August 2020

Ex-GWR 2800 Class No 2857 leaves Highley for Kidderminster on the first day of public trains since lockdown on 1st August. Photo: Chris Bentham

Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!

This month we are in a celebratory mood! Back in mid-March, who could have guessed that the SVR lockdown would last so long? It seems a very long time ago that we shut the doors and put the entire Railway into mothballs. Now, four-and-a-half months later, the Railway is up and running once again.  By the end of today (Sunday 2nd August), the SVR will have welcomed 1,400+ visitors on board its first two days of reopening services. 


As well as reporting on the weekend’s main event, we have an absolutely packed-to-the-brim edition of Branch Lines for you this month. We have been honoured to act as something of a ‘lifeline’ to many members, shareholders and supporters over the past months of lockdown, and this message from Geoff Turner makes it all the more meaningful. Geoff writes, “As a new subscriber I am absolutely amazed how good it is and thank you for all the news. As a 'shielding' family with little opportunity to travel this is a real lifeline to the SVR and is most welcomed. Keep up the good work.” 


Thanks to Geoff and everyone who has written to let us know how much you enjoy your monthly updates.   


Enjoy this month’s edition, and we hope that if you haven’t yet made it back to the wonderful SVR, you will be able to join us again soon. 

 

Lesley Carr and Patrick Hearn, co-editors

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The SVR is back in business! 

10.15 at Kidderminster Town station. The guard waves his flag and 2857 pulls out of Kidderminster station. In normal times, this wouldn’t merit too much attention but yesterday, Saturday 1st August 2020, was not normal times. 

 

This was the first public service the Railway had been able to run since mid-March, and it represented a huge achievement for everyone involved. After four-and-a-half months in lockdown, yesterday we were well and truly back in the game! 

 

For general manager Helen Smith, there was relief and pride: 

 

“It has taken an incredible effort from everyone across the Railway to pull together and deliver this new experience for our visitors. I am sure you will agree that it’s just what we needed to get back open again in a controlled manner to ensure staff and visitor safety. There are many people who have exceeded expectations to ensure every aspect of the reopening plans have been thought through to the finest detail. The result of everyone’s combined efforts has seen a sea of smiling faces today, which is a fantastic response from our visitors. 

 

“I am incredibly proud to be part of such a wonderful team. Since I joined the Railway in November we have had some challenging months, and I have been overwhelmed by the support and help I have been offered by everyone here. I think we can safely say that the SVR is the most loved heritage railway in the UK, and it is an honour for me to lead the team. It’s time now to share the love with our visitors and give them the best day out in heritage railway in the UK. 

 

“Post-Covid-19, we’ll have a mountain to climb. Reopening is not the end of the issue; we have a large bank loan to pay back, we need to make sure that we all adhere to the social distancing regulations, protect our staff and visitors, and start to make money again.

 

“The recovery is likely to be slow and steady, but we must remember that it is the moment we are living now that counts. Let’s not wish our lives away thinking about how it used to be or how it should be. Enjoy what we have now in the present. Smell the smoke, hear the whistles, feel the rumble of the wheels on the tracks. It’s back and it is happening now. Enjoy it.” 

 

For the entire month of August, the Railway is running three excursion services every day. There’s one from Bridgnorth at 10.45 and two from Kidderminster at 10.15 and 10.45. Travel is within a private compartment, seating up to six people and at £75 per compartment, represents very good value. There are concessions for shareholders, loyalty pass holders and SVR members. In the past few days, extra compartments have been made available to these groups, on top of the original allocation of 30%. 

 

Services for this weekend were sold out and sales for the rest of reopening week are looking very healthy. Whilst the Railway is encouraging advance booking, there may be some on-the-day places available, and this information will be advised on social media and on www.svr.co.uk the day before. 

Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

Also see the BBC Midlands Today's report from 27th July.

 

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Further financial boost from The National Lottery 

Last month the SVR received some very good news from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Its application for emergency funding was approved and the Railway has now received a payment for £250,000, the maximum amount available under this scheme. 


General manager Helen Smith welcomed the announcement: 

“This emergency funding will help us survive in the immediate future as we launch our reopening services for August. While we’ve been in lockdown closure, we haven’t been able to generate any passenger revenue. In a worst-case scenario we would face a loss of up to £6 million this year. 


“This new National Lottery funding, together with our own fundraising, which has now reached a total of £800,000 in the Fight Back Fund, the CBILS loan of £1.5 million and the fact that we’ve now reopened to the public, all mean the future is looking more positive. We will use this funding to pay staff, as they return from furlough. We will also invest in new IT so that more staff can work remotely.


“These measures will ensure we can start to generate some much-needed passenger revenue to offset the potential losses we are facing. I am extremely grateful to the SVR Charitable Trust, who were instrumental in preparing our application to The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and who have played a leading role in our Fight Back Fund appeal.” 


Whilst the coming weeks and months look positive in terms of generating passenger revenue, the Gala management advisory group took the decision in late July to cancel this year’s Autumn Galas for both steam and diesel, as there seems little prospect of being able to mount safe and financially viable events that would appeal to a gala audience. 

The newsletter 'The Way Ahead' was sent to SVR stakeholders at the beginning of July with plans for our reopening. Should you not have received it you can click on the image and download it. 

 

Now showing at a screen (very) near you 

Subscribers to the SVR’s YouTube channel have been treated to a series of videos to find out what happens behind the scenes as we built up to our grand reopening on 1st August. The SVR is looking for your help, by sharing its videos on your social media, spreading the word that ‘the Severn Valley Railway is open for business!


In July’s Branch Lines we shared the first in the series as we joined the Bridgnorth motive power depot for a peek behind the scenes. During the month a number of further videos have been added.


‘Long train running’ covers moving a 19-coach formation, and what happens when things don’t quite go according to plan, while in ‘Steam testing 7714’ we meet SVR engineers Will Marsh and Gary Williams, part of the team responsible for bringing our heritage locomotive fleet back into service. There are also films from the carriage shed, where huge efforts have gone into making sure our passenger accommodation is clean and safe, and from The Engine House where we join a crack team of loco cleaners, determined to make things shine for our visitors. 

And on 21st July we added a further video showing passengers what to expect when they visit to travel on our opening services. This film was produced with the help of talented videographer Sam Birchall of Sammy B Films. 


The YouTube channel is only one of the ways we’ve been keeping in touch with our supporters during the period when trains have not been running. By subscribing to the channel you can receive notifications of videos, as they are added. 
 

Thank you for sharing! 

 

Remembered – ‘Don's Day’

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In the July’s Branch Lines we looked back 30 years to the formation of the SVR Junior Club. The 8th August marks another anniversary, as it will be five years since ‘Don’s Day’. 

 

‘Don’s Day’ was a tribute to the work that the late Club chairman, Don Wilcox, did for the juniors. The idea was put together by some of the ex-juniors at Don’s funeral, and it entailed getting as many of the past juniors as possible to work on the same day on the SVR. That meant primarily footplate crew, signalmen, diesel crew and guards, although as word got around, they were joined by some from other departments. The seniors in turn arranged for the juniors at the time to join in as well, and supervised them while they spent the day in the different departments such as the buffet, or shadowing the guard.

Roger Jordan was taking photos that day, which are reproduced here.

 

Don’s family joined us that day in 2015 and a bench at Bewdley was dedicated to Don and his wife Doreen. Don's grandson Jonathan told Branch Lines: "My father Pete is the gent in the middle of the photo of the diesel crew (between George Hill and Jon Teuwen). He has been a passed Class 50 driver on the East Lancashire Railway for many years and, as Don's son, was invited to drive 50035 on the SVR during the day. Don and Doreen were indeed both there from the very start in 1965 and I know that they would be so proud to see what has been achieved and continues to be." Jonathan and Pete are involved with the diesels on the SVR - see the item below for their involvement with the Class 40. 

 

There is periodically talk about another ‘Don’s Day’ but as yet no firm decision has been made. Thanks to Pat Heap from the SVR Junior Club for information in this article. 

 

Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

A personal look back, by a prolific SVR photographer 

Readers of Branch Lines will be familiar with the wonderful photos of Ian Murray, a regular contributor both to this e-newsletter and SVR News, the quarterly magazine for members. Earlier in the lockdown we invited Ian to look back through his images. 

 

Ian told Branch Lines: “Picking my favourite six photos from the thousands I have taken at the Valley made me sit back and think about what makes a favourite photo for me. Is it the engine, the lighting, a rare working, the scenery? Or is it a memory invoked by the picture? In reality, it’s usually a mix of these things although when picking the pictures, I had not appreciated that most had been taken at Gala events: I prefer the quieter days from a photography point of view but at galas you get goods trains and combinations of coaching stock and engines you don't see on normal days. The photographs I have chosen, such as Class 50 Hood [50031] with the Intercity coaches, the S&D 7F and 1501 on the freight make the photos just that bit more special, and push those buttons for me”. And for us too, Ian!

 

We talked to Ian about his early interest in railways. He told us: “It was initiated from a young age. My father would often take my brother and me to Stevenage station (the original station, not the soulless concrete creation that exists today) to watch the trains after he came home from work. I remember the Class 31s and the Deltics. I recall (and my dad has confirmed this) that on more than one occasion the diesel from Kings Cross would get to Stevenage and one of the exhaust ports would be on fire; the Deltics did have some trouble like this in the early days. The fire brigade would attend, the diesel was removed from the train, and a steam loco attached to take the train forward.

 

“By the time we were eight, my parents allowed us to cycle to Knebworth, which then still had an active signal box, semaphores and wooden station buildings on the platform. We would sit with a few mates on the grass bank by the station watching the trains, writing down the numbers and reading Goal magazine during the quiet periods! Who would have thought 55 years later the passion would burn brighter than ever.” 

 

Ian turned his thoughts to the SVR. “So, what brought me to the Valley? The answer was 'Hood'. I’d been chasing (with my camera) the last of the class 50s on the Paddington to Oxford and the Waterloo to Exeter trains. When the Fifty Fund announced that 50031 was coming to the SVR, my visits started. In 2007 my wife and I were lucky enough to move to Shropshire and my visits to the Railway increased exponentially, as did the number of photographs I took. 

 

“I have been fortunate to have an SVR photographic pass for many years and some of these photographs would not have been possible without it. I remain very grateful to the Severn Valley Railway for continuing to make this facility available (subject to undergoing their Photographic PTS training and test) and through its use I have met many of the volunteers on the Railway.”

 

Ian has kindly passed to the SVR his portfolio of images from the Valley, which is held in our picture library. Ian, many thanks for doing this and for sharing your photos and your memories. It is much appreciated.


Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

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Stonework replacement at Bewdley 

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Editions of Branch Lines back as far as May 2019 have shown images of stonework on the bay window at Bewdley station. Assistant station master Dave Phillips is pleased to announce that Philip Chatfield has now been able to return and has completed his work on the window. Dave told us: “Philip has been frustrated at having missed such a lot of fine weather to complete his work, due to not being able to use the sleeping accommodation until recently. A little bit of tidying up work is left, with the water piping and telephone cables to be repositioned. It will now allow Bewdley station's resident Dave Apps to decorate his front room!” 

Philip added “It was good to be back after the Covid-19 lockdown to get the window completed. I am back in my Gower workshop making some small carvings for an exhibition in Fowey, Cornwall. I am also busy working on the supply and carving of new red sandstone capping stones for the Bewdley end of Falling Sands Viaduct, and later in the summer will be carving a new window for Hampton Loade station. 

Thank you, Philip! 

Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

A tale of two ‘tractors’

You may or may not be aware that EE Type 3 diesels are nicknamed tractors! Following the departure of 37688 (see March’s Branch Lines) the SVR was sadly ‘tractorless’.  

 

Everything changed on 12th July with the arrival by road at Kidderminster of the last-built 37308 from Lydney, where the owning group has been undertaking a painstaking restoration to traffic. 308 is not a first-time visitor as it came for the April 2001 diesel gala. For this visit it will undergo contract works at Kidderminster TMD. Longer term, as previously been announced, 308 is owned by a group of SVR diesel members, and is under restoration for eventual use on the SVR. 

 

The second arrival came nine days later with 37190. Brought from Crewe by 40145 (itself collecting 40106 – see separate story) it is owned by our friends at Locomotive Services Limited. Operations manager, Matt Robinson tells us LSL have kindly lent us 190 to assist on infrastructure workings. On 22nd July it had a loaded test run from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth with 33108 as insurance and some loaded ballast. The loco should formally enter traffic shortly. Perhaps the 37 ‘tractors’ should instead be renamed ‘buses’ - at times there are none to be seen, and then two turn up at once! 

 

These visitors join other guests at Kidderminster TMD. The Diesel Traction Group’s Clayton Class 17 Bo-Bo D8568 is undergoing repairs and LSL’s 47773 is undergoing repainting. No 999 900, the PPM50 Parry People Mover (see March’s Branch Lines) moved to Kidderminster on 28th July. 

 

In other diesel news the chairman of the SVR diesel committee, Jonathan Dunster, has advised that now the Railway has reopened to the public, and depending on how things go during August, he is hopeful some diesel operation will return in September. Announcements will be made via the SVR website and social media.

 

Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

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45110 touches down, 50 years ago

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In August 1970, a most popular and useful locomotive joined the Bridgnorth allocation - No 45110, also known as The Black 5. We look back on her arrival through reports in early editions of SVR News.

 

The Black 5’s association with the SVR started in 1968 when organisers requested her for the 20th April Manchester Rail Travel Society and Severn Valley Railway Society joint tour of the North West. On 11th August 1968 she was selected for the final BR ‘Farewell to Steam’ train - commonly known as the "15 Guinea Special" - and earned a place in history. The Stanier Black 5 Locomotive Preservation Society then took 45110 to Ashford, Kent, awaiting the Society's decision on a suitable railway.  

SVR News No 18 said the move to Bridgnorth came through the courtesy of David Porter, and gave details of the trip:  

“The 4-6-0 commenced its journey from Ashford on Monday, 17th August. A 350 h.p. diesel shunter moved the loco to Chart Leacon electric depot for the motion to be dismantled. S.V.R. members, Maurice Newman, Graham Nangreave and David Holroyde were there to help, and 45110 left behind an electro diesel with Mr. Porter, Arthur Becker [Shed Master of the Severn Valley Railway Company] and Don Pickford on the footplate. The Class 5 was left in Tonbridge Goods Yard for 40 hours, during which the footplate occupants spruced the engine up and washed it out, much to the surprise of Kent Coast travellers! 

 

“The next stage of the journey, again with electro diesel haulage, was to Hither Green, where yard men at the Transcontinental goods depot took pity, and provided the loco crew with a goods brake van for the night. In the morning, a Type 2 pulled the 5 over the West London line to Willesden for attachment to the AL6 electric-hauled Willesden-Bescot freight. Arrival at Bescot was at 23.35, and the crew had all night and morning at the diesel depot to put back the motion. The 4-6-0 was gently lit up, and after Type 2 diesel haulage to Bewdley, was nicely in steam to run on its own from Bewdley to Bridgnorth, with nothing but coal sweepings in the tender. Arrival at Bridgnorth on the cold, rainy and dark evening of Thursday, 20th August, was at 17.15.”  

The next SVR News said work started the following weekend to enable her to haul trains a few weeks later, and on 20th September 1970 she ran with “driver John Beaman, of British Rail's New Street depot, a veteran steam locoman, and fireman Dave Lacey [..] With a grin of delight, Driver Beaman, handling once more his favourite class of locomotive, praised her smooth riding quality, her firm throaty beat and her positive power which gave her the ability for pulling the five fully laden coaches crisply and smoothly away.”  

David Porter’s fundraising efforts saved the 4-6-0, initially at the privately rented Ashford ex-BR shed. Mr Porter considered the SVR to be the most suitable location and was in the happy position, being principal of the Flairavia Flying Club at Biggin Hill in Kent, to literally, "drop in" at Bridgnorth via Halfpenny Green aerodrome. He became a founder director of the newly formed Severn Valley Railways (Holdings) company. He was also responsible for 0-4-0ST Invicta (Andrew Barclay & Sons of Kilmarnock as Works No 2220 of 1946) coming to the line in 1972, having been acquired by the Invicta Locomotive Preservation Society. Invicta left the SVR in 1975. 

A couple of observations from looking back at these accounts of 50 years ago. David Porter felt it noteworthy – a sign of the times? - that members of the Stanier Black 5 L.P.S. “ranged from dock workers to judges and pilots to peers”. Another was “A momentary stop was made en route to drop lunches off to the hardworking voluntary line maintenance gang.” We’re sure that the Bridgnorth permanent way gang would be delighted for this practice to recommence!  

 

Since those days, 45110 has had a varied SVR history. Purchased by SVR (H) in 1975, she has had main line and film work. She last ran in 2008 and has had spells on display at Barrow Hill and The Engine House Visitor Centre at Highley. Her last public appearance was at Kidderminster to take part in the 'Last Days of Steam' event on 4 August 2018, marking the 50th anniversary of the end of steam in the BR era. She is now in storage on the SVR as part of the reserve fleet. As David Porter wrote all those years ago, “another chapter in the history of 45110 has been written”. 

Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

Getting ready for reopening, and working under the new ‘normal’ at Bridgnorth MPD 

Volunteer shed master Martin White writes from Bridgnorth where things have been springing back into life over the past few weeks: 

 
It’s very pleasing to be able to report that July has seen much more activity in the Motive Power Depot and works at Bridgnorth than the previous few months. Paid staff returned to the loco works in a phased, part-time, approach from 2nd July, working a two-shift system, each shift working three days. These shift ‘bubbles’ do not meet each other, thereby reducing the risk if there were to be a Covid-19 outbreak. Throughout July we have operated with volunteers having minimal contact with the paid staff, again to reduce the risk of any Covid-19 impact. The Sunday volunteers continued on from their June activities, mainly on cleaning, tidying, shed maintenance etc. This meant that when the paid staff resumed work they were able to ‘hit the ground running’ on day one. 

In preparation for the resumption of train services, the operational fleet of steam locos has been tested with very few problems arising. 75069, 2857 and 7714 hauled the test trains during the last week of July, and the opening services on 1st August, and are scheduled to operate for at least the first week of August. 6960, ‘Raveningham Hall’ is the nominated spare loco. 1450 and 813 are serviceable, but there are no plans, nor any requirements for them to be used presently. 

Within the works, there is a repair ongoing on 43106 which is to receive a brand new driver’s brake valve. 34027 ‘Taw Valley’ has had some steam leaks attended to at the front end of the boiler barrel where it joins the smokebox. This was work that was actually started in March, with some cladding being loosened by weekend volunteers on March 14th. But the lockdown occurred before anything further was done and it’s had to wait four months before the boilersmiths could then attend to it. A further steam test is required, and this should take place in the next week. 

The much delayed (due to lockdown and part-time working) running repairs on 0-6-0 tank 1501, are drawing to a conclusion. As well as valve, piston and smokebox repairs, some of the motion and valve gear has received new bushes etc. Some bushes and oil rings are still to be completed, but this is close to the point of re-assembly now. That will enable the ‘dark art’ of valve setting to be carried out and then finally a steam test. This is expected to take place towards the end of this month. 

 
Also undergoing steam test as I write, 0-6-0 ‘Austerity’ saddle tank ‘Welsh Guardsman’ is having its first ever steaming on the SVR. Whilst in a similar situation to 813 and 1450, in that there is no work scheduled for it immediately, we nevertheless want to be sure that it’s in good working order should the need arise, or if the owner should have a request for it to work elsewhere. 

 
More of the paid staff will be resuming from furlough this coming month and we expect to restart some of the major overhaul work then. 

 
Until next time … enjoy the steam! 

 

Another SVR-based group helps the Fight Back Fund  

Recent issues of Branch Lines have highlighted groups on the Railway providing financial support, by donating to the SVR’s Fight Back Fund. We’re delighted to acknowledge and thank another, the Stanier 8F Locomotive Society. The chairman of the Society, Jeff Ryan explains more:  

 
“A copy of Nick Paul's letter was sent to every Society member in a specially produced edition of ‘Black Eight’ newsletter in April. As a result, several Society members then contributed to the appeal. It is very much in the Society's interests that the SVR thrives and prospers and so we hope that the weeks and months to come prove highly successful and profitable”.  

  
The Society’s principal charitable purpose is the long-term preservation of locomotive 48773, currently resident in The Engine House at Highley. Jeff adds, “In the past this has allowed us to make significant SVR share purchases in recognition of previous overhauls”. The Society has also been raising funds towards the costs of the next overhaul, with £60,000 raised against a stretching target of £250,000.  

  
48773 was built in 1940, so in addition the SVR’s 50th anniversary of running public services this year, there were a series of 80th anniversary events arranged throughout 2020 for 48773. Jeff is hopeful: “Dare we dream that the SVR can take a leaf out of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and reprise some of the key events that have been lost to Covid-19 this year?”  

Images: LMS 2-8-0 8233 (48773) at Bridgnorth 1971 (David Cooke) and the special 'Black Eight' April 2020 newsletter.

In 1971 8233 was briefly renumbered 48188 for a film concerning the heroism of Driver John Axon G.C., who was killed when the real 48188 ran away at Chapel-en-le-Frith in 1957. Filming involving freight train scenes took place on 1 September 1971. Do email branchlines@svrlive.com if you have further information. 

 
 

Stop press – SVR Charitable Trust funds two major projects 

It has just been announced that the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust has agreed grants totalling £132,000 to fund two of the projects described elsewhere in this edition of Branch Lines


The Trust will grant £120,000 for the essential restoration work underway at Sterns, where there has been a serious landslip. As shown in our photographs, the project is to stabilise the land by installing a drainage network to direct this water under the railway and away to the river Severn. The SVR’s infrastructure manager, Chris Bond, said: 


“Without this project there was a likelihood that once winter weather returns, the safety margin that allows the passage of passenger trains would fall below the accepted level, and the consulting engineer would have advised us to cease traffic. In such a situation, not only would the engineering hub of the SVR at Bridgnorth be cut off from the rest of the railway, but we would not be able to offer the full line journey to passengers. 


“Early signs are that it is already draining significant quantities of water that previously were exacerbating the slip. The work has been completed ahead of schedule in a very short timescale by Walsh Construction. Special mention should go to the SVR’s Dave Evans and Matt Robinson who have provided rail-based logistical support for the project and worked some very long hours in latter stages of the job. We should also mention our gratitude to the landowner Robert Herman-Smith, who kindly allowed access to the area without the usual formalities, so that the project could be completed before the August restart.”   

Additionally, the Trust will give £12,000 to bring forward the introduction to traffic of Hawksworth GW Large Brake Third No 2242. This will ensure that the Railway’s historic GWR coaching set includes a large brake vehicle in its formation which is needed to accommodate prams, bicycles and other large equipment. The funding will help to ensure the vehicle will be available for service later in 2021. The coach was purchased by the Great Western (Severn Valley Railway) Association from the estate of the late Dennis Howells, who unfortunately passed away before its overhaul was complete. 


The Trust’s Director of development, Shelagh Paterson, told Branch Lines: “We are delighted to fund these two projects, and it is because of the generosity of our donors that we are able to do so. Thank you very much to everyone who has donated to the SVR Charitable Trust, thereby helping secure the future of this outstanding heritage railway”. 

Photo of Sterns 30th July 2020 Matt Robinson. Click on the photos of Hawksworth 2242 for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

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Maintenance, mechanical checks and cleaning 

Our Carriage & Wagon correspondent (and C&W administrator) Angela Walker has returned from furlough, and sends this very positive report on what’s been happening during the past month: 


July saw a burst of life, and a gentle sigh of relief that we can start to get back to what we love, albeit a little different to before lockdown. The carriages were woken from their slumber by the maintenance, mechanical and cleaning teams. The teams are now in bubbles, working shifts of either Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday or Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Should one of the bubbles fall ill, the other bubble can still cover routine maintenance or cleaning.   


So what have the teams been up to? A team of volunteers carried out a lot of shunting and carriage turning and we got three sets of compartment carriages ready for reopening day on Saturday 1st August. Huge thanks to everyone involved. With the turning of carriages comes gangway height adjustments. The mechanical and maintenance teams have busily carried out FTRs (fitness to run) exams on all three sets of carriages because they’d had been standing unused for a while. We hope this will give us some trouble-free running until the next exams are due.  


Great Northern Railway coach 2701, a composite corridor (CK) Gresley Teak carriage had a broken coil spring. This came into the works, was lifted, bolstered out and dismantled, and a replacement spring fitted. 2701 is the oldest of the Gresley Teaks on the SVR, and was built in 1922.  


Gangway repairs have been carried out on 35219 to ensure its rubbing faces mate with other connecting vehicles better. 34562, a brake second corridor (BSK), is in the works currently having had two wheel bearings changed. And while she’s in, the team will also carry

out a steam heat repair whilst the carriage is on the jacks, plus re-set the coach ride heights, as they were low at one end. Finally, the coach will be weighed to check weight distribution. 34562 will then be serviceable, but spare.  


The cleaning team have been working hard carrying out their routine deep cleaning along with putting extra cleaning procedures in place ready for the reopening services. Additionally, the coaches required for service were recently cleaned internally by a company called Atalian Servest, who clean mainline train sets. This included a fogging technique, which cleans hard and soft services, including the upholstery. Atalian Servest very generously carried out this work for us free of charge as part of their corporate social responsibility programme. 


In the C&W and carriage cleaning departments, risk assessments have been carried out, documents written, and procedures have been put in place for Covid-19 safety, to make the works as safe as possible, whilst also remaining practical.  


A good month all round, and we very much look forward to seeing more of our carriage staff return in August.  

BR Mk1 34562 lifted for steam heat repairs due to a leaking pipe. Wheel bearing also replaced and coach ride heights adjusted. Photo: Nigel Hanson

 

Infrastructure update

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We left you in July’s Branch Lines with infrastructure issues in four or five locations, staff starting to return from furlough and volunteers from home, a list of interrupted work and a reopening deadline coming our way! 

  

The main task has been reinstating the line and signalling. Additional welded track relaying is complete between the Foley Park ground frame and the Stourport Road bridge. The section between the new Foley Park ground frame and the up home signals has been re-laid as jointed track and ballasting, and tamping has been taking place. Infrastructure manager Chris Bond gave us a further update.  

  

“Although the track re-laying is complete it is not stressed, which is a process of artificially putting tension into the rails. This will be carried out later this year when there is no traffic running. In the meantime, a 20mph speed restriction will be in place until this is completed. To give an idea of the tight timescales, S&T colleagues carried out final testing and commissioning on Sunday 26th July with the possession being signed back first thing Monday morning (see our separate report.) Final ballasting to the shoulders was carried out the two days of no service between test trains (29th and 30th July). A ballast brush on loan from TXM provided a final tidy to the track.” 

  

At Falling Sands Viaduct, CAN restarted on site on 20th July for the second phase of works (repointing and rope work). We reported in July’s Branch Lines that ecological consultants are applying for a licence from Natural England due to the presence of bats. Chris advises, “This is with Natural England for processing. The ecological clerk of works has visited the site which has been set up for safe passage of trains with a 10 mph speed restriction.” 

  

Remedial work for the landslip at Sterns was also underway, as Chris continued: “This water management work was complete by 29th July as planned, with the final item being lining of the existing drainage ditch with concrete canvas. The new drains are already drawing water from the area. Walsh Construction have done an exceptional job working in very muddy conditions.” There is nothing currently to report at Alveley Woods where negotiations with the adjacent landowner are ongoing, as are the insurance company’s deliberations. 

Additionally, Duncan Ballard reports B&R Track Services Tamper No DR73309 has been busy on the SVR over the last week before reopening, in between the test services that have been operating. Not only has the relay section benefited from the Tamper’s arrival, but whilst a two day window was available, the Tamper undertook a number of essential maintenance tamps at key locations on the line. These included a section by Folly Point, Bank Farm, Kinlet, Stanley Cutting and as seen in the photograph from 30th July our well known problem area of Sterns. The new drainage gully that has been dug over the past few weeks can be seen in the corner of the picture.

  

Such a short report can’t begin to cover the enormous amount of work by staff and volunteers across many teams in difficult working conditions. We thank them all.   

Stop press – also see above item 'SVR Charitable Trust funds two major projects' 


Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

A reminder of AGM dates 

This is the last call for applications to stand as a director of Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) Plc - these must be received no later than 7th August - please see July’s Branch Lines for details.  

  

Shareholders and members respectively will be notified nearer the time of the AGM arrangements. 

 

  • The Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) Plc Annual General Meeting will take place on Saturday 12th September by proxy only. The Plc is the public company that owns the Railway’s infrastructure, operates the trains and runs its pubs, refreshment rooms and The Engine House.  

  • The Severn Valley Railway Company Annual General Meeting is proposed to be held on Saturday, 10th October. The Company is the SVR’s membership arm and provides the volunteers who help to operate the Railway. 

 

Bridgnorth looks its best for the reopening trains 

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This past month, prior to the test trains, gave the last chance to tackle remaining jobs to show Bridgnorth station off at its best for our returning visitors. 

  

Following the returning volunteers’ efforts in June, groups of eight to ten continued their twice-weekly work parties with paint brushes, watering cans, wire brushes, shovels, hard hats and large yellow plant.  

  

Station master, Chris Thomas told Branch Lines: “Heavier work saw the removal of the non-slip treads, accumulated grime, cleaning of timbers and replacement of treads on the footbridge. Also, volunteers broke up and removed a raised section of concrete by the boiler shop crossing and replacement with new at a lower level - removing a potential trip hazard on the walkway. 

  

“Finally, with the help of the JCB we achieved some significant new plantings of lamp standards along the embankment side of the car park. Four standard lamps and luminaires are now in place. ” 

  

The station site now looks tidied, cared for and much improved. Twice weekly sessions will continue. If you’d like to join the team, please contact Chris Thomas. Thanks to Sue Thomas for these photos of the work, and to all the Bridgnorth station volunteers.   

  

Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits. 

 

Whistling away

EE Type 4 No 40106 temporarily left the SVR on 21st July to return to its East Lancashire Railway home. It’s planned for the ‘Whistler’ to be back on SVR metals by the end of September, in good time for the steam heating season. 

 
40106 is maintained at the SVR by SVR-based members of Class Forty Preservation Society (CFPS, the owning charity) with a close knowledge of the class. Jonathan Willcox explains: “There are four of us in the 40106 'SVR support crew' - all related to SVR founder members, right back to the Coopers Arms in 1965! It’s two father-and-son teams - my father Peter and I, and Neil Harris and his son Sam. The respective grandfathers were/are Don Wilcox (see 'Don's Day item above) and Keith Harris respectively - Keith was at the Coopers Arms meeting himself, whereas Don's wife Doreen went to the meeting on his behalf as he had been called away by work. 

 
“Whilst at Bury, the expert CFPS Engineering team will undertake some heavier maintenance. Of course, there is little that couldn't be done in the fantastic diesel facility at Kidderminster, but the group has the majority of its volunteers living in the north-west, the store of Class 40 spares is all at Bury, and with the current restrictions on social distancing, travel etc, this will be the quickest way to get the required work done.” 

 
In 2018 the SVR signed a contract with the CFPS to hire one of their Class 40s, initially for a 12-month period. Being fitted with vacuum brakes and steam heating equipment, it is capable of working passenger services during the winter period. Jonathan added: “40106 remains an operational loco and has been fired up with no issues. Twenty-three months later and over 5,000 miles of use since arrival, it has proved a popular and useful loco.

“We're heading up to Bury in the coming weeks to help with the work that's already progressing well! While that’s going on the support crew will all be staying on as SVR working members even in 40106's absence, working with the Class 50 Alliance and the Diesel Traction Group”.  

 
40106 was picked up by CFPS’s 40145, giving the rare sight of two 40s on the SVR. It’s planned for 106 to return in time for its 60th birthday, having first entered service at Crewe on 13th October 1960. We look forward to seeing it again! 

 
Photo of 40106 with 40145: Jonathan Wilcox. Video of 40145, 37190 and 40106 at Kidderminster from SharposWorld: advertising revenue from this channel goes to the SVR’s Fight Back Fund. Both 21st July 2020.  

 

SVR Wagons – normal service is resumed (sort of) 

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The volunteer wagon teams have restarted in Bewdley Goods shed and are back to where they left off, four months ago! Volunteer Graham Phillips first gives us a quick recap of the current projects at Bewdley:  

“Inside the goods shed we have GWR Mica B 105873 which is having most of its timber replaced. Also, GWR Mink 93045 which came in to dry out before having a new canvas fitted. Outside, GWR Mink 101961 is almost complete, and just needs some final touching up of the paint now it's out in the daylight. GWR Open 98480 is undergoing major repairs to the underframe and brake gear.” 

 

The ‘sort of’ in the title above relates to the very necessary changes in practice, as Graham explained, “As with the full-time SVR paid staff, we work with the rules, having to split Carriage & Wagon into two shifts that never meet. Consequently, we now have separate Saturday and Wednesday gangs in operation”.  

In addition, social distancing rules are in operation and the public will not be admitted to the yard. 

 

The weekend team’s initial work has involved the headstock for 98480, with knees bolted in place and holes reamed ready for riveting. This demonstrates one difficulty as it is a task that needs people to be in close contact.   

The midweek ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ gang is working on the Mica B, slowly but surely fitting the outer planking as Kevin Moseley’s picture shows. Kevin told us, “This is a double-skinned, dry ice refrigerated meat wagon. We found that the woodwork was full of dry rot, so while replacing the wooden side we have put in breather holes with mesh covering”. 


Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

GW(SVR)A comes out of lockdown 

The GW(SVR)A has in its care the majority of the SVR’s extensive Great Western carriage fleet and, despite the obvious difficulties, progress has continued on several vehicles. Although the lockdown prevented volunteers from working at Bewdley, they’ve been able to progress several lockdown projects, as Gareth Price told Branch Lines

 
“Our main volunteer project at Bewdley is bow-ended third 4786. Homework for this coach (and spares for others) include new light fittings, new toilet seats and lids, and a major staining and varnishing programme of the panels above the seat backs for each compartment, including fitting period pictures into the frames. 

 
“Also, one missing item from Collett bow-ended composite 6045’s extensive restoration was the brass door closers for the two toilets. The task of producing patterns from the one surviving original was a lockdown homework project for Brian Oldford. These closers were standard fittings up until 1936 so we can now retro-fit them to other suitable coaches in our collection.”  

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A major financial contribution to the survival of the SVR was provided by the Association funding contract work to allow the non-furloughed paid staff to continue to work during the lockdown. No fewer than four Association coaches have been receiving attention in Kidderminster works, bringing funds into the Railway’s coffers. Gareth explained:  

 
“Toplight Saloon 9055 has had repairs and a repaint in the paint shop. The mechanical overhaul of 6045 was also underway, this involved overhauling and fitting the vacuum cylinders and dynamo, adjusting the bogie brakes so that they applied evenly to all wheels, setting the buffer heights, and installing new batteries. Then the vacuum, steam heat and electrical systems were checked and tested, and any snags sorted. Work for both these vehicles was completed by May, so that composite 7284 could enter the Kidderminster paint shop for repairs and a repaint.  

 
“A significant project keeping the flow of contract work going for the paid staff is mechanical work for Hawksworth Brake Third 2242. The contract included attention to bogies, brakes, steam heat and vacuum systems and this package of work is all but complete. 

 
“We are now working on a second scheme of contract work to complete the roof and fit the toilet water tank. We’re looking at ways to bridge the funding shortfall to complete this stage. If anyone feels able to contribute to our 2242 appeal you would have the double satisfaction of directly helping the Association and the SVR with a single donation! We are a charity so please include gift aid if you can, to boost it further. Following this paid work, volunteers will complete the internal fit out.”   

 
Since July, some volunteer work has been able to resume. “On 4786 volunteers have fitted new canvas bellows to the north end refurbished gangway connection. They have fitted mirrors into their frames as well. Work is also progressing to repair the compartment side framework, rebuild the corridor side external doors, build new seat backs, and repair compartment partitions.” 

 
Gareth concluded: "Please consider joining us as a member or follow our progress on our Facebook page.”  

 

Stop press – also see above item 'SVR Charitable Trust funds two major projects' 


Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

“There will be much S&T work” 

“Between now and the start of services in four weeks’ time will be much S&T work”, we said in July’s Branch Lines. It sounded so simple! Chris Hall from our Signal & Telecommunications team gives us details of the huge amount of work undertaken in a short period to reconnect Kidderminster to the new turnout at Foley Park.   

   
The lockdown gave us time to plan what was needed before train services could resume and the design changes required to provide an electrical release for the new ground frame installed at Foley Park. With online training, risk assessment and travelling separately to site (for social distancing reasons), S&T activity was able to resume on 21st June, with paid staff unfurloughed the next day. The essential first task was fitting the facing point lock (FPL) stretcher and padlocking it before planned stock moves on the 24th.  

  
Sunday 5th July saw us travelling to Foley Park from Kidderminster with a new rail drill and track circuit bond wires. There were about 120 holes to drill in the rails and about 60 bond wires to fit to 30 rail joints between the Up Homes and the new points. We completed the bonding as far as the points - beyond here there was still some P-Way work to do. It was pleasant afterwards to enjoy a meal at the King & Castle, the '1m+' rule being outside seating and a mild oral antiseptic, available in both pint and half pint quantities. 

Sunday 12th July was a more difficult day - an early start to take the petrol rail drill to location 52 at Kidderminster Up Distant. The formation had been partly lifted and so access was only possible from the Bewdley end. A few lengths of flat bottom rail were laid ready for welding and the aim was to drill the rails and connect the track ends at the Up Distant and to test track circuit AA2 (the one through the tunnel), which required a presence each end of the tunnel. Track circuit AB was also to be commissioned after our bonding work the previous weekend. 

  
After an hour and several drill bits later, we realised that the eight holes we needed to drill were not going to happen as the rails were so hard. We made temporary connections here and at a fishplated joint at the summit (which was likely to be used as a stressing point and then welded) to allow the track circuit to be tested. Both AA2 and AB track circuits were now operational, leaving just AA3 where we could do nothing until we had some track to play with. We could see a little bow wave of work developing. A midweek foray with some newly sharpened drill bits and the manual rail drill saw the holes drilled so that track ends and bonds could be fitted the next weekend. 

  
On 19th July we still had quite a bit of work to do. We were able to split into several work teams and to fit all the bonds, all the track circuits were working (but had not yet had their final test), the points were protected by the signalling system (although final testing was still to do) and the sleeper had been drilled to secure the points, which would be fitted after the testing was complete. The token system had been tested between Bewdley North and Highley. The signal box diagram in Kidderminster box had been patched to show the partially complete sidings installation. Indication was provided to confirm the points were set and detected correctly. 

  
It transpired [see Chris Bond’s infrastructure notes!] that the stressing points had been fishplated and so yet more bonds needed to be fitted. Another midweek foray with the only remaining drill bit saw the holes drilled, leaving just the bond wires to fit. 

  
In amongst this project, things were sent to try the team. An attempt to deliver our order for rail drill bits had been made but the offices were unattended, and the courier took them back. They have not yet arrived, and we now have no spares. Next, a detection box is fitted with a strong lid, brightly painted, and well supported so that it is held firmly in place. There is only so much protection one can provide: the line was visited by a tamper and while the box and most of the lid did, indeed, remain in place, unscheduled work has been necessary to see the detection box repaired. 

  
And so to Sunday 26th July, which saw the final testing and commissioning of the new equipment to allow test trains to operate the following day. 

  
This article is a much-abridged version, and a fuller account will appear in a future edition of SVR News. The magazine articles, and a description of S&T’s recent work which will find its way into SVR News in due course, are at http://www.svrsig.org/ 


Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

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Vacancy - Project support officer opportunity at the Charitable Trust 

The SVR Charitable Trust has an opportunity for a candidate with excellent administrative and communications skills to join the Falling Sands Viaduct project as project support officer. 

 

The role will be three days (22.5hours) per week on a one-year contract. Funded through The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the new project support officer will work with the project delivery manager to deliver the remaining events, activities and interpretation until the project finishes in 2021.  

 

For more information, please look at the job description on the SVR website. CVs and covering letters for this role should be emailed directly to laura.hines@svrtrust.org.uk. The deadline for applications is 23rd August with interviews taking place in the week commencing 31st August.  

Photo: The Charitable Trust's LMS Brake 2886 is for use as a mobile exhibition/interpretation vehicle for the Falling Sands project. Ronan O'Brien

 

Hold the sunset

Bewdley station master James Pearson sent these lovely photos with the following explanation: 

 

“The photos were taken last month at the end of a working party day, recovering the station from lock down and getting it ready for reopening. It was nice to relax and take in the sunset and admire the day’s achievements”. 

 

Bewdley is receiving passengers on the Adventurer services.  The station team’s admirable work means it really is looking its best, and we’re sure you’ll agree that relaxation in such a glorious sunset was well-deserved.   
  
Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

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Furlough scheme coming to an end 

General manager Helen Smith announced in July that the SVR had been forced to take tough decisions about the ongoing employment of some paid staff: 


“As most readers will know, the Railway has lost a significant amount of its income over the last four months. In the worst-case scenario, we would face a revenue loss this year of up to £6million. Our reopening services will not be at the same level we’re used to. With the intervention rate for furlough payments dropping in August, we are having to make some difficult decisions concerning paid staff who we have not been able to return to their previous role or find alternative employment for, including those on zero hours contracts. This has affected up to 40 staff.  
  

“The contribution from volunteers remains at the heart of what we do as a Railway and, in these days of helping to get the business back on its feet, teamwork between volunteers and employees is vitally important.”    

 

Over the fence (again)

We had some appreciative comments from readers about the item in June’s Branch Lines on the testing through Kidderminster mainline station of the ‘new’ Vivarail units for Transport for Wales. 

 

From 27th July there is further interest on the route, with testing between Tyseley LMD and Hereford via Kidderminster of new Class 196 Civity diesel multiple units. Many readers will travel on these units in due course, as they are being constructed for local operator West Midlands Trains by Spanish manufacturer CAF.  

 

Paul Sharp was fortuitously on hand to record the return leg of first-of-class 196 101 on the first test train, running 27 minutes early, just up the ‘dark side’ at Cradley Heath on 23rd July.  

 

Train talk podcast features the SVR 

Last week, one of the SVR’s founding fathers Columb Howell and head of communications Lesley Carr were guests on the podcast Train Talk. Interviewed by presenter Joe, Columb looks back to the very start of the preservation era, and recalls the many battles that were fought and won in order to get the Railway into operation. Lesley talks about the current challenges that have come about as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and how the SVR is once again determined to survive whatever challenges come its way. 


You can listen to the SVR episode of Train Talk and many others by clicking on the image or the link.

https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/train-talk-train-scotland-9xdcBMjmAGE/

Train talk image.jpg
 

Personal Protective Equipment at the SVR 

In his role as SVR safety manager, Martin White explains how the Railway is responding to the need for PPE: 

 

Until recently on the SVR many infrastructure, engineering and maintenance staff would have been familiar with PPE, but perhaps not everybody. But now, I suspect, it’s a phrase we have all become familiar with, since Covid-19 struck. 

 

Face masks, gloves, and visors are now a familiar sight on our high streets and at the Railway too. Whether as individuals we agree with it or not, there is an expectation and a requirement that SVR personnel will use PPE, to protect themselves, protect each other and give reassurance to our visitors. 

 

We’ve all heard stories of PPE being unavailable or in short supply, and also that the cost of it has been rapidly rising. Therefore, a decision was taken that the sourcing and purchase of Covid-19 PPE would be centralised on the SVR, to try and ensure we had a reliable supply at the best possible price. The administration team within Engineering Services at Bridgnorth took on this challenge, not just to provide PPE, but also hand sanitizer, dispensers, cleansing wipes, etc. Samantha Elson at Bridgnorth has become the ‘Queen of PPE’! Thanks Sam, for the great job you have done. 


Hopefully, by the time we started running test trains, all departments that had asked for PPE had received what they had requested. To put this into context, before the first test train had even turned a wheel, we had spent almost £7,000 with various PPE suppliers. Thousands of disposable gloves, face masks and cleansing wipes had been bought, along with 200 visors, 200 snoods (reusable face coverings) and over 150 litres of hand sanitizer. 

Think about these numbers for a moment. That’s equivalent to the revenue of more than two trains worth of compartments needing to be sold out, just to pay for the PPE we have bought so far.  

 

Even though PPE has an important role to play, please remember, social distancing and regular hand washing are the key weapons in preventing the spread of the Covid-19 virus. 

 

Tales of 1969

Branch Lines reader Allison Kershaw has been in contact. Allison told us: “During lockdown we have been scanning in old slides and came across old photos from Bridgnorth in 1969 which may have some historical interest.” 

  
We turned to David Williams, the editor of SVR News and ‘go to’ person for all SVR matters. He provided the following account, which lifts the lid on a possibly neglected chapter in the SVR’s history: 

“These pictures were taken at the Spring Steam Gala of 1969, embracing Good Friday 4th until Easter Monday 7th April. In contrast to the fantastic steam operation during the Autumn Steam Gala in 1968, the Easter event in 1969 was a poor affair, with BR not permitting any ‘day visitor’ journeys as had happened previously. Also, a last-minute contract had been taken out to fit a cigarette advertisement on loco 3205 for the weekend, to be removed on pain of death! Consequently, the then-editor of SVR News did not ‘find’ any pictures of it ‘suitable’ for the magazine…and that in pre-PC days!” 

  
What we can reveal is that the ‘then editor’ of SVR News was in truth David himself, and he’s still in charge, having held the role for over 50 years! 

  

We have four of Allison’s images, showing the offending headboard on 3205, and the GWR railcar 22, both vehicles now long departed from the SVR. And in the other, Allison explains, “My husband Ian Kershaw is the boy wearing the blue cagoule. We hope to be able to visit the Severn Valley Railway soon.” 

  
We hope to see you too, Allison and Ian, and thank you for sharing your SVR memories. 


Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

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Great Western ‘Large Prairie’ 2-6-2T locomotive 5164 

The Erlestoke Manor Fund (EMF) have announced a possible change in ownership for this locomotive, which is based on the SVR but currently on display undercover at Barrow Hill Roundhouse. 

 

In April’s Branch Lines we carried a notice that the locomotive’s owners, the 5164 Preservation Group, were sending a proposal to its shareholders for the future of the locomotive. The 5164 Group have now offered to transfer ownership to the EMF who have agreed in principle to accept, subject to the SVR agreeing also to transfer the existing SVR locomotive agreement to the EMF.  

 

These changes require discussions with the SVR, which may result in an agreement for the loco’s ownership to be transferred. At this stage no commitment has been formally made, talks are underway and will progress. 

The EMF is an incorporated, charitable organisation strongly affiliated to the SVR and its two locomotives 7812 Erlestoke Manor and 7802 Bradley Manor are also SVR residents. An announcement by the EMF can be found on their website

Photo: 5164 on demonstration goods train at Bewdley. Lewis Maddox

 

v1 2nd August 2020

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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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