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December 2020

Steam in Lights 3rd December 2020_1. Ken
Steam in Lights 3rd December 2020. Kenny Felstead

Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!

Will you be visiting the Railway this festive season? We very much hope so, and can guarantee that you will be in for an absolute treat! Whether it’s the Santa trains, the Steam in Lights services, a mince pie special or a luncheon or dining experience, you can be sure that everything possible will have been done to make your visit special.

In recent days, the SVR’s Christmas services have got off to a triumphant start, even if national lockdown restrictions meant the Railway had to delay things for a few days! Steam in Lights started on Thursday at Bridgnorth, and yesterday the Santa services began from Kidderminster. The feedback is excellent, and proof if we were ever in any doubt, that the SVR knows how to look after its visitors, to give them a magical experience and most importantly right now, to keep them safe.

It's a month for celebrations all round as SVR volunteers are shortlisted for no less than three separate awards, and the restoration of Falling Sands Viaduct is almost complete. We report on what’s being done to add some rather special finishing touches to this important Railway structure. Plus there’s the story of rap on rails (you’ll have to read it to find out what that is!) and an SVR connection with W H Auden, and news of a podcast full of SVR pioneer memories.

Plenty to keep you going on these dark nights, we think! Here’s hoping the next month continues to go well for the Railway, and we’d like to wish you a safe, peaceful and happy Christmas.

Please note that our next publication date is a little later than you might be expecting – your January Branch Lines will be published on the 10th.

Lesley and Patrick, co-editors

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

Next edition 10th January 2021

Christmas has started at the SVR

After weeks of intensive preparations and an equal amount of nervous waiting for the government announcement, the Railway reopened on Thursday 3rd December. The first 2020 Steam in Lights service left Bridgnorth at 4.30pm, followed by 6.30 and 8.30 departures later in the evening.

Yesterday (Saturday 5th December) the Santa services got underway at Kidderminster, taking hundreds of family groups up to Arley for the Railway’s first-ever Christmas show, Jingle, Jangle and the Christmas Cookbook.

Helen Smith, the general manager paid tribute to the tremendous efforts of volunteers and paid staff that made it all possible:

“It has been a huge team effort to get our magical family Christmas events up and running in such challenging circumstances. Both customer-facing and behind the scenes. I have been incredibly proud of how everyone has pulled together to make it work. I can tell you how wonderful it is but more importantly the visitors are absolutely thrilled with what we have put together. The children visiting this month will never forget their Christmas experience at the Severn Valley Railway.”

The three-generations of the Jones family from Worcester spent “a thoroughly magical and wonderful morning” on the 9.30 Santa train and wrote:

“We just wanted to say a very big Thank You to all the staff and volunteers involved for making it such as wonderful and special morning. We will all have some very special memories to cherish.

“The work, dedication and enthusiasm put into this event was incredible and is a credit to your organization especially given the current restrictions/conditions in which you find yourselves.”

Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions. Also shown is a BBC report from 26th November.

Christmas has started at the SVR

A look ahead to 2021 at the SVR

Branch Lines is delighted to bring you advance notice of the SVR’s 2021 services and special events. Subject to changes in government restrictions, the Railway will reopen on February 13th running services for half term until the 21st February.

The excursion services have proved so popular during the Covid restrictions that they will continue in addition to standard service trains. In a change to previous years, there will be no services between February half term and the Easter holidays in April. The season will therefore commence with daily running on April 2nd for Easter, and weekend running later in the month.

From May the Railway will start daily running, which lasts all the way until the end of September, followed by weekend and half term running in October. After this, with the exception of the Season finale gala between the 5th and 7th November, there will be a maintenance period until the Christmas season gets underway towards the end of that month.

As always, the SVR has galas planned to suit all interests, and the current dates for these are:

  • Spring Gala - 15th - 18th April

  • Spring Diesel Festival -13th - 16th May

  • Autumn Steam Gala - 16th - 19th September

  • Autumn Diesel Gala – 30th September - 3rd October

  • Season Finale Gala – 5th - 7th November


Helen Smith, the general manager, is cautiously hopeful about what the Railway will be able to offer next year:

“In addition to the galas, we’re scheduling the popular 1940s weekends on the 26th and 27th June and the 3rd and 4th July. With the news of the vaccine we are optimistically but carefully preparing Covid-safe events, that can be expanded should the government restrictions allow. We’d like to be able to reintroduce footplate experience days, and will announce further events once they are confirmed. Please keep checking the website, where more details will appear in due course.

For the 2021 Christmas season, the Railway will once again be running the sell-out Steam in Lights and Santa Specials. Steam in Lights starts from 25th November and runs until Christmas Eve, whilst the Santa trains start running at weekends from 26th November, and daily from 18th December until Christmas Eve. After Christmas, a steam service will run until 3rd January.

Bookings are not yet available but keep a look out for more for more details in the not-too-distant future! All events are subject to change, pending government restrictions.

The absence of 2020 events gives us a chance to look back at earlier years. Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions.

A look ahead to 2021 at the SVR

Historic moment as two women join the board of SVRH

Diane Malyon.jpg
Helen Smith.jpg

After the SVR (Holdings) Plc (SVRH) and the SVR Company Limited (SVRG) held their respective Annual General Meetings, each board has met to confirm their appointments. This has resulted, for the first time, in the appointment of two women to the SVRH board.


SVRH has co-opted general manager Helen Smith as a director. In addition, as reported in last month’s Branch Lines, SVRG has appointed its new chairman, Diane Malyon as one of its representatives on the SVRH board.


The board members for the PLC and Guarantee companies are shown on SVRLive. 

Historic moment as 2 women join SVRH board

Recognition for SVR volunteers

Success at the Severn Valley, as volunteers have secured not one but two shortlisted nominations for the annual Heritage Railway Association Awards. 


The Class 50 Alliance team have been shortlisted for the HRA Award for Diesel Locomotion, for 30 years of Class 50 preservation. To be nominated for this award the organisation much have demonstrated excellence on overhaul, restoration, preservation or operation of diesel locomotives and the Class 50 team have done all four.

Now boasting a fleet of five locomotives, the organisation was formed in 1991, with the purchase of 50035 Ark Royal, which was restored from scrap yard condition. Since then, the team has been at the forefront of diesel preservation, holding the honour of many firsts within the sector. The most recent success was the restoration of 50033, Glorious, which took a record time of six months. The fleet has worked in excess of 80 scheduled passenger and charter trains across the length and breadth of the mainline network, as well as operating at many of the country’s heritage railways.

Chairman of the diesel groups, Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster said: 


“The Class 50 Alliance are a remarkable team who have continued to achieve amazing things over the last three decades. Uniquely for a group of volunteers, they have restored four locomotives to main line condition; something which is without equal in the UK heritage railway movement steam or diesel.” 


Also recognised by the HRA is 21-year-old Tom Mills, who has been shortlisted for the Lord Faulkner Young Volunteer Award, which is awarded for significant achievement by a volunteer under the age of 26. Tom started as a mentored volunteer aged 16 and, in addition to his progression through the loco ranks, he’s become a regular volunteer in Bridgnorth’s pattern-making workshop, where he’s learning the skills of producing traditional wooden patterns for metal castings. Passing on these traditional skills to a new generation is vital for the continuation of the heritage movement, and Tom’s achievements are both a credit to him and all of the SVR volunteers who have mentored and assisted Tom during his time on the SVR. Bridgnorth shed master Martin White said: 


“Pattern making is one of the dying trades of British manufacturing and Tom’s willingness and aptitude to learn this traditional skill is, in my opinion, the epitome of everything that is great about SVR engineering/manufacturing volunteers. He has learned something completely new to him and will be able to take this forward hopefully for future generations to follow in his footsteps. I would like to thank everyone who has helped Tom on his journey so far, especially Paul White and Stuart Smith.” 


The HRA Awards are scheduled to take place on March 3rd 2021 in York.

And in another award nomination, the SVR has been nominated for the 'Railcar Award 2020' from The Railcar Association. The DMU Group (West Midlands)’s Mark Miller told Branch Lines: “Despite a tough two years the Group has faced, unable to run trains while bogie overhauls were underway, the hard work has been recognised with the nomination for the return of the current two-car unit of 52064 and 50933.

“Details of the award can be found at There is stiff competition from some superb units but the Group and the SVR would ask anyone who wishes to vote to do so. Please make sure you cast your vote before the end of Thursday 31st December 2020”.

Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions.

Recognition for SVR volunteers

Jingle, Jangle & The Christmas Cookbook

Every year, a merry bunch of volunteers take part in the numerous tasks to get the Railway ready for Christmas - and this year was no different! Events manager, Lewis Maddox, gets us in the mood. 

The first task was to take delivery of the presents and move pallet-loads of goodies into the two present storage carriages that are now attached to the Santa Trains. After a quick briefing, the two lorries arrived right on cue, packed to the brim with pallets.

Despite the lack of a breakfast butty to say thank you (blame Covid-19!) the team worked tirelessly to complete the job in good time and all presents were successfully loaded whilst the sun shone. 


Shortly after the delivery of presents, the group transformed themselves into Team Tinsel and were set loose on the three Christmas sets of carriages. Armed with kilometres of bunting, hundreds of baubles and reams of tinsel, more than 150 compartments were soon oozing with Christmas spirit, ready to welcome our passengers throughout December. 

And the hard work doesn't stop there; a couple of months back, I put out a request for cardboard boxes, and as a result, a flood of boxes of all shapes and sizes came into the office. Angela Smith rose to the challenge and wrapped every single box that was donated, before working with the station team at Kidderminster to put them out on the train. 


On the station front, all sites are now looking absolutely fantastic - well done everyone! I am extremely excited to welcome passengers to Kidderminster as we've got a few extra special surprises this year. Not only do we have a snow machine and real Christmas trees, we have some amazing singing reindeer too (ask the GM if you don't believe me!)  

At Arley, the Christmas marquee was completed, and the cast well-rehearsed for the show - our brand-new Santa-mime! Entitled Jingle, Jangle & The Christmas Cookbook, the 30-minute performance sees two cheeky elves helping Mrs Claus in her north-pole kitchen, preparing for the big day. But will Santa deliver all the presents on time?!

The final test runs for Steam in Lights went well at the end of November. With a longer train this year, bigger displays, more narration and the addition of a snow cannon, there was plenty to rehearse before the first public service. 

2020 has been quite the year for the SVR, but I am so excited for our itinerary of Christmas events to start - it's been a long time coming, with hours and hours spent behind the scenes getting the Railway prepared. A big thank you to everyone who is volunteering with us over the next few weeks, I know you'll do us proud. Is it too early to wish you a Merry Christmas?

Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions.

Jingle, Jangle & The Christmas Cookbook

Steamy Talk 

Now, be honest, you know there's only one type of steamy talk to be found in Branch Lines! This is all about the group of volunteers who in 1965 set about saving the Severn Valley Railway. Fast forward to 2020, and the SVR’s researchers have been busy delving into those early days of preservation and collecting fascinating stories from the original volunteers. These have been made into a podcast to share their memories as part of the Falling Sands Viaduct project, funded by donations and a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.


The podcast takes us back to the first meeting of the ‘Severn Valley Railway Society’, and tells how a small but dedicated group of volunteers formed work parties, and cleared the line between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade. 


Listen here:

46443 and 3205 bridgnorth 7th may 1967 D

Once you’ve listened to the podcast, please share it with friends, family or via social media. You can let the podcast production team have your comments by contacting There are plenty more memories and stories to record and share, so if you enjoy it and let the team know, and they’ll make a start on Episode 2.

Photo: Bridgnorth on Sunday 7th May 1967. Loco 3205 had been 'with us' six weeks, and 46443 two weeks. The volunteers in the picture (from left to right): Bob Pitman, Alan Eatwell, Jim McNally, Richard Willcox, Jim Maxwell, Geoff Such, Barry Hill, John Hill and Gerry Carter. Photo credit; David C. Williams

Steamy Talk 

‘Tap to Give’ to our engineers!

Tap to Give.jpg

If you are travelling with us soon, then please remember the talented engineers who lovingly restore and maintain the SVR’s locomotives and carriages for you to come and enjoy at the Railway. Our heritage engineers are highly specialised and it costs £17,000 a year to train each one.


You can give the SVR a Christmas present by helping us to train the heritage engineers of the future in our pioneering Heritage Apprenticeship Scheme. Visit our ‘Tap to Give’ donation board near the ticket office on the concourse at Kidderminster, to donate between £5 and £30 using your contactless card. You can also use the donation envelope that you’ll find in your compartment when you travel with us.


Thank you so much for your support.

‘Tap to Give’ to our engineers!

A month of steady progress at Bridgnorth MPD

Yes, we’ve just come out of another lockdown, but as volunteer shed master Martin White reports, with one notable exception, it hasn’t meant a slowdown for work at the Motive Power Depot:

Another Covid lockdown. Another month without public service trains. But that doesn’t mean to say there haven’t been other trains and locomotive movements in the last month. Steam tests, following repairs, have been undertaken on 34027, 75069 and even the austerity ‘Welsh Guardsman’, which has made some furtive light engine dashes out of Bridgnorth MPD.

34027, ‘Taw Valley’ worked the Steam in Lights test trains on the evenings of 23rd and 24th November, followed by three afternoons and evenings of filming on 25th – 27th.

Meanwhile, in the boilershop, probably the noisiest place on SVR, there is a lot going on, hidden from view. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ maybe…so let me give you an update.

The construction of the third and fourth new build boilers for the Isle of Man Railway is ongoing. The firebox for No 3 is largely complete and early in 2021 it will be riveted to the boiler barrel. No 4 isn’t very far behind it and during the last week of November a contract welder was on site to carry out some of the specialist activity on it that we cannot do in-house. Other contract work at the moment includes significant repairs to ‘Holy War’ from the Bala Lake Railway. Narrow gauge Andrew Barclay built, ‘Caledonia’, from the Hollycombe Steam Museum, is also about to benefit from the boilersmiths’ skills and receive a substantial repair in the coming months.

The work on 4150 has slowed, partly due to the volunteer workforce from the owning group being unable to attend on site. But it’s also been because of the complexity of the documentation and processes required for repairs to the boiler barrel, which is manufactured from steel with a high nickel content. The 4150 Fund have a specialist welder lined up to carry out the work, but need to make sure that the SVR’s boiler examination suppliers are 100% happy before the work is undertaken.

The weighty job of assembling the boiler for new build, BR standard class 3, 82045 is also underway. Large boiler plate pressings are being measured, scribed and drilled. The old adage ‘measure twice, cut once’ certainly applies to this job, although I think I’d measure 20 times before drilling my first hole!

13268, the Stanier Mogul, is also moving forwards, with the new front tube plate having been offered up to the boiler barrel and finally made to fit. A bit more specialist welding to finish off the small patch in the front of the barrel will be followed by a barrage of hot riveting to fix it in place.

And last, but by no means least, 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’ had its first warming fire lit up at Northern Steam Engineering in Stockton on Tees on 23rd November.

STOP PRESS: 1450's boiler certificate will expire in a few days, following the extension given previously by the boiler inspector. We had hoped to arrange a 'last run' for visitors during November but the Covid-19 restrictions unfortunately precluded this. A special for the owner has been arranged to celebrate the end of the locomotive's boiler ticket and allow one last run. It will operate in ‘auto-train mode’ with coach 178 on the 9th December for several trips between Bridgnorth and Highley. In due course, the owners and the Railway will consider arrangements for this popular machine.

Photos show 4930’s first fire – picture by Northern Steam and 13268 with the front tube plate being craned and subsequently in position (note – the tube plate is the right way up..... it’s the boiler that is upside down!) ​Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions.

A month of steady progress at Bridgnorth MPD

Notes from the Diesel Depot 

Although some activity was curtailed, there’s been progress on a number of fronts.

Class 14 No D9551 undertook two days of driver training runs between Bridgnorth and Highley on 9th and 10th November. The trip was highly successful with 135 miles of trouble-free running over the two days, and five new drivers signed for Class 14s. This gives the SVR much more flexibility and plenty of cover for the Steam in Lights turns for which the engine is provisionally booked on 17 nights. The loco then worked up to Kidderminster on Monday 23rd November to collect the Steam in Lights set and took that down to Bridgnorth in readiness for the BBC preview filming. Garry Williams

40106 had a run out on 11th November, taking newly restored GWR 6045 bow-end composite on a test run from Kidderminster. This steam-heat loco will now see further use over the festive operation on the Pioneer trains, with locomotives are subject to availability: 

December 26th, Class 40. 

December 31st, Class 40, Class 17 and Class 42. 

January 3rd, Class 40 and Class 50s.  

Class 11 No 12099 saw more progress immediately prior to lockdown. All the cylinder liners were replaced, the first of the pistons was replaced and the first topcoat applied to the cab interior roof. Also, more of the exterior bodywork was rubbed down and prepared for priming. Trevor Tomkins

50007 and 50049 have been out and about on “the big railway” working for GB Railfreight. One task was moves off Long Marston (the MOD base where redundant and off-lease stock is securely stored) bringing some ex Greater Anglia stock out for onward movement. Another operation is key towards the introduction of electric traction to Midland Main line services – the transfer of Class 360 EMUs from Ilford to Cricklewood. The locos have also been manned by GBRf drivers and SVR volunteers Bob Dunn and Anthony Middleton, which is probably a first. These locos returned to Kidderminster on 19th November and underwent an “A examination” the following weekend, which was followed on the 30th by going via Barrow Hill to take Mk 3 coaches for the Weardale Railway to Bishop Auckland. Meanwhile, Something to look forward to in 2021 is a wonderful opportunity has arisen to enjoy Class 50 haulage with 50007 and 50049 on the prestigious Belmond British Pullman.

Sister 50035 has been moved into the TMD for commissioning of the new lubricating oil pump and engine pre-heater.  


After engine repairs, refurbished exhausters and a new exhaust, the repaint of the Diesel Traction Group’s Class 17 No D8568 in the TMD continues. We eagerly await the completion of the project which has seen huge interest on social media. 


DMU - a twin-power car set of 50933 and 52064 has been the subject of much attention in recent months with the intention of returning to operation before the festive period on the staff trains. The vehicles were tripped to Kidderminster by no less than 46100 Royal Scot, turned and reunited. Some issues identified on the fitness to run inspection have been rectified and it is rostered over the festive period on the staff trains. Further work is outstanding on the remaining vehicles. Jonathan Dunster.

Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions.

Notes from the Diesel Depot 

Gallery - David Bissett

Regular contributor David Bissett has shared a selection of his images from Saturday 31st October, the day the second English ‘lockdown’ was announced. The day saw the Flyer, Explorer and Adventurer itinerary trains with their layovers and non-stopping services; evening Ghost and Scream trains with top and tailed diesel and steam; plus visiting Pacifics undergoing repairs at Bewdley. Thanks to David for sharing these images with us. 


Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.  

Gallery - David Bissett

Capping and corbelling – Falling Sands nears completion 

The four capping stones carved by the SVR’s stonemason Philip Chatfield were lifted into place on the Bewdley end of Falling Sands Viaduct on the 19th November. This is the culmination of weeks of exacting work for Philip, who carved the stones by hand from reclaimed red sandstone blocks, to match the existing stones at the Kidderminster end (see November's Branch Lines). The replacement stones weigh ¾ of a tonne each and have been bedded on lime mortar. Civil engineer for the project Jonathan Symonds spoke to Branch Lines: 


“The new copings were lifted into place on the new pilasters (rectangular columns - Ed) at the western end of Falling Sands Viaduct, built to replace those taken down by British Rail back in the 1970s. The stone has pedigree having originated from the River Irwell Viaduct in Manchester.” 


Mystery remains around why these stones were missing in the first place, when the Kidderminster-end stonework remained intact. According to Jonathan, in the 1970s a programme of repairs to replace the parapet started but the project stalled half way across; the capping stones and pilasters being removed but never replaced. 


In addition to the capping stones, decorative brick corbelling is being added to the viaduct, although appearances can be deceptive. Despite looking exactly like brick, the corbelling is in fact made of glass reinforced plastic, or GRP. This material was chosen partly because its low density makes it easier to handle at height using rope access, partly for its low cost, but also because it simplified the project. Jonathan explains: 


“It would have been impossible to use brick without demolishing and rebuilding the complete parapet, which would have been a mammoth task. GRP is now commonly used on heritage projects to reinstate intricate details in brick and stone which would be very costly to do in the original materials.” 


In order that the GRP replacement corbelling matched the original, a template was made from the authentic brickwork to make a mould from which the individual pieces could then formed using GRP. 


The planned completion date for this project is the 14th December, with seasonal train services uninterrupted by remaining tasks. This work is part of the £1.25 million Falling Sands project, funded by the SVR Charitable Trust thanks to generous donations and a substantial grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions. Also see the latest video on the SVR's YouTube channel 

National Lottery Heritage Fund logo.jpg
Capping and corbelling at Falling Sands
Full speed ahead at Carriage & Wagon

Full speed ahead at Carriage & Wagon

Our correspondent in Kidderminster C&W Angela Walker has the scores on the doors:

Here we are speeding into December like an express train! I cannot believe where the time is going!

In the paintshop GWR 7284 corridor composite has received attention to the upholstery, where it had worn a little thin. Graham, one of our many talented volunteers, has done an amazing job re-upholstering the worn seats and armrests, and has even carried out the tricky job of replacing some of the upholstery on the armrests in situ in the carriage. A huge thank you to Graham.

I’ve mentioned previously that the lower body panels on side two of the carriage had been removed and some of the wooden framework was showing signs of starting to rot; both these areas have been replaced with new. The lower body panels have all been re-fitted. All the paint work is now complete with ‘shirt-button’ roundel and final coats of varnish along with all the lining out.

When a carriage is finished we paint on its completion date. Colin Astbury, carriage bodywork team leader pointed out to me that on this occasion, it was rather moving. The date was 11.11.2020, Remembrance Day. The carriage was built in 1941 during the Second World War. It makes you think; if carriages could talk, the stories they could tell us about what they have seen and been through. 7284 has now been shunted out of the paintshop and is spare in case it is required over the festive season.

There’s more good news! 6045, Collet-designed corridor composite, has passed her test run. There were a few minor problems with parts running warm which the mechanical team worked quickly to fix. After her second test run our 92-year-old carriage is fit to run and available for traffic as a spare.

Preparations for the festive season have meant a busy few weeks for us. The Steam in Lights install saw small teams of volunteers, paid staff and contractors all working together, respecting social distancing, with some staff working late nights to finish the installations. I was lucky to be part of one of the three teams on the final night of installations (sorry to everyone for my singing and dancing!) I went to see the Steam in Lights train last week, and WOW! The train looked amazing, sitting there all lit up. An immense feeling of pride came over me, as it always does when the SVR family all work together.

The Santa trains also had hard-working teams of volunteers in action over a few days, decorating the sets and making them look and feel festive.

It’s difficult to say how grateful we are to everyone who has been involved with all the festive preparations. Well done!

At the end of November, we had the amazing team from Atalian back to fog our carriage sets, and Christmas Marquee at Arley. The fogging technique cleans hard and soft surfaces, including the upholstery. We have carried this out prior to the festive season, to help protect our customers and staff. The cleaning teams continue to work hard with strict cleaning regimes.

From all of us in the carriage department and cleaning team we would like to wish you all a safe and happy Christmas!

Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions.

Au revoir to our guests 

Last month's Branch Lines included news of the successful days of testing for 46100 ‘Royal Scot’ and 34046 ‘Braunton’ at the Railway with Locomotive Services and LNWR Heritage at Crewe. 


The locos were ready to go home on 9th November, and we have a couple of images for your enjoyment.   


Firstly, evoking memories of steam rescuing diesel from the 1960s, the trip down the Valley utilised 46100 Royal Scot to haul Class 108 DMU vehicles from Bewdley to Kidderminster, by Matt Robinson. 


Secondly, the two locos at Hodgehill foot crossing, returning to Crewe from the SVR, by Alan Campbell. 


34046 Braunton and 46100 Royal Scot at Hodgehill foot crossing returning to Crewe from the SVR on 9th November 2020. Alan Campbell


46100 Royal Scot hauls Class 108 DMU vehicles from Bewdley to Kidderminster. Matt Robinson  

Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions.

Au revoir to our guests 

Saphos steams at the SVR 

In 2021 the SVR will play host to not one but three rail tours by promoter Saphos. The Great Western Envoy will depart from Bridgnorth for a journey through the heart of England to Bath and Bristol on the 28th April 2021.


Later in the summer, Bridgnorth will provide the destination for two incarnations of a second train, the Severn Valley Enterprise, which departs from Lancaster on the 21st July and from London on the 8th September. All of the tours are steam-hauled for part or all of their journey. 

Operating since 2018, Saphos runs tours across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, and the SVR is very pleased to have been chosen to be a part of the itinerary. These tours bring in revenue for the Railway, whilst also raising the profile of the line with those who may not have travelled along the Severn Valley before, and who will hopefully visit again! All three tours will take Saphos’ passengers along the full length of the Railway, made possible by our mainline connection at Kidderminster.  

Saphos describes the tours as “amazing and unique” and guarantee “a memorable and lasting experience”. Although Standard Class tickets are not currently for sale whilst distancing measures are in place, there are First Class and dining options available. Bookings at  

Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions.

Saphos steams at the SVR 

Stove R makes an exhibition of itself 

During October, the SVR’s specially adapted brake van, No 2886, gave visitors an insight in the history of this 158-year-old line. Affectionately known as the Stove R - purportedly due to being retro-fitted with a stove to keep the guard warm - the van has been specially adapted to house a unique mobile exhibition.


Part of the Falling Sands Viaduct restoration project, the exhibition charts the history of people associated with the Railway since its earliest days. This has been made possible by funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to the SVR Charitable Trust


However, whilst Stove R might look resplendent now, this wasn’t always the case; though it still had its uses, as footplate experience roster clerk Peter Allen recalls: 


“I remember the Stove R coach arriving on the Railway in the early 70s I believe. Before we purchased a fleet of Mark 1 buffet cars and the Gresley teak buffet cars, someone thought about a makeshift buffet car, so it was suggested that the Stove R be used.”  


With only one serviceable corridor connection at the Bridgnorth end, Stove R had to be coupled between the train and the first coach heading south, leaving it at the rear of the train for the return journey.

The internal arrangements were considerably more ramshackle than today’s buffet cars; the bar was made up of a strengthened wall paper pasting table! According to Peter, “being a bit rocky a few drinks were spilled on the way from the Stove R into the normal train.” 


Stove R only saw brief service until 1976 when the first Mark 1 buffet coach arrived and the makeshift buffet car and pasting tabling bar could be retired. After languishing for so many years, it is fitting that a pioneer of the SVR should now be returned to glory to tell the line’s history.

Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions.

National Lottery Heritage Fund logo.jpg
Stove R makes an exhibition of itself

Working from home during lockdown 

Throughout England’s second lockdown of 2020 the SVR’s wonderful volunteers have again demonstrated their skills and commitment in continuing the conservation of the Railway. 

From Arley, Leonard Warrington wrote:


“I took the opportunity to take some enamel signs from Arley station home with me to work on. It has taken me 11 days to restore this one and hopefully it will be on display at Arley as soon as we out of lockdown”.


Shown here are before and after images, wonderful work Lenny! 

The Great Western (SVR) Association too have kept up the good work. For GWR Full Third 4786 another lockdown homework project has seen the access doors for the regulator cupboard stained, varnished and transfers applied, courtesy of Dave Massey.

Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions.

Working from home during lockdown 

Rap on Rails

Grace Bicknell, W H Auden and Olive Bick

Most railway enthusiasts are familiar with WH Auden’s evocative poem Night Mail, written in 1936 for the General Post Office’s film of the same name. Many will be equally familiar with John Grierson’s famous delivery of the lines in the opening sequence of the documentary.  


However, less well known is a more recent incarnation of those famous words, brought to Branch Lines’ attention by stonemason Philip Chatfield. Philip, who has recently been working on the capping stones for Falling Sands Viaducts, made the discovery whilst readying for the day in the Arley sleeping coach. 


“I was listening to the radio early one Sunday morning was surprised to hear a rap version of the Night Mail poem, by the rap artist Baron Samedi.”  

A veteran of the hip hop genre, Baron Samedi included a sample of Grierson’s voice in his track The Night Mail Feat Lixx, a 21st century take on travelling by night.

Samedi’s track might be a far cry from its origins, yet the 1936 verse fits seamlessly, introducing a new generation to Auden’s work.   

Auden’s poetry holds a greater connection to Philip than most, as his late grandmother Grace was cousin to the acclaimed poet and Philip credits family holidays with providing railway experiences in young Auden’s life. As children, the Auden cousins would stay together in a family house in Monmouth, overlooking the Wye, and the Wye Valley Railway. Philip describes this location as “an influence on the fledgling poet’s eye for railways.”  


Should you wish to hear this synthesis of verse, Baron Samedi’s The Night Mail is available to stream or on YouTube.

Picture caption: The Auden cousins, taken before the first world war. WH Auden sits between his first cousins, Olive (left) and her sister Grace (right). 

Rap on Rails

Single shade of grey, as hopper wagon is restored to glory 

8F No 48773 currently resides in The Engine House visitor centre at Highley, and is owned by the charitable Stanier 8F Locomotive Society. Not so well known, are the Society’s two historically important ex-ICI bogie hopper wagons. One of these is being cosmetically restored and the Society’s chairman, Jeff Ryan, gives us the news:

After a long period in storage, an opportunity has arisen to restore our pre-war example to its former glory. Numbered 19052 at the time of withdrawal, it was agreed this hopper should resume its original number 3252 and ICI grey livery, as built in 1938. Painting at Kidderminster was carried out by SVR paid staff in November, as volunteer input being curtailed through Covid-19 restrictions. In doing so, the Society has contributed income to the SVR in its hour of need. Over the next month the ICI lettering and plates will be added. 

These 43-ton capacity vehicles once formed part of the block limestone trains which ran up to seven times daily between Tunstead and Northwich and which, from the 1930s to the 1960s, were inextricably linked with the 8Fs. Intensively used, these wagons achieved individual mileages of between 3 and 5 million miles in service. 

It was these trains, coupled with the omission of an 8F from the National Collection, which inspired a small group of Cheshire enthusiasts to preserve a Stanier 8F at the end of BR steam. When the hoppers reached the end of their working lives, it was appropriate for the Society to preserve two of these unique wagons. 

Power washing revealed the hopper’s remarkably good cosmetic and mechanical condition leading David McIntosh, former BR area manager at Northwich and now the Society’s project manager for the restoration, to comment, “It is a tribute to the maintenance and paint finish originally given to the wagons by ICI’s Avenue Road Works at Winnington all those years ago”. 

Next to be considered will be the second hopper numbered 19129, built as 3329 in 1952 and we hope to have further news soon. Meanwhile, with Society fundraising concentrated on the 48773 overhaul appeal fund, several trustees have contributed significant funds for the hopper restoration. Any reader wishing to support the project is invited to join the Society’s first crowdfunding appeal or to send a cheque payable to the Society at 73 Maesquarre Road, Betws, Ammanford, Carmarthenshire, SA18 2LF. Thank you.  

Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions.

Single shade of grey, hopper wagon restored

SVR leading light – Nick Wright 

As the winter solstice approaches, the daylight hours are few and the nights long. 2020 has been a dark year in many ways but one SVR volunteer is determined to brighten things up, whilst raising money for the Railway into the bargain.  

Guard, signalman, and shunter Nick Wright has spent three weeks transforming his Stourport home into a spectacular dynamic light show, which takes place every evening between 5 and 9pm until the 1st January.


The light display is made up of around 10,000 lights and visitors can tune into Nick’s short range FM radio channel to hear music he has chosen to accompany the show. The lights are surprisingly efficient to run, as Nick explains:    

“Each one of the lights at full capacity is only a ¼ of a watt but I only run them at 10%, with all the lights, in total it only works at about 5 amps!” 

Nick is hoping to raise as much money as possible for the Railway; visitors to the show in Malham road are asked to make a donation, either by dropping money into a milk churn set out for the purpose, or by visiting his JustGiving page:  

SVR leading light – Nick Wright 
Paid vacancy with the permanent way team

Paid vacancy with the permanent way team 

The SVR is looking for a full-time paid member of staff to join the permanent way team. The p-way team is vital to the safe running of the Railway, and significant infrastructure works are planned for the new year, including maintenance of track, platforms, buildings, bridges, culverts, drains and ditches, fences, roadways, and paths.  


For this safety critical role, the Railway is looking for an individual with both a driver’s licence and SVR personal track safety certification, who is skilled in the use of hand tools, power tools, p-way/track plant and machinery, equipment, and chemicals.  


The permanent way team often work alongside SVR volunteers, at weekends and bank holidays. Employment with the SVR offers the opportunity to increase an existing skill base and expand personal development.  


For further information or to apply, please email Closing date for applications is 8th December. 

Relaying at Foley Park in June 2020. Brent Cleeton.

Brent Cleeton 25 June 2020.jpg

V23 6th December 2020 (updated 16th December, correct spelling of 'grey' and photo caption)

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Any opinions or views expressed in this newsletter are entirely the opinions of the contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Directors of Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) PLC. which owns the Severn Valley Railway, Severn Valley Railway Company Limited, the members of which are responsible for its operation, or the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust.

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