Just before the steam ban, 7802 is seen at Crossing Cottage on 8th July 2018 , by Ian Murray
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
Like us, you might be breathing a sigh of relief that the seemingly relentless hot weather has now eased a little. The long, dry spell in July caused issues for the Railway, and the frequency of line side fires led to the temporary withdrawal of steam services. At the weekend, the Railway marked the 50th anniversary since the last timetabled steam engines ran on the mainline, and as always, it was done with real SVR panache. We’ve news from Carriage & Wagon, where not only have they acquired a brand new apprentice, but they’re also working with a rather international spin on things at the moment. Up at Bridgnorth, they’ve also gained a new apprentice, and engineering services manager Neil Taylor updates us on the hard work and often difficult decisions that are helping to reduce the backlog of boiler repairs.
If you love a bargain we have some of those for you too, with discounted tickets for a fascinating talk at Malvern Theatre, the chance for a cut-price diesel footplate experience and a great subscription offer for the UK’s leading rail magazine.
If you have friends or family with an interest in the SVR, please let them know that they too can sign up to Branch Lines. Just go to http://www.svr.co.uk/EmailSubscribe.aspx and select the Branch Lines tick box.
We’d love to hear your SVR-related news and views. Whether you’re on the other side of the world (as a number of our readers are) or you’re just down the road from one of our stations, please do get in touch with us at email@example.com.
Simon Turner & Lesley Carr, Co-Editors
Picture by Ian Murray
Spate of fires leads to temporary ‘steam ban’
Heritage diesel locomotives replaced steam services at the SVR for a week last month. This followed the weekend of the 8th and 9th July, when the fire service was called to attend a number of small line side fires, believed to be caused by embers from steam engines. The temporary ‘steam ban’ was imposed to reduce the risk of further fires and added pressure on the fire service. A protracted spell of hot weather and lack of rain had caused extremely dry conditions for vegetation along the line.
General manager Nick Ralls said: "Despite the best efforts of our volunteers and staff to work appropriately for the dry conditions, the fire service was called out to a number of fire incidents along the line on Sunday.
"As an important part of the local community, we must consider the added pressure on an already stretched fire service during this extended dry spell as well as the disruption to our neighbours and this is why these measures have been taken.
By Thursday 19th July, after a detailed review, steam trains were reintroduced, initially using locos No 7802 Bradley Manor, and 100-year-old No 2857. Apart from some very minor incidents which were easily dealt with and closely monitored, so far everything has gone smoothly.
Nick added: “This really is an exceptional occurrence, but it did allow some of our lovely fleet of heritage diesel locomotives to shine for a short while. I would like to thank and acknowledge the support of the diesel crews over this period for helping the Railway through the provision of diesel locomotion.”
Marking the last days of steam, with SVR style
For many, August 4th 1968 was a life-changing day. British Railways ran its last timetabled mainline steam service, sealing the fate of steam traction on the national network. Exactly 50 years on, the SVR marked the half century of this monumental day with a special Last Days of Steam nostalgia event.
Among the 12 engines running services on August 4th 1968 was one of the locomotives now on the SVR - 8F No 48773. Another engine also on the SVR, Black 5 No 45110, went on to earn its place in history by hauling the first and very last legs of the famed Fifteen Guinea Special - British Railway’s last steam-hauled passenger train, on August 11th 1968.
To mark the anniversary, both 48773 and 45110 were brought out into the daylight from their current home in The Engine House Visitor Centre to Kidderminster so that visitors could see them up close and visit their footplates. Amongst other attractions at the event was a re-enactment of the Fifteen Guinea Special by 43106.
Event organiser David Postle, of the Kidderminster Railway Museum, said: “Having been brought up on railways from the age of four, 4th August 1968 was life-changing to a comparative youngster, with steam being sentenced to the scrap yard, though, of course, the change had been coming for a number of years.
“As this August marks 50 years since regular steam finished and the fires were dropped for the very last time, we wanted to mark the anniversary, particularly as we have two of the very historic locomotives that took part in those last days.”
Viewers to BBC Breakfast Time on Thursday August 2nd saw David, along with SVR founder member Columb Howells and fireman Stan Jones, being interviewed in a series of live broadcasts from Bewdley.
At Kidderminster Railway Museum, there’s an exhibition of photographs showcasing around 200 emotive images captured during the last years of BR steam. It includes those taken of the special trains on 4th and 11th August 1968, and it runs until August 19th.
Discounted offer for Diesel Footplate Experience
If you’ve ever wanted to drive a Class 40, this is a chance that’s not-to-be-missed. There’s a discount of £50 on the usual price on Monday 20th August only.
There is nothing quite like the sight and sound of a diesel locomotive in full cry! Take the controls for eight miles, act as second man for eight miles, then ride in the rear cab for an additional 16 miles, before you join a tour of Kidderminster Diesel Depot. You can also bring along six guests to travel on the train, free of charge.
Realise your lifelong ambition on Monday 20th August for just £300. More details at www.svr.co.uk/Drive-A-Train and phone 01562 757900 to book.
Falling Sands appeal passes the £200,000 milestone
The SVR’s ‘helping hands for Falling Sands’ campaign continues to attract enthusiastic support, with more than 2,000 names signed up for the SVR’s first ever donation wall, and over £200,000 secured.
A number of heritage rail organisations based at the SVR and elsewhere have come forward with their support. Donations have already been received from Bridgnorth Permanent Way department, The 82045 Steam Locomotive Trust, Western Locomotive Association, LNER (SVR) Coach Fund, Warwickshire Railway Society and Erlestoke Manor Fund.
As part of the Falling Sands project, a great deal of work will go into explaining the history of the viaduct, and the part the Railway played in the lives of local people in the past. There’ll be special exhibitions, events and educational activities. If you would like to add your thoughts on how the SVR can recognise and celebrate the restoration of Falling Sands Viaduct, you can have your say at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/GYHXZQ7
Please add your name, or a friend or family member’s to the SVR’s first ever donation wall at www.svrtrust.org.uk and support ‘helping hands for Falling Sands’.
A flurry of activity at Bridgnorth
Infrastructure manager Chris Bond reports on what’s been happening with the new build, along with exciting news on the authentic period GWR furnishings for the refreshment room.
A great deal of tiling has been applied in both the gents’ toilets and the kitchen areas, which has made a great deal of difference to the appearance inside. We’re about to install the extraction canopy in the kitchen, and have been liaising closely with the catering supplier to ensure all the new equipment is provided with power, water and drainage. The toilets are coming along nicely; the cubicle door frames and the gents’ urinal trough are in place. Externally, the majority of the windows have been painted, and the external door frames are going in well.
The “Bovey Tracey” building that sits in the rear service yard has received its corrugated cladding, and now that the floor screed is in place, its internal fit is taking place. The terrace extension formwork is complete and when the concrete has cured, we can start laying the brick cladding to match in with the rest of the building. Mike Yarker has skilfully repaired the speartop fence panels at Kidderminster, and these are now ready and waiting for the contractor to move in and complete this area.
Elsewhere off site, a quantity of GWR chairs have been restored and reupholstered and look very smart indeed with their GWR shell pattern moquette. Arts and Crafts-style tables are under construction; together with the chairs these will provide an authentic heritage feel. Patterns have been made for the production of cast iron table and bench ends, based on a GWR design used at Stafford Road works in Wolverhampton.
The project is definitely experiencing a flurry of activity as we head towards completion of what will be a stunning building.
Welcome to our latest engineering apprentices
The SVR’s newest recruits, Barney and Jacob, had a warm welcome on their first day at the Railway on Wednesday.
Jacob (16, pictured on the left) and Barney (20) have fought off competition from hundreds of other applicants to gain their places in the SVR’s pioneering Heritage Skills Training Academy. During their first year with the Railway, they’ll get the chance to work in different areas. Barney has started in the Carriage & Wagon department at Kidderminster, while Jacob is based initially at the Locomotive works at Bridgnorth.
Barney explains his strong family connection with heritage rail, “My dad was a cleaner on steam engines at the SVR years ago, and my great-grandfather was an engineer for the LNER, so it’s lovely that I can keep the steam railway connection alive in our family.”
Jacob adds, “I’m really excited to be starting, to be honest. I just want to get going! Yes, it’s a big thing going from school, aged 16, into the workplace, but for me it’s about doing something active.”
The SVR Charitable Trust is the majority funder for apprentices at the Railway. If you would like to help train future heritage engineers and secure the SVR’s future, please donate now.
Discount on The Railway Magazine for Branch Lines readers
The Railway Magazine is offering Branch Lines readers a special subscription discount. You can receive your first six issues for £20, then pay £20 for the next six. Sign up at www.classicmagazines.co.uk/trm142 and use the code TRM142. This offer is valid until 31st August.
The Railway Magazine is Britain’s best-selling rail title. Published continuously since 1897, it prides itself on its news content and its unique blend of award-winning photos, features, interviews and exclusives. Its wide-ranging coverage of the rail industry and heritage railways, past and present, commands the respect of professionals and enthusiasts alike.
Mortons, the publishers of Heritage Railway, are supporting the SVR directly with a donation through the SVR Charitable Trust to help fund apprentice training in our Heritage Skills Training Academy.
Picture by Robin Coombes
We stepped back to the 1940s and sizzled
The general manager Nick Ralls has praised both the committee and the large team of volunteers for putting on a “fantastic” 1940s event over two weekends. Passenger numbers for the first Saturday (30th June) were impressive at 2,727, but a combination of very hot weather and high profile sporting events meant numbers on the other days were down on budget*.
Nick said, “The 1940s committee have provided an excellent event over two fantastic weekends, and the evening concerts and educational activities were very well attended. I salute the achievements of the committee along with the massive team effort that’s needed to stage the event, and then take it down and pack it away again. I am sure we had a lot of content visitors who will remember the day of their visit.”
* Sat 30th June 2,727 Sun 1st July 1,032 Sat7th July 1,848 Sun 8th July 1,057
Success in reducing the backlog in the boiler shop
Engineering services manager Neil Taylor reports on the work that’s taken place to reduce a large boiler shop backlog, and looks forward to a highly productive future.
We have made great strides to reduce the backlog in the boiler shop. I can now be truly positive about the journey that the guys have led us on. I presented to the Holdings Board in May and showed how a backlog of over three years will be reduced by the end of this year to less than a year of backlog and mostly boilers in forward load. If we get our act together for the whole of the year we will have delivered eight boilers in just over a calendar year.
This is a prolific output for any organisation. How we have done this is very much about ensuring that three or four boilers are being worked on simultaneously, and not panicking. We have also not taken on work that has been offered. I have rejected the vast majority of offers of work in order to give us the breathing space to perform.
One thing that we have done contentiously is to sub-contract the boiler for Hagley Hall. This was not an easy decision but when we analysed the progress it was clear that we had three conflicting priorities for the next SVR boiler. We had requests to work on both 4150 and 82045 in the immediate future, and something had to give. As Hagley is a Holdings Company asset the decision was easier to make without negotiation, and it was the most extensive refurbishment.
As it turns out the decision has paid dividends and Northern Steam Engineering at Stockton have made a great start on the boiler. The photograph shows the boiler in a very “de-constructed” state. Having reviewed the structures, the firebox looks very good but there are some areas of corrosion on the tapered barrel section that will need addressing. This is a very similar challenge to 75069, and this is not surprising as this was another loco left out in the elements for many years. We are yet to see the full benefit of the Engine House, but will discover the upside when we take our next loco out from under cover for restoration.
I mentioned turning away contract work; one of the reasons that this is possible is that we have a secure lineage of boiler construction with the Isle of Man boiler project, providing a consistent and controllable contract work arm. This work helps support the employment of two boiler smiths, meaning that we have a critical mass of boiler shop employees and therefore are able to cover for sickness and holidays. Currently we are constructing two new build boilers and repairing a third. The IOM number 15 repair has been transported to the island already and will shortly be entering service.
75069’s progress in the boiler shop
A huge amount of effort has gone into the completion of 75069’s boiler as engineering services manager Neil Taylor reports
While this loco’s boiler now looks finished and is fully tubed, there are the usual finishing tasks to endure such as lapping in steam joints and sealing the hundreds of stays. However, by the time you read this, there will be water in the boiler for the first time in over 20 years!
Cladding has been painted and this is ready to be wrapped round the boiler. Multiple fittings are coming together and the cab is starting to be fitted out. The new smokebox has migrated to the boiler shop to be finished off and riveted. Hydraulic and steam tests have begun, and it may be a sporty two weeks or a difficult month.
Once we have a completed and tested boiler it will be lowered into position. Frantic fitting effort will then assemble the complete loco in the next three months, including a significant amount of pipework that needs to be carefully fitted to the boiler. We then enter the running test phase which we hope to be sufficient to iron out the teething problems that are inevitable.
Those of you who can do the simple maths will have worked out by now that an appearance at the Autumn Gala is not a likely event. However we will do our best to wheel the loco out in whatever state it is in to demonstrate the fruits of our labour. We are all confident that this will be a superb addition to the fleet but we are not going to rush the final tasks only to cause ourselves long term issues.
Another successful year for the Charitable Trust
The SVR Charitable Trust has published its 2018 Platform update which is packed full of news about the projects and activities they’ve been able to support at the Railway in the past year. You can pick up a copy from one of the stations, or download an e-copy at https://www.svrtrust.org.uk/downloads/Platform%202018%20web%20version-1.pdf
The secrets behind ‘The Golden Age of Steam Railways’
A few years ago the BBC came to the Severn Valley to make a film about the early days of the Railway. They spoke to some of the older men and women who were there in the early days, and they dug out some remarkable cine film that these early enthusiasts had shot of their exploits. Then they went to other railways and did the same to produce two films called ‘The Golden Age of Steam Railways'.
The BBC has broadcast the programmes many times, but on Tuesday 4th September at the Malvern Theatre, film maker David Parker will be showing clips from the programmes and giving the inside story on how they made the series.
It promises to be a lovely evening of glorious film of the early days of the steam preservation movement including fabulous stories from the pioneers of the Severn Valley. You might hear about how they put the Bridgnorth station name back where it belonged, or the cast iron bog, or the sweat involved in bringing engine 2857 back to life.
David has very kindly offered to donate £1 for each ticket sold to the SVR Charitable Trust, and what’s more there’s a special 25% discount on the price of the tickets for SVR supporters who book online using the code STEAM 25 at www.malvern-tickets.co.uk
Carriage & Wagon goes international
There’s an international flavour at Kidderminster C&W with temporary summer recruits from France and Canada.
Twenty-two year old Yoan Gerard from the Nantes area of France is at the SVR on a three-month internship, to learn a range of practical skills and improve his English:
“Right from my first day I got straight into the work, and learnt to weld alongside James Broughton. He was very kind and a good teacher. At my company in France, I get very little chance to do practical, hands-on work, as I am sitting at a computer most of the time.
“Coming here is a great experience, and I think it will widen my horizons and help me in the future. I am so grateful for this opportunity. Internships in France are very hard to come by, and I am especially lucky to have this.”
C&W paint shop supervisor Hugh McQuade is an enthusiast of the summer internship scheme for French apprentices, which has been running for several years:
“It’s a great asset for us, because we get the full-time services of a member of staff for three months, and there’s no cost to us. At first we work closely with the interns, assessing both their level of English and level of ability to do the practical tasks. After instruction, we can set them off on their own. It works well because there are many jobs here that ‘repeat’. For example, once you’ve learnt how to assemble one seat, you’re all set to do the remaining 63 for the whole carriage.”
Also recently arrived at C&W is Steve Bloomer, a retired mechanical engineer with a background in the automotive industry. Originally from Hagley, he’s lived in southern Ontario in Canada on and off since 1973.
“I felt a need to do something different and give something back. I’d always had an interest in steam trains, did my share of GWR trainspotting as a youngster. I’ve been a member of the SVR for a long time, because of my Hagley roots, and contacted Barry Moreton at the VLO to offer my services in some sort of restoration capacity. So here I am, full-time for the next two months, getting stuck in!
“It feels just great being here. It’s like a blast from the past with the old-fashioned workshop set up. I love seeing how well these vehicles were designed in the first place, and how well they go back together after we’ve restored the parts. This is British engineering at its best.”
“People like Yoan and Steve are very welcome in the mix here. We have more than 40 regular volunteers, and they’re a well-informed, well-travelled bunch. They love the contact with new people, and working alongside them.”
Whisky galore at the SVR
If you’re a whisky lover, there’s a seat with your name on it on board the SVR’s Whisky Train on Saturday 25th August.
Departing from Kidderminster and Bridgnorth, you’ll travel first class on the superbly-restored 7960, our teak bodied kitchen diner composite. This carriage was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and formed part of the SVR’s Flying Scotsman train when the iconic loco visited us in 2016.
You’ll be served a tasting sequence of four whiskies, accompanied by an informative overview of each from expert professional staff from Hay Wines.
If you have a member’s or shareholder’s pass to travel, there’s only a supplement to pay for the whisky tasting experience.
For full details and to book tickets, please visit http://www.svr.co.uk/SEItem.aspx?a=130
Careful with that door!
Carriage doors are always going to come in for a hammering, and after 60 years in service those on 80776 are no exception. This coach is undergoing restoration in the Kidderminster Carriage & Wagon works as part of a Charitable Trust project to upgrade the SVR’s wheelchair provision, part-funded by a £75,000 grant from the Department for Transport.
The team working on 80776 includes around 40 volunteers and two of the SVR’s apprentices. One of these, Ronan O’Brien explains the tricky nature of the job:
“As you can see in the photo, there was a lot of damage to the top main cant rail above this double door, and the door pillars themselves. When we cut back the roof panels and the top stringer, we could see the full extent, and to be honest there were more holes in it than a colander! We welded in genuine BR replacement gutters, and replaced the door pillars, wooden door jambs and added a new skin. Now, it’s as good as new.”
The higher-than-expected levels of corrosion on this vehicle have added extra time to the project’s duration, and C&W expect to be working on the carriage until the end of this year.
Photo credit: Ronan O’Brien
A wonder-full summer for kids at the SVR
Grab the kids or grandkids, and take advantage of the SVR’s superb £45 family ticket offer. Two adults and up to four children can travel all day on the Railway, and there are a range of free special events when you stop off at The Engine House at Highley.
Be inspired by the Science Boffins and their jaw dropping experiments, mind blowing demonstrations and interactive games. Grab your wand for one of our Wizard Weeks, take part in an interactive Steam Ahead workshop or have a hoot at our Meet the Owls events. There’s tons more to keep little minds busy and happy.
Full details at www.svr.co.uk/summer
Plus kids eat free with the purchase of an adult meal in the Highley restaurant, Mondays to Fridays.
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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.