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August 2022

Transport interest at Kidderminster Town on 6th August 2022 during the Vintage Transport E
Transport interest at Kidderminster Town on 6th August 2022 during the Vintage Transport Extravaganza. Stephen Thomas

Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!

Hot on the heels of the last heat wave, we’re slap bang in the middle of another one. Great if you want to get a suntan, but not so great if you’re running a heritage railway!  

Following a spate of lineside fires last weekend, services went back from yesterday to all-diesel, and the SVR’s fortunate (and well-thought out) position of being able to run an all-diesel timetable came into its own once more.

There’s even more positive news about the roof and crane project at Bridgnorth, which will be completed a week ahead of schedule! What’s even more important is that it’s come in bang on budget. A testament to the fantastic management and SVR input (both volunteer and paid) that’s been key to the success of this ambitious project.

The SVR and the ‘purple locomotive’ were well and truly in the spotlight last month when we hosted the Queen’s Baton Relay as part of the build-up to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. We’ve a report and plenty of photographs of this important and historic day. Plus there’s news of the first guest announced for this autumn’s Steam Gala.

There’s also an update from the managing director about the next phase of the Bridgnorth Station Development – there’s going to be a delay, but there are sound reasons for this, which Helen explains below. Plus there’s the usual bumper selection of rolling stock, people, events, and news from across the Railway.

Now please forgive us for blowing our own trumpet, but we received a lovely accolade last month when Sir Peter Hendy, the chairman of Network Rail, got in touch to tell us that Branch Lines is “the best transport e-news I get!” We’ll take that! Welcome to your August edition…

Lesley and Patrick, co-editors

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

Next edition Thursday 8th September

What's new?

Roof and crane project hits all the buttons!

Floor painting underway at Bridgnorth loco works on 4th August 2022. Antony Bartlam.jpg

The project to renew the roof, cladding, lighting and install a crane at Bridgnorth locomotive shed is pretty much there; it’s on budget and likely to finish a week ahead of schedule!

Volunteer project manager Antony Bartlam told Branch Lines: “The roof mounted crane is fully commissioned and load tested. We even managed to get radio remote control free of charge from the supplier!

“The lighting installation is also complete, bar a few minor snags. The improvement to lighting levels is huge. New floodlights are on the gable end over the shed roads, and these are computer-controlled so they cannot be left on during daylight hours. The main shed lights and alarm are linked, so when the alarm is set the lights will go off, all to save electricity.”

You can see a film about the crane installation on the SVR’s YouTube channel.

Antony continued: “Only the outer cladding sheet to the rear elevation, gutters and flashings remain to be done. We hope the cladding works will be finished in the next two weeks, and the contract will finish one week early.”

The project was funded by the SVR Charitable Trust’s £475,000 Home and Dry appeal. In addition, thanks must go to everyone who donated to a further JustGiving appeal which raised £15,000 in just two weeks to provide a new floor for the works.

The Charitable Trust’s executive director Shelagh Paterson explained: “As natural light poured in through the new roof, the state of the concrete floor became a concern. The solution is an epoxy resin floor. The more robust surface improves safety: it will prevent spills from contaminating the concrete and provide a surface that can be cleaned and kept in good condition, reducing slip hazards.

Walkways and fire exits can be marked out and the red coating will help reduce glare when welding.

“The new floor will be well cared for by the team, which could triple its life span. It will also visually enhance the surface and so not detract from the freshly-painted walls and steelwork.

“The rapid response from donors allowed the project team to secure a slot for the floor painting, and by the time you read this it will be complete!

“Recent weeks have been stressful with activities being carefully choreographed to fit in with each other. The team are now planning the return of equipment to the shed, ensuring they only put back items that are needed.”

Floor painting underway at Bridgnorth loco works on 4th August 2022. Antony Bartlam

 

Prolonged hot, dry weather means a temporary return to heritage diesels 

With another spell of hot weather and no rain forecast, the Railway is again running only heritage diesel-hauled passenger services to avoid causing lineside fires.

“Last weekend we experienced a number of fires,” explained managing director Helen Smith. “They were caused by sparks or cinders escaping from steam locomotives. These can quickly catch hold, because prolonged hot weather has left the lineside vegetation tinder-dry.

“Under these circumstances, the responsible thing to do is switch to heritage diesel-hauled passenger services for the rest of this week. We’ll review the situation at the beginning of next week, and what we really need is some prolonged rain to improve the condition of the vegetation.

The Railway is running short footplate rides at both Bridgnorth and Kidderminster stations, so passengers can experience travelling on a steam locomotive footplate. There is a small extra charge for this to help cover the cost of coal. The SVR is confident these can go ahead safely.

This is the second time this summer that the Railway has taken this action. For a fortnight from 13th July, the Railway switched to diesels. Helen continued: “When we made that announcement, we received many positive comments. People understand why we’re taking these steps and said that we were acting responsibly.”

The Railway was assisted during that period by the short-term hire of diesel locomotives 20142 and 20189, joining summer visiting classmate 20048. All are courtesy of Class 20189 Ltd and Michael Owen.

The SVR was however able to run one very special steam service on 23rd July for the Baton Relay in the build-up to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games (see separate item).

 

Steam-hauled services resumed on 27th July with diesel assistance, and unassisted steam operation from the following day.

 

Keep an eye on the SVR’s website and social media for announcements on future services. 

Click on the gallery to see larger images, descriptions and photo credits.

 
All diesel service
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One in steam!
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Steam piloting diesel
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Steam service
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Queen’s Baton Relay triumph at the Severn Valley Railway

Baton at Kidderminster next to Purple Taw Valley Bob Green
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The Baton at Kidderminster Town station concourse on 23rd July 2022. Keith Wilkinson
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Got 2 sing choir at Kidderminster station. Mike Anderson
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The Mayor at Kidderminster Town station on 23rd July 2022. Bob Green
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Waving the flags Bob Green
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Queen's Baton passes the Engine House Michael Howard
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Crowds await the Baton Relay at Bridgnorth station on 23rd July. Tony Carwithen
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The Severn Valley Railway was well and truly in the spotlight on Saturday 23rd July, when it welcomed the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay to Kidderminster station.

 

Batonbearer Jess Benyon from Stourport carried the Baton inside the station building and through a guard of honour, made up of many of the SVR’s volunteers.

 

The Baton contained The Queen’s Message to the Commonwealth, which was placed inside it in October last year.

 

It’s travelled around the world, visiting all 72 nations and territories of the Commonwealth, and visited the Railway on the final days of its journey before it arrived in Birmingham for the Opening Ceremony of the Games a few days later.

As the special Baton Relay train, hauled by the SVR’s purple-liveried locomotive, No.70 ‘Elizabeth II’, made its way along the 16-mile line to Bridgnorth, it slowed to walking pace as it passed each intermediate station. The platforms were crowded with spectators, who’d come to witness this historic occasion.

 

“The atmosphere across the whole railway has been joyous,” said the SVR’s managing director Helen Smith. “It has been a pleasure to welcome hundreds and hundreds of people here today, and to have played our part in this wonderful community event. And what a fantastic opportunity it’s been for our stunning purple locomotive to shine once again, alongside the Batonbearers who carried out their duties so well.”

Click on the gallery to see larger images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

First guest announced for Autumn Steam Gala

Tickets for the Railway’s biggest steam event of the year went on sale on 5th August. You can see details of the event and prices and buy tickets at https://www.svr.co.uk/events/autumn-steam-gala/

  

There’ll be up to three visiting locomotives; the first announced is LMS Stanier Class 5 No. 45231 ‘The Sherwood Forester’, courtesy of Locomotive Services Group.

The SVR’s flagship engine 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’ will make its triumphant return after 36 years out of steam. GWR 2857 and BR(W) 1501 will make their final gala appearances before the expiry of their boiler tickets. Other home fleet locomotives in action will be GWR 7714, BR/SR 34027 Taw Valley (in its temporary guise of No.70 ‘Elizabeth II’), LMS-design 43106 and BR 75069.

The return of on-train dining means the reintroduction of breakfast trains using LNER Kitchen Composite 7960, plus other informal on-train dining options over the course of the gala.

45231 Sherwood Forester at Oldbury Viaduct on 28th July 2021. Matt Fielding (Copy).jpeg

Further attractions will include goods trains, a narrow gauge railway at The Engine House visitor Centre, and more.

 

There will be an ambitious working timetable for this event, with services running from 8.00 am daily and until midnight on the Friday and Saturday evenings, plus goods trains and local services.

The Railway has taken the difficult decision to ‘rest’ overnight running for 2022. Managing director Helen Smith told Branch Lines: “This is a critical time for the Railway, and operating costs across all areas of the business are rising sharply. We haven’t taken this decision lightly, and we feel it is the right way to go in order to conserve coal stocks and protect our ever-popular Christmas services, which are set to bring in around £1.5million much-needed revenue.”

The Railway is producing a complimentary programme for ticket holders in partnership with Trackside Magazine.

Photo: 45231 Sherwood Forester at Oldbury Viaduct on 28th July 2021. Matt Fielding

 
 

Unavoidable delay to Bridgnorth Station Development 

Queueing for tickets at Bridgnorth station booking office 6th August 2022. Stephen Thomas.
Bridgnorth station development floorplan 2021

The next phase of the Bridgnorth Station development was due to start early in 2023. The project team leading this has restated its commitment to the plans, but indicated that’s unlikely to go ahead until 2024 at the earliest. The reasons for the delay are complex, as managing director Helen Smith explains: 

 

The Railway is facing unprecedented rises in the cost of everything we consume, from coal and diesel to raw materials. At the same time our day-to-day business is suffering from a 20% decrease in traffic. We’re not alone in this – the cost-of-living crisis is affecting not only the rest of the heritage rail sector but all visitor attractions, along with catering and retail businesses. 

 

However, work has progressed on the Bridgnorth Station Building, and the design has been completed. We have presented both plans and quantities to our quantity surveyor and obtained a current price estimate with the next stage being, in an ideal world, securing priced tenders from selected contractors and then planning the execution of the main works over the winter close down period. 

 

We have the costs for the major building work, which will include: 

 

  • Clearing and rebuilding the ’lean to’ parcels office and converting both it and the old ladies toilets into a new shop  

  • Electrical wiring and circuit renewal to whole building 

  • Changing the old shower room into the new shop store 

  • Extending the bar into the old shop store to create a snug – this requires the floor to be lowered 

  • Converting the existing shop into a new waiting room 


As with all the projects we have done since the pandemic, estimates have come in much higher than was expected. We had hoped that there would be enough money left in the restricted share funds allocated to this project, but the costs have come in much higher than that.

This means that not only are we going to have to raise more money to complete the project, but also that we need to use volunteer labour wherever possible, to reduce the overall costs of the build. 

 

The likelihood is that we will have to delay the start to the major build element of the project. There may be smaller elements that can be completed as we get the funds to do the work but the major refurbishment will have to wait. If we were to start the major works in January 2023 (which was the original plan) we would have to go out to tender now and the reality is that we know we don’t have the monies available to commit to a contract. The major build work would be very disruptive and would need to be completed in the closed period. Unfortunately, this means we must be patient and wait until we have the funds in place. The work is expected to be delayed until 2024, and that is reliant on us achieving the fundraising target which is likely to be in the region of £250,000 – £300,000. 

I want to reassure you that both the Board and the project team are absolutely committed to finishing this project. It will bring the station back to its former glory and improve the visitor experience and secondary spend in the bar and shop.   

 

Cash is our priority for the SVR (more than ever) and we have to proceed with caution when making major investments in this environment. We have to think of new and innovative ways to grow our cash reserves to be able to make these projects happen. 

Images: Queueing for tickets at Bridgnorth station booking office 6th August 2022. Photo: Stephen Thomas

Bridgnorth station development floorplan 2021

Getting ready for the restoration of Bridgnorth Locomotive Yard

With fundraising for the restoration of Bridgnorth Locomotive Yard under full steam – more than £100,000 has been raised so far thanks to the amazing early response from donors – the project has moved closer towards delivery with the appointment of volunteer project manager, Nick Yarwood.

Nick was instrumental in the successful delivery of the Falling Sands Viaduct restoration, which came in on time and on budget despite multiple challenges. Most recently, Nick has been supporting the Roof & Crane project which will make the locomotive works safer, brighter, more energy efficient and dry.

“I’m really pleased to have been asked to be the project manager for the Bridgnorth Locomotive Yard restoration,” said Nick. “The restoration is going to make a massive difference to the working environment and to the efficiency of Railway operations. The yard is vital. Without it, we couldn’t maintain and house steam locomotives that are key to attracting visitors to the Railway. It has to be serviceable and reliable. If there are no tracks, there are no trains!

“I’m looking forward to working with such a great team. The project steering group for the Bridgnorth Locomotive Yard restoration has representation from the three Railway boards, department managers and stakeholders. The project delivery team is made up of the people who manage activity on the ground and make things happen. It’s also a special opportunity for anyone who’s interested in the permanent way to volunteer and get involved. Volunteers will be vital to us being able to deliver the project and keeping the Railway running afterwards.”

If you’re interested in volunteering, you can find out more at https://www.svr-vlo.org.uk/ and, if you would like to know more about what would be involved, email nick.yarwood@svrlive.com.

Nick Yarwood at Falling Sands Viaduct in early 2022. Loretta Milan.png

The team has a huge amount of work ahead; and it would not be possible to undertake all of it in one winter shut-down period. The plan is to phase the work over the 2023 and 2024 shutdowns, based on carefully prioritised needs. Phase 1 involves renewing the main line turn-outs and the civil engineering works to construct the inspection pit and drainage for immediate use. Phase 2 involves the renewal of the remaining five turn-outs, all the track and the bridge deck work.

It is vital that the Charitable Trust raises as much of the £500,000 needed to deliver the project as soon as possible so that materials can be purchased in good time, minimising the impact of rising levels of inflation, which look set to continue for the foreseeable future. Find out more and donate today at https://www.svrtrust.org.uk/.

Photo: Nick Yarwood at Falling Sands Viaduct in early 2022. Loretta Milan

 

Coming up

Stourbridge branch meetings 

Stourbridge bonded warehouse. Brianboru100 2012. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike

The SVR Stourbridge branch committee has published its programme of talks for September to December.

7th September “Marketing the Severn Valley Railway” presented by head of marketing & communications Lesley Carr, with an additional talk by head of TTIs Jim Seaton

5th October “UK and Spanish steam” presented by Michael Clemens 

2nd November “The Glyn Valley Railway” presented by Glyn Valley Tramway trustee Andrew Christie.

7th December presentation by David Postle, subject to be confirmed.

Meetings are normally held on the first Wednesday of each month between September and May inclusive in the Brindley Room at the Bonded Warehouse in Canal Street, Stourbridge, commencing at 7.30 pm. A small charge of £2 is made to cover room costs.

Branch chairman Chris Dyche told Branch Lines: “Everyone is welcome. Please do come and join us for an enjoyable evening.” Chris can be contacted on 01384 375582.

 

Making every summer Friday a fabulous one!

With the rising cost of living, the Railway is aware of how important a day out is to escape everyday worries; especially for families looking to fill the summer holidays with fun for their children.  

 

With this in mind, the SVR has launched weekly ‘Fab Friday’ offers during the six weeks of Summer of Sport, making it more affordable for all to visit and experience the wonders of heritage rail.  

 

At the end of each week, a new code is generated alongside a money-saving new offer to encourage passengers to book their tickets for a visit to us throughout the summer.  


The first offer gave passengers 25% off when booking in advance. Other offers have included cut-price tickets for the fantastic timetable of events happening throughout late July and August, such as the Day of Dance and the Vintage Transport Extravaganza, the latter seeing impressive passenger numbers.

Head of visitor experience Michael Dunn said: “Booking patterns have changed dramatically since the pandemic and because of the cost-of-living crisis. We’re seeing people leaving it later and later to book online. 

 

“These offers are leading to an increase in passenger numbers. Also, by giving visitors added value with our weekend events for the same price as a standard daily ticket, this increases the chances of a return visit.”  

 

There’s more happening before summer's out; the Food and Drink Fayre takes over The Engine House on 20th and 21st August with a huge number of vendors, whilst the mysteriously titled ‘Purple Weekend’ on 3rd and 4th September will see the SVR filled with purple vehicles and a few fun fuchsia surprises!  

 

Find out more and get your tickets for these events at www.svr.co.uk. Stay tuned to the SVR’s social media for the next Fab Friday offer!

Photo: 2857 on the 11.55 a.m. from Bridgnorth leaving Bewdley on 4th August 2022

Click on the gallery to see larger images, descriptions and photo credits.

6 giant medals adorned on 6 engines at The Engine House on 20th July 2022. Lewis Maddox
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72 flags of the commonwealth nations & territories hung at The Engine House on 20th July 2
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Colourful Kidderminster concourse - Vintage Transport Extravaganza 5th August 2022
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Steam on the road cavalcade on 5th August 2022. Kieran Hardy
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SVR advertisement at Halesowen on the Merry Hill - Birmingham bus route . James Pearson
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SVR to host anniversary special railtour

Great Western 2+8 HST at Bridgnorth on 31st October 1998. © Copyright Alan Thwaites.jpg
Great Western 2+8 HST at Bridgnorth on a filthy 31st October 1998. © Copyright Alan Thwait

The Railway will host part of a one-off anniversary railtour on Tuesday 27th September, organised by Modern Railways magazine in partnership with CrossCountry trains, using one of the operator’s High Speed Trains. It will run from Leeds to Bridgnorth, offering the unusual chance to enjoy a return trip on the Valley on this iconic train.

A very limited number of tickets are on sale to join the HST just for the SVR leg of its journey, seated in first class. These are available at https://svr.digitickets.co.uk/event-tickets/42597?catID=42866& .

The railtour will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the magazine and 40 years of HSTs on the north-east to south-west route. The trip will be a fundraiser, supporting the Railway Benefit Fund charity.

Modern Railways’ editor Philip Sherratt said: ‘We're hugely grateful to the Severn Valley Railway for their fantastic support in making this trip possible, and we are looking forward to a great fundraising effort to support the valuable work of RBF.’

CrossCountry managing director Tom Joyner said: ‘We're really excited about what promises to be a fantastic collaborative fundraising event and are grateful to our hosts at the Severn Valley Railway for supporting this initiative so enthusiastically. Heritage lines have struggled during the pandemic – they are working railways which are major tourist attractions and therefore provide valuable support for the local economies of the regions they serve. CrossCountry is keen to support our heritage rail partners where we can.’

For more details visit www.modernrailways.com/railtour

Images: Although it’s unusual, the SVR has previously hosted HST railtours. Two images show a Great Western 2+8 HST working a Cheshire Railtours trip from Exeter at Bridgnorth on a filthy 31st October 1998 (how we could do with the rain now!). © Alan Thwaites and used with consent. 

 

Christmas ticket sales are well underway

Although it’s an August heatwave as we publish this edition of Branch Lines, it’s an exciting time of year as the Railway gears up for the end of year Christmas spectacular. It’s also a key financial time for the Railway, expected to generate £1.5 million turnover. Head of visitor experience Michael Dunn provides an update:

 

We might be enjoying ice creams and cold drinks as the United Kingdom bathes in sunshine, but Michael Dunn, the SVR’s head of commercial and visitor experience, is already thinking about Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year:

July’s Branch Lines reported the launch of tickets for Santa Trains and these are selling well, with 12% capacity sold as we go to press. https://www.svr.co.uk/events/santatrains22/

Steam in Lights tickets went on sale last Monday, 8th August. This is our third year and it’s becoming a firm favourite. The whole event has been reimagined with new theming and displays to take passengers around the world as they ride on the illuminated train.

Expect to see the SVR like you’ve never seen it! Trains start on 19th November. https://www.svr.co.uk/events/steaminlights22/

34027 Taw Valley during the Steam in lights Tom Clarke.jpg

Soon to go on sale will be the Enchanted Express, with tickets available from Monday 15th August. After a sold-out debut year, the Enchanted Express is back. Inspired by the classic poem ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, the iconic voice of Dame Julie Walters returns as narrator of the Enchanted Express, guiding your along your heritage steam train journey, experiencing the magic of new characters, presents and an accompanying hardback book!  

Meet five Christmas characters on the train including Santa himself, and discover which cheeky guest has nibbled your ticket at the booking office on arrival! Trains start on 26th November. https://www.svr.co.uk/events/enchantedexpress22/

With the return of on-train dining (see separate item) the Railway is working on plans to add Christmas dining services during December, to run alongside Carol Trains.

Find out more and book tickets from https://www.svr.co.uk/  

 

A Grand Day Out

2857 on the 11.55 a.m. from Bridgnorth leaving Bewdley on 4th August 2022. Kevin Whitehurs

Sometimes knowing what to do during a visit to the Railway can be confusing, especially for people who aren’t familiar with all the delights the SVR has to offer. 

 

The dilemma has been regularly reflected in customer feedback – passengers feel like they don’t have the time to do everything that's available when they visit, and that they might be missing out on key attractions.  


As a result, the Railway has reintroduced a small number of excursion compartments on selected services to ‘take care of the planning' for passengers. These allow visitors to make a journey from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth in a reserved private compartment, then travel back in the same compartment. If they wish, they can then head back out on the line and explore at their leisure.

SVR management teams are looking at introducing the private excursion compartments from Bridgnorth too, based on the success of Kidderminster services. 

 

Michael Dunn, head of commercial and visitor experience, said: “We’re always looking at ways to widen our offering and to cater to all needs. Excursions are a straightforward way to allow passengers to travel in luxury, and have their day managed for them. 

 

“We’re seeing that some people are still not comfortable travelling with others after the pandemic. Our mini-excursion service offers a great solution and allows passengers to visit us and still feel safe!” 

 

Book your tickets for an excursion style day: Buy Tickets for Train Tickets - Private Compartments (digitickets.co.uk)

 

Across the Railway

Right on time at Kidderminster

Over the last couple of months Kidderminster Station’s Wednesday gang have been busy restoring the Bundy clock, which stands proudly on the forecourt in front of the building.

 

The clock was presented to the Friends of Kidderminster Station in 2001 by the Birmingham City Tramway. It’s seven feet high and used to be situated in a suburb of Birmingham.

 

Clocks like these were once a familiar sight in and around UK towns, where they were used to ensure trams and buses ran on time. Drivers were required to clock on at two key points along their route using a key individually coded to them. The time of arrival was then stamped on a paper tape.

 

The Bundy clock at Kidderminster stations is one of only two that are still in working order. Make sure you check it out, and check your watch against it, next time you’re visiting Kidderminster!

Kidderminster Wednesday gang with newly restored clock Michael Anderson 

Kidderminster Wednesday gang with newy restored clock.JPG
 

‘Cropping’ on the permanent way

‘Cropping’ on the permanent way
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‘Cropping’ on the permanent way
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‘Cropping’ on the permanent way
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‘Cropping’ on the permanent way
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Permanent way and signalling volunteers and staff have combined in a drive to clear scrap rail, as these images from Brent Cleeton show. This improves safety, tidies the line and brings much-needed revenue for the Railway – a win all round.

Head of infrastructure Chris Bond secured a road rail vehicle (RRV) and operators from Story Plant. Fitted to the digger arm was a ’rail cropper’, a large hydraulic tool which squeezes a length of rail at  pressure until it snaps, rapidly reducing it to a workable size. One of the Railway’s own RRVs with a grab fitted to it gave assistance, to place rails to be cut and collect the cropped scrap rail. This was then loaded into skips and removed.

A further day with the cropper should complete the task.

Click on the gallery to see larger images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

Geobear in the woods!

In a perfect example of partnership working, the Railway has benefitted from some pioneering stabilisation work at Alveley Woods at zero cost, and strengthened its relationship with a leading geotechnical specialist company at the same time!

Geobear approached the SVR via SVRH vice chairman Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster. They were looking for a suitable place to trial their geo-polymer injection system. They wanted a UK site in order to demonstrate the technology to rail network engineers in this country.

The slip at Alveley Woods was chosen. In exchange for the site and SVR logistics support, Geobear would carry out the necessary design and implementation of the project. Head of infrastructure Chris Bond explains more:

“Geobear’s system involves direct pressurised injection into the ground of various expanding geo-polymer materials. These penetrate the tiny voids that exist and bind the unstable ground together. The design is very important as there are 27 different geo-polymers that can be used depending on the make-up of the ground. The Railway was able to supply Geobear with a good set of data from the boreholes previously sunk at Alveley Woods, and of course the tilt monitoring that’s been set up at the site.”

The project was completed in just two days last month. The operations department provided support, and assembled the necessary vehicles, including the SVR’s breakdown coach to provide a level of on-site welfare. The consist also included a well wagon to carry Geobear’s container, housing the polymer materials and pumping equipment.

The team from Geobear soon got to work, and throughout the two days a stream of invited rail engineers visited to witness the process taking place. This was all part of Geobear’s drive to introduce their solution to the wider rail network.

 

Chris added, “Over the next six to 12 months, the site will be measured and monitored to ensure the success of the project. All things being equal, we hope that we will be able to remove the speed restriction at some point in the not-too-distant future. Who knows what other applications this technology may have elsewhere on our Railway where we have trouble? Watch this space!”

 

Rolling stock

Not the Bridgnorth MPD update!

The Baton awaits departure from Kidderminster Town station on 23rd July 2022. Bob Green.jp

If you are reading this expecting the usual update into what’s happening with the steam locos and Bridgnorth shed and MPD etc, then volunteer shed master Martin White fears you might be largely disappointed this month. Instead, and in the mantle of his paid role at the SVR, he’s focussing on change, reorganisation and the future of SVR engineering:

 

At the end of last month’s piece in Branch Lines I indicated that organisational change was on the way. 

 

Shortly afterwards, on 20th July, NBI-H-0976 was issued announcing that from 8th August Duncan Ballard would become head of steam engineering at Bridgnorth and I would become head of traction and rolling stock based at Kidderminster.

The NBI stated that this decision arose after a review had taken place. That review had been going on for some time and in multiple formats.

Many of you will know of Bob Meanley’s report into the steam engineering facilities at Bridgnorth. Bob’s very extensive and detailed document formed part of the review mentioned in the NBI, but there were other elements, including my own thoughts and recommendations.

When I took over as head of engineering in October 2020, I knew that some change and reorganisation was necessary. The role was simply too big for a single manager with numerous team leaders reporting in. But we were in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. The emphasis at that point was survival, working in ‘emergency mode’, using the resources and staff that we already had. It wasn’t the right time to reorganise and/or find new managers. 

We have survived, but now we need to get through the looming global recession, the downturn in visitor numbers and revenues, the spiralling cost increases, etc. And, on top of all of this, is the fact that some large sectors of SVR engineering have been lacking in managerial oversight and leadership for many years. Those sectors have been grouped under the title of ‘traction and rolling stock’ which can be summarised as:

  

  • the carriages in which our visitors spend much of their time  

  • the diesel locos, including the shunters without which SVR would cease to operate within a few days  

  • the wagons, including the air-braked engineering wagons, without which we cannot carry out the essential maintenance of our track and infrastructure  

 

None of these are as ‘glamorous’ as a steam loco, but they are all just as important for the SVR’s survival and they face massive challenges. For example, did you know that: 

  • our air braked wagons are currently maintained solely by one part-time member of staff? 

  • we need to be repainting seven or eight carriages each year and re-upholstering three just to maintain the status quo ? 

  • 08 shunters have been a part of the SVR for almost 40 years, largely being maintained and rebuilt by a small, dedicated group of volunteers, most of whom are now aged 70+? 

 

Change is required. The new head of traction and rolling stock is going to be kept busy! 

 

Editors’ note: We’re delighted that Martin will still continue to provide his monthly report from Bridgnorth MPD where he continues his volunteer role as shed master.

Photo: Not a locomotive! The Queen's Baton awaits departure from Kidderminster Town station on 23rd July 2022  in Set C, the Carmine and Cream BR Mark 1 set. Bob Green

 

‘Hagley Hall’ – repaint underway

The ‘steam ban’ in July meant testing on 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’ had to stop, and instead the opportunity was taken to begin the final painting of the SVR’s flagship locomotive.

This has been taking place in the TMD (diesel depot) at Kidderminster, where space was found to accommodate this rather unusual visitor.

 

The bulk of the painting work has been carried out by Ronan O’Brien, whose skills came in for much praise after the unveiling of the Railway’s purple locomotive, No. 70 ‘Elizabeth II’. At the same time, Dave Fulcher-Insull, the project leader for ‘Hagley Hall’ has continued to complete a number of mechanical jobs on the engine.

The loco is due to emerge from the Diesel Depot later this month, when it will move into the loaded testing phase.

 

The relaunch of the locomotive is planned for Friday 9th September, when invited guests will attend a dedication ceremony at Kidderminster and travel along the line on the first official journey  of 'Hagley Hall' in passenger service.

Dave Fulcher-Insull in front of 4930 at the Diesel Depot. Lesley Carr.jpg

Dave Fulcher-Insull in front of 4930 at the Diesel Depot. Lesley Carr

 

The big ‘Large Prairie’ appeal – returning locomotive 5164 to service

5164 on the goods on 11th April 2014. Phil Jones.jpg

At its shareholder AGM at Kidderminster Railway Museum on 30th July, the Erlestoke Manor Fund (EMF), owner of ex-GWR Large Prairie 5164 and a charity independent of the SVR, launched an appeal to bring the locomotive back to service on the Railway.

With their ex-GWR locomotives 7812 ‘Erlestoke Manor’ and 7802 ‘Bradley Manor’ both returning to traffic in the near future, they’re commencing this project which, subject to funding, could see 5164 steaming again in late 2027 or 2028.

With the costs of materials and components escalating the Fund is already purchasing components that will be required, including a full set of wheelset springs, which are being held in stock,

At today’s prices, the overhaul is expected to cost £400,000. Existing EMF funds, expected steaming fee income from 7812 and 7802 and a contribution from SVR (Holdings) will be insufficient.

A key objective is for younger volunteers to gain further experience in overhauling ex-GWR locomotives, and for younger EMF trustees to lead the overhaul. This project will be a major factor in maintaining industrial heritage.

 

The locomotive was last in traffic in January 2014 and is currently in store under cover at Barrow Hill Roundhouse Railway Centre. The locomotive was transferred to the EMF’s ownership in 2021 (see December’s Branch Lines).

The EMF is seeking donations and share purchases to help finance the project, with incentives to contribute. As a registered charity, EMF can claim Gift Aid. More information can be found at https://www.erlestokemanorfund.co.uk/the-big-large-prairie-appeal-returning-5164-to-service/

Photo: 5164 on the goods on 11th April 2014. Phil Jones

 

Centenary of Great Northern Railway (GNR) Composite Carriage 2701

The SVR Charitable Trust’s 2701 was outshopped from Doncaster in August 1922, which means it’s now 100 years old.

 

Did you know…?

 

  • 2701 was designed by none other than Mr H N (later Sir Nigel) Gresley. GNR carriage bodies were built of varnished Burmese teak, giving them an attractive appearance 

  • It escaped undamaged from an accident when only three months old  

  • After 1958, it became a holiday 'camping coach' based at Mundesley in Norfolk 

  • It was later purchased by a pub landlord, to use as a dining room!  

  • The LNER Coach Fund moved it to the Valley in 1994, with restoration as part of the 'teak train' supported by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund 

  • 2701 was formally launched into service on 16th August 2008 by Mr Tim Godfrey, a grandson of Sir Nigel Gresley  

 

You can read the Charitable Trust’s new history of the coach at https://svrtrust.org.uk/news  

 

Click on the gallery to see larger images, descriptions and photo credits. All photos by LNER (SVR) Coach Fund except where otherwise stated.

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GNR 2701
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New-build 82045 makes further progress

Heating the lifting link for the 82045 project
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82045 project, lifting link is heated whilst the weightshaft is dipped in liquid nitrogen
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82045 project, lifting link is heated whilst the weightshaft is dipped in liquid nitrogen
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New-build steam BR Standard Class 3 locomotive 82045 has had the lifting arms on the ends of its reversing shaft cryogenically fitted, and you'll soon be able to see a film about this on the SVR's own YouTube channel!

The owners, ‘82045 Steam Locomotive Trust’, are one of the independent charities based on the Railway. Their chairman Neil Taylor (former engineering manager for the SVR) has introduced a ‘Chairman’s Chat’ which includes some further interesting news.

The Trust have reached an in-principle agreement with SVR Engineering (ESMP) to contract some work to the Railway, starting after 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’ is complete. This will ensure the expeditious completion of 82045, using ESMP’s resources to add to the Trust’s volunteering efforts. The Trust will soon define packages of work that they would like ESMP to complete.

In addition, the Trust will enter into a new phase of fundraising. The price of materials has risen two- or three-fold in the last two years, affecting components such as boiler stays and tubes needed in significant quantities to complete the boiler. The Trust’s financial position remains positive and while they can see the way to the finish line, they want to raise additional funds so they can enter the running phase of 82045 in the best financial health.

You can read Neil’s feature-length ‘Chairman’s Chat’ at http://www.82045.org.uk/news/82045_news-jly22-chairmanschat.html  

People

Engineering management changes

Following a review of the Railway’s engineering management provision, the responsibilities of the engineering departments have been reallocated from 8th August, as managing director Helen Smith told Branch Lines

Duncan Ballard is head of steam engineering, based at Bridgnorth ESMP (Engineering Services Motive Power). Duncan is responsible for:  

  • Bridgnorth steam loco works (including the ESMP offices, boiler shop, running shed, machine shop, operational fleet of SVR steam locos, Bridgnorth yard) 

  • ESMP contract engineering 

  • Bridgnorth pattern shop  

  • Budgetary control of Bewdley MPD   

 

 

Martin White is based at Kidderminster as head of traction and rolling stock engineering. Martin is responsible for: 

  • Carriage and wagon (Kidderminster carriage works, Kidderminster carriage shed, Bewdley carriage overhauls, Bewdley wagon repairs, Bridgnorth carriage and wagon) 

  • Diesel traction across the SVR 

  • Bewdley machine shop 

 

This was jointly decided, and more equally spreads the SVR’s management resource between the two main engineering sites of Kidderminster and Bridgnorth.

The Safety Management System will need updating accordingly and this will take some time. Both heads of departments are working closely over this transition period. I’m sure you will all join me in wishing them both the very best of luck in their new positions.

Editors’ note: Martin remains as volunteer shed master at Bridgnorth MPD and we’ll continue to enjoy his monthly shed notes! Thank you, Martin!  

Duncan Ballard.jpg
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Other news

Platinum Jubilee photographs added to Engine House exhibition

Jack Boskett exhibition 16th July 2022. Jack Boskett
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Jack Boskett exhibition 16th July 2022. Jack Boskett
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Photographer Jack Boskett has added 17 new canvas prints to his existing exhibition at The Engine House, Highley, entitled ‘From Railways to Royalty’.

As a member of the ‘Royal Rota’, Jack was invited by Buckingham Palace to take photographs during the Jubilee weekend, and he worked on three of the four days. “The commission entailed a 4am start,” he told Branch Lines. “And I wasn’t finishing until midnight, so having a day off was a blessing!”

The images cover Trooping of the Colour and shots from the steps of St Pauls Cathedral before and after the thanksgiving service, and bring the total of Jack’s images on display to just under 100.

 

Jack added, “I have received some lovely feedback from visitors who have signed my online guest book using the QR codes around the exhibition. It’s by far the largest exhibition I have ever done!”

Click on the gallery to see larger images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

Falling Sands Viaduct exhibitions open

After the successful completion of the Falling Sands Viaduct restoration, two new exhibitions have now been officially opened at The Engine House, Highley and in a restored guard’s van at Kidderminster Town station, thanks to the support of donors, grant makers and a significant grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The exhibition at Highley brings to life the history of the Severn Valley Railway and its preservation, why viaducts are so important and the significance of Falling Sands.

 

The guard’s van exhibition, housed in No. 2886, known as the ‘Stove R’, builds on this, showing the important role the Railway had in enabling businesses in the area to trade nationally, the types of goods that were transported and the difference this made.

More than 30 volunteers who have been involved in the restoration of the Falling Sands Viaduct and the development of the exhibitions were invited to the opening.

 

The projects received the equivalent of £75,000 in volunteer support and the Charitable Trust is grateful to everyone who has been involved in delivering these projects so successfully.

Volunteers were also instrumental in the comprehensive public engagement to expand education around the Severn Valley Railway.

 

This included an illuminated ceremony involving poetry and songs written by Kidderminster & District Youth Trust participants; the recording of audio stories by members of the Rose Theatre used in the exhibitions and the development of a game by students at Kidderminster College.

'

The project doesn’t end there. The aim is to create a legacy that can be enjoyed by visitors for years to come thanks to the support of the volunteers who are taking it forward. 

 

Entry to both exhibitions is free, so why not visit them next time you are at the Railway?  

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Falling Sands Exhibition Opening 28
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Falling Sands Exhibition
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Click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

Dine in style on board a heritage train

Back dining at Bridgnorth station on 20th July. David Bissett
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Severn Valley Limited Dining
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Severn Valley Limited Dining
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The Severn Valley Limited, the Railway’s flagship on-train dining service, restarted on 3rd August for the first time since 2019.

The ‘Limited’ departs from Kidderminster Town station on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday lunchtimes.

 

It offers excellent cuisine whilst travelling in style behind a steam locomotive in the luxuriously appointed 1930s dining carriage 9654, with views of the Severn Valley countryside.

Executive head chef Lucy Kelly told Branch Lines: “I’ve focused the three-course menu very much on local and regional produce. Each dish is full of exciting and complimentary flavours, as well as being a treat for the eyes as it’s served to your table. I’m proud to present this handcrafted menu and to be showcasing it in such a unique setting on the Railway.”

Diners are served with a starter and main course as they travel to Bridgnorth, where during a short stopover diners can explore the gift shop or visit the Railwayman’s Arms.

 

Desserts and coffee are served during the return journey.

Head of commercial and visitor experience Michael Dunn explained: “We wanted to make sure that we’re giving our diners the highest standards of cuisine and service, along with a luxury heritage experience they’ll treasure. Our catering team has worked extremely hard to get things just right.”

The Railway operated a preview dining service during July for working members and their guests, and has received extremely positive feedback. One reviewer said “Wow, just blown away by the presentation and taste sensation…a must repeat experience.” 

 

The SVR also continues to offers on-train afternoon teas on board the beautifully-appointed teak dining carriage 7960. The teas have a vintage theme with a modern twist, comprising savoury bites, sandwiches, scones and traditional cakes.

Shareholders with passes or travel vouchers, and working members will only need to pay for the dining element of their experience – travel will not be charged. SVR members can book at the reduced price of £71.75. All these must be booked directly with the visitor services team on 01562 757900.

For more details on all the SVR’s dining offers and to book tickets, please visit https://www.svr.co.uk/ontraindining/

 

Looking ahead to 2023

2023 Calendars.jpg

The Railway has produced separate steam and diesel calendars for 2023 and these are available now.

 

 

Each month features a different Severn Valley locomotive, each photograph reflecting the consistently high standard that’s seen in the quarterly SVR members’ magazine, Severn Valley Railway News.  

 

 

Each calendar is individually wrapped, and they are on sale in the SVR’s shops at Kidderminster, Bridgnorth and The Engine House, Highley, priced at just £9.99. You can also order through the online shop at www.svrshop.co.uk (P&P extra). 

The calendars make ideal presents, and if you will forgive us mentioning it during the current heatwave, Christmas really isn’t too far away! 

 

The SVR on TV (again!)

The Railway features in two forthcoming episodes of the current series of Train Truckers which is airing on UKTV's Yesterday channel in its various SD/HD/+1 platforms.

 

Tonight’s episode (Thursday 11th August) tells the story of the departure from Bridgnorth of 6960 ‘Raveningham Hall’.

 

Then, on Thursday 25th August, the SVR is in the spotlight once again with the story of the arrival of ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’.

You can watch it on demand on UKTV Play via your TV or at at https://uktvplay.co.uk/shows/train-truckers/watch-online

Photo: 4498 Sir Nigel Gresley arrives at Highley, credit Jason Hood

4498 Sir Nigel Gresley arrives at Highley, credit Jason Hood.jpg
 

V1 11th August 2022

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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.