75069 climbs past the Rifle Range heading towards Kidderminster with the Santa train by John Titlow
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
David Muntzer wrote to us saying, “What a great job you do producing Branch Lines; a real antidote to the unhappy times we’re going through.” And R John Wilcox paid tribute to the hard work that goes on behind the scenes: “In terms of ongoing maintenance and operation, a `stitch in time saves nine’ and I express admiration for the many jobs which have been worked on and completed – love and commitment from all.” Thank you both for your positive comments, and rest assured that it’s an honour for the Branch Lines team to keep you in touch with what’s happening at the SVR.
Of course, we must wish you a happy new year, though we think that like us, you’ll be wondering just what 2021 has in store for the Railway. Earlier this week, Lockdown 3 was put in place, and whilst it coincides with the SVR’s customary annual shutdown period, there are implications for the weeks and months ahead. Some of the sting of this latest development is taken away by the phenomenal success of our Christmas services during December and we report on the huge efforts undertaken to make sure these could happen. Feedback from visitors has been excellent, as you’ll read.
Meanwhile, the project to restore Hagley Hall reached a significant milestone with the return of its overhauled boiler. Another milestone was reached at Falling Sands, where the final part of this viaduct’s restoration took place last month. We have reports from many of the SVR’s departments on what’s been achieved in 2020, and what’s being planned for 2021. And we have a tribute article to Arthur Jones who recently died. WW2 veteran Arthur was a familiar face to many at the Railway especially at the 1940s events.
We’re hoping to see the SVR back in service in time for Easter, but we know there’s a long road ahead. Until we meet again, ideally on a platform on the Valley, stay home and stay safe.
Best wishes from us all on the Branch Lines team
Lesley Carr, Patrick Hearn, Nicola Fox and Amy Baker
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Lockdown 3 and what it means for the SVR
The announcement of a third national lockdown on Monday 4th January meant the senior management team needed to make a number of important decision about the coming months.
Fortunately, the government announcement came as the Railway was about to begin its annual shutdown and maintenance period. However, uncertainty over the lockdown’s length means that February half-term services will not go ahead as planned. Plans for an Easter weekend opening will be reviewed on a weekly basis.
On-site maintenance will continue in both the infrastructure and engineering departments in order to complete essential work that will ensure the Railway is ready for its 2021 running season.
Paid staff in retail, catering, bars and The Engine House will be furloughed after the annual stock take have been completed. Visitor services will provide minimum cover at Comberton Place to answer enquiries and ensure things are ready for ticket sales for the 2021 season.
Only mission critical work will be permitted on site, and this applies to both volunteers and paid staff. The majority of the Railway’s volunteers are being advised to stay at home, especially those in a high risk group.
Security walks have already resumed, carried out by local volunteers as part of their daily exercise. Chairman of SVRG Diane Malyon is once again coordinating these. The Railway will issue regular trespass warnings on social media, and lineside passes are being revoked.
General manager Helen Smith summed up the Railway’s position:
“It is worth noting that we would have been closed for the majority of this period anyway. We have entered 2021 in a better cash position than we anticipated as we have been able to operate a very successful Christmas period, thanks to the huge dedication and effort of many, many volunteer and paid staff.
“At this point I would not want anyone to worry about the future of the SVR; we have done everything in our power to control costs and bring in what income we can. There are further grant applications being worked on now that will hopefully bring in additional support. We will keep you in the loop via Branch Lines over the coming months, and we very much look forward to being able to welcome you back to the Railway. In the meantime, please take care, and stay safe.”
Photo: 75069 makes light work of its 4 coach train soon after passing Hampton Loade with the 11am Bridgnorth to Kidderminster service on the last day of services, 30th December 2020. Ian Murray
Christmas 2020 - what an achievement!
In a year of immense uncertainty, the SVR has provided thousands of passengers with a fantastic Christmas experience. Here are the impressive statistics for the 2020 Christmas season:
58 Santa trains over 10 days
47 Steam in Lights services over 16 days
8 Mince Pie Specials from Bridgnorth and Kidderminster
4 evening and 3 luncheon Christmas dining trains to The Engine House
4 days of festive season services
Each operation is a complicated and well-coordinated exercise. Events manager Lewis Maddox explained the essential role played by hundreds of volunteer and paid staff:
“Not only are all the operational staff needed to move passengers and make trains run, but we also needed train managers and present packers on Santa Trains, and each set of carriages needed cleaning between services…the list goes on! And we mustn’t forget all the set up and take down teams that have to battle with miles of tinsel and thousands of sparkly lights, take delivery of presents and fill faulty jingle bells with jingles – yes, that’s also a thing we had to contend with!”
Christmas on the SVR is a massive undertaking, but it all pays off when you read the positive reviews and survey results, as we report elsewhere in this edition of Branch Lines. Not only have these consolidated the SVR’s brand as an award-winning attraction, but also its reputation as a safe place to visit in a world which, at times, has been very scary.
The hard work continues and plans are already in development for Christmas 2021. The new winning formula for Santa Trains will return with a different show, exciting extras will be added to Steam in Lights and there are hopes of welcoming back the popular Carol Trains.
Lots to look forward to, and as Lewis puts it: “Ho, ho, ho-ver and out!”
Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.
Return of 4930 Hagley Hall’s boiler to the SVR
Shortly before Christmas, the boiler for 4930 Hagley Hall arrived back at the SVR after undergoing an extensive amount of work at Northern Steam Engineering.
The work required on the boiler was substantial and meant an 18-month stay at Stockton, the home of Northern Steam Engineering. NSE’s commercial manager Danny Dymott said:
"This has been a major overhaul with the inner firebox being removed from the boiler and stripped to component parts. It’s included a 75% new outer firebox, a new front tubeplate, produced by ourselves at Northern Steam Engineering using traditional methods, and fitting of all-new fire box stays produced at Bridgnorth by the Severn Valley Railway’s engineering team. We look forward to seeing the progress at Bridgnorth with the locomotive’s overhaul, and its return to traffic as soon as possible."
Prior to the boiler’s return to Shropshire, a steam test was carried out on Monday 7th December by Northern Steam Engineering at their premises in Stockton. During the inspection, the safety valves lifted for the first time since the locomotive last dropped its fire in October 1986.
Project leader David Fulcher-Insull is confident that the return of this key component brings the loco’s return to service a significant step closer:
“It’s always been a bit of a concern whether it would be ready; the delivery of the boiler now means we’ve got everything to move on to complete the project. We’re on target.”
Once the flagship locomotive of the SVR, Hagley Hall was built in 1929 and clocked 1,295,236 miles in its 34 years of service for the Great Western Railway and British Railways' Western Region. Withdrawn in 1963 it was rescued from Dai Woodham’s yard in Barry by the SVR Holdings Company in June 1972. 4930 will reach its centenary at the end of the decade and has now been under SVR ownership for longer than it ran in mainline service!
The return of 4930 to steam service will see the culmination of decades of tireless fundraising and work by the Friends of Locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall who have raised well in excess of £100,000 since their formation. These funds were further swelled by £800,000 from the SVR Charitable Trust, including many donations and a legacy from a SVR supporter, along with the injection of £95,000 of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The return of the 25-ton boiler was covered by the Railway’s YouTube channel, showing its arrival and transfer to a wagon to enable access for volunteers. Click to watch:
To find out more about the Friends of Locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall or to become a friend, click on the link to visit their website.
STOP PRESS: At Bridgnorth, Dave Insull’s team have just completed work on rewheeling Hagley Hall’s bogie. They started by fitting the felt pads and under keeps (oil boxes), then assembled the spring beams, which are the suspension for the bogie unit. The second photo shows the spring set upside down in the middle of the beam. They moved onto lowering the main frame onto the axle box. The final photo shows the almost finished job, which was just awaiting the tie frame to go underneath.
Click on the video to watch on YouTube. Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.
Didn’t we do well?
Following a sell-out festive season, the SVR is celebrating a five-star response to its Christmas services, which included Santa Trains, the second-year of Steam in Lights and a hearty selection of Christmas dining. During this period, visitors to the Railway were asked to fill out a private survey on Survey Monkey and leave a review on TripAdvisor; the results of which were overwhelmingly positive.
On TripAdvisor, these positive reviews lead to an increased rating for the SVR, from a reasonably positive 3.4 (out of an available 5) in 2019 to an impressive 4.8. Meanwhile Survey Monkey was lit up with praise for Bridgnorth’s Steam in Lights, with almost 89% of people confirming that they’d recommend the event to a friend (an increase of 9% based on 2019) and 75% likely to return for the event themselves in 2021 (an increase of 17% based on 2019.)
SVR marketing manager Dan Shorthouse has been crunching all the numbers and told Branch Lines:
“The reviews we receive on TripAdvisor encourage others to visit and for the Christmas season those reviews were full of superlatives with visitors reporting that events were ‘fantastic’, ‘magical’ and most importantly ‘incredibly safe.’ Reports from our fantastic volunteers echoed those of visitors, praising the new Santa operation which involved the Santa show at Arley whilst a team of ‘magical elves’ on board each train placed named presents into compartments.
“Thank you to everyone involved with planning, setting up, organising and helping to man this event – we’re already looking forward to Christmas 2021!”
For those wanting more information, all TripAdvisor reviews can be seen at bit.ly/SVRLeaveAReview.
Photo: Christmas at Arley 5th December 2020. Helen Smith
Tribute to WW2 veteran Arthur Jones
The celebrated WW2 veteran Lance Bombardier Arthur Jones sadly passed away in December, aged 94. Arthur was a familiar figure to many at the SVR, appearing regularly at the Railway’s annual 1940s event where he spoke at the closing ceremonies.
Speaking in tribute to Arthur, Paul Bowler of the 1940s committee said:
“For many years we have been privileged to have Arthur attend our annual 1940s event speaking on behalf of those who fought in WW2. Arthur reminded us all of why we present this event: to remember that those who laid their lives on the line, did so for all of us who now enjoy freedom. He would always stress that the awards he wore on his chest were for not there for him, but for ‘his lads’ who had made the ultimate sacrifice. He will be sorely missed by us all at the SVR.”
Called up for service in 1944, just a few weeks after his 18th birthday, Arthur was assigned to the 147th Essex Yeomanry as a tank driver. Within just 20 weeks he and his crew found themselves in the horrors of the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Speaking in 2019, Arthur said,
“As far as I was concerned the papers came and you just went…. We didn’t know what we was going into did we? When I got there, I was frightened then, you grew up pretty fast, I’ll tell you.” Having fought their way inland, his tank was disabled in the French town of Levin where the crew took refuge with a French family.
Arthur’s bravery did not go unnoticed and he was decorated several times, including most recently in July 2016 when he was awarded France’s highest distinction The Legion of Honour or Legion d’honneur, the French version of a knighthood. Presenting the award to Arthur, Colonel Patrice Morand said:
“This ceremony is firstly a message of gratitude to men and women who were ready to give their lives to liberate us. Through the insignia of Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, France wants to thank you for your absolute commitment to freedom. To you, France owes its freedom.”
In addition to his appearances at the SVR, Arthur also volunteered at RAF Cosford, giving talks about his experiences to school groups. In recent years, Arthur was also featured in a short film made for Vice in conjunction with the British Legion, called Back in My Day: Members of the Armed Forces.
Click on the above link to view the film by Vice. It is also available at on:
Good-Bye to All That
On 9th December GWR 1400 Class 0-4-2T No 1450, running in autotrain mode with matching GWR Autotrailer Third 178, ran a series of private shuttles between Bridgnorth and Highley for its owners, just before the expiry of its boiler ticket. Although the sun didn’t shine, our contributing photographers were out in force as this gallery of evocative images shows. 1450 is a popular engine, and will be very much missed.
Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.
“The winter is at hand”
Snowfall affected the Railway in late December, leading to the SVR closing for a day on 29th December.
Snow fell from the morning of Monday, 28th December. The Met Office issued a yellow warning for snow in the West Midlands and, in some areas, Police advised people to drive only if essential.
The SVR ran reduced services, with one train (The Adventurer and The Explorer) commencing each end of the line. The 10.15am departure from Kidderminster (The Flyer) was cancelled and passengers still wishing to travel were transferred to The Explorer.
The SVR struggled with signalling equipment clogged and frozen with snow, and so trains ran late. Unfortunately, The Engine House was not able to open because staff could not get into work.
General manager Helen Smith, said, “Thank you to everyone who made valiant efforts to run services despite the unexpected snow. I know many experienced difficulties travelling in and covering roles for others and their dedication is much appreciated.”
With a forecast of more overnight snow and freezing temperatures the Railway made the difficult decision to cancel services on the 29th. It reopened as normal on Wednesday, 30th December, though services on the 31st were cancelled when Worcestershire and Shropshire both became Tier 3 areas for the days leading up to the announcement of a third national lockdown on 4th January.
Photo: 43106 approaching Bewdley Tunnel heading to Kidderminster on 28th December 2020. Andrew Blackford
Success in spite of it all
Kidderminster C&W correspondent Angela Walker looks back on the successes of 2020:
Happy new year to you! Lockdown is not quite the start we would have liked, so I’m going to focus on the positives of the past year!
Despite being a very challenging year for so many people in so many different ways, the SVR’s volunteer carriage groups and paid staff achieved much in the last 12 months. Since we don’t do it often enough, I would like to take a moment to blow our own trumpet and share with our Branch Lines readers what the carriage teams have turned out in the year of 2020.
Drum roll please, and in no particular order:
Great Western 9055, a Churchward-designed family saloon carriage, underwent a heavy repair and repaint. Built in 1912, 9055 is the oldest carriage currently running on the SVR and rather special as she is a one-off, being a replacement for a gaslit carriage that burnt down.
24506, the Pigeon Van, one of our LNER Gresley Teaks, had a deeper level of work, with a repaint of the roof and the whole carriage revarnished whilst in the paint shop. 24506 received mechanical attention and had her bogies sent away for tyre turning, due to wheel flats, and minor works were carried out to the brake rigging.
Teaks 43600, 52255 and 7960 have all been revarnished.
80972 Great Western Inspection Saloon went into Bridgnorth paint shop for a medium repair and repaint. Bridgnorth paint shop also repainted BR 3083 Experimental Open, built in 1957.
GWR 7284 Corridor Composite received a heavy repair and repaint and was the last carriage to exit the Kidderminster Carriage Works paint shop in 2020. It was used in December on the festive trains along with 6045 GW Corridor Composite which has also just entered traffic following a lengthy body restoration and a full mechanical overhaul.
Talking of carriages, just out of the works and nearly ready to enter traffic is 16169, which has received a very heavy body rebuild, and has had a mechanical overhaul; the brake overhaul included vacuum brake cylinders, buckeye couplers and a replacement coil spring. Hornguide liner plates have been replaced or descaled and 16169 is currently awaiting a test run.
LMS buffet car 149 had routine planned mechanical exams and repairs, including a wheelset change on one bogie due to wheel flats.
The impressive amount of work done to Great Western (SVR) Association-owned 2242 GWR Hawksworth brake third could fill an article of its own! The list includes a complete brake overhaul, re-arranging the wheelsets, steam heat work and so much more. The owning group is currently replacing the original floor, which has been removed by specialist company D J Hinton Ltd as it contained asbestos. Mechanical work will continue when the floor is complete.
Wow! So, considering we’ve had lockdowns, skeleton staff and bubble teams I think we have done amazingly to achieve what we have!
Well done to the SVR family.
A successful season at Bridgnorth MPD
Achieving a successful Christmas season isn’t easy but it helps to come prepared as volunteer shed master Martin White reports:
How lucky were we to operate our December services in the current pandemic? Sometimes you will hear sportsmen, especially football managers, claim that you need to make your own luck. I like to think we did just that, through good planning, good preparation and good operation; all resulting in a very good loco performance.
The Santa services working out of Kidderminster were hauled by 75069 and 43106. There were some issues with the loco coal, but explanations of that would fill an article on their own! The locos themselves didn’t behave quite faultlessly but weren’t far off. The reliable performance is a testament to the Engineering Services team at Bridgnorth who not only turned them out in good shape but also effected some very rapid repairs when required. On one Saturday afternoon, the steam heat valve on 75069 was being fixed whilst it ran around the stock at Highley! A bit of luck played a part with this, as an off duty fitter was in the neighbourhood whilst conducting a line inspection on the class 14 diesel. The Santa trains were also a testament to the hard work and long hours put in by volunteer staff at Bewdley MPD. By the time the first Santa train was pulling out of Kidderminster some of those shed volunteers had probably already done more than six hours’ work.
At Bridgnorth, 34027, ‘Taw Valley’ was on the Steam in Light services. Five nights a week, three trains a night to Hampton Loade, top and tailed with the class 14. Maybe this sounds easy for the big Pacific? However, it was far from it, being lit up at by volunteer staff at about 11 am each day, off shed before 3 pm, ready to heat the stock and move the train out of the station well in advance of its first grand entrance at 4.20. When working from Hampton Loade, it had a load of nine carriages plus the class 14 diesel. A good load even for this class 7 loco and one that was challenging to keep moving at a steady walking pace past the lineside displays, especially on the 1-in-100 bank at Crossing Cottage. 34027 was regularly consuming more than three tons of coal and a tender full (5,500 gallons) of water on this duty. Again, the loco was almost faultless throughout the entire series of trains.
After Christmas our luck ran out, when bad weather and Covid restrictions curtailed our operations, which was a shame, as it was scheduled that our smaller locos, 7714, 1501 and 813 would operate the season’s finale.
On the subject of small locos, Austerity ‘Welsh Guardsman’ has gone away on hire to Embsay Railway until April. And finally, 1450 has now been withdrawn from service as its boiler has reached the end of its ‘ticket’. One last day in steam took place on 9th December, in the form of a private auto train for the loco owner, this being the first and only time in 2020 that he had seen the locomotive [see above article - Ed].
SVR Diesel committee chairman Jonathan Dunster, added: “I would like to draw attention to the performance of D9551 on the Steam in Lights operation. As with Taw Valley, was almost faultless throughout the entire series of trains which really put this fantastic little loco in the spotlight for the first time.”
Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.
Following reports in the railway press that testing of some of GBRf’s new Class 69 diesel locomotives (rebuilds of earlier Class 56s) will take place on the SVR, vice-chairman Mike Ball gives us a quick update.
Reports are slightly premature as there are no firm dates as to when this will take place, although the SVR is in discussions with GBRf about using the line for testing some of the Class 69s and the planning process for this is underway.
This is an exciting opportunity for the SVR, and represents a potentially important revenue stream at a time when the railway has seen a significant drop in its income because of Covid-19.
Please note, however, as with ‘Royal Scot’ and ‘Braunton’ last year, this would be a commercial testing arrangement, The operators are likely to plan their testing to best suit their needs on the day in a Covid-19 secure environment, and we do not expect details to be published.
Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.
Restoration of Falling Sands – job done!
In mid-December the final piece of corbelling was slotted in to place on the Falling Sands Viaduct and the Railway’s contractors left site, marking the end of the civils work on this huge infrastructure restoration.
Work began on restoring the viaduct back in December 2019 - the track was lifted, ballast removed and new concrete poured in. Phase 2, to repair the brickwork, started in June 2020 but swiftly came to a halt when bats were seen flying out from beneath one the arches! A license was obtained from Natural England and work was able to restart in July.
The project has come up against many challenges including Covid-19, bats and even bees, so it’s a huge accomplishment for the repairs to be finished just a few weeks later than was originally planned.
However, as the project delivery manager Emma Armstrong told Branch Lines, this is not the end of the Falling Sands project:
“Even as we face further uncertain months ahead, this year we will be looking at new ways to engage with our visitors about the history of the SVR and the original construction of Falling Sands Viaduct, including the development of the exhibition spaces at The Engine House and within the Stove R, which we hope to relaunch this spring.”
Photo: 7714 crossing Falling Sands Viaduct on 30th December 2020. Craig Tiley
Keeping alive the sounds of steam
Voluntary Eardington station master Steve Downes has been in a reflective mood.
It’s just after dark on an autumn evening, at a small station on a GWR branch line, and the calm of the night is broken by the distant sound of a steam train making its way along the Severn Valley.
The engine whistles at numerous crossings, and the sound echoes back from the other side of the valley.
Then the sound fades as the driver shuts off steam for a P-way slack, and even at three-quarters of a mile the rumble of carriage wheels over rail joints can be heard in the still air.
It’s a sound that has been heard here for more than 150 years, since the Railway opened in 1862. It could be the 1930s or 1950s, but it’s actually 2020 and the sounds of the steam railway are still ringing through the night air; in this case the evening train to Highley (for diners), running onto to Bridgnorth.
Standing on the platform at Eardington, I can clearly hear the engine’s exhaust pick up as the train accelerates away from Sterns. Soon the flickering loco lamps come into sight and then a GWR Pannier Tank is barking through the station, showering the platform with sparks. There’s a shouted ‘hellooooo’ from the train - stonemason Philip Chatfield heading to Bridgnorth and the chippy - and all too soon the taillight is disappearing around the curving cutting side, leaving steam and the sound of an engine climbing hard hanging in the air.
Two months later and the valley is shrouded in thick mist. This time the distant whistle is that of a Bulleid Pacific, though it’s being out-hooted by a couple of tawny owls in nearby Daddy Wood. As the train pulls away from Sterns and its Steam in Lights appointment with the Cacklers, the loco slips briefly, then gets a grip and builds momentum, though the sound is much softer than the pannier’s sharp bark. Soon Taw Valley is hurrying through the station, working hard to lift a well filled eight-coach train up Eardington Bank from an almost standing start, filling the air with the scent of burning coal and the unmistakable sound of steam. Close your eyes and it could be the Southern Region in the 60s.
It’s gratifying to know that while we’re entertaining families on board the train and bringing in much-needed revenue, we’re also keeping alive the authentic sound of real steam along the Severn Valley. Long may it continue.
Photo: Steam in lights passes Eardington December 2020. Steve Downes
Wanted: your press cuttings of the SVR!
Rob Whale in the Railway's archive department is looking for press cuttings of the SVR from 1965 onwards, and from recent and current editions of two local newspapers in particular. Rob explained:
“Various people have contributed press cuttings over the years but, in more recent times, items of SVR interest published in the Express & Star and the Shropshire Star have completely dried up. We’d to love make contact with supporters who take either of these two papers, and who’d be willing to scan and send copies of any relevant articles to . Alternatively, you could post cuttings to me at SVR Archive, Number One, Comberton Place, Kidderminster, DY10 1QR.”
The SVR set up its archives in 2009. These are held at The Engine House at Highley and contain information dating back to the earliest days of the SVR’s preservation. They contain a full set of SVR News, every timetable and promotional booklet, plus many old SVR posters and timetables.
The department’s collection of press cuttings is extensive and dates back to the closure of the Tenbury branch in 1965.
Photo: This cutting showed the demolition of Hollybush Road underbridge at Bridgnorth. With thanks to the Shropshire Star for permission to use this image.
Round the horn
For many, Christmas is the time of giving and receiving and the best gifts are the unexpected ones. The SVR’s general manager Helen Smith was the unexpected recipient of handmade gift from the Railway’s stonemason Philip Chatfield. A chance conversation at Bewdley station, a small amount of left over stone and a stonemason who doesn’t like to be idle combined to make this unusual present, a stone carving of a French Horn. The stone in question was left over from the work Philip had been doing previously at Arley station and originated in a quarry in Morley, near Leeds in Yorkshire. Given Helen’s own origins, the connection seemed too good an opportunity to miss! Philip said:
“As a sculptor, I am always making something and when I was working on the Falling Sands stone blocks Helen popped over to Bewdley station and mentioned that she played the French horn and had once tried to carve one herself. I thought that would be fun to have a go at making, tricky even.”
On receiving her unusual Christmas present Helen said:
“I was thrilled and very grateful to receive the plaque from Philip, and I honestly had no idea he was carving this for me. He told me the idea came after a conversation we’d had one time, when I mentioned the fact that I studied music for my undergraduate degree. This is another example of the wonderful craftsmanship that he brings, on a much larger scale, to the SVR.”
Meanwhile there’s no end to Philip’s talents, as he recently became a star of BBC Radio 3. A recording of him hard at work on one of the Falling Sands Viaduct capping stones (recorded by Graham Phillips of C&W) was chosen to be one of their ‘Saturday Sounds’ where recorded sounds of life are mixed with music. Both the SVR and the Falling Sands Viaduct were name-checked in the broadcast, which you can listen to here:
Philip’s contribution can be heard from 1hr 14 minutes into the programme, and it’s available online until the end of the month.
Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.
Former apprentice Max stars on TV
Last Thursday evening (7th January), the SVR’s very own Max Green was the star guest on Channel 4’s George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. His long-term project to build a shepherd’s hut, complete with wood-fired hot tub had attracted the programme makers, who filmed with him over an 18-month period, both at home and at the SVR.
Now an improver fitter-machinist based at Bridgnorth motive power depot, Max is one of the success stories of the Railway’s pioneering apprenticeship scheme. He told us more about his fascinating out-of-work passion project:
“My build took the form of a traditionally built shepherd's hut and wood-fired hot tub, made using the many skills which I have learnt over my seven years at the Railway. Skills passed on by experienced hands willing to share their knowledge, something that I am very thankful for.
“Of course, opportunities like this do not come knocking. I have worked extremely hard to make my childhood dreams a reality. Firstly to work as an engineer at the steam railway so close to where I grew up, and secondly, to build my very own shepherd's hut.
“Sometimes I have to take a step back and pinch myself to really appreciate where I work and the things I have achieved. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at the Railway for giving me the opportunity to fulfil one lifelong ambition and in doing so, helping me achieve another.”
You can watch the programme (episode 1 of series 10) on C4’s catch up service.
The Heritage Apprenticeship Scheme, which Max completed over four years at the SVR, is funded entirely by the SVR Charitable Trust, and is helping to ensure the continuation of essential skills. To help fund this important initiative, you can donate at svrtrust.org.uk
Photo: Max Green and George Clarke with Max's traditionally built shepherd's hut and wood-fired hot tub in 2020. Clare Green
Winter works plans
With less funding available and reduced resources, the Railway is taking the opportunity of the extended closed period until Easter to consolidate what was achieved in 2020 and finish off several projects, as infrastructure manager Chris Bond tells Branch Lines.
Firstly, the permanent way team will be undertaking a rail-changing exercise at Falling Sands to make use of the better quality rail obtained from Dudley (see November’s Branch Lines).
We will also complete the remaining welding, followed by mechanical stressing of the continuous welded section of track that runs from the Bewdley side of the tunnel to the loop points by the carriage shed at Kidderminster. Further tamping will take place both here and at other areas along the Railway.
Regular readers will recall the two landslips following the floods of February 2020 (covered in updates in Branch Lines.)
We continue to monitor Sterns and, so far, it seems to be behaving. We will install remote ‘tilt monitoring’ systems at both locations to detect any movement in the slip areas that exceeds set parameters, and which will send out text alerts and illuminate red stop lamps either side. These will alert train crews that a movement has taken place and requires investigation before further traffic can traverse the slip. We plan to use these systems until stabilisation works have been carried out or, in the case of Sterns, until the drainage system has improved the stability.
We have scheduled work at Alveley Woods for mid-March when contractors will install a small drainage system adjacent to the landslip to assist with removal of rainwater, similar to that installed at Sterns. We will provide logistical support with plant and materials delivered to site by rail due to the remote location.
The Cultural Recovery grant funds a number of CCTV, fire detection and intruder alarm projects. Works have started at Kidderminster with the installation of an on-site data network provided over radio links. This will provide improved IT infrastructure around the site and remote monitoring of the CCTV from the diesel depot and carriage shed. We intend that the other works will be carried out before the end of March.
Also scheduled is replacement of decking on Cleobury Road bridge at Bridgnorth by external contractors, and fettling works on points located on the bridge. Other planned works include:
Replacement of a pair of worn switches on the points controlling access to platform 1 at Kidderminster.
Replacement of rail clips in Bewdley tunnel with corrosion resistant versions.
Fettling work on Bewdley points controlling access at north end to platforms 2 and 3.
I hope that this will provide a flavour of what we will be doing during the closed season as we consolidate the extensive works undertaken in 2020.
Photo: An image at Foley Park tunnel. 75069 heads towards the tunnel with the 1.30 Bewdley - Kidderminster service, on 30th December. Craig Tiley
Leaving a lasting legacy
At the beginning of a new year people often think a little more about the future. Yet, it might surprise you to know that that 54% of British people have not yet made a Will.
The SVR Charitable Trust is highlighting the enormous value of people leaving a lasting legacy in their Will. For example, over half of the £1 million it’s costing to restore the flagship locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall, for instance, was provided by gifts in Wills, helping to secure the future success of the Railway.
Of course providing for your loved ones in your Will is your priority and once this is made certain, you may also wish to give something to support the long-term survival of the Severn Valley Railway.
Margaret Flint, who has done just that, explained “I love seeing families at the Railway. Although I never had children myself, it’s important to me to know that the SVR will be there for young people in the future. The apprenticeship scheme here is wonderful. Young people are getting the training they need to look after these amazing machines.”
Making or changing a Will is much easier than you might think and the SVR offers a discounted Will writing service for supporters through its partners, Thursfields Solicitors.
The Charitable Trust’s short film looks at why people decide to leave a gift in their Will and explains the very real impact that legacies can have at the Railway. You can view the film and look at more information about leaving a lasting legacy to the Severn Valley Railway in your Will here:
Photos: Margaret Flint, and 4930 in September 1986 (Keith Langston)
2020 vision at Hampton Loade
The station site at Hampton Loade has been closed to passengers and visitors since 23rd March last year. The main stations re-opened in August, with Arley welcoming passengers back for Santa Specials in December. We think that (with the exception of Eardington) Hampton Loade is now experiencing the longest closure with no public access of any SVR station in preservation. So, a nice rest with nothing to do? Quite the opposite, as assistant station master (ASM) Sam Lench told Branch Lines:
During the first lockdown local volunteers kept busy with site checks and line walks. On 23rd May we were due to celebrate 50 years of services between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade with a bumper bank holiday weekend special event but instead, on the day, I marked the occasion with a green flag.
From June we could restart work. The first six weeks entailed much hard graft, reversing the decay that had set in during lockdown with a jungle of grass and gardens to be tamed. Several projects were completed including reinstating the cast iron gutter around our booking hall canopy. In the workshop long-standing volunteers Steve and Michael have been painting poster boards, benches, fencing and signage – much of which is now stored until spring to save exposure to the weather.
Behind the scenes, 2020 unexpectedly allowed us to plough ahead with restoration of the station house for our volunteer accommodation. Station master Lee has been busy repainting the rooms whilst there are fewer volunteers around. Elsewhere on site, the Paddock Railway gang have spent the closure carrying out maintenance, resulting in a smart garden railway ready to operate as soon as it’s possible.
We have also supported other departments. Signalling continued to open the signal box to keep signalmen ‘in ticket’, and in July their volunteers repainted the signal box and both down starting signals. The SVR electrical department too has upgraded some electrical systems.
As ASM, my focus has been ensuring Hampton Loade is in a strong position for the future. We have completed deep sort-outs of our station house, refreshment kiosk and booking office – everything has been reviewed and decluttered. Some surplus items have been rehomed around the Railway, with more to follow. Some areas have been ‘mothballed’ such as the two fundraising shops and kiosk. We have entered the modern world by installing a card reader in the booking office for payment of fares.
Finally, in November and December Hampton Loade was able to contribute to the Railway as the terminus for Steam in Lights. Volunteers operated the light displays and supplemented the contractor’s displays with our own. It was fantastic for this event to be a success and bring in much-needed funds.
Throughout the year we kept up a strong presence on social media with our Facebook page – staying connected to our followers even though they have not been able to visit.
In conclusion, 2020 has been very different with many volunteers unable to attend, but those who did so have mucked in to keep the station ticking over and ready to re-open – whenever that may be!
Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.
Subscription offer for SVR supporters
Mortons, who publish a range of different titles of interest to railway enthusiasts, are offering a 10% discount on a six-month subscription for SVR supporters, and what’s more, each subscription taken up will generate a £4 donation to the SVR Charitable Trust!
As well as the popular titles Heritage Railway, Rail Express and The Railway Magazine, Mortons have added two newcomers to their stable: Steam Days and Railways Illustrated.
To take advantage of this special offer, please go to:
V1 10th January 2021
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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.