February 2021

With no trains running in January, we look back to this evocative image of 75069 at Bridgnorth on 30th December. John Sherratt

Welcome to Branch Lines!

It’s the annual shut down maintenance period, and the country’s in lockdown for the third time. However, there’s plenty going on at the SVR, and in this month’s edition we bring you behind-the-scenes news from a host of departments. Essential work and operations continue as we prepare to reopen to the public in early April.


Yes, that’s the big announcement for this month’s edition of Branch Lines – the SVR is putting plans in place for an Easter reopening! We’ve also announced two special events, the Spring Steam Up in April and the Diesel Bash in May. Rather different from the customary galas, these will nevertheless go a long way to attracting and giving something back to the many enthusiasts and close supporters who’ve stuck with us through thick and thin.


Our general manager has some stirring words of encouragement and reflection for us all. Helen Smith asks us to have faith, have patience, and be reassured that better times are on the way. Also this month, and on a sad note, the news that one of the SVR’s founding fathers, John Hill, has died. He was the driver of the first train to come onto SVR ‘preserved’ metals, and the first official public service too. But he brought much more to the Railway, as you’ll read in our tribute article.


We know how much Branch Lines readers appreciate being kept in the loop about what’s happening at the Railway, and we love hearing from you too.  Roger Harris of the South Staffordshire Living History Group wrote with some heartfelt praise for the SVR, “Congratulations to the whole team at Hampton Loade station for all their efforts…the photographs of the station in the January Branch Lines are wonderful and a tribute to all the volunteers and their hard work…stay safe everyone and we hope to see you all soon.”


Roger, thank you for getting in touch, and we’d like to strongly echo your words!

Lesley and Patrick, co-editors

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

Better times will come

General manager Helen Smith is looking ahead to better times, and with a reopening planned for Easter, she’s urging the SVR’s close supporters to keep safe and look forward to coming back soon: 

It’s hard to keep cheerful in the depths of lockdown 3, but I’m going to have a try and hope you’ll come with me on this. Being unable to do the things that we love now will only make it that much more special when we can do them once more. Every moment we spend on the Railway during 2021 will be special and cherished.

 

At long last, the signs are starting to get better; the vaccine is being rolled out at an amazing rate, case numbers are beginning to fall, the days are getting longer, and I truly believe we will get back to some sort of normality later this year.

We have put tickets on sale for an April reopening. Sales are really strong for the Steam Up event with more than 30% already sold, and in the next couple of weeks we’ll announce our VIP guest locomotive for the event and start selling tickets for May’s Diesel Bash.

An update on the Fight Back Fund – although we’ve not been actively seeking contributions to this recently, the total raised has now exceeded £930,000, and we are hugely grateful to everyone who has contributed.


Improving our commercial performance is going to be a big part of our recovery strategy. With the prospect of social distancing in place for some time to come, we must improve the visitor experience and secondary spend areas of the business. We want to offer curated experience options for our visitors with organised itineraries including a visit to The Engine House, a walk at Arley Arboretum, a ride on a Segway or even walking with Alpacas! We need to share our knowledge with our visitors; where is the best place to watch the trains go past? What are the must-sees for their visit? What is the one thing you’d want a child to remember who’s never seen a heritage locomotive before? We want to get creative and share the SVR passion.


You’ll probably be aware of how difficult this past year has been for the SVR. And yes, it will take a few years to recover from the losses we have incurred. However, with the help of supporters like you, along with our amazing volunteers and the innovations we’ve introduced, I know that the SVR will come out of this as a stronger organisation.


Foreign travel will be difficult this year, so this summer we should see visitor numbers rising like never before. We hope we are allowed to welcome them all, and we’re getting ready for a really busy season.

 

Spring season is announced

From 2nd April, the SVR plans to open along the length of the line. Catching the Easter break market, the 2021 spring season caters for both visitor and enthusiast audiences, with two special events already in the calendar for the first months of reopening.


Spring Steam Up is a four-day event from 15th April with the chance to clock up 96 miles of steam travel behind seven different locomotives. Tickets for the day enable visitors to enjoy three round trips of the line, with each leg of the journey hauled by a different locomotive, including one double-headed leg. The fleet for the event will be made up of seven home locomotives and one VIP guest star, which will be announced soon. This will be one of the final showcase appearances for No 6960 Raveningham Hall, before the popular locomotive is withdrawn from service pending overhaul.


For fans of internal combustion, the Spring Diesel Bash will run for four days from 13th May. A packed timetable will showcase the best of the SVR’s sizeable diesel fleet. Tickets will go on sale very soon for this event, and a roster of engines will soon be announced in due course.


The successful excursion trains will also return, offering a full day out on steam-hauled services behind The Explorer, Flyer and Adventurer, while diesel fans can enjoy the extremely popular Pioneer service, which returns on selected dates.


For the first time since March 2020, Hampton Loade and Arley stations will be reopened exclusively to serve The Explorer, which stops at all stations on its journey from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth.
General manager Helen Smith told Branch Lines, “We’ve put a huge amount of effort into planning an itinerary of named trains and special events to start our 2021 season. We’re particularly pleased to be able to offer two large events for our enthusiast visitors, who we know are keen to get back to the Railway. It is very important to the SVR to be able to offer these events, as a thank you to our loyal followers who have supported us throughout these trying times.”

Tickets are already on sale, backed by the SVR’s Covid Guarantee, which allows ticket holders to transfer their booking or receive a full refund. Visit www.svr.co.uk or call 01562 757900 to book.


Photos: We looked back to 2011 and 2001 for Spring gala visiting locomotives. No Spring Gala took place in 2011 due to major engineering work at Arley and Bewdley South, but in May 2011 a 'Sounds of the 60s’ event included LMS Stanier 5MT 4-6-0 44871. 10 years beforehand 9F 92212 was a visitor, this image coming from a later image on her 2011 visit to the SVR, arriving at Highley on the 11.30 Bridgnorth - Highley test run on 14th July 2011, following repairs, and before entering SVR service. Both images from the SVR photo library. 

 

Ticket discounts for 2021

The Railway has confirmed that despite the tough financial situation it currently faces, members, shareholders and loyalty pass holders will continue to receive discounts on tickets.


Members receive a discount of approximately 33% on service trains and some special events. Enter your UIN number form your membership card, without the preceding letter.


Shareholders will be able to access free excursion trains tickets, or 65% off Spring Steam Up and Spring Diesel Bash tickets. Use your shareholding number, preceded by SH.


Loyalty pass holders will be able to access free excursion train tickets, or 65% off Spring Steam Up and Spring Diesel Bash tickets. Use your loyalty pass number, preceded by LP.

“There have been some changes for 2021,” explained general manager Helen Smith, “to ensure that the events run by the SVR are able to generate income, whilst capacity is still reduced by ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. However, we've been able to make these discounted fares available at what is an extremely difficult time, because we want to show our appreciation to our loyal supporters.”


All the discounts can be accessed online or by phone. Proof of entitlement must be shown at the booking office to permit travel. To book tickets visit www.svr.co.uk.

 

Worth waiting for!

Following more than three months of planning, design and amends, and the need to keep up with the constantly changing national situation, the Severn Valley Railway communications and marketing team is proud to take the wraps off the 2021 customer leaflet. An important tool for any visitor attraction, the leaflet will be placed in more than 700 holiday parks across Worcestershire and Shropshire, with the aim of attracting visitors back to the Railway when restrictions ease.

The leaflet features new artwork inspired by traditional 1920s and 30s holiday posters whilst capturing the sense of movement, excitement and drama the Railway offers. Dan Shorthouse, Marketing Manager, has spearheaded the project:

“This project would normally start much earlier that it did, but 2020 was not a normal year. I’m happy that we’re now in a position to go public with this and, hopefully, start welcoming people back to the Railway.

 

“What we’ve achieved in the circumstances is an attractive leaflet that is quite a move away from what we’ve done previously. We’ve undertaken considerable research into the kind of people who pick these leaflets up and what encourages them to choose ours against others. I hope the leaflet inspires visitors new and old to come take a journey with us!”

 

You can view a digital version of the leaflet.

Leaflet front.png
 

John Hill – a tribute to a true railwayman

John Hill, one of our founding fathers, passed on 14th January following a long period of ill health. His funeral took place at Wyre Forest Crematorium on 3rd February. Current restrictions meant few could attend, but a live stream enabled many of John’s friends and colleagues to view the service. The driver of the SVR’s first locomotive in preservation and a true railwayman, John had been a member of the SVR since 1966.


Before his involvement with the SVR, John had been a BR driver based out of Saltley and Tyseley. However as steam was phased out he found himself first driving diesels before leaving the locomotive department to become a signaller. Like many, he had not taken easily to the disappearance of steam, and hearing of plans to resurrect the SVR, John sent off for membership. Just one year later, he became the SVR’s first driver.


On 25th March 1967, the Railway’s first locomotive, GWR 3205, arrived from Stourbridge onto SVR metals. As the only BR driver amongst the membership, it fell to John (and fellow BR fireman Gerry Carter) to work the inaugural journey to Bridgnorth, where they arrived to an emotional and rousing reception. John himself described the photographers as having a field day and his image featured widely in the local press.


In the years following the arrival of 3205, John continued to be a key volunteer, driving not only the BR ‘Inspection Special’ on 31st March 1968 but also the first public train on the official opening day on 23rd May 1970, a role which he proudly recreated for the 40th anniversary of the event.

A quietly spoken, experienced, knowledgeable, and practical railwayman with a great sense of humour, John freely passed on his knowledge to many early volunteers. On occasion he even arranged visits to BR territory, helping his SVR friends gain a greater understanding of the railway practices needed for safely running their new railway.


Much photographed in the early years, John also appeared on both the small and large screen, driving trains for the filming of Carrie’s War and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution in the 1970s, for which his name appeared in the credits. In 2012 he was further immortalised, appearing alongside many other early volunteers in the documentary The Golden Age of Steam Railways.


Away from the footplate, during his many decades of involvement with the Railway, John also served as chairman of the Severn Valley Railway Association, director of the Guarantee Company (now the SVR Company Limited) and SVR (Holdings), and as operating superintendent. Friend and contemporary, Columb Howell said in tribute:


“John always came across as a kind, gentle person and keen to see that the SVR Society succeeded. As a footplateman he was easy to work with and helped us amateurs to understand the importance of footplate work; he was quick to correct but never unkind. I never heard anyone complain about him. John became a great friend of mine, and I will miss him, as will many others. May he rest in peace.”


Fellow early volunteer David Williams said:


“John Hill possessed the patience to teach newcomers to the railway industry about its seemingly mystical techniques and procedures. His background was rare, embracing both footplate and signalbox experience, and volunteers on both the Severn Valley and Bluebell Railways have good cause to remember him for guidance and friendship. In his selfless way, John helped many other people similarly and will never be forgotten by all who knew him."


John’s family are planning a celebration of his life, to be held once restrictions are lifted, to which all railway friends are invited. For anyone wishing to donate in memoriam, John requested donations to the Kidderminster Railway Museum.

Photo: John Hill (right) and Henry Muller (left) on SVR's first loco 3205 at Bridgnorth on 14th October 1967. David C Williams

 

Podcasting pioneers

After the success of the first episode of the Oral History Podcast, which Branch Lines reported in December, the second instalment from the Falling Sands Viaduct project is now ready and waiting to be heard!

Funded by donations and a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the podcast continues to explore the early years of preservation history, with episode two covering the exciting period from 1967 to the early 1970s. This recording details how the Severn Valley Railway Society expanded and flourished, as volunteers turned their attention to finding, acquiring and restoring engines to run on their new line.

 

Early members Keith Beddoes, Columb Howell, John Hill, Paul Fathers and David Williams give memorable accounts of those early years, painting vivid pictures of the trials and tribulations involved in getting a railway up and running.

Visit the Falling Sands website to catch up on episode one and take a listen to the brand-new episode. Once you’ve listened to the podcast, please share it with friends, family or via social media. The podcast production team would love to hear your thoughts too, so please send comments to Cathryn.costello@svrtrust.org.uk.

 

It’s your cup of tea! 

With many shops closed, people have been turning to online stores for their retail therapy.

 

If you’d like something a little different or special, look no further than The Severn Valley Railway Online Store, which has recently updated its stock, including a variety of items fit for a tea party! 

First up, the GWR Collection is now available for purchase, featuring a variety of crockery and homeware inspired by refreshment rooms run by the historic railway. Each piece features vintage styling, including delicate leaf detailing and the GWR logo. 

Plus, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the SVR Shop is encouraging people to ‘get steamy’ with a whole host of Severn Valley Railway-themed gift bundles. From the practical - a handmade chopping board with tea towel - to the indulgent - an SVR gin miniature and chocolate - there’s plenty to choose from, whether you’re looking for a romantic gift, or a personal treat.

If that’s not enough, a new range of t-shirts, mugs, food items and more has been added, ensuring that the SVR’s online shop is quite literally a one-stop-shop for all gifting needs. It’s all waiting at http://www.svrshop.co.uk 

 

Winter works are underway

The SVR permanent way team is taking advantage of the extended closed period to get several outstanding jobs completed, as infrastructure manager Chris Bond tells Branch Lines:

The full time PWay team has been bolstered by the appointment of Brent Cleeton. Brent is a long-standing volunteer who is already heavily involved with PWay activities, so he’s been able to hit the ground running.

The first major job has been to replace several rails over Falling Sands Viaduct. The rail, donated by the Midland Metro Alliance, is superior to the second-hand rail previously purchased. This, coupled with the need to carry out further welding, resulted in a rail swap operation that was completed in around one-and-a-half weeks; no mean feat in the cold weather and having to wield a heavy rail cutting saw!

 

This mission-critical operation was supported by some hardy volunteers able to attend and support the full-time staff in the laborious job of ‘clipping up’ the rails, once cut and laid.

In the wake of the SVR team, contract welders from RSS Infrastructure carried out around 50 Thermit welds at cost price, for which we are very grateful.

Apart from minor fettling near the tunnel, the next big task will be to carry out mechanical stressing of around a mile of welded track. This is necessary to allow for summer heat expanding the rails and to prevent buckling taking place. It’s a laborious job as the rail must be temporarily unclipped along its length and a series of rollers placed under the rail at regular intervals. Once the rail has had the required tension induced by the mechanical puller, it all must be clipped back down again to ‘lock in’ the tension.

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This will then give the SVR its longest stretch of welded track, extending from the Bewdley side of the tunnel to the loop points at Kidderminster near to the carriage shed. This will massively reduce the maintenance load and it is also kinder on the structures, especially Falling Sands Viaduct where shocks from rail joints are transmitted into the structure.

Elsewhere, work overseen by our magnificent volunteer IT department at Kidderminster has provided a high-speed data network on the site. This utilises a series of contractor-installed radio links with interconnected cabinets placed in several locations in the carriage shed. The network will provide a means of remote monitoring the CCTV that is due to be installed in the diesel depot and carriage shed. This work has been funded by the Department of Media, Culture & Sport’s Culture Recovery Fund grant, which was the result of much hard work by the SVR in the application process and is designed to protect heritage assets. Further CCTV installations and upgrades are to be carried out before the end of March at Kidderminster station and car park. Bewdley and Hampton Loade will also benefit from CCTV work, and a fire alarm scheme at Arley will also form part of the project.

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

 

A busy winter at Bridgnorth MPD

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The country might be on pause but there’s no time for a break at Bridgnorth MPD, as volunteer shed master Martin White reports:


Winter maintenance is in full swing. Many, though not all, of the steam loco fleet have their annual inspections at this time of year, placing a significant demand on the resources of the paid staff. To get ready for the annual boiler exams, the loco boilers have to be prepared in the same way as a 30-day boiler washout, which means washout plugs and mud hole doors are removed, and the boiler cleaned out. In addition, the safety valves are stripped down, and everything has to be cleaned, examined and prepared ready for the external boiler inspector. Whilst the mechanical team do the bulk of this work, the boilersmiths are also involved, completing a full examination of the boiler, ahead of the external inspector*.


The external inspection is split into two parts on two separate days. First the inspector attends site (on a pre-arranged date) and spends a number of hours looking over each boiler and if necessary, discusses matters with an SVR boilersmith. Part two takes place with the loco reassembled and in steam. Once again, the SVR boilersmiths ‘give it the once over’ before the inspector arrives on-site. This usually means the loco being in steam for two days.

During January and February, these examinations are scheduled for 813, 1501, 7714, 6960, 43106, 75069 and the 30-ton steam crane. We have seven dates scheduled for the inspector to visit, plus many more days of preparation and set-up work for the staff. This all has to be fitted in around the carrying out of necessary annual mechanical exams by SVR staff along with any repairs that need to be rectified on the locos. The boilersmiths have plenty of boiler overhaul work too!


On the subject of boilers, the boiler certificates on both 1501 and 2857 are due to expire in 2022, whilst that on 6960 ‘Raveningham Hall’ expires in July this year. Looking a little further ahead the boiler certificate on 43106 is due to run out in 2023.


In the schedule to replace these in the SVR fleet are the Stanier Mogul and Hagley Hall. The overhauls of these two are continuing with an expectation, and a need, for them to operate during the main 2022 season. Also, the Erlestoke Manor Fund are hard at work to complete their work on both 7802 and 7812 at Tyseley. And I am sure that the groups behind large prairie 4150 and class 3MT tank 82045 would not want me to forget them and look forward to the day when they join the working fleet.


The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us all that we can take nothing for granted. We’re confident that there are more enjoyable days ahead.


*A film on our YouTube channel shows exactly what we do to get a loco ready for its ‘cold’ boiler inspection.

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

 

February days past 

Hopes for trains to return in February were dashed as England entered its third lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19. All services were cancelled, and many staff and volunteers have joined the Railway’s supporters at home.

At Branch Lines, we’re missing our ‘fix’ too, so have delved into the photo library for images of trains from Februarys past. As ever, we thank our supporting photographers for sharing their work with us.

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

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SVR LIVE

VOLUNTEER

MEMBERSHIP

Lighting the way to our hearts

SVR volunteer Nick Wright is a self-confessed Christmas lights super fan, and he put his considerable lighting design skills to good use to raise money for the SVR Charitable Trust. Throughout December and into early January, Nick transformed the outside of his Stourport home into a musical light show extravaganza, raising more than £2,155 for the Railway’s Fight Back Fund. A very grateful Shelagh Paterson of the Charitable Trust said, “For those of us who saw the display, it brought much joy and cheer, and we were delighted to hear how generous people were, raising much-needed funds for the Railway at such a difficult time. We cannot thank Nick enough for the many hours he spent creating the show and for choosing to support the Railway.” 

You may have seen that Nick’s idea caught the attention of ITV Central News, who interviewed him and filmed the display in action.

Photo: Nick Wright outside his decorated house, Kidderminster Shuttle

 

Important role of grants in funding SVR projects 

The Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust’s diverse fundraising strategy includes working hard to gain funding from grant-making bodies to support the work of the Railway. Successes have included the recently completed Falling Sands Viaduct restoration, the Heritage Apprenticeship Scheme and grant contributions towards the ongoing restoration of Hagley Hall. 

As well as securing other valuable grants over the past year, the Charitable Trust has focused much of its efforts on applications for emergency grants to help the SVR to survive the severe financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis. Application processes for these grants are complex and laborious but can prove very valuable; for example the National Lottery Heritage Emergency Fund awarded the maximum grant of £250,000 to SVR (Holdings) plc in 2020, whilst the Culture Recovery Fund awarded £906,000 in its first round funding.

 

Fundraising manager Ian Jones explains, “We invested considerable time and effort into these applications, with input from senior staff and board members from the three SVR companies. This effort has proved to be well worthwhile, as these grants will help with salary costs, facilitating home working, as well as enabling us to install additional CCTV and fire/security alarms at various locations across the railway to protect our heritage assets, and much more.”

The work does not stop there however, and the Trust has just submitted a further application to round 2 of the Culture Recovery Fund. Speaking about this most recent application, Ian said, “The result of this application will not be known until the end of March, and so we are all keeping our fingers crossed until then!”

 

Vital maintenance work at the TMD

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The SVR’s shunter fleet plays an essential role both when passenger services are running, and now, when they’re not. Even in lockdown, even in the annual shutdown period, maintenance operations continue, and they depend on a well-oiled fleet of shunters.


A small group of volunteers meets twice a week to carry out this work, looking after the five Kidderminster-based shunters and the 08 that’s based at Bridgnorth.


To maintain correct social distancing, there are never more than three volunteers in attendance. This month they’re in the process of carrying out an annual service to 09107 Dick Hardy, to finish in time for an operational task later this month.


The service includes changing the oil, along with the oil, air and fuel filters. Checks on radiator water level and anti-freeze also take place. Checking the brake system is very important, and this must then be signed off and recorded by the Railway’s diesel mechanical engineer, Richard Williams. One of the group, Don Shadwell, explains that it’s not all fun and games:


“One job which we all dislike the most is topping up the traction motor gears with motac. This is a tar-like substance, which has to be warmed up before we use an air-operated gun to force it into the gear cases.”


The Bridgnorth 08 recently returned from Bristol St Philip’s Marsh after its tyres were turned, and the TMD volunteers were involved in the preparatory work for this. They removed the side rods and the life guards and demeshed the traction motion gearing from the gear on the two outer axles, so that the wheels could be free-running once the loco went on the wheel lathe at Bristol.

“Within four days it was finished and back at Kidderminster,” continues Don. “We placed it on the jacks so we could line up the crank pins and refit the side rods. Before we had the TMD and its four electronic jacks we had to use two hydraulic jacks to lift the wheels clear of the rail. It’s much easier and much safer now! It’s so important to keep the shunting fleet up to scratch, and it’s been made much easier because of the new facilities in the diesel depot. It really is amazing.”


Before Covid-19 struck, the team had started a major overhaul on Class 11 12099, but this has been put on the back burner until better times, as they adhere strictly to Covid-19 rules and carry out only mission-critical work.

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

 

Diesel notes

Work has continued at Kidderminster TMD but on a much-reduced scale, in line with coronavirus restrictions, as we look towards our 2021 services with hope. Diesel committee chair and SVR Holdings director Jonathan Dunster gives Branch Lines the details: 

The popular ‘Pioneer’ excursion trains are planned to start our diesel services in 2021, with pre-booked compartments or tables. The first train from Kidderminster is timed at 9.45am and features three round trips each day, clocking up 96 miles of diesel haulage. These trips will operate on 23rd and 25th April, 9th and 12th May and 6th, 13th and 20th June. Locomotives will operate top-and-tail to give a different engine on each round trip and we hope to announce the locos rostered for each trip later in the month. Tickets are already on sale from the SVR online ticket office.

Something to look forward to in 2021 is the Diesel Bash in May (see ‘Spring season is announced’ above). Discussions are taking place for two guest locomotives, and we hope to make further announcements shortly.

Moving on to the diesel fleet, the Western Locomotive Association has made an announcement about its plans for full bogie overhauls on D1013 Western Ranger. These will be undertaken to at least to the standard or better than BR would have achieved, in anticipation of a hoped-for return to active service in 2022, in time to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the locomotive’s introduction into BR service in 1962. This is a massive and hugely expensive undertaking by the WLA, and you can read about it on their bogie overhaul website page

Otherwise, the resident Bridgnorth shunter Class 08 D3586 has been away from the SVR for tyre turning at Bristol St Philip’s Marsh, returning during the month (see ‘Vital maintenance work at the TMD’ above). The loco is being refitted with side rods etc at the TMD and returned to Bridgnorth MPD. 

Routine exams also continue: 33108 has had a B exam and 50007 Hercules is undergoing a C exam. Meanwhile, 50035 Ark Royal is having an electric lubricating oil priming pump and engine pre-heater fitted. On sister 50031 Hood, work continues on the engine disassembly in readiness for repair.

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

 

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A little each month goes a very long way… 

Despite the financial ravages of the previous 12 months, the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust raised over £2.5 million, thanks in no small part to the generosity and loyalty of the SVR’s members.

 

Of these donations, some £1.2 million was received to support the emergency Fight Back Fund which was launched by the Charitable Trust in March 2020 and which has now exceeded £930,000. 

In addition to the Fight Back Fund, the Heritage Apprenticeship Scheme was funded in its entirety by the Charitable Trust and a further £1.1 million of funding was given to the Falling Sands Viaduct project, the continued restoration of the Railway’s flagship locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall, repairs to the damage caused by a landslip at Sterns, between Hampton Loade and Bridgnorth, and other rolling stock projects including the ongoing restoration of what is believed to be the first wheelchair-access buffet carriage, 9581.

All of this simply could not have been achieved without the support of people who give a regular donation each month, The Charitable Trust’s Shelagh Paterson added:

“Whilst the SVR continues to survive the battle against the impact of the pandemic, including a loss in income of £4 million, this has meant redirecting funds to survival, and there has been a significant drop in the funding of essential infrastructure and restoration projects. We know that there will be considerable investment required when we return to normality. Whilst single donations and grants are most welcome and appreciated, they are not a predictable source of income, as they can fluctuate dramatically. However, when supporters give a regular amount on a monthly basis, this enables the Charitable Trust to predict what income to expect each year, and to work out what it can invest into essential infrastructure, restoration and educational projects. A little each month can indeed go a very long way!

 

“By making an affordable regular gift now, you will help to build the Railway’s security, both immediately and in the future. For every £1 you donate, 83p goes to restoration, education and long-term investment, and we use 17p to raise further funds. If you love the SVR, and want to make sure it’s here for future generations to enjoy, then please join the hundreds of Patrons who already make a monthly gift.

“Can you help us to invest in the future by becoming a regular donor? £10 each month may not seem significant, but if just a quarter of our quarter of the SVR's members gave in this way, it would generate £450,000 each and every year. Are you able to join us?” 

To find out more information on becoming a regular giver, please visit www.svrtrust.org.uk.

Photo: 9581 being turned at Kidderminster during the early stages of restoration on 13th June 2018. Mike Cranmore

 

The SVR’s own ‘television’ channel 

Did you know that the Severn Valley Railway now effectively has its own television channel? It’s packed with short films that cover all sorts of behind-the-scenes topics. Recently, for example, the film crew visited Bridgnorth motive power department to learn how a locomotive is prepared for its annual boiler exam. They braved the biting cold weather to find out how routine signal maintenance takes place with the guys from S&T. And the next film to be released will feature Eardington Halt’s volunteer lampman Phil Harris talking about the extensive collection of paraffin lamps and lanterns he looks after.


The films feature volunteers and paid staff, who are keen to share their expertise and knowledge with you. You might find you know quite a few faces!


Lesley Carr, head of communications told Branch Lines:

"Just click on the link to watch the Severn Valley Railway YouTube channel.


“As we build audience numbers on our YouTube channel, we’ll not only attract more people to come and visit us, but we’ll also build a national and international reputation too. This is an ideal way for a people all over the world to find out what’s happening at the SVR.


“By visiting the channel, watching our films and subscribing to notifications, you can play your part as one of the SVR’s closest supporters. The more people that engage with our channel, the more its reputation will flourish. Please do tell friends and family to have a look there too – even from the comfort of your armchair or desk, you can be an ambassador for the Railway!”

 

Former apprentice Max on demand! 

Last month, we brought news that the SVR’s very own Max Green was to be the star guest on an episode of Channel 4’s George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. 

As we go to press, you can still watch the programme (episode 1 of series 10) on C4’s catch up service should you have missed it, or want to watch again. Happy viewing! 

Photo: Max Green and George Clarke with Max's traditionally built shepherd's hut and wood-fired hot tub in 2020. Clare Green

 

1996 – SVR on the mainline with Bradley Manor

With Covid-19 delaying the return of 7802 Bradley Manor, the Erlestoke Manor Fund’s publicity officer Peter Evans looks back to some halcyon days in South Devon for the locomotive and a volcanic assault on Dainton bank, 25 years ago. Several videos of these trips are available on YouTube: 

 

It’s 25 years since 7802 was part of SVR/Past Time Railtours’ South Devon exploits during its return to mainline metals between 1995 and 2007. Several EMF volunteers have shared their warm recollections. 

 

The trip started on 20th January 1996 with the ‘Teign Valley’ Wanderer from Worcester - Newton Abbot, single-headed by 7802. Loco and support coach then moved to the South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh. Whilst there, I understand that 7802 worked a private special train.

There followed trains on consecutive weekends, 17th February from Newton Abbot-Plymouth and 24th February reverse itinerary. 7802 double-headed with 5029 Nunney Castle. On the reverse trip Terry Jenkins recalls, “7802 and 5029 were prepared at Laira and worked in tandem from Plymouth North Road to Newton Abbot. 5029 took the train onwards and 7802 detached there and returned to Buckfastleigh.”

The main attraction was on 16th March with ‘The Dart-Exe Cursion’ from Totnes-Worcester. Phil Hammond reminisces, “14th March started with John Hancock (now EMF president) and me catching the 6.35 from Gloucester to Totnes and taxi to Buckfastleigh to change superheater elements and then to raise steam. Next day, we were joined by the rest of the team to check over 7802. 

 

“On 16th we took the loco and coach down to Totnes to await the arrival of the train from the Midlands with diesel 47712. With eight coaches on and the diesel on the back to save a light engine move, the crews wanted to see what the Manor could do up Dainton Bank. So, we agreed for the diesel only to intervene if we got into trouble, with long blasts on the whistle.” 

 

Dave Kilner recalls, “Bradley made a magnificent job of climbing the very curvaceous route up to Dainton with a very demanding trailing load. After making a volcanic ascent of the Bank, we crawled into the tunnel at about five miles per hour before slowly regaining speed. The diesel driver swore that he never applied his power beyond notch 1 and that Bradley had done all the work”. Terry adds, “The journey continued with water stops at Taunton and Bristol Temple Meads and was then non-stop to Worcester. Bradley received a round of applause on arrival”

Phil concludes, “We arrived in Worcester only three minutes down. Then it was loco and coach to Bridgnorth, dispose and home. My diary for 17th just says SLEPT!” 

 

Twenty five years on, there is welcome news for the EMF with the arrival of Jane Preece as the Fund’s first female Company Secretary and Trustee. Jane is well known on the SVR where she was formerly HR Manager and ran the Heritage Apprenticeship Scheme, and is now a working member with the Volunteer Liaison Office.

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

 

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A buffet of success for GWR 9581

The restoration of GWR 9581 wheelchair-access buffet carriage – believed to be the first of its kind - continues, despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. The accessible buffet car is being created by rebuilding the bodyshell of an already modified GWR third, originally numbered 5043. As the GWR catering vehicles of this era were numbered 95XX or 96XX, the number chosen for the finished buffet car was 9581 and work commenced in 2017.

 

This restoration project, which is being carried out by the LNER Carriage Group, is fully funded by the SVR Charitable Trust, and has seen 9581 transformed from a moss-covered to shell to a recognisable and watertight vehicle, having received much structural work into the bargain.

At the end of 2020, 9581’s expensive new doors were made watertight, a milestone that allowed the group to attend to several other important jobs, including assisting with the sorting and tidying of the C&W stores at Kidderminster. Helping with this task proved to be most beneficial to 9581, as the sorting session uncovered a full set of steam heating radiators, valves and covers that the Group had been planning to manufacture. One of the members is steadily working his way through the restoration of these in his garage at home.

“The current economic situation has dictated that the principle of ‘best value’ needs to be observed,” said group member Richard Gunning, “and we’ve made full use of existing resources. The discovery of the radiator equipment was very fortuitous, as we no longer need to spend good money on making from scratch!”

 

In another example of ‘best value’ some of the flooring grade plywood needed for 9581 was sourced from material left over from putting a new floor into Hawksworth brake van 2242. With the third lockdown looming, the team working on 9581 were able to purchase and move the plywood from Kidderminster into the buffet car, just in time before the new restrictions were announced and work ceased.

 

Having achieved much against the odds in 2020, the LNER Carriage Group are now making plans for a speedy resumption of progress once restrictions allow work to continue on this valuable project.

Photos: Heater cover that’s been stripped, repaired, stained mahogany colour and received its first coat of varnish (above); and a radiator fit the steel heat shields behind, on temporary fittings. Richard Gunning. Further photos and description of work can be found in the progress update on the LNER (SVR) Coach Fund website.

 

Bridgnorth station in lockdown

In the last year, SVR has been in lockdown more than it has been open. What a state of affairs! When trains ran between August and December, staff operated to the revised protocols to keep everyone safe. At Bridgnorth for Christmas, lots of fairy lights and ornaments were put up (and taken down) for the Steam in Lights event, and massive help from more than 50 staff from all departments ran the event in a Covid-secure manner; terrific teamwork which received high passenger praise. At other times, as station master Chris Thomas told Branch Lines, small groups working to the relevant rules and mostly out of doors, have achieved great things:


We have given much attention to the ‘public realm’. Four new lamp posts in GW No 2 style have been painted, erected, connected and commissioned along the main car park at the embankment boundary. The big ugly skip at the north end is no more, courtesy of a new bin store. Station benches and platform railings continue to be repaired and repainted. Life-expired smoke hoods from the station footbridge were replaced with powder-coated aluminium equivalents, which better resemble those in place in GW/BR days.


Operationally, the boiler shop crossing has been retimbered and station footbridge non-slip treads fettled to manage trip hazards. The platform 2 water column was repainted and recommissioned, with the help of the steam crane.


Looking ahead, the redevelopment project will be key to the conservation and restoration of the listed station building, and our visitor enjoyment. Contract enabling work has taken place with the wheelchair-access toilet installed in part of the former gents (enabling removal of the temporary structure by the signal box.) In addition, life-expired mains switchgear has been replaced by modern equipment installed in the new service room (the former wheelchair-access toilet.)

For 2021 a big task is repainting the station footbridge in a ‘working at height’ secure manner.


This will be in addition to the day jobs of cleaning, sweeping, weeding, painting ready for reopening as well as making arrangements for Covid-secure train services, and planting the flower beds and tubs on both platforms to look better this summer than ever before!


So many volunteers have contributed greatly to all these events and projects. To them all, a very big thank you! Further volunteers will be very welcome as and when Covid-19 allows!


Photos: 
Wheelchair-access toilet installed in part of the former gents (enabling removal of temporary structure by the signal box.) Sue Thomas
Now you (don’t) see it. The new bin store has allowed the ugly big skip at the north end to be removed. Sue Thomas.

 

V1 7th February 2021

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