The Bridgnorth Yard project Phase 1 is progressing. See below for a report and gallery of images
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
We hope you’re starting to feel excited about the start of the 2023 season. With just three weeks to go, things are definitely getting busy around the Railway, as we prepare to welcome this year’s visitors.
Outgoing MD Helen Smith and incoming interim MD Gus Dunster give you the low-down from their point of view, sharing their hopes for the coming season – and there are some reality checks about how the SVR needs to continue to adapt to meet the very challenging economic environment it’s operating in. They make it crystal clear that saving costs is paramount, along with encouraging as many people as possible to come and experience the delights of the Railway. And of course, we can’t wait to welcome you back, along with, we hope, your friends and family. Please do spread the word and help boost 2023’s passenger numbers!
There’s an exciting programme of special events already lined up for the coming year, with GWR 4079 ‘Pendennis Castle’ making its British heritage railway debut at our Spring Steam Gala, all sorts of exciting behind-the-scenes treats being arranged for Open House weekend and the return of the Step Back to the 1940s weekends.
Lesley and Patrick, co-editors
The Branch Lines team is Lesley Carr, Patrick Hearn, Amy Baker, Nicola Fox and Pete Cherry
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Preparing to open for 2023
Since the announcement that managing director Helen Smith is to leave the Railway at the end of this month, she has been working closely with Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster who is taking over as interim managing director.
Helen told Branch Lines: “There are just three weeks to go until we reopen* for the 2023, and we already have a packed year of events ahead, with four Galas, the return of the 1940s weekends and a whole host of other events, designed to attract as many people as possible to visit the Railway.
“We know that the timetable of reduced running days and reduced services does not sit comfortably with everyone, but it is absolutely necessary to help cut costs this year. It will be reviewed in mid-May, and if appropriate and the demand is there, we can increase what’s on offer.
“The timetable reductions are just one of the ways in which the Railway is ensuring it can meet the financial challenges ahead. Others include an ambitious reduction of utility costs, only carrying out essential work on rolling stock and infrastructure and a large-scale reduction in salary costs.
“Taking 2022 and 2023 together, existing measures mean we will have identified a saving of £650,000 in staff costs. This has been achieved by not filling vacancies, and redeploying existing staff to cover. We are also having to allow for a significant statutory increase to minimum wage levels.
“However, the board tasked Gus, the senior leadership team and me with making an additional £300,000 in staff cost savings this year. This means we are about to begin a consultation period for compulsory redundancies, likely to affect up to 18 paid roles, across the Railway and at all levels.”
“SVR (Holdings) Plc is working extremely closely with both the SVR Charitable Trust and the SVR Company Ltd. The CT will make significant contributions this year, and we are extremely grateful to the SVR Company Ltd for their donation of £40,000 towards our utility costs – although to set this generous amount in context, it only accounts for 16% of what we need to save.”
Gus has also made clear the situation regarding steam locomotive overhauls at the Railway, saying no plans will be made for future overhauls until at least some of the current projects have completed. These include 4150, 82045, 13268, 75069, and 4085 ‘Dunrobin’, an external contract for Beamish Museum, along with painting ‘Taw Valley’ into its new wartime black identity as 21C127:
“As the current projects progress, we will begin to look at the subsequent overhaul plan for steam locomotives. Past experience has taught us that running too many overhauls concurrently isn’t the most efficient way of managing these complex projects.”
*From 4th March and throughout the rest of the month, the Railway will operate weekends only between Kidderminster and Highley. Full line running re-starts on 1st April.
Photos of Taw Valley's repaint, Ronan O'Brien
SVR names new interim managing director
The Severn Valley Railway Holdings' board of directors has announced that its current vice chair Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster will take over as the company’s interim managing director.
This follows the announcement last month that current MD Helen Smith is to leave the Railway to work for another organisation.
Gus is working closely with chairman Mike Ball, other directors and Helen, to ensure a smooth transition in preparation for her departure later this month.
Gus has been an active volunteer at the SVR for more than 30 years, and recently retired from his role as Avanti West Coast’s executive director of operations and safety. A career railway man, he joined British Rail when he left education in 1987.
“The board is delighted that Gus has agreed to take on this responsibility,” said SVR chair Mike Ball. “The SVR faces considerable challenges in 2023, with escalating costs and an expectation that last year’s drop in passenger revenue will continue. I believe that Gus will be a steadying force to take us through the uncertainties of the coming year, ensuring that we offer the exciting and value-for-money experience that visitors rightly expect from a leading heritage railway attraction.” “We know that the year ahead is going to be critical for the SVR,” added Gus.
“We have many challenges to overcome. However, I’ve been involved here for more than three decades, and I know how dedicated and passionate our volunteers and paid staff are. Our railway is held in high esteem by both heritage enthusiasts and the general public. It’s time to come together and make sure the Railway we love can survive and thrive into the future.”
Jonathan Dunster in cab of 50031, credit Ted Dunster
More than meets the eye at Bridgnorth Yard
After considerable work and effort, the new turnout (points 12) at Cleobury Road overbridge has been assembled and connected by the Permanent Way team and volunteers. Volunteer project manager Nick Yarwood has the details:
Settlement of the ground at the north end of the bridge had caused a noticeable dip in the track, detrimental to the points, rolling stock and the bridge structure. To stabilise it, the embankment was excavated below the track, drainage installed and the backfill compacted in layers with geogrid mesh reinforcement, which resists lateral forces. The final layers below track formation were built up with compacted stone which is better able to withstand heavy loads than the native sand.
On the bridge, plain rail has replaced the diverging point rails, and chairs had to be packed to compensate for years of wear to the main timbers, with new screws securing them in place.
Meanwhile, Signal & Telegraph (S&T) stripped the crossover (points 14) which follows on from the main turnout, and the worn-out rails removed and cut up for scrap. When the new crossover arrives, expected this week, it will be assembled on the newly prepared ballast. In the meantime, S&T have installed the reconfigured point rods and are preparing for the track circuits.
With track-work there can be a lot more to it than meets the eye! However, the Bridgnorth Yard project is on programme and appreciation goes to the whole team, both staff and volunteers, for delivering the project as planned.
Fundraising continues for the second phase of this essential project – please donate at svr.co.uk
Please click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits.
What's coming up?
Dynamic pricing for tickets – an explanation
The Railway is taking a slightly different approach to ticket pricing for the 2023 season, which will make visiting the SVR affordable to more people, and will also bring benefits to us, as head of commercial and visitor experience Michael Dunn explains:
Dynamic pricing is a great tool to make ticketing more affordable for those who can’t always afford a more expensive product. So, the new, three-tiered system we’ve introduced allows people to pre-book Freedom-of-the-Line tickets at 2020 prices (£25 per adult) up to three days before travel, or at 2021/2022 prices (£27.50) up to the day of travel, or at the new on-the-day rate of £32.00.
Whilst the new, on-the-day rate looks expensive, the truth is that the vast majority of people buying tickets book in advance and will therefore buy at the lower rates. Those who opt for on-the-day travel tend to be those who are loyalty pass holders, receive complimentary travel (such as shareholders) or discounted travel (such as members.)
The primary function of dynamic pricing is to give those on tighter budgets the opportunity to visit the Railway. These are people who might otherwise not have visited. What’s more, our family fares are also capped at the lowest rate, offering even better value!
Operationally, pre-booked tickets take up less staff time and help us to better understand visitor demands and needs. We’re aiming to have 80% of visitors pre-booking their tickets, including members and shareholders.
Show-stopper guest for SVR’s Spring Steam Gala
The SVR’s annual Spring Steam Gala has secured an iconic star guest. For the first time in its 99-year history, 4079 ‘Pendennis Castle’ will appear in passenger service on a British heritage line, delighting visitors at the SVR between 14th and 16th April.
The gala has a Great Western theme this year and because 2023 sees both the 100th anniversary of the Castle class this year and the formation of the Big Four, the visit from ‘Pendennis Castle’ is set to attract a great deal of attention.
One of the earliest examples of the 4-6-0 Castle class, and one of just three currently serviceable, ‘Pendennis’ has stolen headlines throughout its history. In 1925, it took part in trials against Sir Nigel Gresley’s new Pacifics, including 4472 ‘Flying Scotsman’. ‘Pendennis’ claimed all the glory, out-performing its larger competitors very convincingly.
Many years later, after changing ownership several times, it was reunited with ‘Flying Scotsman’ on the other side of the world. The two locos operated alongside each other in Perth in 1989, at the culmination of a tour to mark Australia’s bicentennial celebrations. The locomotive travelled out via the Suez Canal and, after years of operations down-under, it was shipped back to the UK via the Panama Canal, making it the only the second locomotive ever to have circumnavigated the globe!
Since 2000, the loco has been back on British soil, at Didcot Railway Centre, in the ownership of the Great Western Society. Following a lengthy overhaul, it entered traffic there last year. Duncan Ballard, the SVR’s head of steam engineering said:
“We are thrilled to be hosting a named engine with the prestige of ‘Pendennis Castle’ It will prove a magnificent figurehead for our GWR-themed Gala, celebrating 100 years since the grouping of the ‘Big Four’ companies. We have an extremely strong working relationship with the Great Western Society and are honoured they’ve chosen the SVR for ‘Pendennis’s’ debut away from Didcot.”
‘Pendennis Castle’ will be appearing with a further, yet-to-be-announced guest, along with 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’, 7812 ‘Erlestoke Manor’, 7714 newly painted into early BR livery, and other members of the SVR’s home fleet.
Tickets for the Spring Steam Gala are already on sale, to book, visit: svr.co.uk/events/
Please click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits.
Time travellers wanted!
Step Back to the 1940s is returning for two weekends in 2023 and the SVR is looking for re-enactors to be involved in creating a fantastic atmosphere for visitors.
On June 24th and 25th and again on the July 1st and 2nd, the Railway will throw back 16 miles of railway to the 1940s, bringing the spirit of the British home front to Worcestershire and Shropshire.
Applications are open on the SVR website for re-enactors with fantastic forties dress-sense, owners of period vehicles, or those wishing to run a stall at the bumper forties fayre at The Engine House. There are also scenarios and set pieces to get involved with.
To find out more and get involved, please visit svr.co.uk/reenactors/
SVR 1940s Paul Hastie 3rd July 2021
SVR announces its 2023 timetables
In January’s Branch Lines, the Railway set out its plans to meet the challenges that it expects to encounter in 2023.
The SVR has now published its timetables A to C, covering the early season until 2nd July. These can be viewed at https://svr.co.uk/whats-on/timetables/ . You can see on the SVR’s website which timetable operates on any day by choosing a date on the calendar and clicking ‘book tickets’.
Interim managing director Jonathan Dunster told Branch Lines: “We’ve carefully considered these service levels which offer our visitors steam trains on all days we operate, balanced to help the Railway through the tough times we expect this year.”
Timetable A features all-steam trains between Kidderminster and Highley only, due to infrastructure work at the north of the line. This operates on weekends only in March, and now includes 18th/19th and 25th/26th March in addition to those previously announced.
Timetable B operates from the reopening of the full line in April on all dates except ‘themed’ weekends. It will feature four full-line services in each direction, with one steam and one diesel locomotive in use. There will be a later start than previously from Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade.
Timetable C will operate for the Open House Weekend on 1st and 2nd April and the Spring Model Railway Weekend on 6th and 7th May. It will feature six full-line services in each direction on Sundays, and seven on Saturdays with an extra early-evening service. One steam and two diesel locomotives will be in use. It includes a morning departure from Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade.
The timetable for the 1940s weekends will be published soon.
Jonathan continued: “Timetables for the main running season from July onwards will be reviewed in mid-May in the light of levels of demand, and published nearer the time.”
You can subscribe to the SVR’s calendar and keep up to date on compatible devices at https://svr.co.uk/full-calendar/
Photo: Pannier Tank 7714 is in its new early British Railways livery, celebrating 50 years on the SVR, having arrived at Bridgnorth in 1973. It will operate with the appropriate Carmine and Cream set. In addition LNER 7960 will be attached offering afternoon tea on the 12 noon and 2pm departures. 7714 is seen here at Bewdley on Sunday 22nd January 2023. David Cooke
SVR celebrates 50 years of diesels in preservation.
The SVR’s Spring Diesel Festival in May will be one of the biggest yet!
Running for a fabulous four days from 18th to 21st May, the event will celebrate 50 years of diesel preservation.
“What a milestone this is going to be,” said Gus Dunster, the SVR’s interim managing director. “And how fitting that the locomotive that started it all, is none other than SVR-based D821 ‘Greyhound’, which was purchased from British Rail in May 1973.
“To mark this significant anniversary, we are aiming to put on a superlative event, showcasing what we hope will be the widest range of operational diesel locomotives ever assembled on a heritage railway.
“If all our plans come to fruition, up to 13 different types of heritage diesel locomotives will be in operation alongside examples of more modern diesel types from up to seven of our industry partners on the national network.
“This week we will announce the first of our guest locomotives, so keep your eyes peeled for updates in the press, on social media and on our website.”
An SVR regular, Greyhound recently received extensive bodywork and other repairs, as well as a repaint ready for its golden anniversary and re-entry into traffic. Additionally, Class 33 no. 33108 will also be returning to operation following a two-year overhaul and repaint.
Tickets for the Spring Diesel Festival are on sale now at svr.co.uk
Throwing open the doors of the SVR
The SVR is opening the doors again! The Open House Weekend gives visitors an opportunity to delve behind the scenes into areas that are rarely accessible to the public.
On April 1st and 2nd, in addition to the running of service trains on Timetable C, diesel cab tours will be available at Kidderminster, as well as brake van rides at Bewdley. Meanwhile, signal boxes at Kidderminster, Highley and Bridgnorth will be open, offering a glimpse into one of the many pivotal operational roles on the SVR.
For those interested in the activities that take place more literally behind the scenes, the machine shop and locomotive workshop at Bridgnorth and the carriage works at Kidderminster will also be open. Visitors to the event can see up-close the work that goes into keeping the carriages and locomotives on the rails.
Head of commercial and visitor experience Michael Dunn said:
“Our Open House weekends are always very popular; this is partly due to their exclusivity but also ties in with new consumer trends around ‘accessing the inaccessible’. As people look for better value for money over the coming years, this trend will continue to grow and we look forward to using Open House Weekend as a test bed to see what really gets people excited, and learn more about what they’d like to see.”
For more information and to book tickets, visit svr.co.uk/event/open-house-weekend-2023/
Inside Bewdley North Signal box showing levers and instruments looking south during the 2022 Open House Weekend. John Sherratt
SVR DVD steams into the shop!
Producer of previous best-selling DVDs, Steam Valley Productions are back with a new offering. ‘Severn Valley Steam’ captures lineside footage throughout the whole of the 2022 season, featuring a host of home and visiting locos.
Steam Valley Productions is run by Matt Fielding, who, in addition to collating hours of film for the DVDs, also volunteers on the SVR with the permanent way team.
The latest DVD release includes the popular visit of 4498 ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’ on testing and gala duties, as well as 70000 ‘Britannia’ and 61306 ‘Mayflower’ on test. Gala visitors, the anticipated return of 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’, 34027 ‘Taw Valley’ in Jubilee livery as No 70 ‘Elizabeth II’, and the final years in traffic for 2857 and 1501 are all captured in this engrossing DVD.
‘Severn Valley Steam’ is available now in the SVR shop for £15 and has a run time of approximately 1 hour 35 minutes. To pick up a copy, visit svrshop.co.uk
SVR Branch meetings
Photo: Black Country Western Region Steam. Ex-GWR 4101 entering Dudley on 24th March 1951. Ben Brooksbank (CC BY-SA 2.0)
SVR Wolverhampton branch continues its season at the Old Wulfrunians Club, Castlecroft Road, Castlecroft, Wolverhampton, WV3 8NA, commencing at 7.30 pm. £3.00 admittance including raffle. Details and future events are on the branch website at http://www.svr-wolverhampton.org.uk/
13th February - ‘Kent Coal: 1970s – 1990s’ - a look at coal rail movements in the region and the Kent coalfield, presented by David Hayes (this is a rescheduled meeting, cancelled in December because of the weather.)
13th March - 'Black Country Western Region Steam from 1948 to 1967’ by Paul Dorney. Drawing on his own collection, Paul takes us on a nostalgic look at steam traction in our local area.
SVR Stourbridge branch continues its talks at the Bonded Warehouse, Canal Street, Stourbridge, DY8 4LU, commencing at 7.30 pm. A charge of £2 is made to cover room costs. Details and future events are shown on the venue’s website.
1st March - Jan Chojnacki - ‘A Severn Valley Railway Overview’.
5th April - David Hayes - ‘The West London Line’.
The meetings are open to all.
2023 events on the Railway
SVR.CO.UK is packed with events on the Railway through 2023! Special events feature the return of the 1940s weekends. There are the traditional spring and autumn steam and diesel galas, and event plans for all of these will be published in due course. The Spring Diesel Festival will be a four-day gala, with the remainder being three-day events.
We’re also offering themed days at standard day-ticket prices, with more intensive-than-usual timetables, starting with the Open House Weekend (see separate item), and later model-railway weekends and the Vintage Transport Extravaganza.
Tickets are already on sale, including Freedom-of-the-Line (up till 30th June), Steam Galas, Diesel Festivals – and even Santa trains! Early ticket sales are encouraging, particularly for the visit of 4079 ‘Pendennis Castle’ to the Spring Steam Gala, and for the Santas.
Managing director Helen Smith told Branch Lines: “Putting the tickets on sale early helps us monitor demand. Please share the Railway’s posts on your own social media and let's get some more tickets sold!”
Photo: GWR 813 and BR Standard 82045 inside the refurbished Loco Works at Bridgnorth 11th September 2022. John Sherratt
Dates for your diary
4th March – our 2023 season opens
1st and 2nd April - Open House Weekend
14th to 16th April - Spring Steam Gala (see gala visitor item)
6th and 7th May - Spring Model Railway Weekend
18th to 21st May - Spring Diesel Festival (see above)
24th and 25th June and 1st and 2nd July - 1940s weekends (see re-enactors item)
12th and 13th August - Vintage Transport Extravaganza
15th to 17th September - Autumn Steam Gala
29th September to 1st October - Autumn Diesel Bash
7th October - O Gauge Get Together From 25th November - Santa services
Across the Railway
An adventure for 50049
The SVR was the venue for two days of Class 50 driver training on behalf of main-line operator RailAdventure UK.
External testing and training like this brings welcome revenue to the Railway. In this instance, the Class 50 Alliance also benefitted, with 50049 Defiance stepping up as the steed for the day.
The two drivers on the course already had current knowledge of the class 37 locomotive, which has several similarities to the class 50, so the training was run as a conversion course. Day one consisted of static training where SVR staff Bob Dunn, Matt Turner and Andy Wilde carefully went over 50049, explaining the quirks of the locomotive, fault diagnosis, and remedial action.
On the second day, a session on preparation was followed by light engine runs to Bewdley, allowing the trainees to get the feel of the locomotive and cab controls. With the Railway closed to the public, the locomotive could be stopped and started at will without delaying other services. Finally, the course concluded with disposal and written assessments.
Kidderminster MPD’s volunteer operations manager Bob Dunn said:
“With a pragmatic and professional approach, we have built up a very good reputation with our main-line colleagues and when the original training locomotive identified by RailAdventure UK for training was unavailable, we were happy to step in and help.
“Both drivers passed successfully and are looking forward to running with the speedo at three figures – obviously that’s one thing we can’t do on the SVR!”
Please click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits.
Your Railway needs you!
Volunteers play a vital role at the SVR, across the whole Railway. The existing team within the commercial areas, such as catering and retail, is looking for more help to generate that all-important secondary spend, and to make sure that everyone who visits has a wonderful experience.
There are all sorts of roles available and this could be a chance for you as a valued supporter to get more closely involved with the Railway as a volunteer!
The food and beverage team is always looking for enthusiastic people with a passion for local food and customer service, to prepare drinks and serve food in our refreshment rooms and award-winning pubs,” said Michael Dunn, head of commercial and visitor experience. “On-train dining stewards are needed for the Severn Valley Limited, and for the on-board buffet cars. By joining one of these areas, you’ll not only be helping to secure vital income, but also contributing to the overall positive experience of visitors.”
Volunteers are needed for:
Kidderminster Catering (Valley Suite, King and Castle, on-train buffet)
Highley Engine House (Café and volunteer tour guide)
Bridgnorth Catering (Bridgnorth buffet, on-train buffet, Railwayman’s Arms)
Retail (Kidderminster and Bridgnorth shops and warehouse support)
Full training and support will be given in all of these roles. If you’d like to find out more, please contact email@example.com
TLC for Taw Valley and 75069 at Bridgnorth MPD
At Bridgnorth works and MPD, winter maintenance has focused on 34027 ‘Taw Valley” and 75069, as volunteer shedmaster Martin White reports:
The cause of 34027 sounding ‘off beat’ was diagnosed and proven to be the front valve head of the middle cylinder. One of the valve rings had failed completely and there was damage to the head itself. A new head was quickly cast by a local supplier and has been machined and fitted. Numerous other repairs have been carried out including:
· Improvements to the spark arrestor
· Injector, cylinder drain cock, sanding and whistle valves have received attention
· The front clack on the boiler has had its valve seat machined
· Repairs to tender coal-space plate-work
The much-debated repaint into a temporary black livery is now underway, which will include the ‘Taw Valley’ name plates having a traditional red background, and the crest no longer being carried.
A planned valve and piston exam on 75069 revealed plenty of good news in that there was virtually no carbonisation found and very little wear.
All that is required in this area is replacement valve and piston rings. The lack of carbon is certainly a good indication that the cylinder oil we are now using is a considerable improvement on the old product.
The good news at the ‘front end’ has been tempered somewhat by the condition of the bushes in the coupling and connecting rods. A number of new bronze bushes were required, which once prepared also needed white metalling, machining, and new lubricating oil pads, etc.
Other work carried out includes items similar to 34027. Numerous valves have been refurbished including injector steam valves, clacks, ashpan spray and slacking pipe valves, whistle, etc. The snifter valves and cylinder drain cocks have also been overhauled. The piston rods have been ground to remove some steps, and new valve and piston glands have been prepared for fitting, which includes some new trial piston glands, to try and reduce the wear and tear.
75069’s boiler was due some scheduled tests on the barrel weld this year and so the opportunity has been taken to strip some of the cladding etc to allow this to be completed during the winter maintenance.
Progress on both 75069 and 34027 has been impressive, with volunteer activity at weekends and mid-week directed to assist the paid staff.
Other news is that progress on the replacement frame stretcher and drag box casting on 813 continues at the foundry, with the CAD design all but completed. Some painting work on Dunrobin’s components was carried out whilst 34027’s arrival in the paint shop was delayed due to other work mentioned above. Activity to fit Dunrobin’s replacement cylinder block is expected to commence imminently.
Finally, D3586, the Bridgnorth-based 08 shunter has received new lubrication pads in the axle boxes and coupling rods, and an oil change and traction motor lubrication replacement is underway.
Clean and tidy - 75069 in the works - Martin White
Dunrobin’s freshly painted driving wheels - Martin white
After 30 years of SVR permanent-way work, BR Ballast Plough Brake DB993898 is getting some much-earned attention from the Bridgnorth Carriage and Wagon team.
The wagon was built at Smethwick by Birmingham Carriage and Wagon Co and was originally allocated to Lydney for use in the Dean Forest and Gloucester area.
The ‘plough’ part is a component used to spread the newly-dropped stone ballast.
Outdoor storage meant a lot of rotten wood required replacement, and after the plough lifting gear was all removed at the north end, all of the veranda timber framework was renewed with sapele - a durable hard wood - then clad with seasoned Siberian larch which has a high resistance to decay. Younger, smaller volunteers were put to work underneath to clean and paint the chassis girder-work.
By October a start had been made on dismantling the south veranda, revealing much more rot including the main roof beam on the west side. A new beam was delivered and profiled in the pattern shop by Andy Williams in January. Hugh McQuade said:
“We’re paying great attention to keeping all components to original dimensions, despite evidence of ad hoc repairs by various wagon works in the past. Getting access to the main roof beam was to be the challenge for the new year, but fortunately we have been allowed to move 993898 into the MPD, next to the paint shop, where access using their portable staircases has made the job safe and easy. We now have about 10 weeks in this location to get as much done as possible.”
Work on 993898 is being funded by the SVR Charitable Trust who received it from John Hancock, one of two volunteers who purchased it for preservation and use in 1991. Once restored, it’s planned to use it as a publicly-accessible education exhibit to highlight the work of railway track gangs, with possible occasional use on winter ballast work.
BR 993898 'Shark' Ballast Plough Brake inside Bridgnorth Loco Works on 10th January 2023. Brent Cleeton
Heavy rebuild projects are the order of the day at Bridgnorth Carriage and Wagon, where the team are currently rebuilding LMS-style brake third 26921, which hasn’t run on the SVR since the mid-1980s.
Built to an LMS design by BR in 1950, ‘porthole’ brake third corridor 26921 is owned by SVR (Holdings) Plc, and SVR Charitable Trust is funding the first stage of the repairs. Long-term outdoor storage, vandalism, and theft of parts meant 26921 was in poor condition when repairs commenced, pre-Covid. Despite being halted by lockdown, much has been achieved on this project.
The old body end panels have been replaced with galvanised steel, along with all of the floor below the four compartments and the single lavatory. The lavatory compartment has been refitted, and a new terrazzo floor cast in situ, with missing components for the complex LMS plumbing found or made at Kidderminster.
The vestibule was re-equipped with new veneered plywood sheets and the original corridor and compartment panels were removed for restoration by the team. Having never had its interior redecorated in all its years on the SVR, extensive cleaning was also required!
The four passenger doors have had substantial repairs, or even replacement, using components from two porthole brakes, 26668 and 27023, which were broken up for spares in the 1970s. Four pairs of compartment door locks and handles are missing , so patterns have been made by the MPD pattern shop volunteers to have castings made.
The window frames were reconstructed early in 2022, replacing corroded pieces with aluminium plate salvaged from the old body end panels. Once watertight, work focused on re-wiring the restored north end of the carriage. Ceiling panels have also been made, fitted, and painted, along with the restored veneer panels. Early in 2023 a start was also made on roof and gutter repairs on the southern half.
Volunteers at Kidderminster have also rebuilt four sets of brass sliding windows, which will be needed in Phase 2 of the project when the luggage area is converted for wheelchair and passenger use.
Please click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits.
Elves try out coal wanging – all in day’s work for the Junior Club
Back in action, during December the Junior Club returned to its Christmas tradition of helping with Santa running. Volunteer organiser Nick Willcox brings us this update on the Club’s activities:
For the 2022 Santa season, members of the junior club were promoted to ‘associate elves’, assisting with the present preparation, and bagging the presents for each compartment on the journey.
During the run round at Arley, while the passengers were enjoying the antics of Jingle and Jangle in the marquee, the presents were efficiently delivered to the correct seats. Several of the club also helped with coal-yard railway operations.
In addition to their Christmas duties, Junior Club members were also welcomed to the footplate of the loco to get their first tastes of the dark art of ‘coal wanging’, learning the valuable lesson of ‘two down each side and three across under the doors’.
In January the Club’s first meeting was a ‘Santa thank you’ social where the suitably educational film The Titfield Thunderbolt was shown. This was followed by a busy session clearing old pallets in the coal yard, levelling off some more of the spoil from the footbridge foundations in the compound, and dismantling and collecting the remaining Christmas lights.
Our next activity will be a visit to Kidderminster TMD on 18th February, which presents an opportunity for potential helpers to come along and see how things work… especially if you have never seen inside the TMD! We are also going to the Engine House on 4th March to spruce up the exhibits; if either activity appeals, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits.
Saying ‘I do’ at the SVR
The Railway will relaunch its wedding offer tomorrow, appropriately enough on St Valentine’s Day!
With no fewer than five unusual locations for the ceremony itself, from the footplate of ‘Hinton Manor’ to King George VI’s Royal Saloon, the SVR really does offer something different for couples who want to add a vintage twist to their celebrations.
There’s the option to enjoy a wedding breakfast in one of the observation saloons, on board a dining car or at The Engine House, Highley or Kidderminster’s Valley Suite.
A brand-new wedding brochure has been commissioned, along with dedicated pages on the website.
“We’re proud to be offering something that no one else has got,” said Nicky Freeman, Engine House manager. “We’re a unique heritage venue with beautifully-restored steam locomotives and carriages, along with period stations and buildings. It’s the perfect back-drop for a day to remember, and the best wedding photographs ever!
“I’ll be working closely with couples to build a tailored package that’s just right for them. We’ve already got a number of weddings booked in for this year, and want this special SVR experience to be a real success.”
Please tell friends and family about weddings at the SVR – and check out the superb photos on svr.co.uk .
Cheers! The King and Castle is back in business
The King and Castle, at Kidderminster Town station, re-opened last week after a refresh of paintwork and some of the soft furnishings.
During its January closure, the on-site catering team rolled up their sleeves and grabbed some decorating equipment for a spot of DIY to make sure their pub is looking its best.
“Many thanks to Sarah Gibbs and Tracy Rogers,” said Michael Dunn, head of commercial and visitor experience. “Not only did they give up their own time to redecorate, but they did this on top of working in the Railwayman’s Arms to support Sam and the team at Bridgnorth!
“Huge thanks also to Mick Yarker and the Friends of Kidderminster Town station for their support and guidance on the appropriate paint and style for the refresh.
“A new menu is now being served. It beats last year’s prices, and there are new pint-and-cob deals as well as some firm favourites on our cask-ale offer. We look forward to welcoming you back to the King and Castle very soon.”
The King and Castle is open Thursdays to Sundays. The Valley Suite will reopen when services start again on 4th March.
Welcome to the King & Castle! Michael Dunn
The SVR Charitable Trust steps up to meet the challenge
The SVR Charitable Trust is busy preparing to meet the challenge of what will be a difficult and potentially critical year for the Railway, and has pledged to continue supporting the SVR as best as it can. Chair Tim Hargest and trustee Paul Fathers explain more about the CT’s plans:
We are looking to everyone to play their part in helping the Railway through such a tumultuous period. Those of us who have been involved in the SVR for some time will recall there is never an easy time in running a 150-year-old heritage railway with obsolescent trains. Challenges pop up frequently and yet we have always managed to overcome them through team effort, a positive attitude and the support of members, shareholders, and donors.
This time, it’s different and will require input from everyone to help get us through. The Charitable Trust is ready to play its part and we have already made a start. We have halved our salary budget and we have a lean and effective team with Sue Horsley, Ian Jones, Kirsty Stokes and Paul Walker, working to maximise the effectiveness of the Charity. They are supported by ourselves (chair Tim Hargest, also an SVR signalman, and trustee Paul Fathers, also an SVR driver) together with a small team of other trustees and volunteers.
The Charitable Trust has a key role to play in assisting the SVR, but we can only do this through your generosity and goodwill. We are looking to improve our alliances throughout the SVR and beyond to generate further support. Whilst we fully appreciate how difficult these times are for many, please bear with us when you receive further appeals for funding - it’s what we do.
Thanks to our supporters, the Charitable Trust has contributed more than £7 million to the SVR over the past 10 years and has raised more than £250,000 so far towards the Bridgnorth Yard relaying project, enough to cover Phase 1. We are steadily progressing to raise a similar amount for the Phase 2 target. There are more appeals in the pipeline, so please keep in touch and try to support the Charity and the Railway as best you can. Thank you.
You can make a donation at svr.co.uk
Bridgnorth Loco yard works on 30th January 2023. Nick Yarwood
New website clicks together for the SVR
If you’ve visited svr.co.uk recently, you may have noticed there’s been a change in its look and feel along with a navigational ‘spring clean’ in order to make svr.co.uk, the online home of the Severn Valley Railway, cleaner and easier to use for visitors.
Following a full-scale review, the Marketing & Communications team decided that the SVR needed an overhaul of the website and a new hosting provider, as head of Marketing & Communications Lesley Carr explains
“A website is often the first encounter people have with us, it’s our storefront in other words. We want to make sure ours is doing the best job it can for us. We wanted quicker loading times, more exciting and interactive content, and an easier route to booking, no matter which sort of device a visitor might be using.
“There were few teething troubles on launch day, but these have now been sorted out. Thank you to everyone who has got in touch to let us know about various glitches. Please do contact email@example.com if you spot anything that doesn’t look right. It’s often a matter of just seconds to fix things.”
The new site went live on the same day as the launch of a new ticketing system and full integration of the SVR’s state-of-the-art CRM interface – Tessitura. In its opening week, it netted 15,000 users and over £25,000 worth of ticket sales.
Shareholder travel in 2023
In the next couple of weeks, SVR shareholders who own qualifying numbers of shares will receive their passes or complimentary tickets, as appropriate.
The Railway is writing to all those who qualify to ensure they receive their passes or tickets before the Railway reopens on 4th March.
Shareholders can now see the full version of the independent shareholder review conducted by Durnin Research, along with the action plan that the SVR has produced in response to it. These are at svrlive.com.
Tony Bending, who is a director of both SVR (Holdings) Plc and the SVR Company Ltd, has taken on responsibility for creating a shareholder panel and will publish further details about this on svrlive.com in the coming weeks.
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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.