there are opportunities to sponsor parts of the coach, as well as ‘inches’ or ‘half inches’ of  body length. This new concept is proving to be popular and is a very useful way of helping with the many materials needed for the work but which cannot readily be identified to a specific visible part of the coach. Over £4,000 has already been raised this way (including gift aid). For example, we have 18 beautiful GWR ‘shell’ roof vents awaiting sponsors at £150 each, newly made for the SVR Charitable Trust by South Devon Railway Engineering. 

 

Download a donation form at:    http://www.lnersvrcoachfund.org.uk/gwr9581-5043.html 

 

You can contact me with general enquiries about donating at richardhill@lnersvrcoachfund.org.uk ,   or phone the SVR Charitable Trust on 01562 757915. 

 

Photos: (Richard Hill)

SVR’s apprentice signal maintenance technician in the heritage press 

Eighteen months ago, 21-year-old Bradley Windridge joined the SVR, and is the first to admit that his job here is rather unusual. Bradley is the latest of the Railway’s apprentices to feature in a regular column in The Railway Magazine. 

As well as on-the-job learning, Brad attends Heart of Worcester College to gain formal NVQ engineering qualifications. He told the magazine, “My lecturer reckons I’ve got the best job in the world, working on a steam railway, and I agree with him. There really aren’t many people who work as heritage signal maintenance technicians. In fact, I’m told I am the only such apprentice in the country.”  

You can read all about Bradley in the April edition of The Railway Magazine, which is available now at all good newsagents. Mortons, who publish the magazine, sponsor apprentice training in the SVR’s Heritage Skills Training Academy. You can donate to support the Academy too, at www.svrtrust.org.uk  

Vacancies 

Casual summer vacancies 

The Railway has a number of vacancies within Heritage Support at Kidderminster and the SVR’s On-Train Dining Service, including: 

  •  Shop, Kidderminster – retail assistant 

  • King & Castle – bar staff (must be 18 or over)  

  • Valley Suite – catering assistants  

  • On Train Dining – experienced silver service waiting staff for Sunday lunch service (4 hour shift) with additional shifts available on Saturdays and midweek. 

 Recruitment to these posts is all about attitude – we want pro-active, customer-focused, responsible individuals to join existing teams, working together to ensure a high level of service to our customers. Employment will be on a variable hours’ contract to allow flexibility so the roles may be offered on a job-share basis.  

To apply, please email with full details:-  

andrew.burton@svrline.com for the shop, Kidderminster  

gavin.chance@svrlive.com for King & Castle and Valley Suite  

elise.ballard@svrlive.com for on-train dining.  

We will be advertising these posts on our website, through our social media, and if necessary on www.indeed.co.uk, so please share with anyone you know who is looking for work this summer 

Full details of both these vacancies are at https://www.svr.co.uk/Employment.aspx  

Notes from the loco shed 

Shed master Martin White writes from Bridgnorth: 

From a locomotive perspective the Spring Gala was reasonably good with just the unfortunate failure of the LNWR Coal Tank 1054 on the Friday to take the shine off things. This was due to a blown boiler tube, and thanks to swift work by SVR engineering service staff and the loco’s own support crew, it was successfully ‘bunged’, enabling the engine to carry out its rostered duties on the following days.  

 

The workload leading up to the gala for engineering is always intense for paid engineering staff. The four days prior to this gala saw 6430, 5619 and 1054 all being welcomed onto SVR premises after 7 pm. Members of staff at Bridgnorth and Kidderminster worked exceptionally hard to get the visiting locos off-loaded from the road transport, steam tested and made ready for active use on the Railway.  

 

The following weekend, 16th and 17th March, might just as well have been another gala, because with the exception of 813 and 1054, the entire loco fleet, including visitors, was in use at some point. This may seem very encouraging from the perspective of numbers of locomotives available for traffic.  However, the first boiler washout of the season has already been completed (2857) and even though the public mid-week service is still a few weeks away, last Thursday 4th April we started running steam-hauled trains every day, frequently more than one, to fulfil charters etc. 

 

In the works, 1450’s valve and piston exam (V&P) has been taking up many hours of time. It’s become way more than a simple examination. New valves were required, the slide bars had to be sent away for grinding, the cross heads needed re-metalling (new white metal on the bearing surfaces), the side rods also needed re-metalling and one side rod bronze bush required complete replacement. Ideally, we would have also carried out more work on the motion, but with the owner’s agreement, this has been deferred.  Despite the best efforts of the works staff it is now very unlikely that it will be completed in time to fulfil its hire request to the South Devon Railway Gala.  

 

The focus on 1450 has meant that work on 43106 has been temporarily put on hold, but fans of the ‘Flying Pig’ need not worry. It’ll be running again in the not-too- distant future. I won’t put a date on it however, because as mentioned above, we are about to start seven days per week running, which naturally puts an increased workload on the maintenance team to carry out running repairs and washouts. 

 

In the near future, the maintenance team will work on 7714. The current hopper pan will be replaced with a more traditional flat ashpan which has been manufactured in advance. This should reduce the risk of hot embers falling out and starting lineside fires, as the current hopper doors have been subject to warping and distortion. Plus, there is another V&P exam to do, this time on 1501. Never a dull moment! 

 

Photo caption: Stephen Humphries using the optical alignment equipment to set up 1450’s slidebars (Martin White) 

Outdoor classroom now in place at The Engine House 

 

School groups visiting The Engine House, Highley will find greatly improved facilities, thanks to a grant from Postcode Local Trust, a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.  

 

The SVR Charitable Trust obtained the £10,000 grant which will pay for the recently completed covered outdoor seating and an enlarged Anderson shelter. Education officer Helen Russell is looking forward to using the seating area from the beginning of May, when the education season begins: 

 

“Our new outdoor seating area will primarily support our Wartime Britain programme and other educational activities during the bad weather. This space allows us to continue to teach small groups in a sheltered environment. In past, if we’ve had rain, we’ve had to cancel some of the outdoor activities, but that will no longer be the case. It’s going to mean a better service for visiting schools and we’re very excited about putting the facility to use in the coming season.” 

 

Each year, nearly 10,000 children visit the SVR to take part in various educational programmes for schools. 

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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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