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August 2021

Wallis & Steevens 'Advance' 10 ton roller at Kidderminster on 7th August 2021. Tony Carwit
Wallis & Steevens 'Advance' 10 ton roller at Kidderminster on 7th August 2021. Tony Carwithen

Welcome to August Branch Lines

We’ve great news if you’re one of the many people who are interesting in attending the Autumn Steam Gala - the first VIP guest locomotive has just been announced. Find out which distinguished member of ‘royalty’ will be joining us in September in our lead article below, along with other details about this important event. 

 

Donations have been coming in to the SVR Charitable Trust’s Home & Dry appeal, and we have a fundraising and progress update on this project to bring about essential improvements to Bridgnorth locomotive works.  And there’s the news that the Railway will re-introduce local, ‘hop on, hop off’ services next month on mid-week days. 

 

Tickets for the SVR’s brand-new Enchanted Express went on sale on Monday, and a staggering 40% of the places were snapped up in the first 24 hours. Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that award-winning actor Julie Walters has agreed to narrate the story for this experience, which is based around the classic poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas?!  

 

We also bring you a report and a gallery of photos from last week’s Vintage Transport Extravaganza, which saw sell-outs on every single service! And there are many other updates and stories of interest from all parts of the wonderful SVR.  

Lesley and Patrick, co-editors

The Branch Lines team is Lesley Carr, Patrick Hearn, Amy Baker and Nicola Fox

Next edition 9th September

VIP guest locomotive announced for Autumn Steam Gala

6233. Credit Neil Harvey

The first of the SVR’s Autumn Steam Gala VIP guests has been announced - LMS 6233 Duchess of Sutherland will join the lineup for this event, which takes place between 16th and 19th September. 

 

The locomotive is owned by the Princess Royal Class Locomotive Trust, and was built in 1938 to a design by William Stanier. It last visited the SVR in 2018. 

 

“We’re delighted to be welcoming this very special engine to the Railway,” said general manager Helen Smith. “It’s certainly going to stand out from the crowd with its striking ‘crimson lake’ livery, and we think it will prove to be a real crowd pleaser. 

“We’ll be running the Gala in a similar way to the Spring Steam Up earlier this year, with four train sets in service, each one running three round trips. Passengers will remain with their booked train, and the locos will switch between sets, so that everyone gets the chance to be hauled by every single locomotive at the event.”  

Many much-loved locos from the SVR home-based fleet will be in service, including 813, 34027 ‘Taw Valley’ and 75069. The railway is also bringing back the ever-popular overnight services, which will be hauled by GWR 2857, the engine which played a starring role in the Hollywood movie Enola Holmes

 

The event also sees the introduction of premium experiences. The Autumn Steam Gala VIP Package, priced at £195, includes travel in the brake van of the heritage goods train on a full-line return trip, exclusive behind-the-scenes tours of Kidderminster carriage works, Bridgnorth signal box and Bridgnorth locomotive works, further train travel, a goody bag with breakfast, lunch and dinner on the railway thrown in too! 

 

The SVR expects to announce the second of its VIP guest locomotives soon. Tickets for the Autumn Steam Gala are available at www.svr.co.uk   

From the SVR photo library is this image from 2018 of LMS 6233. Credit Neil Harvey

 

Home & Dry appeal surges ahead

Since we published Branch Lines last month, an impressive further £80,000 has been raised for the SVR’s Home & Dry appeal, which will fund a new roof for Bridgnorth loco shed, along with other much-needed improvements including better and more sustainable lighting and a 10-tonne crane.  

 

The appeal target has now been increased to £475,000, because of the spiralling cost of steel and additional improvements that are needed inside the works. 

 

“We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s donated so far,” said the CT’s executive director Shelagh Paterson. “Thanks to SVR shareholders, members, donors and visitors, our appeal total has now passed £330,000. This means, even with the increased target, we’re almost 70% of the way to achieving our goal. However, we still need to secure the last £145,000. If you can, please donate at https://www.svrtrust.org.uk/home-and-dry to help make Bridgnorth locomotive shed a facility that the SVR can be proud of. 

4930 Hagley Hall repositioned in Bridgnorth Loco Works on 5th August 2021. Jim Norman.jpg

“Plans for the project were submitted two weeks ago to Shropshire County Council,” said project manager Antony Bartlam. “Although we’re not extending the footprint of the building, we need planning permission for the addition of transparent sheets in the roof, which will vastly improve the available natural daylight within the works, and also for a change of colour to the roof and wall cladding. We’re awaiting a decision from the conservation architect.”  

 

Photo: 4930 Hagley Hall repositioned in Bridgnorth Loco Works on 5th August 2021. Jim Norman

Click on the thumbnails for full screen design drawings

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‘Hop on hop off’ to return in September  

Arley, April 2019. Paul Hastie

The Railway is preparing to reintroduce local trains during the midweek services, from Tuesday 7th September. More details will be provided in the coming weeks, but this will be welcomed by those wanting a return to some sort of normality. 

 

The subject of ‘hop on hop off’ local train services has caused great debate amongst all who love the Severn Valley Railway. It’s approaching these decisions with great care, prioritising the safety of staff and visitors, as general manager Helen Smith told Branch Lines: 

 

“We are still asking our passengers to wear masks and to socially distance on shared areas of the trains. This is to protect them and, as just as importantly, our staff and volunteers. This would be much more difficult to do with a mixed system of some open spaces on excursion trains where people can swap between them.  

“Comparisons with other lines is also difficult as each has different complexities; railways are approaching issues differently and with a great deal of thought. 

 

“It’s apparent that people are moving at different speeds. We feel that this decision, with weekend excursion services and midweek local trains, will best accommodate those who want to get the flexibility of the local train services back, and others that feel safer with the excursion trains we’re currently operating.”  

Photo: Arley, April 2019. Paul Hastie

 

Santa Claus is coming to town

It may seem slightly strange to be thinking about Christmas whilst temperatures are in the 20s, but the SVR likes to be prepared! With that in mind, it has launched a trio of festive events in the last month – including one featuring a big name star.

  

Dame Julie Walters will narrate the brand-new Enchanted Express Christmas service from Bridgnorth, and passengers will hear the BAFTA-winning actor’s voice as they arrive at Bridgnorth station. Her evocative narration of the classic poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas will ring out in each compartment, as the steam-hauled train makes its way to Highley station through a winter wonderland. There’ll be appearances by characters from the festive poem, including the Sugarplum Fairy, and the chance to meet Santa Claus, who’ll visit every compartment for photo opportunities and a gift for each child. 

 

The services will run during the daytime from Bridgnorth on weekends from November 27th. 

 

To complement the brand-new Enchanted Express, Santa Trains return to Kidderminster, replicating last year’s winning formula with an all-singing, all-dancing new show at Arley and presents for every child. Click on the image to watch the specially-commissioned promo video!  

On both of these services, all passengers will receive complimentary sweet treats and adults will receive a hot drink in a collectable travel mug.  

 

Meanwhile, also running from Bridgnorth, Steam in Lights, the SVR’s brightest event, returns for its third year, and promises to be bigger and brighter than ever before. There are even more displays planned on the run between Bridgnorth to Hampton Loade, plus a new pre-departure show on Platform 2.   

A family delight, on board the Enchanted Express. Dan Shorthouse (Copy).png

Events manager Lewis Maddox said: “Christmas is always an extremely busy time for the Railway and we’re really excited that we’re able to introduce a new event in 2021. The Enchanted Express is proving really popular, and 40% of the available seats were snapped up within 24 hours of going on sale earlier this week.” 

 

Tickets for all events are available now from www.svr.co.uk – don’t delay, as they’re selling fast and the festive special events sold out completely last year!   

A family delight, on board the Enchanted Express. Dan Shorthouse

 

Here comes the sun!

In the giant deckchair at Kidderminster, Kirsty Michelle Brookes.jpg

As school bells signalled the end of term in July, the Severn Valley Railway kicked its summer season into full swing with the Great British Staycation. 

Services have proved popular with families, especially with so much planned at The Engine House including a beach, donkey rides, a holiday-style stage show and much more.  

 

The marketing and communications team has spread the word far and wide via leaflets in school bags before the end of term, boosted social media messaging, local magazine adverts and – the star of the show – a six-week radio campaign with Free Radio in the Black Country and Shropshire. 

 

The Adventurer and The Explorer are proving the most popular services, with more flexibility in their timetables, whilst The Flyer has carried hundreds of passengers to The Engine House for some summer fun, no matter what the weather.

 

To encourage more bookings, the Railway introduced a new Family Ticket allowing up to six people with at least one child, to travel for £100 in a private compartment. 


“After a late start to the summer last year because of the first lockdown, we wanted something special this year,” said events manager Lewis Maddox. “We’ve worked closely with the marketing and communications team to advertise the event to families throughout the West Midlands and it’s proving a real hit with passengers.

The indoor beach at The Engine House. Nicky Freeman

“The family ticket is encouraging our key summer market – families – to visit for an affordable price. Against other local attractions and days out, £100 is a fantastic offer and we hope we’re encouraging a new generation of SVR fans to visit. Our customer survey shows that in the last 12 months, 50% of visitors have been first timers. It’s a really exciting time for the Railway.” 

 

The summer season also included the Vintage Transport Extravaganza on 7th and 8th August, with all services sold out, as people flocked to see hundreds of vintage buses, cars, motorbikes and traction engines alongside their steam train journeys (see separate article about this event.) 

 

If you haven’t visited The Engine House yet to get involved in some indoor summer fun, get your buckets and spades at the ready and book your tickets at https://www.svr.co.uk/SEItem.aspx?a=183  

Photos: 

Above: In the giant deckchair at Kidderminster. Kirsty Michelle Brookes

Below: The indoor beach at The Engine House. Nicky Freeman

 

Charitable Trust news 

As well as the latest news on the Home & Dry appeal (see separate article) it’s been a busy month for the SVR Charitable Trust, as executive director Shelagh Paterson explains:


In July’s Branch Lines we reported that Keith Norton had joined our board as a trustee. I’m now delighted to confirm that at the 26th July board meeting, Keith was voted in as chairman, replacing Peter Copsey who has stepped down. Keith has been a volunteer at the SVR since 2017 and brings wide experience and leadership experience to the SVRCT board; alongside this, he’s working with general manager Helen Smith creating the Railway’s strategy.


The trustees and I would like to give our heartfelt thanks to Peter Copsey who has worked tirelessly for the Trust, and more recently as chair for the last 18 months. His contribution is hugely appreciated.


At the last board meeting, the trustees also agreed to fund £104,565 for non-commercial elements of the visitor end education centre at Highley, along with £100,000 for the heritage apprenticeship scheme and £65,000 for permanent way activity. We’re able to support these projects because of the generosity of supporters kindly leaving a gift to the Charitable Trust in their will. In fact, 36% of our total income last year came from legacies. This shows the value to the Railway of gifts in Wills, and if you’d like to find out more, there’s plenty of information at https://www.svrtrust.org.uk/Gifts-in-Wills.

Keith Norton

I am also delighted to welcome Helen Russell to the SVRCT, as charity assistant. Many of you will know Helen and will have had the pleasure of working with her whilst she led on education for the SVR. As the Trust increases the support it gives to the Railway, Helen will co-ordinate the grant applications we receive and will organise updates on the status of the grants we distribute. 


Helen will also help with our legacy administration, corporate partners and SVRCT membership, and assist me and help with improved engagement with our high value donors. 


Finally, an update on our JustGiving Bewdley Bracket Signal appeal; this is to raise £5,000 for the necessary renovation of the wooden bracket signals and the smaller dolls in long-lasting African hardwood. The fund currently sits at £2,130 and if you can make a contribution to help towards the renovation of these beautiful wooden bracket signals, then please donate at Justgiving.com/bracket-signal. Thank you.

Above: Keith Norton

Below: Bewdley South signal post before removal in October 2020. Michael Howard

Bewdley South signal post before removal in October 2020. Michael Howard
 
 

Progress report on the Bridgnorth station building project

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Bridgnorth station floorplan thumbprint.jpeg

With a number of ‘quick win’ improvements already made to the Bridgnorth station building, general manager Helen Smith and project manager Neil Dancer have an update on what’s happening next with this important project:


The project team recommenced meetings in January, and there have been many discussions and on-site meetings with local staff.


The main thrust of this Listed Building project is to bring back all areas into use by readjusting the internal retail, bar, waiting room and office / storage spaces with appropriate repairs. There will be minimal alterations to the external aspects of the Listed Building to ensure the character of the property is maintained.


A number of ‘quick win’ tasks have already been completed, including the replacement and re-siting of the main electrical supply and consumer unit in readiness for future rewiring, a permanent disabled toilet fronting onto the platform, and replacement of the roof gutter system to prevent further staining of walls. In the near future, the dilapidated windows will be replaced/repaired as appropriate.


All the above tasks are deemed appropriate repair and fall within the Listed Building limitations. Tribute must be paid to Chris Bond and Chris Thomas for these project achievements.

In addition, infrastructure volunteer Nick Yarwood has completed a small but effective piece of work; the alignment of two manhole covers and selective tarmac patching have produced a level walkway from the top of the Donkey Gallops to the main building entrance – this greatly improves the walking surface and is an aesthetic enhancement.


The major elements of the scheme revolve around the realignment of the internal spaces and fittings and dealing with a stand-out anomaly, namely a 1940s lean-to building (the parcel office.) Both are captured within the Listed Building footprint and are subject to Planning/Listed Building constraints. There is valuable historic content in the lean-to, relating to the period when Bridgnorth hosted a major RAF basic training camp for around 3,000 recruits. Chris Bond has researched the conditions and due consideration will be given as we progress.


The preferred solution for the lean-to is to rebuild as existing but to current Building Regulations. Internally it will be incorporated into the extended shop area, and will provide much-needed extra retail space. A full application has been lodged with Shropshire County Council, site inspections are in the diary, and we await the decision of the local authority.


To ensure best value, the submitted plans were based on previously obtained accurate survey drawings, commissioned for the already completed buffet/toilet scheme.


In the happy outcome that Listed Building and Planning Consent are granted, the project team will move to secure accurate costings for the proposed alterations, and to develop a suitable fit-out for the increased space for the retail, bar and waiting areas in keeping with SVR requirements.


In September, we’ll hold an online Q&A session, with panel members from the groups managing the Bridgnorth projects. If you have a question, please send it to victoria.evans@svrlive.com. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Click on the thumbnails for full screen, uncropped images.

Click on the links to see the full planning applications:

Rising to the challenge for the ‘Severn Valley Enterprise’

In July, a second railtour visited SVR metals; the first being the VSOE train of 5th June reported in a previous edition. And, there are plans for a third and fourth this year, as operations manager Matt Robinson told Branch Lines:


The latest railtour on 26th July was the ‘Severn Valley Enterprise’, when we welcomed back Saphos Trains onto the SVR. It brought with it the welcome sight of a Black 5 back on our line. Various changes in the lead-up to the train running meant the operating procedure was changed numerous times, and I was still updating it in the hotel in Carnforth at 5.30pm the day before, to reflect the plan for the following day!


Due to Network Rail’s concerns about fire risk, the train was double-headed from Crewe by 45231, with diesel 47805 ‘tucked inside’ rather than on the rear of the train. This required us to make some changes, as time was not allowed to run it round each time the Black 5 was removed.


We also had the support coach on the opposite end to that we’d originally expected. It was a bit of a challenge but, as normal, we rose to it by dropping the 47 off at Kidderminster and using recently-arrived 31466 on the rear for ETH supply.


On the day it all went well, and again we delivered what we set out to do. Due to the extra shunting, the train left six minutes late, but in blistering 30 degree heat and with three extra, unplanned shunts at Kidderminster I don’t think we did too badly!


Our next railtour will be on 8th September; an incoming train from London. It’s planned to arrive with 34046 ‘Braunton’, and swap with sister 34027 ‘Taw Valley’ for a run over the SVR. Following that, our next train will be 6th October; it’ll be a bit of a reversal to previous trains, with the railtour starting at Bridgnorth and heading to Bristol and back.

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

45231 The Sherwood Forester
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45231 The Sherwood Forester
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45231 The Sherwood Forester
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#LoveYourRailway campaign gets underway at the SVR

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Alongside 54 other heritage railways, the Severn Valley Railway is taking part in a new online campaign designed to spread the word about lines throughout the UK. 

 

The #LoveYourRailway campaign, spearheaded by North Yorkshire Moors Railway, is running for six weeks with the aim of spreading the message about Great Britain’s best heritage railways – to enthusiasts and the general public alike. 

 

Each week has a theme – such as ‘heritage’ or ‘volunteer’ – and in its debut year, is a purely social media-led event, with plans to expand it further next year.  

 

“Getting involved with this initiative is great,” said marketing manager Dan Shorthouse. “It’s a real pleasure to work alongside other heritage railways. This is a great way to spread the word about what we do, and I hope the campaign will encourage people to come and visit us.  

“It’s definitely a campaign that is going to build momentum year-on-year. I’m already looking forward to next year’s plans, and can’t wait to see how successful this year’s campaign has been when the drive ends in September.” 

It’s easy for Branch Lines readers to get involved. Simply spread the message about the Severn Valley Railway using the hashtag #LoveYourRailway on all your tweets or download the profile picture frame for Facebook by heading to www.facebook.com/profilepicframes  and searching ‘Love Your Railway’  

 

Remembering John Hill, the SVR’s ‘first‘ driver

Friends and family gathered at the Kidderminster Railway Museum on 1st August to celebrate the life of John Hill, one of the SVR’s earlier members. John went into the history books as being the driver of the first scheduled passenger train on the Severn Valley Railway in 1970. KRM’s David Postle sends this account of the occasion: 

John had been a railwayman working out of both Tyseley and Saltley sheds in his professional career before becoming a signalman at Stourbridge and Kidderminster after his beloved steam had finished. He shared his skills in his work on the Severn Valley Railway, later becoming Operating Superintendent, a job he then performed on the Bluebell Railway for seven years before returning to the SVR. 

His funeral was held in February under strict Covid-19 conditions, when numbers attending were restricted to 30. It was not until last week that the family were able to meet old colleagues and friends in safety. More than 80 people attended at some point during the day, and to share reminiscences, drink tea and eat cake. A continuous show of photographs of John was shown on the screen, along with the film showing his role in the train chase that featured in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a Sherlock Holmes story set in Europe. During this film, John played Fritz, the driver of one of the engines. This required precision and skilful driving in order to allow stunts to be performed which would certainly be frowned upon in current Health and Safety mode, but which made for good and exciting viewing. The film was released in the mid-1970s, and for those who were not around the railway at the time, it should be essential viewing to understand what values the railway represented in those early days. 

John was a good friend of the Museum, and it was fitting that we were able to give him a good send off and provide a venue for his family, particularly Steph, Pip and the children, to meet and chat amongst those who knew him.

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

John Hill
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John Hill
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John Hill's memoria
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Bridgnorth MPD – It’s not just about locos 

1501 in Bridgnorth MPD yard on 1st August 2021. John Sherratt.jpeg
1450 on a low loader awaiting its move to the Flour Mill on 4th August 2021. Gareth C Pric
1501 on the wheel drop with the leading wheelset partly lowered. Gary Williams.HEIC

In this month’s update from Bridgnorth Motive Power Depot, volunteer shed master Martin White explains some of the complexities of running the operation: 

 

It seems that we are settled into the regular summer season pattern again, with three trains a day, operating seven days per week, usually running as a seven or eight coach load. Boiler washouts and maintenance weeks occur in a regular cycle, with an occasional longer spell out of traffic for preventative maintenance such as 1501 having all of its axlebox felt lubrication pads replaced over the space of a week or so in the works. 

 

However, it’s not always plain sailing and it’s not always the locomotives that cause the issues. 

 

Firstly, two boiler shop staff at Bridgnorth contracted Covid-19 towards the end of July. Fortunately, the staff themselves were not badly afflicted. This small outbreak necessitated a period of time in self-isolation for their boiler shop colleagues. However, with two locomotives needing boiler examination and sign off by a competent person prior to returning to operational duties we faced a potentially difficult situation. Fortunately, a retired member of staff, who still has adequate competency, was willing and able to come back into work and complete the necessary boiler examinations at short notice.  

 

There is a lesson for us all in this and should anyone be of the opinion that the UK is past the worst of the effects of the virus, this episode demonstrates how even a minor occurrence can have a major impact.

 

It is also worth noting that four other members of staff on the mechanical side of the works were ‘pinged’ during the same week, for apparently unrelated contacts with the virus.  

We’ve also had some issues with equipment and plant that caused us some anxiety. Firstly a broken valve on the vitally important reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment plant at Kidderminster caused a flood in the plant room and surrounding area. Luckily an RO engineer was booked for a visit that same day, to carry out a major refurbishment.

 

Instead of replacing the main pump, inverter and pressure vessel, the engineer had to fix the leak instead. Just a few days later the RO plant failed completely, possibly as a result of the previous flood. Fortunately, this was overcome by switching to by-pass mode, i.e. filling the water tank with untreated water, and a day or so later the engineer was able to rectify the problem and implement the previously postponed upgrade. 

These two RO plant issues were subsequently followed by a third issue, when the Bridgnorth JCB coal loader broke down part way through coaling a locomotive in the MPD.  

Arrangements were hurriedly made to coal locomotives with the reserve supply of fuel at Kidderminster. Thankfully a repair was facilitated to the Bridgnorth machine the following morning, although we were lucky to receive a maintenance fitter from our contractor at such short notice. 

 

Thank you to all staff and volunteers who helped resolve these issues and keep the wheels turning. 

 

I hope I am not tempting fate by saying that recently our steam loco fleet has been more reliable than the more modern support infrastructure! 

 

One final item to report is that 1450 was moved earlier this month by low loader to the Flour Mill locomotive repair workshop in Bream, Gloucestershire, where the owner has arranged for its overhaul.   

Photos: 1501 in Bridgnorth MPD yard on 1st August 2021. John Sherratt

1450 on a low loader awaiting its move to the Flour Mill on 4th August 2021. Gareth C Price

1501 on the wheel drop with the leading wheelset partly lowered. Gary Williams 

 

Courier returns! 

Following an absence of nearly two years, popular Class 52 diesel hydraulic D1062 Western Courier returned to traffic on 11th July sharing haulage of the Pioneer service with sister D1015 Western Champion.


Champion hauled the first round trip from Kidderminster. Socially-distanced crowds gathered at Bewdley for Courier taking over the second return trip, departing with a roar from its twin Maybach engines. The locos topped and tailed for the final round trip, Champion leading to Bridgnorth and Courier leading the return. The coaches were full on all trips, and both locos on both engines performing faultlessly.


Western Courier is owned by the Western Locomotive Association. The loco’s return to traffic was challenging and was also delayed by the Covid-19 lockdowns, as the WLA’s Paul Finch told Branch Lines:


“Work initially focussed on the bogies: inspections showed the pivot on the driver’s side equalising beam had worn to a point where the bush had almost disintegrated, thus taking the centre spring out of alignment and pulling over the axle box. The beam was successfully replaced in March 2020. At the same time, one cardan shaft was removed and sent away for rectification, which we refitted between lockdowns. All this work was a great success, so it was a major disappointment in October 2020 when an earlier straight air brake fault recurred, and Courier again had to be failed.


“Plans were put in place for when restrictions lifted, to replace the brake pipework and modify the system to a more accessible location in the cab. Whilst out of service, we also replaced the A end dynostarter with a refurbished part – a complex task, with a working team being put together in May 2021 for three days’ Covid-secure work.


“With all scheduled work completed, a ‘B’ examination completed, final snagging addressed and a fully loaded test run, Courier was fit for service and its triumphant return!”


Work continues on the overhaul of the WLA’s other loco, D1013 Western Ranger. Meanwhile the Diesel Traction Group’s D1015 Western Champion is returning to the mainline, hauling the Champion Torbay Express to the English Riviera on 25th September.

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

D1015 and D1062
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D1062 Western Courier
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D1062 Western Courier
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D1062 Western Courier and D1015 Western Champion
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SVR LIVE

VOLUNTEER

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Urgent infrastructure vacancies

Safety - MEWP in use in Rock Siding, Bewdley on 12th  July 2021. Brent Cleeton.jpg

The recent departure and movement of staff means that the SVR needs to urgently fill three positions within the infrastructure department.


A permanent way manager and track worker are needed, along with a trainee signal maintenance technician.


Job descriptions are at https://www.svr.co.uk/Employment.aspx, and queries and applications should be directed to HR@svrlive.com by 24th August.


Please spread the word to friends and colleagues about these vacancies.

Photo: Mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) in use in Rock Siding, Bewdley on 12th July 2021. Brent Cleeton

 

Running in the family! 

On Friday 6th August, a rare event occurred on a Severn Valley Railway footplate, with a father and son crew working together.  

Alex Robinson from Bridgnorth MPD had only passed out for firing on 10th June, and was delighted to be able to crew up with his father John for a day on 1501, just in time before the senior Robinson retires from driving duties in December! 

 

John, better known as ‘Robbo’, has been associated with the SVR since the 1970s, including a long stint as volunteer shed master at Bridgnorth, whilst also working as paid staff before he retired. 

 

However, it’s not the first time this year, the SVR has seen family members working together on the footplate. In April, there were two sets of brothers working on services on the same day. James and Richard Cooper were the firing and driving crew on 2857 whilst Dave and Mike Ward powered 6960 Raveningham Hall!

Congratulations to the Robinsons on their father-and-son turn!  

Alex and John 'Robbo' Robinson, keeping 1501 as a 'family footplate' (COPY).jpg
 

SVR staff and volunteers, in portrait 

Phil Lea
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Mike Metcalfe
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Mick Haynes
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Richard Sinclair
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Will Pederson
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SVR volunteer Phil Lea has been selected to exhibit four portraits at the prestigious biennial Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) Photography Prize exhibition, but that’s just part of the story, as Phil told Branch Lines: 

  

I joined the railway as a volunteer in 2016 working variously at Eardington station, Kidderminster TMD and the Coalyard Railway. I’m also a portrait and social documentary photographer, and work as an art psychotherapist in a hospital for young people with mental health presentations. In essence I am a ‘people person’.  

  

My background is in engineering, and it was working as a helicopter mechanic on aircraft carriers that I first became aware of how everyone contributes to safe running within a safety critical environment.  

  

I love railways in all their forms. Volunteering at the SVR I was struck by the wide range of paid and volunteer staff who contribute their valuable time and skills, with unflinching willingness in all weathers, day and night. I began to consider the vital role they perform within a broader social network, and the gained benefits such as a sense of psychological wellbeing and of belonging to such a valuable enterprise. 

  

My photography has been shown in the National Portrait Gallery. In 2016 I self-initiated a portrait-based photography project to get to know more SVR volunteers and staff, as I felt that each person has their own story to tell.

 

By 2017 I had the beginning of a body of work suitable for submission to the RBSA and in 2019 I was awarded a ‘Highly Commended’ prize for three portraits of SVR volunteers. 2021 is my third entry and seventh SVR portrait selected, and I’m really delighted.  

The portraits were all made on the SVR using external power lighting, and incorporate the environment where volunteers and staff work. It’s a closely collaborative venture towards a unique and striking image that portrays a sense of pride, value, dignity and honesty to the final print. Thanks are due to the sitters, and I give each a high-resolution file of the image.  

As I approach retirement, and as restrictions begin to lift, I hope to re-ignite my work along the line with backroom and operational staff and anyone associated with or visiting the Railway. I am particularly keen to make portraits of women on the SVR. 

  

In time I also hope to place our staff and volunteers at the heart of an exhibition about them as individuals, and that the SVR might use the work to value and promote its most valuable of commodities, namely people and their work.  

  

Click on the gallery for full images. The exhibition is at the RBSA Gallery, 3 Brook Street Birmingham B3 1SA and online, from 3rd September to 16th October 2021. Prizes will be announced on the opening night, and we have our fingers crossed for Phil!  

 

Comings and goings at Kidderminster TMD 

In addition to news on Class 43s and the return of Western Courier, it’s been far from quiet on the diesel front, as chairman of the diesel committee Jonathan Dunster tells Branch Lines:


We welcome 31466, which arrived on 9th July from the Dean Forest Railway hauled by 50049; thanks to our friends at GB Railfreight. Until late autumn, the loco will cover for 33108 which is undergoing body repairs in the Diesel Depot. You won’t miss it, as it carries a striking and authentic version of English Welsh & Scottish (EWS) livery, which it first carried for the Toton open day in 1998.


37190 departed on 1st August and is now stored at owner Locomotive Services Limited’s site in Margate (the former Hornby factory.) 37190 arrived in July 2020 to assist on infrastructure workings, but unfortunately developed an engine fault and became unserviceable. It had a period of storage at Bewdley where it carried a 1T08 headcode in memory of those who died in the 2020 Stonehaven derailment.


A surprise arrival on the same day was 50008. Thunderer is undergoing commercial contract repairs in the TMD by the Class 50 Alliance engineering team on behalf of its owners Hanson & Hall Rail Services, part of the Rail Adventure Group, to rectify a defective secondary spring on the suspension. The locomotive will depart when completed.


SVR-based 50007 and 50049 have been busy on the main line in July. On Saturday 3rd they worked the prestigious Belmond British Pullman ‘Anniversary Pullman’ from London Victoria to Worcester and return, to mark 30 years of the Fifty Fund / Class 50 Alliance. Then from 19th - 22nd they were engaged with GBRf on new EMU delivery movements around Derby. Next, they worked the 'Thanet Thunderer’ railtour for the Branch Line Society as a late replacement for 50008. Finally on 1st August they brought 50008 to Kidderminster for repairs. It’s a huge recognition of the C50A members’ work on these 53-year-old locomotives!

A mention too for Class 14 D9551 which has been flying the SVR flag on a visit to the Mid Hants Railway.

Finally, please make a note in your diary for 30th September to 3rd October. Our Autumn Diesel Gala will feature Classes 14, 17, 31, 40, 50, 52 and a guest visitor. More information will follow.

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

50007 and 50049
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31466
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50008 Thunderer
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50049 Defiance and 50007 Hercules
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D9551
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Cheers to the King and Castle!

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After a busy few weeks and more pints served than anyone can count, Branch Lines is raising a glass to the King and Castle. The SVR’s Kidderminster pub has sealed an exciting 12 months with a 2021 TripAdvisor "Traveler’s Choice Award".  

 

The accolade is rewarded to restaurants and pubs across the world, based on feedback from visitors. Receiving the award puts the King and Castle in the top 10% of pubs globally, as rated by TripAdvisor. The popular drinking spot has been honoured by the leading review site for the second year running. 

 

Cheers to pub manager Joe Basterfield and his team on their success – time to raise your glasses whilst you keep raising smiles!  

 

High Speed at Arley!

Despite the turbulence caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in recent times, the SVR has been extremely fortunate in securing several contract jobs that have brought much-needed funds into the Railway’s coffers. The latest of these is a deal with Colas Rail for the temporary stabling of five HST Powercars. The Class 43 Locomotives are ex-LNER (ECML Train Operating Company) and remain in their red livery and fitted with MTU Powerunits.  

 

Six units arrived initially, one of which has already left on a low loader for its new home with the 125 Group in Nottinghamshire. Space constraints at Kidderminster have led to the remaining five vehicles being stabled in the yard at Arley, where they’ve already attracted much interest from enthusiasts. It’s expected that the vehicles will be on site for a few months, and will have no impact on the plans for the Christmas setup. Operations manager Matt Robinson said: 

 

“Whilst the Powercars are not prototypical to the location, this is a highly beneficial deal for us financially, which will contribute to the longer term future of the Railway, along with a lot of the other contract work the Operations team is now undertaking,

 

An extension into some testing and training is being discussed, so this may give us more work from the contract. It shouldn’t be too long, however, before they are back where they belong, on the mainline working NR test trains!” 

The five locomotives are stabled in two back-to-back pairs in the front road, with a further single locomotive stabled on the back road. The SVR is asking anyone who wishes to see and photograph these locomotives, to do so only from publicly-accessible areas of safety.

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

Class 43 HST power cars at Arley
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Class 43 Nos. 43251 and 43277 at Arley
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Class 43 No. 43274 at Arley
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Showcasing the work of older SVR volunteers

Reg Styles, Worcestershire Community Foundation Glencora Project July 2021
Janet Insull, Worcestershire Community Foundation Glencora Project July 2021

In July, the SVR was visited by Martin Pocock of the Glencora project to photograph some volunteers at work. Glencora is a donor-led fund that focuses on community projects enhancing the lives of older people in Worcestershire. 


Martin told Branch Lines more:


“Older people are often stereotyped as needy, infirm, requiring help and care, passive and takers rather than givers. This stereotype is wrong. Older people are giving, active and inspirational. But this negativity tends to win out and is a barrier both to society realising what older people can do and, worse than that, tells older people that they should conform to the negative stereotype.


“In a society where the recording and transmission of imagery is prevalent, the Glencora project intends to use photographs of community elders to bust these negative myths and positively influence the narrative.”


The SVR is proud to be a part of this project, showcasing the brilliant work done by our older volunteers. The photographs were taken at Bewdley station by members of the Beacon Camera Club. Two images have been selected to be part of an exhibition to be displayed at Malvern Library, Community Foundation and Community First events, and more.


For more information visit the appeal website at https://www.worcscf.org.uk/appeals/glencora/

Reg Styles and Janet Insull, photographed by Martin Pocock for the Worcestershire Community Foundation Glencora Project July 2021

 

SVRH Annual General Meeting 

A reminder that an ‘in person’ Annual General Meeting of SVR (Holdings) Plc is being held at St George’s Hall, Bewdley starting at 2.30pm on Saturday 11th September 2021.

 

Full information and instructions are being sent this week to SVR shareholders, either by post or by email where possible to save funds.  

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Replacing the ground signal at Bridgnorth

Replacing the ground signal at Bridgnorth
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Replacing the ground signal at Bridgnorth
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Replacing the ground signal at Bridgnortheplacement signal standing proud mounted on two lengths of
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Replacing the ground signal at Bridgnorth
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A five-strong midweek S&T (Signal and Telegraph) maintenance team took on the replacement of a damaged ground signal at Bridgnorth in early August. S&T volunteer Brian Graystone gave Branch Lines the (very) low down:


The signal is located beyond the south end of the station and controls movements out of the headshunt. It had been in place since the 1970s, but its lamp mounting bracket had snapped clean off, and a temporary repair effected using a large hose clamp to attach the lamp to the column. The Sunday gang had refurbished the replacement in the Kidderminster workshop.


Ground signals are provided for low-speed shunting movements. The standard is a disc signal with a red band on a white background; when the band is horizontal the signal is at danger and when set at 45 degrees it can be passed for as far as the line is clear ahead.


Nothing is ever easy! Immediately it was obvious that the original casting had a flat base section designed to mount on a sleeper, but here mounted on two concrete bases with the pulley wheel mounted on a separate flat plate secured below the signal base. The replacement? A stepped base, the signal wire pulley being mounted below the casting base level.


The first task was to remove the damaged signal from the concrete foundation. Nothing is ever easy! Three bolts just turned, and we couldn’t get in a position to hold the head of the bolts to unscrew them. A revolving team of muscle using hacksaw, hammer and chisel eventually released them and we lifted the heavy signal off the foundation.


We decided to mount the replacement signal on the concrete foundation by packing it up on two lengths of point rodding, allowing the pulley to sit over the end of the packing. The rodding pieces were marked up; many thanks to our friends in the Bridgnorth engineering workshops who helped by drilling clearance holes and cutting the bars to length. With the packing in place, we lifted the (equally heavy!) replacement signal into position and bolted it into place. Martin Crane’s freshly painted disc face was fitted.


Nothing is ever easy! The signal wire now was too short because the signal had moved away from the signal box. With the signal safely set at danger to protect the line we filled the holes around the concrete foundations and left for the day.


The next day saw a new section of signal wire spliced in, the lamp fitted and connected, the back casting fitted and the whole assembly touched up with paint. Testing from the signal box completed the job.


Difficult working conditions were made worse by a nest of wasps dive-bombing us, seemingly drunk on the sap of the overhanging tree! A very satisfying job where one had to think on one’s feet several times in quick succession. We wonder what the Railway has in store for us next?


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

 

O gauge modellers get together at The Engine House 

SVR O gauge modellers Tom Clarke, Martin Wood, Harry Bradley and Nick Willcox have organised an O gauge ‘get together’ at The Engine House visitor centre at Highley over the weekend of the 4th and 5th September. Tom Clarke shares the plan with Branch Lines:


Six layouts have been confirmed including the Bewdley MPD group’s ‘Burlish Road' and the award-winning ‘Ventnor West'. ‘Little Burford’, featured in the Railway Modeller, 'Willowbrook Marsh' and 'Treloar Sidings' come from the Luton model railway club.


An impressive set up of coarse scale trains is planned, along with a diorama of Bridgnorth station from the Bridgnorth station team and 'Woody’s wagons' from our own Martin Wood.


Traders booked so far include Modelu (go and get yourself scanned and printed in miniature form!), Connoisseur Models and Walsworth Models.

Dapol Ltd will also be attending, displaying engineering prototypes of their forthcoming releases and selling a range of 'factory seconds'. Yet again we are indebted to their kindness for finding the time to come along.


The Gauge O Guild’s Guildex exhibition was due to be held over the same weekend but has unfortunately been cancelled.


We have managed to put together this event at no cost to the SVR and we’d like to send our sincere thanks to the layout owners for offering their masterpieces for nothing.


Timetable B operates on the Saturday and Timetable C on the Sunday. Check www.svr.co.uk for details.

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The Lost Jewel on the SVR

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Love escape rooms? This is an increasingly popular form of entertainment where a group of players accomplish tasks and find and solve clues and puzzles within a time limit. The SVR joined with Leisure King Ltd to develop the Lost Jewel, a bespoke game played on SVR trains, which was launched at the beginning of August.  

 

It’s designed to entertain up to six players on a single journey from one end to the other, transporting them back to 1861. The premise of the game is: “you've been invited onto a special train to enjoy the first trip across the newly constructed Victoria Bridge. Amongst the guests you see Queen Victoria herself. Although this is a heavily-guarded secret, someone has found out and they're lurking in the corridors, heading towards the royal carriage. Are they planning to steal the Queen’s jewels? You have one trip along the line to crack the code and stop the thief. Will you be able to save the day?”  

Events manager Lewis Maddox told Branch Lines:  

“Escape room games have seen a massive boom and I wanted the SVR to have a bite of that cherry! They’re so popular because they are new and different to each person who is playing. Creating memories together as a work team or social circle is an irreplaceable experience that will be drawn on for years to come. It was important to make the game bespoke to the SVR, so passengers can enjoy a new experience in a heritage environment, that all links together. We’ve had good publicity from the local press and really positive feedback from the volunteers and passengers who’ve trialled the game.  

 

“Passengers will collect the escape game satchel from a booking office with everything they need to complete the game in the bag and the envelope they are given. The game will be completed on the train in their seats, and players will need to concentrate hard to crack the code before the end of the trip! 

 

“It’s available from the SVR online ticket office two days beforehand on any normal running day, and costs £50 to hire with all revenue coming back into the SVR. Like the joint packages currently on offer, the Lost Jewel should encourage new visitors to the SVR, who want more than a train ride.”  

 

The Vintage Transport Extravaganza is a hit!

On Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th August, the SVR introduced an all-new event celebrating vintage transport of all varieties - ‘The Vintage Transport Extravaganza’, as events coordinator Kellie Downey tells Branch Lines:


We welcomed more than 200 vehicles to stations along the line, and our train services were full on both days. Although the weather was wet, we didn’t let it impact the weekend. We’ve had positive feedback, with many visitors saying that the event was a key reason for them booking travel tickets. For example, one visitor wrote: 


“I just wanted to say what a great day I had yesterday. Having the display of road steam engines and rollers was a great idea and worked very well. Also, the model railway and classic vehicles on the platform was good. I think for me it was one of the best events the Valley has held in a long time”.


The vehicles were immensely impressive and attracted visitors to all the stations. Kidderminster accommodated classic cars and steam-powered traction engines, Bewdley showcased a combination of buses and classic cars, Arley looked after our tractors and more classic cars, Highley and The Engine House had a large classic car display, the classic motorcycles were displayed at Hampton Loade and more buses, commercials and lorries were displayed at Bridgnorth.


Special guest ‘Plimsoll', the road-rail Land Rover, travelled along the tracks from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster on Saturday morning, and the LNWR Society brought along a large live-steam model railway to Kidderminster concourse.


The traditional traction engine road runs on Comberton Hill proved, as always, to be popular with the locals as they stopped to view the magnificent engines in action. A big ‘thank you’ to SVR volunteer Scott Lewis, who always does a sterling job at organising the traction-engine and steam roller elements of these events.


Thank you to everybody involved in the Extravaganza – we couldn’t have done it without you! I am thrilled with the feedback from our exhibitors and visitors and very much look forward to next year’s event – watch this space!


If you have a vehicle you’d like to enter next year, please drop me an email at kellie.downey@svrlive.com

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

The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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The Vintage Transport Extravaganza, August 2021
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Busy, busy, busy at C&W 

GWR 1086
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GWR 1086
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GWR 1086 compartment
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GWR 1086
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GWR 1086
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27218 Finished pic by R O'Brien
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BR 1856
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BR 1856
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Even when there’s no running maintenance to be done, the team have other projects on the go, as our C&W correspondent Angela Walker writes from Kidderminster: 

 

The team are currently working on Mark 1 restaurant miniature buffet 1856. Ronan, a member of our running maintenance team has taken the carriage from chocolate and cream and painted it in BR maroon livery. Matt, one of the maintenance team and team leader Gary have painted the roof, fitted sparkhoods, lined out the carriage and worked on the interior lighting. 

 

The 1960-built first open No 3103 has had a rub down and re-varnish, received new spark hoods an overhaul for its locks. Meanwhile, on LMS maroon third open 27218, the roof vents have been re-bedded and the body re-varnished.  

 

GWR 1086 is nearly ready to leave the paintshop, having received roof repairs and fresh paint. The body has been re-varnished and internally, new Lino has been fitted throughout, ceilings have been prepped and painted, and door locks overhauled. Water-damaged panels in the corridor have been replaced and painted in a sycamore wood-grain effect known as scumbling. In the lavatory, the lower half of the walls have been scumbled to look like walnut planking.  

 

For a period of seven weeks, two members of the mechanical team have changed their working pattern to incorporate one late night. This is to carry out the weekly mechanical maintenance, which would normally be carried out during the day, but as the carriage sets are running daily throughout August and into September the carriage set is needed for the train service the following day!

The preparation for night working has been ongoing for a few months to fine-tune the plans. Working into the night, has its knock-on effect to the rest of the week, as a 12-hour rest is required before returning to work. We have adapted to the operational needs of the Railway, but without compromising safety.  

The carriage works had a very exciting opportunity to purchase machinery and tooling from Keith Hall, a retired engineer and active volunteer on the railway from the 1990s until his retirement from the footplate in 2019. Nigel Hanson, carriage works mechanical team leader approached the Boards of both the SVR Charitable Trust and the SVR Company Limited (the Guarantee Company) to help with funding the purchase, and both agreed. In May, the machinery was moved into its new home in the carriage works machine shop. It’s a replacement for older, worn-out machinery, and not only does it give us greater scope to carry out more work in-house, but it’s also future-proofing the machine shop. We would like to say a special thank you to Keith for giving us the opportunity to buy the machinery and a thank you to both the Charitable Trust and Guarantee Boards for their assistance with the funding.  

 

We are still restricting volunteer numbers within the carriage works and paintshop. As much as we look forward to seeing our volunteers again, keeping everyone safe is our priority. 

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

 

Film of Smart Weed System Train is launched on YouTube 

The July edition of Branch Lines reported on the Smart Weed System Train that spent time on the SVR for testing. A joint project by Bayer Environmental Science, GB Railfreight, Network Rail and a number of hi-tech start-ups, this high tech weed-killing train uses special on board detection cameras and algorithms to detect the density and type of weeds along a railway line, to deliver targeted, calibrated doses of herbicide where needed.  

 

Hot on the heels of the Class 69 testing for GB Railfreight earlier this year, the operational team once more demonstrated the Railway’s value as a testing site.   

“Our testing is quite special,” explained Bayer’s engineering manager Manuel Celis. “And we had great work from the SVR in this regard, they were able to comply with all our requirements; we’re really happy with the result.”  

The Railway’s media team was on site to record the process, which can be seen on the Railway’s YouTube channel. To see the train in action, head to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B48FD6NNPJY  

 

V1 12th August 2021

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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.