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January 2024

Last Day of the Flying Pig 43106 is framed by the signals at Bewdley South on the locos fi
Last Day of the Flying Pig 43106 is framed by the signals at Bewdley South on the loco's final day of service on Sunday January 7th 2024 Photo by Keith Wilkinson

Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!

We’re a little late to the game, but would like to wish you a very happy new year! We couldn’t have wished for a better start than we’ve had; two brand-new enthusiast events, a Winter Diesel Day and a Winter Steam Gala, have put the SVR truly front and centre.


Both of them more than delivered on their promise and further cemented the SVR’s position as a leading heritage line. We’ve reports and some stunning photographs on both these events, and in our lead article, managing director Gus Dunster reflects on these and other successes of the past 12 months, and looks ahead to the challenges 2024 will bring. 

The Railway is capturing attention across the heritage world, with shortlisted entries for three categories in the prestigious Heritage Railway Association awards. For a few weeks, there’ll be no passenger services, but things are as busy as ever behind the scenes at the SVR, and we have updates on rolling stock and infrastructure projects.


This year sees the return of passenger services in February half-term, so make a date in your diary and come and visit us soon!  

Lesley Carr and Karen Crick co-editors

The Branch Lines team is Lesley Carr, Karen Crick, Amy Baker, Pete Cherry and Nicola Fox.

Next edition Thursday 8th February

What's new?

SVR in ‘stronger position’ as it goes into 2024 

As the Railway pauses to catch its collective breath after the hectic past few weeks of Christmas, the festive season services, the Diesel Day and the Winter Steam Gala, managing director Gus Dunster reflects on 2023, and the highlights and challenges that lie ahead in 2024: 

As I come to the end of my first year ‘in the job’, I very much wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you to everyone who’s played a part in keeping the SVR magic alive throughout 2023, in the most challenging of circumstances. Whether it’s as a volunteer, member of staff, member, shareholder, donor, supporter or a visitor, you’ve been a key part of this, and we couldn’t have done it without you.


There is a lot for us to be proud about over the past 12 months; we have staged some stunning events and the visitor feedback on the Christmas season has been overwhelmingly positive. There is so much that we can celebrate. 

I’m sure 2024 will continue to present challenges for us and most other heritage railways. Let’s not forget that we’re still actively seeking donations to our Survival Fund, as it approaches £500,000.  


We’re working as hard as we can to deliver an impressive range of events, designed to appeal to all sectors of the market, and you can see details of these below. Enthusiast events have been our strength in 2023, and we’ll make sure these are equally attractive in 2024. But we’re also putting together events that appeal to a family market, such as character events and our ever-popular 1940s weekends. And, you won’t have long to wait to see the Railway back in action, as we’ll be open in February for the half-term holiday, and I very much hope to see you then. 

This year also sees two very important anniversaries for the Railway; in May we’ll celebrate 50 years since the line extended to Bewdley, and in July we’ll mark 40 years since the opening of Kidderminster Town station. 

As we embark on this brand-new year, we can be confident that we are in a stronger position than we were a year ago. I am very proud to be part of the SVR team, and I hope you are too.  

*Editors’ note: Gus talks candidly about the challenges the SVR faces, and how it’s overcoming them in an extended feature article in the January edition of The Railway Magazine.  

Whats On in 2024.jpg

SVR shortlisted for three HRA awards

The Railway has made it to the 2024 shortlists in three categories in the prestigious Heritage Railway Association awards: 

  • Diesel and Electric Locomotion: SVR diesel events team for the two 2023 gala events celebrating 50 years of main line diesel preservation 

  • The Morgan award for Rolling Stock Preservation: the restoration of LMS carriage 24617 

  • Team of the year: the SVR-based Class 50 Alliance 

 “We’re delighted we’re shortlisted in not one, but three categories” said managing director Gus Dunster. “These awards recognise the work of heritage railways all over the country, and competition is extremely strong. To be this strongly represented this year at the awards is a testament to the superb team spirit and skills that exist at the SVR.”    

The Heritage Railway Association awards are held annually, and the 2024 winners will be announced at a gala dinner in Brighton on 10 February.   

Click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits

Diesel delight to round off 2023

Friday 29 December saw a full day of diesel action at the Railway. Crowds flocked to attend, and ticket revenue was 35% higher than forecast, bringing in £30,000 of passenger revenue, plus additional secondary spend. 


"It was the best-attended day of our festive season services!” said visitor engagement manager Lewis Maddox. “Despite this being the first time we've ever done a Winter Diesel Day, it completely surpassed our expectations." 


Highlights of the event included Class 20 20007’s first and only passenger working of 2023, the long-awaited return of the DMU (see separate article), and the provision of steam heat, thanks to Class 40 40106, Class 46 D182, and pannier tank 7714 double-heading with various diesel locomotives. The steam-heating aspect brought a nostalgia all of its own, taking passengers back to the days of the late 1960s and 1970s when diesel steam-heating was the norm, before BR phased it out by the mid-80s.  


“I heard many positive comments,” said managing director Gus Dunster, “Both from visitors on the day and via social media about how much they valued this aspect of our event; it looks like we found a winning formula. We saw a timetable that ran perfectly, and a strong sense of team-purpose across the Railway. Thank you so much to everyone involved in the planning and delivery of yet another hugely successful new event. It’s another example of how our continued focus on enthusiast events is the right one.  


“As is always the case with a new event, there are some learning points for the future, but overall, it was very successful and a welcome boost to the Railway's finances at this key time of year.” 


The Spring Diesel Festival is in the diary for 16 – 19 May inclusive, and tickets are available at .  

Click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits

First Winter Steam Gala is a runaway success

The SVR’s first-ever January Steam Gala on 6 and 7 January proved highly successful, to the delight of SVR visitors and everyone involved in organising it. More than 2,500 passengers bought tickets, and the revenue was twice as much as had been expected. 


The weekend saw bright weather and a packed timetable, including local services stopping at Eardington. 21C127 ‘Taw Valley’ in wartime black joined Pannier tank 7714, which thanks to some remedial work was able to appear at the gala as planned. Meanwhile the recently overhauled Stanier Mogul 2968 made its gala debut.  

Sadly, guest locomotive ‘Omaha’ suffered a failure during the festive services, due to a leaky boiler plug, and despite valiant efforts, repairs could not be completed in time for the gala. Fortunately, BR Class 4 75069 was prepped to appear on Sunday and so stepped up to cover for ‘Omaha’ on the Saturday.  

The gala also saw the farewell to ‘The Flying Pig’, with a special train hauled by 43106 on Sunday. Departing Kidderminster at 5.30pm, the special marked the end of another successful decade of service for ‘The Flying Pig’ as its boiler ticket came to an end.  

Other attractions across the Railway included a book fair, photography fair and ‘N’ gauge railway layouts.  


"Yet again, we've shown that the SVR is second-to-none when it comes to enthusiast events,” said managing director Gus Dunster. “We'd never done an event of this sort at this time of year before, but our instincts were that it would be a winner, and we were absolutely spot on! 


“I was genuinely overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of visitors and volunteers who thanked me personally for putting this event on in what traditionally is a quiet period for enthusiasts. We definitely got the formula correct - nothing too complicated - and people supported it in their thousands. I am very grateful to everyone who came and also to our amazing volunteers and staff who worked so hard to plan and deliver two brand-new events at the end of a very long season.”  

Click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits

What's coming up?

Future of SVR Wolverhampton branch

Branch treasurer Peter Share has contacted Branch Lines to share the news that an open meeting to discuss the future of the branch will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 15 January at the Old Wulfrunians Cricket and Hockey Club, 253A Castlecroft Road, W'ton, WV3 8NA. There’s further information at the branch’s website.  

Spring Steam Gala is ‘really shaping up’ 

There was a rather nice gift for steam enthusiasts on Christmas Day, as the Railway announced that Lambton No 29 will be the second visiting locomotive for the Spring Steam Gala. 

Along with fellow guest No 72 ‘Fenchurch’, No 29 will star alongside the newly overhauled SVR-based Stanier Mogul, which will appear with its original number and livery as LMS 13268 for the four-day festival of steam taking place between 18 and 21 April.  

Built in 1904 by Kitson of Leeds, Works Number 4263, for Lambton Collieries, No 29 was the first 0-6-2T to be employed on that system and was later joined by No 5.  


No 29 was overhauled at Philadelphia in 1968, by which time the ‘main line’ running over BR tracks had ceased and it was made redundant with the other remaining steam locomotives on 15 February 1969. With 65 years in service, this must be one of the longest-working steam locomotives in the UK.   

Lambton No 29. Kenny Felstead.jpg

“With Lambton 29 joining the roster of locos, this is really shaping up to be another fantastic enthusiast event, just as you’d expect at the SVR,” said visitor engagement manager Lewis Maddox. “Advance ticket sales are going extremely well, and a third guest is on the cards, so keep your eyes peeled! We’re developing the working timetable, which will be based on last year’s, with some improvements following feedback.” 


No 29 is appearing on the SVR courtesy of the Lambton Trust and North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Tickets and information at  

*STOP PRESS* An evening photoshoot will take place on 23 February at Bewdley station, with 7812 'Erlestoke Manor' and pannier tank 7714. Just 25 places will be available and it's expected that tickets will go on sale very soon. Keep a close eye on!


Lambton No 29. Kenny Felstead

All aboard for a February half-term steam adventure

February half-term opening is returning to the Railway! Services will run on the following dates: 

  • Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 February 

  • Tuesday 13 – Thursday 15 February 

  • Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 February  

The Engine House at Highley will be open, with plenty of activities to keep the kids amused, including the outdoor play area, sorting mail in the travelling post office, and on 13-15 February, the Railway will welcome a very special (and as yet, secret!) visitor to The Engine House.


Details will be added to the website shortly, so keep checking for updates.


Entry to The Engine House is free, but parking is limited, so the best way to get there is by heritage train. 

Along the line, the cafes and gift shops at Bridgnorth, Highley and Kidderminster will also be open for treats and snacks to enjoy during a visit.


Further information at  

Across the Railway

The inspirational Severn Valley line 

Long-standing SVR member and shareholder Jill Gramann was visiting the Railway on Boxing Day from her home in Wolverley, Worcestershire, and travelled on the last train south from Bridgnorth with her family. “It was really magical,” explained Jill, “And I wrote this poem whilst travelling, which I hope captures the atmosphere. All good wishes for the year ahead!” 


Thank you Jill, and we hope you’ll be back to enjoy the very special ambience of the SVR again soon!  

Boxing Day 2023 

We’re steaming down the valley 

At the closing of the day; 

The whistle’s sounding croaky 

As we blow the smoke away. 


Outside the sky is darkening 

But the lights are on inside. 

A random dog is barking 

Searching out a warm fireside. 


The whistle says a tunnel  

Is coming here and noooow… 

It’s over in some seconds 

But the coughing reminds me how… 


It was for early travellers 

With their stout, and blackened bread; 

The flag in front of driver; 

The dragon head and breath. 


We’re creeping into Highley 

Where the station shines so bright 

With coloured lights and tinsel 

Throwing joy into the night. 


At Arley all is cosy 

And our friends wave as we pass; 

The waiting room now empty 

But the platform pure stained glass 


We’re getting off at Bewdley 

Where the snowmen rule ok! 

The mournful whistle distant,  

A visceral memory of the day 

4930 'Hagley Hall' departing Bridgnorth in winter sun on 26 December 2023. Bob Green

4930 'Hagley Hall' departing Bridgnorth in winter sun on 26 December 2023. Bob Green.jpg

A bright start to phase 2A of the Bridgnorth Yard Project

Breaking up concrete alongside the pit on road 2 on 10 January. Nick Yarwood.jpg

Clear skies and sunshine this week set the scene for phase 2A of this major infrastructure project to get underway, as volunteer project manager Nick Yarwood writes: 

So that the pit on road 2 can be heightened by about 270mm (nearly 11 inches, in old money!), the pit rails will have to be unbolted and the top of the existing walls exposed and scabbled*.


The adjacent concrete surfaces have been cut back and broken out, and measurements taken for the temporary formwork in which concrete will be poured later. These tasks were done by volunteers, who expressed great satisfaction gained from doing something different. 

Coming up, we'll be clearing roads 1 and 2 of sleepers, laying new ballast and relaying the track and the turnout, which was recovered from Brownhills last year under SVR's pioneering partnership with Network Rail. We reported on this in November’s Branch Lines.  

Frosty conditions and weather permitting, we'll be preparing for and hopefully pouring concrete on the pit and adjacent surfaces during this month and February. 

*This is a technique used to roughen up surfaces or reduce concrete levels by removing a thin layer.


Breaking up concrete alongside the pit on road 2 on 10 January. Nick Yarwood  

A wonderful donation in memory of veteran SVR driver 

On 23 December, Debbie Price, the widow of former SVR driver John, presented managing director Gus Dunster with a cheque for £1,510. This was raised from the memorial train which ran in October following John’s death earlier in 2023.


This means that in total more than £2,000 has come in John’s memory to the SVR’s Survival Fund, including the amount raised at his funeral. 

The day of the presentation would have been John’s birthday, and Debbie was able to join John’s close friends Tom Clarke and Harry Bradley on the footplate.  

Gus Dunster and Debbie Price with 'Erlestoke Manor' on 23 December. Harry Bradley

Gus Dunster and Debbie Price with 'Erlestoke Manor' on 23 December. Harry Bradley.png

Rolling stock

‘Erlestoke’ to go on summer tour 

7812 Erlestoke Manor approaches Bewdley Station Winter Gala 2024.jpg

The Erlestoke Manor Fund has confirmed that GWR 7812 ‘Erlestoke Manor’ will again spend the summer season away from its base at the SVR.  

It will first appear at the Bluebell Railway’s Branch Line Gala Weekend on 10-12 May, and then go on hire to the West Somerset Railway until the end of October, as part of a mutual agreement with the SVR and the EMF. 

Adrian Hassell, chair of the EMF, said: 

“Last year’s travels for 7812 proved a superb exercise to the mutual benefit of the Erlestoke Manor Fund, Severn Valley Railway and West Somerset Railway. 

“The same situation for all three organisations applies this year, with the added arrangement that Erlestoke Manor will visit the Bluebell Railway. This will be an excellent and rare opportunity for a Manor to steam in Sussex. 

“The trustees of the EMF are planning a special train on the WSR for EMF shareholders in the summer and details will be announced, as soon as available and via the Fund’s newsletter. 

“It must be stressed that the SVR remains the home of the EMF, with its other Manor 7802 ‘Bradley Manor’ due to return later this year, and work beginning at Tyseley Locomotive Works on GWR Prairie No 5164 in the foreseeable future”.  

7812 'Erlestoke Manor' approaching Bewdley at the Winter Steam Gala. Anthony Carwithen

The DMU is back!

The long-awaited and hugely welcome return of the Class 108 DMU to passenger services took place in December 2023.  


The two-car set reappeared for test in November 2023 with its first public workings the following month. Over the festive season, the DMU also provided staff transport and made its final appearance at the highly successful Winter Diesel Day on 29 December. Chairman of the DMU Group (West Midlands) James Cooper said: 


“It was a real achievement getting the two-car back in action towards the end of 2023. This is a testament to the hard work of the group’s working members, and the SVR pulling it all together in time for the festive running period.” 


The group is now turning its attention to the three remaining cars. Following an extensive overhaul of the centre bar vehicle, led by Matt Walford, the group expects this third car to be completed in early 2024, allowing for the running of a three-car set. Once this is achieved, the goal is to bring the remaining cars back into action as soon as possible.  

To support the efforts of the DMU Group (West Midlands) and for more information, go to  

Click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits

A ‘momentous milestone’ for Mogul 2968

Last month brought absolute proof that determination pays off, with the return-to-service of the Stanier Mogul Fund’s newly overhauled 2968. 


Sole-surviving Stanier 2-6-0 Mogul 2968 re-entered revenue-earning service for the SVR on Saturday 2 December, hauling the Enchanted Express service between Bridgnorth and Highley. It hadn’t steamed on the SVR for more than a decade, and its return was hailed as a ‘momentous milestone’ by the SMF. 


The SMF also ran a Mince Pie Steam Special for members on Saturday 30 December, which was attended by 200 supporters, showing their support and interest in this unique locomotive.  


The second new design to be completed following Stanier’s appointment as Chief Mechanical Engineer for the LMS, 2968 was one of 40 locomotives built between 1933 and 1934 at Crewe. A development of the Hughes Crab but featuring the tapered boilers that Stanier had worked with during his time at the GWR, the Stanier Moguls had a higher working boiler pressure than their predecessors and were nicknamed ‘North West Crabs’. The Stanier Moguls were allocated to both freight and passenger workings, and during its career, 2968 covered almost 750,000 miles.  


“We’re thrilled to see the Mogul return to life,” said SMF committee member Peter Holder. “It has seen its most comprehensive overhaul since preservation and the results speak for themselves; the workmanship is simply stunning. Though if you think it is looking spectacular now, wait until you see its fully-lined-out guise as LMS 13268, when the loco emerges from Bridgnorth’s paint shop in the coming months.” 


2968’s return follows years of tireless fundraising and hard work. More information can be found on the SMF’s website  

Click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits

A fleeting update/Taking stock at MPD

After a busy festive season, it’s time to take stock of the SVR steam loco fleet, as Bridgnorth’s volunteer shedmaster Martin White reports: 


Four locos are currently in various stages of reassembly. 


The 2-6-2 tank locos, 4150 and 82045, continue to move towards their respective steamings, with regular volunteer input. They also both have components in Bridgnorth boiler shop receiving paid-staff attention. 4150’s side tanks are in there for riveting, whilst 82045 has a much more significant component in the form of its boiler. The firebox assembly is now virtually complete, and the boiler barrel is having the dome fitted, prior to it being attached to the firebox. 


Adjacent to 4150 in the works, 813 is on the lifting jacks awaiting the final fitting of its new drag-box casting, which is currently at the suppliers having the final machining completed. The bunker, cab roof and rear buffer plank have recently been moved into the shed, in preparation for reassembly. Elsewhere in the works, the wheeled chassis of ‘Dunrobin’ awaits its boiler, which is proceeding towards completion in the boiler shop.   

Taw Valley passes the signal at Stourport Triangle in sun with 10.40 from Bridgnorth Winte

These locomotives will very shortly be joined by the imposing West Country Pacific, ‘Taw Valley’, which has been taken out of active service to be stripped down, and is about to commence an intermediate overhaul. Due to the amount of refurbishment that it received during its last heavy general overhaul and the wide firebox design of the locomotive, it is anticipated that the boiler will not have to be removed from the frames. It does however require an extensive ‘bottom end’ overhaul of axle boxes and motion, and all of the steam fittings require attention. It’s going to take until 2025 to complete this overhaul. Also coming out of service is Ivatt class 4, ‘Flying Pig’ 43106, having reached the end of its boiler certificate. 

Stanier Mogul 2968 appeared on some December services and during the Winter Gala but will now be ensconced in the Bridgnorth paint shop for the winter, to reappear as 13268, in its original, ‘as-built’ guise.  


‘Erlestoke Manor’ No 7812 similarly featured on SVR services in December and earlier this month, and will be spending some of 2024 visiting other railways (see separate article.) 

Pannier tank 7714 experienced a concerning issue during late December operations, and investigations are still ongoing. However, after detailed examination, it was deemed fit to work over the gala and will be closely monitored going forwards. 

75069 is leaving SVR briefly to appear at the Great Central Railway winter event. This is in place of S160 ‘Omaha’ which unfortunately suffered from some boiler problems in late December; a resolution was unsuccessful and it was unfortunately unavailable for the SVR Winter Gala. Discussions with the owner of ‘Omaha’ regarding its future are ongoing.  

Taw Valley passes the signal at Stourport Triangle in sun with 10.40 from Bridgnorth during the Winter Steam Gala:  John Sherratt 

Other news

SVR News - as one journey ends, another begins 

In December, the quarterly magazine for SVR members, SVR News, marked a very significant milestone.  Editor David Williams retired from the role which he’d held for 54 years.  David took over when SVR News was at issue 3 and has been editor through to the most recent issue of 224.  

For almost all of that time, David combined the role of SVR News editor with that of chairman of the SVR Company Limited (the ‘Guarantee Company’) so the SVR has occupied a huge proportion of his life. This was recognised by the board and volunteers at the Guarantee Company AGM in 2021 when he was presented with a fabulous John Austin painting showing David's favourite class of engine - a Duchess - at Carlisle station. 

As David retired, chair Diane Malyon and the board sent their thanks and best wishes to him for his huge contribution over such a long time.  David plans to remain as a director and is likely to continue editing other publications in his spare time. 

The SVR News reins have been handed over to fellow director Paul Appleton, who said, “I am looking forward to being the new editor for SVR News and the challenge of keeping up David’s great work! I don’t underestimate the task ahead and these are big boots to fill, but it’s a privilege to be able to take over as the new editor.”  


Paul will make a start as editor with the spring edition – issue 225.  

SVR News.jpg

Christmas all wrapped up at the SVR 

Christmas team at Arley 2023.jpg

As always, the end of the year was tremendously busy at the Railway, with Santa trains, the Enchanted Express, Carol trains, on-train dining and the usual end-of-season festive services. This time of year is crucial in terms of bringing in revenue, as visitor engagement manager Lewis Maddox explains: 

“The great news is that Enchanted Express and the Carol trains sold out this year! Although Santa performed less well in terms of capacity filled, the visitor feedback for this event was extremely positive, showing that people loved the experience. On TripAdvisor, the comments included, ‘Treated like royalty…the show was terrific’, ‘The friendly staff made the whole outing feel really special’ and ‘excellent value for money’. 

“Many Santa visitors filled in post-visit surveys and the 2023 Santa trains received a Net Promoter score of 56, compared to 39 for the 2022 services, which was a significant uplift. A Net Promoter score is a market research metric based on how likely visitors are to recommend an attraction to others. A score above 0 is good, above 20 is great, and above 50 is amazing! 

“We’re always looking to innovate, so we’ll be putting all the events under the microscope at a debrief meeting this month. We’ll look at everything, and determine where we can make changes, and how we can do things better in the future.

Meanwhile, visitor experience manager Nicky Freeman and her team have been celebrating the success of the various on-train dining experiences they’ve provided over the festive period, which included luxury four-course dinners, afternoon teas and gin trains. 


“This has been an exceptional festive season for us. The afternoon teas sold out completely and we had amazing feedback. The Yuletide dining also proved popular and we’ve already had a large group enquiry for December 2024 on the back of it! 

v1 11th January 2024

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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.

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