Restored first aid box at Hampton Loade, see the story below. Photo: Sam Lench/Hampton Loade Facebook
Welcome to February's Branch Lines
We hope you’re already planning your first visit of 2020 to the Severn Valley Railway. We start running on 15th February for the half term week. Don’t forget that trains are only running between Bewdley and Bridgnorth only for the first part of the coming season, because of the ongoing works at Falling Sands Viaduct.
Did someone mention Falling Sands? There’s very positive news from the site of our major infrastructure project where encouraging progress is being made with the repair works. Plus our top story for February covers the Railway breaking its own records for service reliability. Though we say so ourselves, #TeamSVR is truly magnificent!
We’ve details of the new fare structure for 2020 which sees the introduction of a Loyalty Pass, and we hear from the Erlestoke Manor Fund which is launching its ‘2 for 2020’ appeal to get both its Manors back in service. Did you know that SVR best practice has spread to America? Read how a US heritage rail museum shaped its diesel event on the way things are done here. We know we have a number of US-based readers, so do let us know if you’ve visited the Illinois Railway Museum which features in our article. Plus our ‘country’ stations get some good exposure this month, with news from Arley, Bewdley, Hampton Loade and Highley.
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Lesley Carr & Patrick Hearn, co-editors
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Next edition Sunday 1st March
SVR smashes its own record
Thanks to years of hard work behind the scenes, the Railway has announced its highest ever service reliability levels. Weekly average figures from 2019 show that more than 99% of the SVR’s timetabled steam services were indeed hauled by a steam locomotive – a rise from 96% in 2016.
Moreover, services hauled by the exact locomotive named on the SVR website at the start of each running week has rocketed from 78% in 2016 to 96.7% in 2019 – the highest figure to date.
Head of engineering services Neil Taylor said:
“These are pretty good figures for any heritage railway - in fact, if you compare us with the mainline, we’re coming out more favourably. Considering we’ve worked with locomotives that are over 100 years old, that’s a pretty impressive achievement.
2019's mileage topping 7714 in warmer days. Photo: Ian Murray
“Reliability is key if we want to remain a leading visitor attraction, as just one disappointing visit can put people off for life. I have seen for myself the looks of utter disappointment on the faces of visitors when a steam locomotive fails, and while that can’t be avoided completely, we’re doing everything we can to ensure that we can deliver the experience that we promise.”
Neil put the latest figures down to a great deal of hard work behind the scenes and said some changes had been made since 2016, including having separate maintenance and overhaul teams, which had resulted in an effective maintenance regime, keeping the locomotives is good condition.
Did you know….?
We checked with SVR locomotive coordinator Duncan Ballard, who told us that last year steam locos travelled a whopping 61,439 miles on the Severn Valley line (this includes visiting locos.)
And three cheers for 7714, which clocked up the most mileage of any locomotive, covering 9,253 ½ miles over 160 steaming days!
Full steam ahead for the 2020 season
We kick off the 2020 season during the half term week, February 15th - 23rd, when services will run between Bewdley and Bridgnorth only. The line between Kidderminster and Bewdley is closed because of the ongoing repair work to Falling Sands Viaduct.
Also, see our separate articles on the Manchester Model Tramway display at The Engine House, Highley and the exciting children’s ‘Make me a train driver’ theatrical workshops at Kidderminster.
Full details of the half term week train services are on the SVR's February half term webpage.
Services will then continue at weekends only, still between Bewdley and Bridgnorth only, from 29th February to 29th March.
Full line services are then due to recommence from 4th April.
Photo: Mike Catton, Arley, January 2020. A gallery of Mike's images is below
Falling Sands work is making great progress
During the past week, contractors Walsh have completed the pour of concrete on top of Falling Sands Viaduct’s seven arches. As we go to press, they’re adding a waterproof layer of Leoseal on top of this. Work has gone extremely well so far, and the job is currently running a little ahead of schedule. The project’s civil engineer Jonathan Symonds told us more about what’s taken place during the past few weeks:
“After the track and fill material were removed, our contractors had exposed the curved tops of the arches, and found them all to be in good condition. Walsh had to work around the medium pressure gas main, which they propped up on chocks and strapped up. They dug around the pipe by hand, and removed another redundant pipe.
“Once all the sandy fill material was removed from the viaduct, you could see the original 19th century pitch had cracked in places and was clearly contributing to the water ingress. The original iron drainage pipes were also revealed. These were in good condition, and have been repaired by putting glass reinforced plastic liners inside the pipes and sealing with a polymer sealant.
Walsh will move on to replace the fill material before the track is re-laid and the signalling re-instated. It’s planned that the line between Kidderminster and Bewdley will be re-opened for April 4th.
During January the BBC filmed work and the report is shown below, giving us excellent publicity. The second video shows the concrete pour.
‘Two for 2020 Appeal’ - a tale of two Manors
The SVR-based Erlestoke Manor Fund has launched its ‘Two for 2020 Appeal’ to raise £25,000 for the completion of repairs to its two locomotives. The EMF owns two former GWR 7800 ‘Manor’ Class locomotives, which are ideally suited to the SVR’s operations.
Currently, 7812 ‘Erlestoke Manor’ is undergoing a planned overhaul at Tyseley Locomotive Works which took a significant step forward when it was re-wheeled on 4th January.
Sister locomotive 7802 ‘Bradley Manor’ unfortunately suffered a serious mechanical failure in 2019 whilst working on the West Somerset Railway, following which it too moved to Tyseley. Investigations are now complete and replacement of the complete cylinder block, piston rod and other repairs are now necessary – a major task. News of the completion on 28th January of two patterns for the new cylinders is an early sign of the progress.
Please click on the images for a full screen view
As the appeal was launched, EMF chairman Paul Fathers said:
“Our target is to return both Erlestoke Manor and then Bradley Manor to traffic during 2020. Whilst we are well on the way to achieving this, the Fund faces a cash shortfall with both locomotives currently unserviceable and so not bringing in any revenue. As a result, we are asking all those who support us and wish to see both the Manors running again this year to come forward with donations or by purchasing shares as part of the ‘Two for 2020 Appeal’.
“As the Fund is a charitable community benefit society, donations from UK taxpayers can be Gift Aided, increasing the value of the donation by 25%.”
Deputy chairman and trustee Adrian Hassell told Branch Lines: “Please consider (if you haven’t already) supporting this appeal. With this support, we are looking forward to the sight and sound of Manors running on the Railway again before too long…”
Model Trams at The Engine House
Come and marvel at magnificent hand-built miniature trams, and maybe even get the chance to drive a tram too! We welcome back the Manchester Model Tramway Group who will again display their incredible layout at The Engine House from 15th - 23rd February.
The Group’s fully-operating miniature tramway layout is built to a unique gauge, with models hand-built by its members. The layout was the brainchild of George Oakley, who first exhibited the tramway in 1949 and who had a keen interest in both the Manchester and Llandudno & Colwyn Bay tramway systems.
The Group has displayed the layout at The Engine House each year since 2015 and it has become a firm favourite. Entry to The Engine House is included with passes and Freedom of the Line tickets. More details on the SVR website.
The lengths to which our teams go in maintaining an appropriate heritage atmosphere is exceptional. Over the winter, long-serving Hampton Loade volunteer Steve Dockerty has restored an original No. 1 large type first aid cabinet to its former glory. Assistant station master Sam Lench takes up the story:
“This cabinet is a BR Western Region example to an earlier GWR design. Steve bought it from BR Collectors Corner near London Euston in the 1980s and for this reason we think it is likely to have come from a former Western Region station later taken over by the London Midland Region.”
Among the stations transferred were those on the Severn Valley branch, including Hampton Loade, which passed to the Midland Region in January 1963, shortly before closure. Sam added:
“It joins another cabinet, a GWR original which came from Birmingham Snow Hill and contains original documentation. That cabinet ended up in Birmingham New Street, from where Steve bought it through his employment with BR.”
Both cabinets are now in active use as first aid kits, replacing modern plastic boxes. Details like this are vital in recreating the period atmosphere at our stations.
Photos: Sam Lench/Hampton Loade Station Facebook page
New fares structure for 2020
The SVR’s new 2020 fares will come into operation from 4th April, when the full line will be re-opened after the completion of the first phase of restoration to Falling Sands Viaduct. Head of sales and marketing Lisa Palmer told Branch Lines:
“The big news is the introduction of the new ‘Loyalty Pass’, which replaces the Annual Family Pass. The Loyalty Pass will offer individuals, couples, less-able visitors or families ‘Freedom of the Line’ travel for 15 months, as well as a number of exciting benefits, including 15% off purchases in the shops and refreshment rooms, as well as reduced rate tickets at special events for the first time ever.”
Lisa added, “We have listened to visitor feedback. Firstly, people wanted a pass for all and not just families. Secondly, they wanted to be able to top up the special events, as often they didn’t go to the events having paid for the annual pass to start with. So a family with a new pass coming on only two special event days will pay less in total than in 2019. We feel sure the pass will be a win both for the Railway and the pass holder, and it will be good value.”
Loyalty Pass prices will be:
2 adults and up to 4 children/dogs £250 (currently £195)
2 Adults [no children] £225
1 Adult and up to 4 children/dogs £175 (unchanged)
1 Adult [no children] £125
Disabled and 1 carer £150
Special event day supplement: Family [2+4] £22, Adult £10, Child £7
SVR members will get a £10 reduction on each pass, as now.
On ‘Freedom of the Line’ day rovers there will be a £1 rise in the adult fare to £23 on normal days, and to £33 on most special events. Lisa explained, “To offset this rise, the pre-book discount for all these goes up from 10% to 15%. The effect of this will be to reduce the pre-book Day Rover from £19.80 to £19.55.”
Keep an eye on https://www.svr.co.uk/Fares.aspx for more information.
We’re shortlisted for an award – and need your help to win
Last month we asked for your help in gaining nominations for the Best Visitor Attraction in the ‘What's On Readers' Awards 2020’. Thank you for responding, and as a result the SVR is on the top five shortlist for both the Worcestershire and Shropshire categories.
Voting is simple – just click on www.whatsonlive.co.uk/Readers-Awards-2020 and scroll down to the bottom of the first page.
Select Worcestershire and you will see the visitor attraction category. We are in the drop-down.
You can then select Shropshire and do the same.
When you‘ve registered your vote for the SVR, you can also use the ‘vote in another region’ category, or select ‘No thanks, I’m done’ to exit.
Please share the link with friends and family and ask them to vote for the SVR. The competition is, as always, tough, but together we can do this! Thank you.
What’s taking shape at Arley?
Reader Norman Ashfield spotted something that intrigued him as he passed Arley on one of the last services before the winter shutdown, which prompted this question:
“Can you tell us what the new breeze block building at the top end of Arley station is going to be? A new site for the signal box, perhaps?”
Well Norman, the current signal box isn’t going anywhere, but Arley’s volunteer foreman Martin Bannister has the explanation for you:
“This is going to be a new workshop and storage building, as we’ve rather outgrown the small tin shed next to the gift shop that currently serves this purpose. In true SVR fashion, we’re repurposing part of the old platform canopy from Bewdley to serve as the roof and hope to have the building complete and ready for use by the summer.”
A contribution from SVR(A) raffle proceeds and money from the Arley station fund are paying for the costs of the new building, and further donations are welcome.
The mystery building at Arley. Photo David Skitt
50th anniversary celebrations - we need your photographs!
As part of our celebrations to mark 50 years of passenger services to Hampton Loade in preservation, the station team are on the lookout for early photographs of Hampton Loade dating from 1965-70, with a view to creating a display to mark the 50th anniversary.
Assistant station master Sam Lench asked: "If you have any photos of Hampton Loade during this time, you are the copyright holder and wouldn't mind a copy going on display (with name credited), we would love to hear from you!
"Please email email@example.com with brief details or thumbnails attached."
LMS 2-6-0 No. 46443 with 'The Midlander' headboard at Hampton Loade in 1969. Photo: David Cooke.
Concentrating on the ‘three Rs’ at Bridgnorth
Volunteer shed master Martin White gives us an insight into the type of work that goes on at Bridgnorth’s Motive Power Depot during the winter shutdown. Over to Martin …
It might be a quiet time on the Railway with no services running, but of course there’s plenty of winter work going on in every corner if you look closely enough. It’s the time of year to concentrate on the SVR’s own three Rs; Repairs, Refurbishment and Renewal, and the MPD is no exception.
So, what has happened here since we stopped running trains? Firstly, all the running fleet steam locos returned to Bridgnorth, Monday 6th January being the day when the last locos arrived from Bewdley. Then it was a series of boiler washouts, repairs and examinations, including very detailed annual inspections for some of the fleet. This year there has been very little out of the ordinary, except perhaps the weather (so far!) which has been exceptionally mild. Very welcome to the guys who do much of their work outside in the MPD yard. I expect it’s been appreciated by folks working atop Falling Sands Viaduct too.
Inside the works, 1501’s valve & piston (V&P) work continues, including new rod bushes, etc. 1450 is having its new large tubes fitted, which as mentioned last month should enable it to carry on steaming until the end of 2020. All of the rest of the fleet have had three Rs work done to some extent. In the paintshop we are hosting inspection saloon 80972; it’s undergoing three Rs on its bodywork, especially around the windows, and this is being carried out by visiting members of the carriage & wagon staff normally based in Kidderminster, alongside our own resident painter.
The annual loco exams, mentioned earlier, include numerous measurements of motion bushes, wheels and tyres, etc. which are checked against previous measurements and give an indication of how quickly, or slowly, wear is taking place. The measurements are compared to permitted tolerances and these metrics can be used to give an indication of when three Rs work may be necessary in the future. Add into the equation the loco mileages recorded since previous major work and we can start to draw up a plan of what may be necessary in the coming 12 months. It’s far from being an exact science; we are after all, talking about steam-age technology. However, it tells us that 1501 should be in good fettle once the V&P is completed, expected by the time we reopen the full line to Kidderminster. Once 1501 is finished 7714 will be due a V&P. This is anticipated to be a ‘quickie’, hopefully just requiring some new piston rings. 2857 will be next in line for some work in late summer, to resolve some of the tolerances which are getting towards their limits. Finally, towards the end of 2020, 34027 ‘Taw Valley’ will be due a V&P.
Of course, alongside all of this, overhauls of 42968 (13268), 4930, plus 7812 and 7802 (at Tyseley) will be continuing in 2020, heading towards their individual completion. I mustn’t forget to mention 4150 and 82045 either - so there we are, I’ve mentioned them!
The two photos are 1450's smokebox showing the two new large flue tubes sticking out. The flue tubes are threaded at the firebox end and screwed into the firebox tubeplate. They are manufactured a foot or so overlength, which makes it easier for them to be screwed in from the smokebox end. The remainder is cut off flush to the smokebox tubeplate. The second is one of the valve liners being fitted to 4930's cylinders on 21st January by specialist contractors, involving the use of liquid nitrogen to deep freeze the components prior to fitting. More news and photos from The Friends of Locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall, from whom this photo was taken.
Where do I find…
Following last month’s article on the DMU, reader Richard Moyes got in touch to ask if there is a list of links to the various groups beavering away on projects relating to the SVR, such as the DMU Group’s Blue Square blog. Well, yes Richard there is! The SVR Wiki maintains a list of links to online sites with an SVR connection.
Not to be confused with Wikipedia, the SVR Wiki is a project aimed to collect information and record events relating to the SVR, both past and present. It is a font of knowledge and is regularly updated and expanded by a passionate and knowledgeable team of SVR enthusiasts.
The ‘Recent changes’ link shows new pages and amendments, which this month include Ernest Maples’ role in the closure of the SVR, the filming of ‘Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: 4:50 from Paddington’ and 37 688’s imminent departure from the SVR.
It is a collaborative effort and anyone who has any knowledge relating to the SVR should feel free to contribute. Do take a look.
Vacancy: maternity cover for Engine House manager
The SVR is looking for maternity cover for Nicky Vale between March and December. Responsibilities include:
Leading the team in delivering a high-quality visitor experience
The smooth running of The Engine House Visitor Centre, ensuring that the building, surrounding grounds and all equipment and facilities are maintained in compliance with SVR standards and applicable regulations
Helping to maintain the “living museum”, refreshed regularly to maximise return visits
Supporting the SVR Charitable Trust and others responsible for exhibitions including memorial gardens, craft or food fayres, ensuring that the displays are attractive, fit for purpose, clean and safe.
A trip into the past for brickwork students
As part of the community outreach activities associated with the Falling Sands Viaduct project, the SVR hosted a group of brickwork students from Kidderminster College for a site visit.
The project’s civil engineer Jonathan Symonds and infrastructure volunteer Nick Yarwood explained why the repair work is so urgently needed, and talked the students through the works that had already taken place. They also discussed the navvies who built the bridge and the kind of life bricklayers would have had back in the 1870s, a very different experience to that of today’s construction workers. The Charitable Trust’s Laura Hines ended the visit with an overview of upcoming events and exhibitions the SVR has planned to share more of the Railway’s history.
The students will be back in the early summer to learn about the second phase of the project, when they’ll see brick-workers using rope access to repoint the spandrels and piers.
Farewell to an SVR stalwart
Dozens of SVR friends and colleagues turned out to wave off longstanding volunteer Richard Hill. After 27 years’ service, Richard is moving away from the area with his wife Elizabeth, so they can be closer to their family in Rutland. His contribution to the SVR has been notable, as evidenced by the crowds who attended his farewell get together earlier this week at Kidderminster Railway Museum. Richard served many years as a TTI before joining the LNER (SVR) Coach Fund in the capacity of the Fund’s newsletter editor and unofficial fundraiser-in-chief. Paying tribute to Richard, the Fund’s chairman Hugh McQuade said:
“Thanks to Richard’s sterling efforts, funds were raised that enabled the LNER Coach Group volunteers to restore many vehicles, all now in service on the SVR. Thanks in no small part to Richard we have more fully restored LNER Gresley teaks than the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, in the heart of LNER country!”
Richard himself told us: “My years as an SVR working member have been a most happy and fulfilling part of my life. Being part of the SVR has been a wonderful experience aided in particular by the excellent colleagues with whom I have had the privilege to work.”
Photo by Bob Green shows Richard and Elizabeth with one of their parting gifts, a framed photograph of ‘Bittern on the Teaks’ by Ian Murray.
A treat for budding train drivers this half term
Kidderminster station may be ‘cut off’ from the rest of the line as far as train services this coming half term, but it’s definitely the place to go if you’re looking for something to do with your children or grandchildren.
The SVR’s ‘Make Me A Train Driver’ theatrical workshops between February 15th and 23rd are full of train-tastic activities and games, and last approximately 105 minutes. The entry price of £20 includes all of the following:
Entry to a "Make me a Train Driver" workshop, lasting approximately 105 minutes. A maximum of 20 children will take part in each session.
Theatrical workshop with immersive activities.
Short ride on a diesel train in the station, with on-board spotting trail.
Build your own train to take-home.
FREE high-quality print from our themed vintage photo-shoot.
FREE tea & coffee for adults during the children's experience.
FREE child 'Freedom of the Line' voucher to use in 2020, worth £14.50 (conditions apply).
FREE entry to Kidderminster Railway Museum.
(Accompanying adult tickets are just £5.)
Workshops take place at 10am, 11am, 12noon, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm, and on Saturday 22nd February there’s an SEN-friendly workshop at 3pm.
Please note, children will not be able to drive a train during this experience!
To book, please go to the SVR website.
SVR diesel gala format proves a hit in the USA
January’s edition of The Railway Magazine included the news that the SVR’s influence has spread across the Atlantic to change the way in which an American heritage diesel event was staged.
Writing in the magazine, Keith Fender tells how the US’s biggest railway museum at Illinois held its first UK-style diesel gala last year, following a fact-finding mission by the museum’s diesel curator to the Severn Valley.
Jamie Kolanowski from the Illinois Railway Museum met loco owners, volunteers and enthusiasts at the SVR’s 2018 diesel gala, and saw huge potential in the way things are done here.
Jamie told The Railway Magazine:
“The way we used to handle diesel days […] was to have a parade of locomotives. Some would be light engine, some would have a train, some might pull another loco in dynamic braking mode. All these would go by the parade line of visitors at the depot. The bad thing about the old format was it would stop all passenger train operations for a two-hour window while we set up and ran the parade.
“When I visited the SVR […] I liked the format of continuously running trains carrying passengers, and having a defined schedule for when each locomotive would run and let people ride behind everything instead of just watching it go by in the parade. So, I decided to change to that format for IRM’s diesel days.
The move proved a success, with the IRM enjoying its best ever visitor numbers at its revamped diesel day last year.
The IRM has the largest collection of preserved diesel locos in North America, and if you’re in the Illinois/Chicago area during 7th-9th August this year, you might want to add their next gala to your diary. More details at www.irm.org
Thanks to The Railway Magazine for permission to use extracts from this article. Find out more at https://www.railwaymagazine.co.uk/
Fingers crossed for Saturday night
We have everything crossed ahead of the forthcoming Heritage Railway Association's 2020 Awards. The winners will be announced at the Awards Night in London on Saturday 8th February.
A reminder that The Class 50 Alliance has been nominated for the Coiley Locomotive Engineering Award for the restoration of Class 50 No. 50033 Glorious at the SVR, and the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust has been nominated for the Morgan Award for Preservation for LMS 2886 Six-wheel Passenger Brake 2886.
We hope to have good news in the next issue!
Foley Park works progress
Infrastructure Manager, Chris Bond has been in touch regarding winter works at Foley Park.
Chris told Branch Lines: “while Falling Sands Viaduct is the major winter project, track relaying is also taking place at Foley Park. In addition, we are installing a new set of points as part of a long-term plan to develop the area. Doing this now takes advantage of the track relaying to install them.”
Photo: This ‘over the fence’ photo from Graham Phillips shows the work underway on 16th January.
In Branch Lines we try and showcase a variety of images from around the railway from a range of photographers. We hope you enjoy our selections and we thank all the photographers who give us permission to use their work.
From time to time we showcase a gallery of images from one photographer. This month Mike Catton has sent atmospheric photos of three of our stations: Bewdley at dusk, Arley in shadows and a Bridgnorth evening.
Click on the gallery for full screen images.
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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.