75069 Loaded Test Run - seen here after passing through Hampton Loade on the 20th Dec 2018, by Ian Murray
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
Hello and welcome to 2019! We hope you had a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful New Year. Perhaps you have even visited us in the past month, and are one of the 45,000 people who chose to spend some of their precious holiday time at the SVR this year? If not, we hope that we’ll see you back here very soon, when we reopen for services in February after the usual winter shutdown for track maintenance.
This month we celebrate what’s been a bumper festive season for the Railway, and the fact that locomotive No 75069 is back in steam after a wait of 24 years. Plus there’s a roundup of other news from around and about the SVR.
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Simon Turner & Lesley Carr, Co-Editors
Picture by Ian Murray
After 24 years, 75069 moves under its own power
A momentous day for the SVR came in mid-December. Locomotive 75069 moved under its own power for the first time in more than 24 years. During the same week, its boiler passed its final insurance exam and by Friday it was running the full length of the line on test. Engineering services manager Neil Taylor explained, “This is all part of the plan for the loco to enter traffic and contribute significantly to the fleet during 2019. Steam testing and running in of the locomotive has commenced and so far has been relatively trouble free with just a few minor adjustments being made.
“Further running in will continue with a series of loaded test runs before the locomotive can be signed off and appear on any revenue earning trains. Exactly when this will occur is dependent upon the outcome of testing and any remediation work that may be necessary.
“During the early part of the year the loco will undergo final finishing in Bridgnorth Works before formally re-entering traffic.”
The rebuild carried out on 75069 is undoubtedly the most extensive that has ever been undertaken on the SVR. The boiler barrel and much of the firebox is entirely new. Likewise many of the fittings and almost all of the pipework have been replaced. A new cab, new smokebox and chimney, replacement steelwork in the tender coal space, new drag box in the frames beneath the cab are among the other major repairs. Neil added, “I would like to congratulate the Engineering Services Motive Power, under the guidance of Will Marsh (mechanical) and Dave Howell (boiler), for returning the locomotive to full working order, after more than 25,000 man hours of effort. Thanks go out to everyone who has participated to achieving this goal, both paid staff and to the numerous volunteers who have contributed over many years. Hopefully they will all feel proud of their accomplishments for many years to come. “
Photo: Michael Anderson
Cracking Christmas season for the Railway
The numbers are in, and it’s been announced that by the close of business on Sunday 6th January, the 2018 Santa Season and Festive Services will have attracted an impressive 45,000 visitors. General manager Nick Ralls said, “I am pleased to report that all of our Santa operations have been very successful this year with a total of 36,104 passengers coming to the SVR in December. This compares favourably to 2017 where we had 31,962 passengers from one less day of operations due to snow. If we add the Schools Christmas Cracker trains and the extended festive season (which finishes on the 6th January) we will have had around 45,000 visitors in December compared to 39,173 in the same period 2017!
“This could not have been achieved without the continued support and commitment of our dedicated teams of volunteers who organise and run the Santa operation with assistance of the paid team.”
During the Christmas season we ran more than 100 train services, roasted half a tonne of chestnuts and put up 23km of fairly lights at Kidderminster, Arley and Bewdley stations. Then there were the locos to prepare and the grotto to build. It’s a true labour of love, as organiser Diane Malyon (‘Mrs Christmas’) explained, “We clock up hundreds of man hours in this huge logistical operation. Volunteers from across the Railway take part, from permanent way engineers and signalmen to drivers and ticket inspectors getting involved with everything from decorating stations, looking after buggies and chatting to people as they wait to see Santa.
“As well as everyone who helped during the services, I’d like to thank the team who came to Kidderminster in November to help unload presents from the lorries and stow them in Santa’s warehouse. Despite the pouring rain, we got the job done. Also huge thanks to those who turned out on 27th December at Arley to break things down in readiness for the tent and grotto coaches leaving. It’s hard to believe that we managed this in under six hours, when it took six weekends to put up!”
Photo shows the ‘breakdown’ team at Arley on 27th December
SVR thanks National Lottery players for their support
A group of enthusiastic visitors got a VIP peek behind the scenes at our Kidderminster Carriage Works last month. The Charitable Trust arranged the tour to thank National Lottery players for supporting good causes, including the SVR. The event was one of hundreds held across the country, as part of #ThanksToYou week. One member of the tour group, Ian Evans told us, “I’m not really a railway buff, but I love anything to do with heritage. I really appreciate the time, effort and skills that people here put in so that the SVR can keep going. It was great to have a peek behind the scenes at some of the restorations that are being carried out, and I feel privileged to have been on of a few to have seen this.”
Another visitor, Ben Webby, added, “I live just across the road from the SVR’s Kidderminster station, and bring my kids here regularly. Today’s visit has been fascinating, and I’m seriously thinking about becoming a volunteer at the Railway.”
In recent years, the SVR Charitable Trust has secured £595,000 of Heritage Lottery Funding; £95,000 for the restoration of locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall, and £500,000 match funding for our endowment fund. The HLF is currently considering a further bid for £1million towards the restoration of Falling Sands Viaduct.
To add a name to the ‘helping hands for Falling Sands’ donation wall, please visit https://www.svrtrust.org.uk/shopping.php
Their finest hour: the SVR’s education department
Volunteer education assistant Paul Hallett writes:
The 2018 season saw some new recruits to the education team and we’ve knitted together very well, each person bringing different skills and experiences from life to enhance the SVR’s offering to schools. If you’ve ever wondered exactly what we do with our school parties, which can number more than 100 people, please read on!
‘Wartime Britain’ is the most popular activity and this fits into the history curricula for year 5 and 6, also known as Key Stage 2. It’s not just a nice trip out for pupils and teachers though – we’re here to make sure there’s plenty of deep learning. Our workshops help open up enquiring minds and encourage pupils to ask and answer questions and investigate things for themselves. The workshops include the Anderson (air-raid) activity, the Wartime Kitchen, the Artefacts table, Evacuation suitcases and Second World War toys and games.
We use the platform at Highley for some role play, with education officer Helen Russell as the billeting officer and other members of the team playing Farmer Potts who has to select evacuees to help on his farm, and Lady Tottingham-Smyth, the lady of the manor desperate to replace her domestic staff and gardeners (but only if their hands and nails are clean!)
Many schools have commented that this has been their best school trip ever. Pupils talk about the trip for days afterwards and teachers can capitalise on this. Schools often make a repeat booking there and then for the following year, and this season we were fully booked every day.
There is of course a place for enjoyment, a child who is happy and enjoying something learns quickly. Hence on the train we ‘arrest the spy’ (always a member of the school staff) and at the end of the day we have a fire-watching activity where we put out the firebombs with a stirrup pump. Yes, we know that some incendiary bombs have to be covered in sand to put them out as they burn in air, but it’s much more fun when the teachers spray the pupils as they ‘get it wrong’.
For younger pupils we offer the Teddy Bears’ Picnic and storytelling activities, and have helped with summer holiday activities and Wizard Week.
We know that we are hitting our targets in terms of numbers and finance, but there is a strong desire to go further and do more. Team members have volunteered for Christmas Cracker trains and taken other opportunities to contribute. We want to build on our success in 2018 and 2017, but it all needs detailed planning and careful thought. In short, expect to see even more of us in 2019!
We would all like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the station staff, guards and ticket inspectors that we have worked with this year, without their help and support our job would be nigh on impossible. Huge thanks also to Helen Russell for all her hard work as education officer, and Donna who does so much behind the scenes in the office. It really has been a remarkable summer and to cap it all the sun did shine!
It’s all hotting up for March event
Another visiting loco has been announced for this year’s Spring Steam Gala between 15th and 17th March.
GWR Tank No 4144 is confirmed for the exciting line up which already includes 813, 1450, 1501, 2857, 4144, 6430, 7714 & 7802 Bradley Manor.
The Gala this year will have a ‘branch line’ theme, and there are still two further guest loco announcements to come – watch this space!
4144 visits from the Didcot Railway Centre, courtesy of the Great Western Preservation Society. It was built in 1946 by the Great Western Railway and is one of the 5101 class of locomotives. 4144 is a medium sized tank engine and was used for suburban and local passenger services on the Great Western Railway network, including the Severn Valley branch in BR days.
Take a trip on a tasting train
If the thought of travelling through the beautiful Severn Valley, seated in the luxury of our Gresley-designed teak diner 7960 appeals to you, then perhaps the icing on the cake would be an alcohol tasting experience?
On selected dates throughout the year, the Railway is offering a range of gin, spirit and cocktail or champagne tasting trips. You can commence your tasting experience at either Bridgnorth or Kidderminster, and return using a scheduled service train. The tasting experience are enhanced by friendly and informative guidance from professional experts.
The experiences are £50 per person, and include tickets for the Tasting Train, and 'Freedom of the Line' travel tickets for the whole day. Full details are at https://www.svr.co.uk/NewsItem.aspx?a=834
The Toad is out of its hole!
Thanks to the sponsorship donations given by a goodly number of generous individuals, the SVR Charitable Trust's GWR 'Toad' brake van No 17410 (Swindon 1940) has now been fully restored to 'as built' condition. This £20k project was mainly achieved by the Trust’s LNER Carriage Group volunteers at Bewdley, as Richard Hill explained:
“The group had taken pity on what was a very run-down wagon stored in the open at Bewdley after giving years of sterling service, mainly on SVR permanent way trains. The final touches and the mechanical overhaul were done by Kidderminster Carriage & Wagon staff. The first public duty of Toad 17410 was acting as the brake van for the special centenary goods train run with GWR 2-8-0 goods loco No 2857 on 2nd June 2018.
“We would very much like to record the LNER Carriage Group’s sincere thanks to all those involved both in the transfer of 17410 into SVR Charitable Trust ownership, and in this extensive and thorough restoration. Their hard work and funding efforts will be widely appreciated by all who can now enjoy seeing and experiencing the Toad working on the SVR at galas and other special events.”
What’s the latest on 4390 Hagley Hall?
We’re delighted to report good progress on the restoration of the SVR’s flagship locomotive both in-house at Bridgnorth, and at Northern Steam Engineering in Stockton.
Volunteers and paid staff at Bridgnorth have been busy cleaning, examining, painting and refitting various parts. On the loco’s mainframe, they’ve refitted the spring hangers with new pins, and replaced and repainted numerous rivets. After cleaning and examination, the bogie frame is now freshly repainted, and looking very shiny! Meanwhile on the tender frame, they’ve refitted all the hornblocks, replaced time-expired rivets, and refitted the trailing spring hangers.
Meanwhile, at Northern Steam, work has started on reassembling the boiler, and new plate work is being prepared for welding. Some cracking has been identified in some of the remaining original plate work, and this is being investigated to determine the appropriate remediation.
The SVR Charitable Trust was awarded £95,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the restoration of Hagley Hall, but needs further funds to get this important engine back into steam. You can donate now to add your support at https://www.svrtrust.org.uk/index.php?page=Hagley%20Hall
Photos by Martin White and Bob Sweet
A chance to bring railway history to life
The SVR is recruiting a very special team of volunteers - people who want to bring alive the rich history of the Severn Valley Railway and share it with our visitors. If you love meeting people, have a desire to share your passion for heritage rail and you’re ready for a new volunteering role that’s challenging, fascinating and lots of fun, we’d love you to join us.
We need costumed re-enactors with the skills to bring alive stories of the Railway’s past; we need people who can record historical testimony for our exciting new exhibitions; we need people to engage with adults and children, telling stories of how and why the Railway was built, and the people who worked and travelled on it.
This is a brand new opportunity to expand what we do and the way we interact with our visitors at the SVR, and it will further enhance our position as a premier heritage railway. It’s all happening as part of the huge restoration project that’s taking place to restore Falling Sands Viaduct. As well as carrying out the essential repair work to secure this vital part of the SVR’s infrastructure, we’re going to do so much more. We’ll create a unique mobile exhibition in the newly restored Stove R van 2886, an innovative and immersive experience at the Engine House, Highley, and put into place an extensive programme of educational activities and community events. Our new team of volunteers will play a key role in the success of all of this. If you would like to find out more about this exciting volunteering opportunity, phone 01562 757940 or email Hannah.McSherry@svrtrust.org.uk to book a place at our information event. This will take place between 10.00-11.30am on Saturday 26th January at Kidderminster. Light refreshments will be available.
Ryan appears in The Railway Magazine
Ryan Parsons of the boiler shop at Bridgnorth becomes the latest SVR ambassador to feature in January’s edition of The Railway Magazine. He talks about his work on BR Riddles 4MT 75069, and explains why the loco holds a special place in his heart. As a recent graduate of our pioneering Heritage Skills Training Academy, and appointed to the role of improver boiler smith, Ryan is another strong example of the SVR’s determination to bring new blood into heritage engineering.
The Railway Magazine is available at all good newsagents, or subscribe at https://www.railwaymagazine.co.uk/ . Mortons Publishing sponsor apprentice training at the SVR.
It’s a dog’s life
Thanks to Bridgnorth shed master Martin White who has drawn Branch Lines attention to a letter in the Daily Telegraph from Jane Sullivan of Evesham, Worcester. She writes, “My Welsh spring spaniel Arrow often travelled on buses and trains with me and always paid his way. I have happy memories of a trip from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth on the Severn Valley Railway, where Arrow was issued with a ticket for ‘One dog, any station to any station and return’
“He grew particularly excited when we chugged past the West Midland Safari Park and he caught sight of the elephants and giraffes roaming the grounds. Well worth the £1 dog fare.”
How wonderful to have our dog-friendly train services highlighted in a national newspaper with a circulation of around 360,000! Since Arrow journeyed with us, which we suspect may have been some time ago, dog fares have increased to £3, but registered assistance dogs are free.
Update from the loco shed
Shed master Martin White writes:
I am sure that readers will be aware that 75069 has now been steamed on a number of successful light engine and loaded test runs. With 300 miles of running clocked up by Friday 21st December there was considerable debate as to whether the loco should appear on revenue earning trains on the final weekend of the SVR Santa Service. The ESMP team were uniformly of the opinion that it could be used, even though ideally it needed something like a further 200 miles of testing. But equally, ESMP fully understood and supported the SVR senior management decision not to do so. There were multiple pros and cons, however, the primary reason for not using the 75’ was that if there had been any problems arising with the loco on service trains, which subsequently caused disruption to the Santa operation, the adverse publicity could have been significant. A clear example of ‘better to be safe than sorry’.
Thought was also given to running 75069, between Christmas and New Year or between New Year and the end of the season on 6th January 2019. But after due consideration the decision was taken to put the 75’ back into the works for final finishing and painting and then reveal it in all its glory in the 2019 running season.
Continuing on this positive thread, the valve and piston exam on 7802 Bradley Manor was completed during December and after an initial test the loco was pronounced fit and returned to traffic on an owning group charter on Friday 14th December.
By the time you read this, the service trains for the 2018 season will have ended. The tail end of the season has seen a flurry of steam action, because steam traction had to be used to replace the steam-heat diesel locomotive. Regardless of this, the loco roster saw most of the operational fleet, plus visiting 6990 Witherslack Hall in traffic for a few days, which hopefully will have been attractive to visitors.
813 has returned from its winter operations elsewhere, being returned by road to Bridgnorth on Friday 4th January, just ahead of some infrastructure works related to the car park development project, which will prevent road access to ESMP for a period of approximately two weeks. 813’s period at Spa Valley was a little more eventful than either SVR or the loco hirer’s would have wanted. The loco suffered a broken spring, necessitating a spare to be despatched from Bridgnorth and then a failure of the brick arch which necessitated a set of replacement arch bricks and wedges to be sent to off at short notice. No blame is appointed to Spa Valley for either issue, as these are just part of the ‘fun’ in operating heritage steam locomotives!
Next month, I’ll be updating you on the ESMP winter maintenance - work on 43106 has already identified additional unplanned repairs are necessary.
Photo by Martin White shows 813 arriving home, utilising the new concrete pad outside the Bridgnorth boiler shop
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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.