The dawn breaks on GWR 2-8-0 No 2857 at Bewdley MPD on 3rd December 2022. The locomotive will retire from service in January 2023, as its boiler 'ticket' will expire. Matt Fielding
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
The Christmas season is in full swing across the SVR, and we’re busy welcoming thousands of visitors to our Santa, dining and carol trains, as well as the Enchanted Express and Steam in Lights. It’s a crucially important time of year for the Railway in terms of revenue, and we’re pulling out all the stops to make it a success.
In Branch Lines this month, there’s a pointer from the managing director to some expected tough times ahead next year, but we’ve also got a lot to celebrate at the Railway right now; a gold engineering medal for one of our apprentices, the return of 7812 ‘Erlestoke Manor’, a James Bond-style helicopter demo on our line and preparations for the Bridgnorth Yard re-laying project lining up nicely.
In your bumper festive edition of Branch Lines, you’ll find news from all corners of the Railway, including the Junior Club, the permanent way team and Falling Sands Viaduct, where a plaque now commemorates the 10 Victorian men who died building the original line. Plus, we uncover (quite literally) the marks of carriage builders from the 1950s, and look at the busy life of a porter signalman 100 years ago.
Reader Richard Stubbs wrote to us after last month’s publication, “Congratulations to all involved in the info and production of this month's Branch Lines. From the time I have spent reading it, it seems like the longest ever. A very good read and most informative at keeping readers up to date.” Well Richard, we think this edition is even longer, and that’s because there is so much going on at the wonderful Severn Valley Railway!
From us all at Branch Lines, merry Christmas and a peaceful new year. We hope you’ll be able to visit us before we end this season on 2nd January, and we wish you the very best for 2023!
Lesley and Patrick, co-editors
The Branch Lines team is Lesley Carr, Patrick Hearn, Amy Baker and Nicola Fox
Scroll down or click on the item to be taken straight to it
Looking ahead to 2023 – a message from Helen Smith
With the Christmas season now well underway, managing director Helen Smith pays tribute to the dedication of people across the Railway who are making it all happen. And whilst no one truly knows what 2023 has in store, Helen’s determined that the SVR will face it with gusto:
It’s been an absolute pleasure to see the joy on the faces of our visitors this festive season.
As always, we’ve pulled out all the stops for our Christmas services and we’re getting plenty of rave reviews and positive comments.
Yes, 2022 has been a tough year for us all. Not many organisations are finding things easy at the moment, and we’re no different. I continue to be overwhelmed by the support and resilience shown by our staff and volunteers.
I look back with pride at the journey that we have all endured together in the three years that I’ve been at the Railway; to receive national recognition earlier this year with the Visit England award for Resilience and Innovation really was the icing on the cake.
To be absolutely up front about what lies ahead – we’re expecting 2023 to be as challenging and potentially even more difficult than 2022. Already we’ve put in place a range of stringent cost-saving exercises across the Railway. By doing this, we’ve been able to keep our costs near to the original budget, even though we’re seeing continually rising prices for essential goods and services. Across the Railway, there’s no area or activity that is untouched by spiralling costs.
So, next year, as the cost-of-living crisis really hits home for people, we know that our visitors will need to see the value they’re getting when they choose to spend their money with the Railway. We need to improve quality across all the services we offer. We must strive for excellence in service delivery, with a better welcome, food, retail products and more events. In short, we need to keep producing the inspirational backdrop for our visitors to create unforgettable memories here at the Severn Valley Railway.
Here’s where you can help. As well as generously donating, taking out membership or purchasing shares, there’s something else. Please, bring your friends and family to visit the Railway! More than ever we need you to spread the word, and bring new visitors. Our post-Christmas festive services would be a great place to start, and when we reopen in early March, we’ll have plenty of special events to choose from, alongside the traditional day out on the line. As one of our most-valued supporters, you can also be one of the SVR’s best ambassadors – please do tell everyone you know how wonderful the Severn Valley Railway is!
I’d like to wish you a very merry Christmas and send my very best for 2023
Photo: 75069 on a Steam in Lights service at Crossing Cottage 19th November 2022. John Sherratt
SVR apprentice wins gold medal in national skills competition
One of the Railway’s heritage engineering apprentices has scooped a gold medal in the prestigious WorldSkills UK competition.
Twenty-two-year-old Jack Kerswill is based at the boiler shop in Bridgnorth, and competed in the construction metalwork category.
Before gaining his place in the finals of the competition, he had to undergo a seven-month process of regional heats and intensive training.
“I’m really happy at how far I’ve come,” said Jack on hearing of his success. “It’s been a long road getting here. The help and support from colleagues along the way has been invaluable, and winning the gold medal makes it all worthwhile.
“The two days of the finals were quite nerve-wracking, but at the same time I enjoyed the pressure of competing alongside others. Our task was to produce four construction metalwork modules, which all came together to make a small stove. This tested us on a range of skills, such as oxyacetylene cutting, welding and using tools such as guillotines and angle grinders.
“We were given a basic set of plates to mark out, cut out and then find an efficient way of clamping it all together, ready for welding, all the time bearing in mind the tight tolerances you were being judged on.”
Jack is three years into his four-year apprenticeship as a boilersmith with the SVR. He attends a day-release course at Dudley College in the West Midlands.
“We couldn’t be prouder of Jack,” said Duncan Ballard, head of steam engineering. “He’s a shining example of someone who’s not only extremely talented, but is also prepared to work hard for what he wants to achieve. With young people like him coming into the heritage sector, we know that the future of our locomotives and rolling stock is going to be in good hands.”
The SVR has a number of young people within its pioneering Heritage Apprenticeship Scheme. This was established to ensure the continuation of the specialised skills that are needed to overhaul and maintain the Railway’s fleet of steam locomotives and heritage carriages. You can read more at https://www.svrtrust.org.uk/Apprentice-training
Jack and Duncan both feature in the SVR’s recently-released YouTube film that takes you behind the doors of the Bridgnorth boiler shop.
Click on the image above to watch it.
Additional support for senior leadership team
Well-known volunteer and deputy chairman of SVR (Holdings) Plc, Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster, has been assisting the Railway more regularly since the start of this month.
Having retired from the ‘big railway’ in early November after a career of 36 years in operations, engineering and safety management, Gus will be working with managing director Helen Smith and chairman Mike Ball in particular, as they seek to safeguard the future of the Railway.
Reflecting on the size of the challenges facing the SVR, Gus said, “After emerging from the pandemic, with high inflation driving utility and materials prices ever higher, coupled with the reduction in people’s disposable income, it is clear that all visitor attractions are facing tough times.
“For the survival of the SVR, we need to look carefully at what we are doing to manage costs responsibly and also seek to diversify and broaden our commercial activities as far as possible. I hope to be able to use my experience and network of industry contacts to help the Railway more than I could previously, now that I have more time available.”
Gus has been a volunteer on railway since 1992 and a director on the Holdings board since 2010. He lives in Solihull and is married to Christine with two sons; Ted aged 17 who is also an SVR volunteer and Riley aged 11, who is very eager to follow in his father’s and brother’s footsteps!
Photo: Gus Dunster. Credit: Ted Dunster
'Erlestoke Manor' returns!
After a five-year overhaul, extended because of Covid-19, GWR 7812 ‘Erlestoke Manor’ returned to SVR metals last Thursday, 2nd December.
Since Branch Lines published last month, 7812’s progress has advanced rapidly. The in-steam boiler insurance examination took place on 15th November, after the first warming fire was lit the previous week. This led to the first trial movements under its own power since the end of 2017.
Following an SVR engineering inspection and examination, 7812 was then transported back to the SVR, arriving at Kidderminster last week. Light engine running began yesterday, 5th December, and loaded runs are planned to take place as we publish today, 6th December.
The recent acceleration in progress has been achieved thanks to a monumental effort by the Erlestoke Manor Fund volunteers, who’ve worked through the final fitting, outstanding tasks, and adjustments.
Work also continues on fellow EMF locomotives, with 5164’s overhaul being planned, and 7802 ‘Bradley Manor’ expected to require another 12 months of work before restoring to steam.
How is the commercial picture looking for the SVR right now?
It’s the Railway’s busiest time of year, with the greatest potential for much-needed revenue generation. Head of commercial and visitor experience Michael Dunn reports on how things are going as we head into the final run-up to Christmas:
Black Friday is now a staple in the shopping diary and the SVR’s involvement has brought success again for 2022. We ran with a range of Black Friday offers over the course of November, starting early to help boost sales across our Christmas offering.
We saw some interesting consumer behaviour for our first couple of Black Friday deals; people were engaging with the offers on social media and visiting our website, but then buying tickets without using the offer! More revenue for us, so no complaints there!
In retail, our online shop took almost £6,000 following the launch of our Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. There’s an exclusive discount for members coming very soon, so keep an eye out for a leaflet arriving on your doorstep inside the winter issue of SVR News!
Ticket sales continue to be steady, however the pre-booking trends of the last two years have changed and we’re now seeing tickets bought at short notice. As a result, people can miss out as sales surge in the last few days before an event. We’re encouraging all those who’d like to travel on one of our fantastic festive services, to book in advance to avoid disappointment. Due to popular demand we’ve also extended Steam in Lights run to post-Christmas, on 29th-31st December, with our usual daytime Festive Services running 26th December-2nd January.
Secondary spend is a vital source of income to the SVR and we’re pulling out all the stops this year to give our passengers better choice and availability. We’ve moved our catering operation at Bridgnorth to a purpose-built marquee just outside the station to help streamline the catering operations. Initial takings from the first few weekends of Steam in Lights show that catering spend is double what it was for the same period last year – a very positive result there.
We’ve also expanded our catering facilities at Arley, meaning that customers have better choice and a full range of hot and cold options, as well as retail to browse whilst they are queueing for the marquee. More positive news is that the revenue at Arley is almost triple what it was for the same period last year!
Photo: Arley on 26th November 2022. Michael Dunn
A sight for ‘saw’ eyes!
Last month you’d be forgiven for thinking the Railway was being used as the location for filming the next James Bond movie*! But, you’d have been wrong. The helicopters flying over the line close to Arley were demonstrating how aerial saw technology could be a solution for the UK’s main line. The SVR was not only paid a contribution for its time and trouble, but also received some otherwise unaffordable arboreal improvements for absolutely nothing!
See how it all worked in the film on the SVR’s YouTube channel – and don’t forget to join the 14,100 current subscribers from across the world, and be the first to know when a new film is released.
*A similar helicopter-mounted saw really did appear in the 007 movie The World is not Enough, released in 1999!
Bridgnorth Locomotive Yard progress
This vital project to replace all the yard track, upgrade track drainage and provide a new loco inspection pit is one of the Railway’s major works this winter. The delivery team is moving from planning and preparations to physical works on the ground for phase 1, as volunteer project manager Nick Yarwood tells Branch Lines:
During December, permanent way volunteers will dig out the sleeper beds of the turn-out at Cleobury Road bridge on the approach to Bridgnorth station, and also the cross-over between the yard head shunt and platform 2. Also, the SVR’s portable welfare unit will be moved into position.
Locos and rolling stock, including those needed for the works, will all be moved to the right locations before the track is lifted.
Since the Railway was built, settlement has taken place in the approaches to Cleobury Road bridge and, being a fixed structure, differences in level have developed.
To prevent future settlement behind the bridge abutments, localised earth-strengthening works will be carried out before the track bed is prepared to receive the new turn-out.
To speed up the operation, stone back-fill and ballast is being loaded into one-tonne bags at Eardington and moved to site this month. The newly arrived road-railer (see separate article) is being put through its paces, to give us full confidence in its reliability before working at Bridgnorth.
Everything will then be ready to secure the boundaries of the work site and start lifting point rodding and track from 4th January.
Plant and track components are on order and by the time that the new point-work arrives later in January, the track bed will be ready. Intense activity will continue into February and March assembling the track, ballasting, connecting track circuits and point rodding. It sounds simple enough, but the reality is that there’s a huge amount of work to be done by all involved – paid staff, volunteers and team leaders. It will be a seven-days-a-week operation before the planned handover to Operations on 15th March.
Inevitably, some aspects cannot be under direct control. Severe weather is one, another would be late delivery of the point-work from the manufacturer. We’re keeping in close contact all the time so that we have some assurance on progress. In either event there’s a buffer of a couple of weeks in the programme – let’s hope we don’t need it!
Volunteers ensure success and are always welcome. If you would like to find out how to get involved, please get in touch with the Volunteer Liaison Office .
We will still need more donations to be ready for Phase 2 in 2024, supported by the Charitable Trust’s appeal, and you can read more and donate at http://svrtrust.org.uk/
SVR in the running for two tourism awards
The SVR has once again been singled out as a finalist in the Visit Worcestershire Tourism Awards, the winners of which will be announced in March 2023.
The Railway is a finalist in the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year category, whilst the On Train Dining experience has been selected as a finalist for the Taste of Worcestershire award. Head of commercial and visitor experience Michael Dunn said:
“We’re very proud to have been recognised in this way. It is a testament to the hard work of the staff and volunteers, and I want to thank everyone for their efforts.”
Last year the Railway won the Resilience and Innovation category in the Visit Worcestershire awards, and then went on to win a national prize, in the Visit England awards for excellence.
As an important contributor to the local economy, the SVR has also joined the strategic local Tourism Advisory Group, which is being established to support attractions through the current challenging commercial environment.
On train dining on 20th July 2022. Sophie Poutney
What's Coming Up?
SVR Branch meetings
SVR Wolverhampton branch continues its season at the Old Wulfrunians Club, Castlecroft Road, Castlecroft, Wolverhampton, WV3 8NA, commencing at 7.30 pm. Details and future events are on the branch website at http://www.svr-wolverhampton.org.uk/
12th December - ‘Kent Coal: 1970s – 1990s’ - a look at coal rail movements in the region and the Kent coalfield, presented by David Hayes.
9th January - ‘Trent Valley Railway - Birth, Building and Opening’ – an illustrated talk by Robin Mathams and Dave Barrett.
SVR Stourbridge branch’s talks will continue as below at the Bonded Warehouse in Canal Street, Stourbridge, DY8 4LU, commencing at 7.30 pm. A small charge of £2 is made to cover room costs.
4th January - ‘Pictures of the Black Country 1958–1963.’ Rediscovered pictures from the Terry Hyde archive, presented by Keith Hodgkins.
1st February - ‘An audience with Jack Boskett.’
1st March - branch AGM, followed by a speaker who will be announced shortly.
The meetings are open to all.
Photo: Jack Boskett held an exhibition of his photos at The Engine House visitor centre, Highley earlier this year
SVR gets festive for the post-Christmas week
In a first for the Severn Valley, the Steam in Lights (SiL) service has been extended and will now continue into the post-Christmas festive period. Head of commercial and visitor experience Michael Dunn told Branch Lines: “SiL trains will now additionally operate from Thursday 29th to Saturday 31st December, departing Bridgnorth at 6.45 pm and 8.30 pm.
“For 2022, this experience has a completely re-imagined concept. And, to give our visitors that all-important added value, each child travelling on Steam in Lights will receive a voucher for a free return visit in 2023.”
The Railway will also be running its traditional daytime post-Christmas festive services between Boxing Day and the New Year bank holiday on Monday 2nd January. After this date the line will close for its winter break.
The festive timetable will be six full-line services with two steam locomotives and the train-heating boiler-fitted diesel 40106 Atlantic Conveyor. These services will operate at standard fares and will be the last chance to use any expiring passes and 2022 ticket vouchers, so do check those dates. As Helen Smith has said above, we’d love to see you!
It’s hoped that GWR heavy freight locomotive 2857 and ex-WR pannier tank 1501 will, subject to availability, operate on some days. These will be their final trains before being withdrawn at the end of their boiler ‘ticket’ for future overhaul. Keep an eye on the SVR’s website and social media nearer the time to see the Festive locomotive roster and grab the last chance for some time to ride behind them.
For more information and to book tickets for SiL trains and festive season services, please head to www.svr.co.uk!
A happy Steam in Lights visitor meets Rudolph, aka Jan Sturt, who usually volunteers in the Bridgnorth shop. Tony Bending
2023 dates for your diary!
As mentioned in our festive season news item, the Railway will close after trains on Monday 2nd January 2023 for its winter break.
The 2023 season will start on 4th March, with the first two weekends operating between Kidderminster and Highley only. This is to allow work about 600m north of Country Park halt in Alveley Woods, intended to take out the ‘dip’ following land movement in that section which has been a cause of concern for a while. [Editor’s note: this ‘dip’ is not related to the slip area that Geobear treated, described in August’s Branch Lines].
Full line services will resume on 18th March for two weekends (18th and 19th and 25th and 26th March). Our Easter opening will start on 1st April, and then we’ll be running every day though till the Spring Steam Gala from 14th to 16th April.
Other dates are:
The Spring Diesel Gala will be held 19th to 21st May.
1940s weekends are 24th and 25th June and 1st and 2nd July
Vintage Transport Extravaganza is 12th and 13th August
All the above is correct at the date of publication. Please keep an eye on the SVR’s social media and www.svr.co.uk for further announcements.
We’ve selected images of locomotives we hope will appear in 2023 special events, taken some years ago. Please click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits.
Across the Railway
Recognition of Severn Valley Railway’s ‘forgotten heroes’
A century and a half after they perished during the construction of the Severn Valley Railway, 10 navvies have been honoured with a commemorative blue plaque.
Victorian railway construction was extremely hard and dangerous work, which resulted in many accidents, and significant numbers of fatalities.
Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the blue plaque honours the 10 navvies known to have died constructing the Severn Valley Railway. Managing director Helen Smith said:
“Unlike today, health and safety measures were not considered important; for the Victorian navvy, danger was just an occupational hazard. It is fitting that we’re now commemorating these forgotten heroes, who constructed most of our rail system by hand and who, until now, have received little recognition.”
As well as restoring this vital piece of the SVR’s infrastructure, the Falling Sands Viaduct project also included the creation of two permanent exhibitions telling the story of the construction of the original line and the more-than-1,000 navvies who built it.
The installation of the plaque marks the completion of the £1.3million project to restore the Railway’s Falling Sands Viaduct.
Porter signalmen – the job for the employee who seeks variety!
The November issue of Branch Lines took a look back at staffing on the Railway 100 years ago, bringing to light the role of porter signalmen. The role was in effect at various stations across the Severn Valley Line.
The role is an unusual one, employed at stations which could not justify engaging both a full-time signalman and a porter, and so combined the roles into one.
We've since had further insights into this grade of worker. According to the Arley station book of working instructions from 1895, the roles of the porter signalman, referred to here as the ‘signal porter’ were wide and varied.
In addition to the duties of staffing the signal box, (operating the frame, attending to the block and needle instruments, and keeping a record of train movements in the log etc), the porter signalman was also expected to carry out station duties, such as keeping the station clean and tidy, lighting the fires in the waiting rooms in winter, and lighting and extinguishing station and signal lamps as required.
From there, the list of jobs becomes more varied still, the porter signalman being responsible for the labelling of passenger luggage, filling the tanks for urinals and water closets, and assisting with shunting operations as well as unloading goods traffic. Should cattle wagons or horse boxes pass through the station, it was also the porter signalman’s job to sweep these out too!
The book of working instructions also lists ‘all other outside work’, so it’s reasonable to expect that the porter signalman also had a hand in tending the beautiful gardens at Arley, which were as resplendent with flowers then as they are now.
Despite the station’s quiet nature, the combination of these two roles must have kept the porter signalman who worked at Arley very busy, and certainly never bored!
No photos of porter signalmen from the 1920s could be found, but here’s one from the 1950s, which we discovered in The Severn Valley Railway at Arley by Barrie Geens. Fred and Jim appear very happy in their roles!
Porter signalmen Fred Jones and Jim Watson in the small garden at Arley by the station entrance in 1952. Gladys Billingham
Kidderminster Points No 42 replacement
Despite atrocious weather, a joint project by full-time staff and volunteers of the permanent way (PW) and signal & telecomms (S&T) departments pulled out all the stops to complete the replacement of points No 42 at Kidderminster.
Head of infrastructure Chris Bond told Branch Lines: “This was a significant project with work running over two weeks. It was finally completed when the S&T technicians had their work signed off by their volunteer qualified signal testing engineer Tony ‘Fred’ Cotterell around 5 pm on Friday, 25th November, just in time for the weekend's Christmas services!
“This is great news, and with all routes now available it signals (pun intended!) a welcome return to increased operational flexibility at Kidderminster. This is needed over the busy Christmas season.”
‘KR42’ are the points at the south end of platform 2 run round (Up loop to No 2 Engine Line) and were one of the sets of points at the south end of the line that were taken out of use in 2022 because of their condition.
Chris added: “We are hugely grateful to all those involved in this project, to those in operations who supported it, and to Story Contracting for the loan of a lighting unit to extend the working hours available.
“This follows on from other recent work at Bewdley where two sets of points have been brought back into use, as we continue to maintain and improve our infrastructure in difficult times.”
Please click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits.
Starting young as first responders
Should you suffer an injury when visiting the SVR, and spot a youngster heading towards you… don’t panic! Last month, members of the SVR Junior Club attended a highly informative and entertaining first responder course, run by SVR guard and senior paramedic Martin Eaton on 12th November. Martin is also ex-junior Josh’s dad!
“We covered a range of potential situations,” explained Martin, “including general dangers and accidents, cardiovascular problems, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), defibrillators, loss of consciousness, recovery position, cuts and dressings. We ended with some simulations and treatment of a casualty outdoors using space blankets and heat loss-restricting emergency bags."
Each attendee has been awarded a prized ‘SVR First Responder’ card.
Young people can get involved in the Railway from the age of 11, under the guidance of our volunteer youth leaders. Some of the Juniors are helping during Santa running this year, assisting with on-train present distribution.
Please click on the gallery for larger images.
A draining time of year
In late November, the Railway operated the annual ‘drain train’ in partnership with contractors Draincure.
As in previous years, Draincure’s lorry was backed onto GWR 'Loriot Y' Machinery Truck No 41990 at Eardington, although a new and slightly larger lorry made it a tighter fit than usual, performed by a 500 point turn to achieve this as well as removal of its rear bumper!
The aim has been to carry out a full inspection of the Railway’s culverts to note any problems or blockages, and where time allows clear these and carry out general maintenance.
The train first ran south, jetting culverts, before heading north undertaking the camera and suction work which, with shovelling and washdown, cleared some blocked drains.
Some of the recently installed catch pits near Country Park halt were already found to be full of silt and were sucked out. We will likely have to resort to more regular de-silting at this location. See before and after pictures of a typical drain service by Brent Cleeton.
The SVR also provided Class 08 D3022 for the traction and Regent Oil Aviation Fuel Tank Wagon No 345 for the water. A brake van completed the consist.
This operation further reflects the enormous amount of behind-the-scenes maintenance that's underway to maintain the Railway’s infrastructure.
Please click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits.
Improvements to lighting and railings at Bridgnorth
New period-style railings and lighting are improving the public route from the upper (west) car park to Bridgnorth station, as station master Chris Thomas told Branch Lines:
“Three Great Western (GW) design no 2 lamp posts and luminaires have been erected along the fence line on concrete foundations, including holes cut in the 82045-assembly concrete pad.”
“The fence panels comprise railings recovered from various parts of the Railway, and several pieces have been completely dismantled with the good bits plus new bits welded together. All needed a thorough cleaning and painting. They are mounted on specially-designed cranked intermediate posts to provide sufficient clearance to the adjacent siding.”
The lighting continues a project begun back in 2009, largely through donations to the Bridgnorth station fund, which has seen GW-designed lamps installed across both platforms and in the lower car park and access road.
Chris continued: “Once the 82045 Trust is able to fully relocate to the engineering services (ESMP) site, we will complete the fence line, resurface the footpath to a smooth and firm walking surface, and develop some planting, which will all considerably enhance what is currently a rather unattractive area.
“Our station team is looking for new members - you'll be made very welcome on Saturdays and Tuesdays. If you’re interested in finding out more about volunteering for the SVR, please contact the Volunteer Liaison Office.
Transports of delight – more carriage works news
After Martin White’s reports on 24617 and 43612 in November’s Branch Lines, Hugh McQuade provides further news:
An unfortunate shunting incident damaged the gangway of London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) Restaurant Composite (first- and third-class) 7960. The ‘Pullman’ gangway faceplate buckled, but we straightened this quickly using a permanent way (PW) track-bending tool called a Jim Crow, now donated to our care.
7960 saw work on afternoon tea duties attached to a variety of trainsets. Also, a gas engineer has isolated two burners on the oven and installed heat-resistant extraction fans, which now allow 7960 to offer hot-work cooking when chartered.
The gangway on attached London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) Third Open 27218 was quite mangled and stretched, and it took three weeks to rebuild its LNWR-inspired scissors mechanism. Blacksmithing of bent rods was needed to straighten them all out, and buckled knuckle joints had to be reformed by judicious use of a stout hammer. The canvas bellows required stitching repairs too.
Carriage shed train repairers Gary and Matt have repainted the corridor side of Great Western Railway (GWR) Corridor Brake Composite 6913 in time for the Christmas services. Next spring, the other side should get attention.
Our newly-repurposed British Railways (BR) Gangwayed Brake 81013 made its public debut on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (KWVR), who hired it in for a Harry Potter-themed event. It returned to have large angle-irons bolted to the floor to secure two generators, just in time for our Steam in Lights trains.
Previously the generators had been carried in the luggage cage of BR Mk1 Brake Second 34562. This has one pair of luggage doors locked out of use with a broken door stile, and other doors are showing signs of distress. An overhaul in 2023 may be on the cards, so it’s fortunate we built its replacement.
Stand-in BR Brake Second Open 9220 had lots of attention this summer. It was put on accommodation bogies while its own wheelsets went to Bristol for tyre turning. Meanwhile we examined all 10 doors and carried out lock and strikeplate renewals plus minor repairs to door panels and jambs. 9220 returned to service in November.
As we approach the winter shutdown and its annual round of fitness-to-run examinations, nearly 40 sorted door locks and partner strike plates have been overhauled in advance from stocks in store. This will give us a head start, compared with last year when we had to turn out 96 to make up for the Covid-19 furlough. We also have a small batch from the KWVR for contract work.
With fewer volunteers after Covid-19 restrictions, we have seen a pleasing number of new volunteers, eager to learn about coach restoration and general railway work in general.
81013 Ex grotto 4 from Arley. The faint lines still showing through the new floor paint. I wonder how many families have seen Santa in here.
81013. The finished article. Sitting in Bridgnorth earlier in the year after its conversion back to a BG. Sharing the company of another ex grotto vehicle.
An echo from the past
Hugh McQuade continues:
As mentioned in last month’s Branch Lines, LMS-designed Corridor Composite 24617 of 1950 is the Carriage & Wagon paintshop’s big job to end this year. Having not missed a season of traffic since it arrived in 1968 fresh off its last BR overhaul, this means we are giving it the biggest overhaul in its 72-year life.
While the seats are out, this is the ideal time to rewire both above floor and below. Interior decorating is also having a major revamp, with the ‘brown soup’ varnish being stripped from all veneered panels to reveal their true beauty.
With veneer panels and some ceiling panels removed, we’ve found a lot of pencilled scribblings on the exposed walls, from those who built the coach. Some form of spelling test appears to have been going on in one compartment, while piecework rates were calculated elsewhere, and a roll call of the assembly team appears on another wall!
Such social history is a fascinating thing to see, and Colin Harsley will document all the original graffiti in the coach. It will all be hidden behind veneer panels when the current work is complete, but will remain untouched. We have added to one wall the 2022 team roll call of volunteers and paid staff that have worked on the carriage, for future generations to discover!
Please click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits.
Out with the old, in with the new at Bridgnorth MPD
With the SVR in the last intensive weeks of the running season, certain members of the fleet are drawing to the close of their current boiler life, while others are at the beginning of that journey. Bridgnorth’s volunteer shed master Martin White has the lowdown:
Some late changes to carriage formations on the Santa trains has meant that one set, the LMS rake, is now within the load capacity of 1501, and thus in the last few weeks of its boiler ticket, the ‘little’ 0-6-0 is being used on Santa services more than was anticipated.
After some minor pre-Santa repairs to pipework and a spring change, the loco seems to be fine and is performing reliably and will hopefully continue to do so until 2nd January, our last day of running.
Meanwhile, 2857 had some of its paintwork/varnish very briefly smartened up by members of the owning group, ahead of its final fling in service. However, a number of superheater elements have failed and are now blanked off. With the boiler so close to the end of its certification, there’s little more that can be done other than keeping fingers crossed that there are no more superheater issues, as any further occurrences could result in the loco being withdrawn prior to 2nd January.
4930 ‘Hagley Hall’ has been out on another test, mainly to check the modifications to the spark arrestor. Some hard working by the loco on a night-time test train of 400 tons produced few sparks and was deemed to be quite successful.
A smaller ex-GWR 4-6-0, 7812 ‘Erlestoke Manor’, put its wheels back on SVR tracks on Friday 2nd December and hopefully, by the time you are reading this, will have commenced its running steam tests along the Valley.
Within the works at Bridgnorth, work on the Stanier Mogul 13268 has picked up pace recently as more members of paid staff can be allocated to it as other projects have been completed. The regulator, stuffing box and lubricator are receiving attention.
The new smokebox and smokebox door have advanced, with the box itself attached to the boiler. The Stanier Mogul Fund volunteers have been working on the crinolines, which surround the boiler and firebox and hold the cladding in place. The cladding itself is having final minor repairs made where necessary.
The ashpan, which was completed some months ago, is having some mesh screens manufactured, so that these can be used on the damper doors during dry weather. These, along with the new-style spark arrestor, in similar pattern to those on 4930, 75069 and 7714, should help reduce the risk of lineside fires.
Also at Bridgnorth, the refreshed paint work on 7714 is almost finished. Look out for the hand-painted BR emblems.
And finally, work on 4150 continues jointly between paid staff and volunteers. A number of the latter have been telling me of the sheer hard graft of boiler tubing and beading, which has added to their admiration of our SVR boilersmiths and their forebears in railway works across the country.
Photos: Beamish's Sharp Stewart 0-4-4T Dunrobin has now re-entered Bridgnorth Locomotive works following a period of storage when work stopped as a result of the pandemic. Duncan Ballard.
Saving the day for a visiting family
Volunteer Bob Dunn got in touch with Branch Lines to let us know about a colleague who’d gone the extra mile to create a warm welcome for some visitors.
A family from Bromsgrove arrived at Kidderminster last month, hoping for a day out travelling the line. However, they hadn’t checked ahead, and on this particular day, no passenger trains were running!
Fortunately, volunteer Mark Taylor was carrying out some shunting with class 09 D4100 ‘Dick Hardy’ and quickly stepped in to save the day for two-year-old Tommy, his mum and grandparents.
“This chap who looked like Father Christmas saw how excited Tommy was,” explained nanny Mel Cox, who wrote afterwards to say how grateful the family was. “He let him onto the footplate of what Tommy called ‘Mavis’. Tommy was completely made up, and now keeps telling us that he drives trains. Today has been a real treat, they are all lovely people.”
On Mark’s advice, the family waited a short while to see the arrival of the class 20 with a set of carriages. Once again, Tommy was invited into the cab.
“This is just one instance of how we can and do make a difference to people’s day out with us,” said Bob when he contacted us. “What we do on a regular basis means so, so much to someone. To be ‘invited in’ makes them feel special because they are. We are also sowing seeds for the future generation to keep things running. So, thank you to Kidderminster’s very own ‘Father Christmas’, Mark Taylor, for not just giving us your time but also taking the time.”
Tommy with his mum Susie and nanny Mel. Dave Cox
Two-year-old Tommy driving 'Mavis'. Dave Cox
Tommy with 'Father Christmas' aka Mark Taylor. Dave Cox
Board changes at the SVR Charitable Trust
Tim Hargest is now acting chairman of the SVR Charitable Trust and fellow trustee Ron Treverton-Jones is acting vice chairman. Both positions are to be confirmed at the Trust’s next board meeting on 13th December.
Tim told Branch Lines: “The chairman Keith Norton has resigned for very understandable personal reasons. My deep thanks to Keith for his huge contribution to the Trust and the broader SVR.
“The vital work of the Trust continues, including recruitment of a successor to Shelagh Paterson, the executive director who left us in November. Long-term volunteer and well-known trustee Paul Fathers has stepped in to assist in running the Trust on up to two days per week, on an interim basis.
“We are also seeking more volunteer help, so if you have fundraising or charity experience then please get in touch with SVRCT@svrtrust.org.uk .”
In Other News
Flying the SVR flag at the NEC
This year’s National Model Railway show at the NEC returned after a break of two years with volunteer teams from both the SVR and 82045 Steam Locomotive Trust on 26th/27th November.
The SVR-based new-build BR Standard tank No 82045 was a star attraction. It was transported a few days earlier from its usual build site at Bridgnorth by Allelys.
Members of the Trust then set up a stand alongside. Trust member and volunteer Brian Malyon told Branch Lines:
“Over the weekend Trust members were assisted by some Bridgnorth MPD volunteers and kept busy. The loco caused much interest, especially when people discovered it’s a new-build. A couple of general managers of other heritage railways enquired about hiring the loco when it’s finished!
“One member donated an O gauge model of 82045 to raffle, and we also had some 00 scale models repurposed as our engine from ready-to-run models. Buckets placed on the trailer collected a lot of loose change and paper money. It was a very successful weekend and raised quite a sum to help with the construction.”
SVR (Holdings) director Chris Walton organised the SVR’s official stand at the exhibition
“With NEC and Birmingham on our doorstep, this is a major national event where SVR maintains a prominent profile,” he explained. “We’ve been in attendance almost every year and the SVR has been the source of three locomotive centrepieces.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet shareholders, members, volunteers and other interested people. Additionally, we had a record sales year with SVR sets of Monopoly and Top Trumps providing much of the £1,500 receipts.
“Thanks go to the SVR support team, retail and event staff for this event and the recent Great British Model Show at the Gaydon Motor Heritage Centre. Additionally, thanks to the organising Warley Model Railway Club. We have an advantage that many of the Warley organising team are SVR supporters, as are many of railway layout operators!
“It shows how much a team of volunteers can contribute through such exhibitions. We’d like to develop a team to cover model railway exhibitions around the West Midlands from current volunteers and from those not able to volunteer physically on the Railway, but who want to contribute.”
If you’d like to find out more, please contact Chris directly on Chris.Walton@svrlive.com
SVR Presence at 2022 NEC on 25th November 2022with Di Malyon and Phil Bilboe setting out sales materials. Chris Walton
The partially-constructed 82045 at the Warley exhibition. Richard Herington
Nick’s Christmas lights
SVR volunteer Nick Wright has once again decked his house with tens of thousands of lights, to entertain visitors and raise funds for the Severn Valley Railway.
The spectacular display, and musical accompaniment, can be seen daily,
between 5-9pm on Malham Road, Stourport, DY13 8NN. There are options to donate cash or use contactless payment at the house, or donate online via www.justgiving.com/fundraising/svr-hope
Merry Christmas Nick, and thank you for your support!
Christmas lights display. Nick Wright
Permanent Way plant gets an upgrade
The SVR uses on-track plant to maintain its permanent way (PW), but the advancing age of its existing ‘road-railers' means reliability has suffered and spare parts are getting harder to source. As a result, the Railway has obtained some updated vehicles, as head of infrastructure Chris Bond told Branch Lines:
A replacement road-railer, the newly acquired Komatsu 160 and trailer, arrived on 16th November at Kidderminster from L&W Plant in Sussex. This will be of significant benefit to the Railway through its better availability, as it’s a modern unit with several years of Network Rail Engineering Conformance still remaining.
It will be a useful tool in the PW armoury. All of these machines have a road-rail capability with tools for a wide range of tasks including lifting, excavating and moving spoil or ballast, and flailing for clearing trackside vegetation.
This vehicle was obtained at a very advantageous price, with the kind assistance of the SVR Company Limited (Guarantee Company) and the SVR Charitable Trust, for which the PW team are extremely grateful. A further trailer, flail and bucket attachment are expected shortly; these have been generously included in the deal by L&W Plant.
The Komatsu road railer arrives at Kidderminster on 16.11.22. Chris Bond
V1 8th December 2022
Need to contact us?
Thanks for reading!
If you receive our monthly newsletter by email and wish to unsubscribe from our newsletter please click the link at the bottom of your email or alternatively use our contact form.
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.