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July 2022

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GWR 4930 Hagley Hall on a test run out of Bridgnorth on 8th July. In the background is "Teddy Bear" diesel D9551. Photo by Keith Wilkinson. 

Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!

A spate of hot, dry weather is always going to bring mixed blessings. With temperatures soaring as we go to press, summer is most definitely here! But it’s not all good news. The prolonged dry weather has meant a spate of lineside fires at the Railway, and starting yesterday passenger services moved temporarily to diesel-only, as a preventative measure.

After more than three-and-a-half decades, 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’ is back up and running! It’s attracted plenty of attention from photographers as it ventured out on increasingly longer test runs, and we have a report from the engineering department on its progress.

In just over a week, the SVR will host the Queen’s Baton Relay. On Saturday 23rd July, when the SVR will play its part in this historic build-up to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, and we look ahead to the big day. The purple loco will be much in evidence for the occasion, and we assess the impact of its unconventional, temporary livery on the SVR’s profile and publicity opportunities. 

 

You’ll find that July’s Branch Lines is bursting at the seams with other news from around the Railway. So why not settle down with a nice glass of something cool, and dive in! 

Lesley and Patrick, co-editors

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

Next edition Thursday 11th August

Contents

Scroll down or click on the item to be taken straight to it

What's new?

Prolonged dry weather means switch to diesel-only passenger services

Starting yesterday, Wednesday 13th July, the Railway switched to diesel-hauled passenger services only in order to avoid the risk of lineside fires. The measure will remain in place up to and including Tuesday 19th July, when the situation will be reviewed.

“The senior management team took this decision after very careful consideration,” said managing director Helen Smith. “The weather forecast for the coming week shows extremely high temperatures, and most importantly for us no rain. Our lineside vegetation has become tinder-dry because of the prolonged lack of rain, and our concern is that escaping sparks or cinders may start fires.

“We’ve had several incidences when this has happened in recent weeks, and the time has come for us to take this action. 

 

“Our announcement on social media and on the website has been received very positively, and we are grateful for the understanding that the public is showing towards the dilemma we face.  

 

“Rain is currently being forecast for next Wednesday, 20th July, and we will review the situation on Tuesday. I want to stress that this is a temporary measure, and we very much hope to be able to return to using steam engines as soon as possible.” 

 

As a compensatory offer for those keen to get their fill of steam, the SVR is putting on short footplate rides and potentially brake van rides for Freedom-of-the-Line tickets holders in the confines of Bridgnorth station, subject to availability. It has risk-assessed the use of a steam locomotive in this limited capacity and is confident that it can operate this safely. 

 

A diesel-only service was last put in in place in 2019 during a spell of dry weather. A number of other heritage railways are currently taking similar measures.

Click on the gallery to see full images, descriptions and credits.

D1062 Western Courier sits at Bridgnorth on 3rd July. Tony Carwithen.
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50035 Ark Royal sits at Arley on 18th June. Tony Carwithen
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D1015 Western Champion crosses Oldbury Viaduct with train from Bridgnorth in sunshine and heat on 9t
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Hagley Hall out on test

Locomotive 4930 (+ 2999)
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Locomotive 4930
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Locomotive 4930
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Locomotive 4930
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Locomotive 2999 + 4930
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Locomotive 4930
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After three-and-a-half decades of waiting, and many ups and downs along the way, the excitement around the overhaul of 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’ is growing, with the SVR’s flagship locomotive recently out and about on the line for testing.   

4930 last steamed on the SVR in 1986, after several years of preservation and main line running, and has been under overhaul since October 2013. On completion and return to service, 4930 will be the oldest Hall operating and oldest based in the UK. 

Testing commenced in June, with movements initially in the confines of Bridgnorth MPD. The first light engine movements up the line took place on 22nd June as far as Hampton Loade. The light engine running was subsequently extended to Highley and Arley.  

The first run to Kidderminster should have taken place on 1st July, but a leaking boiler washout plug meant that the trip was cancelled. It eventually reached Kidderminster on Wednesday 6th July after some remedial snagging work had been completed. 

 

“Further light engine running is planned,” said head of engineering Martin White, “and we expect that some empty stock runs will follow shortly thereafter, before the locomotive can be signed off as ready for traffic.

 

The name and number will be fitted when the locomotive is fully completed; currently various accoutrements are missing, such as safety valve bonnet, steam pipe covers and very noticeably the copper cap for the chimney. All of these will be fitted once the testing and running in has been successfully concluded.” 

 

Space has been allocated with the diesel depot at Kidderminster in order that final finishing and painting can be completed there, as the Bridgnorth loco shed and paint shop will not be available whilst contractors remain on site. 

Click on the gallery to see full images, descriptions and credits.

 

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SVR puts Santa trains on sale

Bookings for the SVR’s ever-popular Santa services are now open, with 10% of seats already sold! 

 

These special services depart from Kidderminster Town station, which will be magnificently decorated for the occasion, and passengers will receive drinks and a sweet treat before departure.  

 

With passengers accommodated in their reserved compartment or at a table, the train then heads to Arley, where a magically-decorated marquee and a thrilling pantomime performance featuring Father Christmas awaits. Once back on the train, each child will discover a present with their name on, containing a premium gift. 

 

The journey and pantomime performance last around two-and-a-half hours and are guaranteed to help create wonderful family memories. Michael Dunn, the SVR’s head of visitor experience said:  

 

“We’re delighted to be able to open up sales for our Santa services this far ahead. We know that many people want to make sure they get their seats booked, and we’ve already been taking plenty of enquiries from parents and grandparents, determined not to miss out. For thousands of families, Christmas just wouldn’t be complete without a journey on the Severn Valley Railway!”  

 

Santa services begin on 26th November and run on selected days until 24th December. For more information and to book please visit svr.co.uk, or phone 01562 757900. 

Click on the gallery to see full images, descriptions and credits.

Great Western Pannier 7714 leaving Bewdley in the snow ,Northwood lane. Credit Joan Green.
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Entering the panto marquee at Arley station. Stu Millership
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Father Christmas in the SVR panto show. Stu Millership
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Why would you paint a locomotive purple?

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It’s a question that’s been asked many times, and the striking livery of the renumbered and renamed No. 70 ‘Elizabeth II’ has been the subject of many a heated debate on social media and in the press. If you believe Oscar Wilde’s view that “there is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”, then you’d have to agree that the SVR has rather cornered the market in this respect in 2022.

Whether you love it or loathe it, the purple loco has proved to be a great crowd puller, and a stealer of headlines. It was the cover star of June’s Heritage Railway Magazine, and has accumulated many column inches in both the heritage and mainstream press. On the Thursday of the Platinum Jubilee weekend, a photo of it appeared throughout the BBC’s primetime ‘One Show’. On social media, the buzz has surpassed expectations; posts on the SVR’s official Facebook and Instagram platforms have achieved a reach of 3.26 million people, just on purple-related posts. Plus, Hornby launched a limited edition 0 gauge model of the loco which sold out very quickly.

 

It was a huge leap of faith to paint a heritage locomotive purple, and in the SVR’s YouTube video, shot at the official launch of the locomotive, key members of the SVR team, the loco’s owners and others speak about why this ‘mad idea’ wasn’t so crazy after all. 

 

Strong support for Bridgnorth locomotive yard’s restoration

Strong support for Bridgnorth locomotive yard’s restoration 

The SVR Charitable Trust has expressed thanks to everyone who’s donated to its major appeal to support the restoration of Bridgnorth Locomotive Yard, which was officially announced in June. In just a few weeks, over £55,000 in donations have been received. This money will be crucial for ensuring vital works can be carried out to save the yard, which the SVR’s loco fleet relies on to remain operational.

“The donations that have so generously been made not only help to directly fund important projects for the Railway,” said Shelagh Paterson, executive director of the Charitable Trust, “but they also have a huge impact on our ability to secure funding from grant makers, particularly the larger ones. These organisations take into account the volume of support from individual donors when considering whether to approve an application. 

 

“Thanks to such strong support from donors during the early stage of the appeal, we are delighted that we are now able to begin the detailed and comprehensive process of submitting grant applications to provide further funds for the desperately-needed repairs to Bridgnorth locomotive yard. Thank you for your incredible support.” 

 

See an overview of the project plans here and donate at svrtrust.org.uk. 

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Coming up

Reminder: SVR Company Limited AGM

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A reminder to SVR members that the 54th Annual General Meeting of the SVR Company (the ‘Guarantee Company’) will take place this Saturday, 16th July at

2.30 pm at Castle Hall, West Castle Street, Bridgnorth.

AGM notices were sent to members by post in the usual way.

 

We’re all geared up for the Queen’s Baton Relay

After months of careful, behind-the-scenes planning, the Railway is now ready to play its part in the final build-up to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. On Saturday 23rd July, we’ll host the Queen’s Baton Relay, carrying the Baton from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth.

No. 70 ‘Elizabeth II’ will haul a special service departing from Kidderminster at 10.07. Free tickets to travel on the train have been allocated in a public ballot, along with viewing places at Kidderminster station.

Members of the public are invited to view the Queen’s Baton Relay train at all the other stations, although places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. As it passes through each station, the train will slow to walking pace and will sound its whistle in celebration. The SVR has advised that no parking is available at Arley, Highley or Hampton Loade and viewers will need to make their way to these stations on foot.

Once the Baton has arrived at Bridgnorth station, it will be carried into the town, for a trip on the Cliff Railway and further activities at Severn Park.

Craig and Andrew Sharp at the SVR's Arley station. Lesley Carr.heic

“It is a huge accolade to have been selected to host this high profile section of the Queen’s Baton Relay,” said managing director Helen Smith. “Volunteers are putting on a guard of honour at both Kidderminster and Bridgnorth stations. This is going to be a proud day for the SVR, and we’re delighted that our stunning purple-liveried locomotive will be one of the stars, along with the six Batonbearers on board our train.”

It will be an extra-special day for signalman Craig Sharp; not only is he manning the box at Arley, but his brother Andrew will be travelling on the train as part of the Baton’s police security team.

Bromsgrove-based Andrew is a sergeant with West Midlands Police and was selected to accompany the Baton on several legs of its 90,000-mile journey around the Commonwealth.

For both brothers, who were born and bred in Hall Green, Birmingham, taking part in the Baton Relay is a real privilege.

“The fact that the Baton is coming through the region is very exciting,” added Craig. “I’m so proud that I’m playing a small part in getting it to its final destination. And you can be sure that both Andrew and I will be giving each other a wave as the train passes the signal box at Arley!”

Public services resume on the SVR later in the morning and the amended timetable for Saturday 23rd July is available at svr.co.uk.

 

Wheels in motion for rip-roaring Vintage Transport Extravaganza

Kidderminster station on 2nd June 2022, credit John Titlow

The Severn Valley Railway is now only a month away from its Vintage Transport Extravaganza – the second year of its bumper mixed vehicle event.  

 

Combining the Classic Car, On the Buses and Steam on the Road events into one bumper weekend on 6th & 7th August, the SVR will be filled with vehicles of all eras and types – motorbikes, cars, buses, traction engines, tractors and more across the full length of the line.  

 

Alongside the tarmac-bound transport, Timetable C will be in operation, offering a four-train service with a mixture of diesel and steam traction to ensure passengers get the full SVR experience. 

  

Work started back in early spring to compile a huge number of displays, ensuring visitors have plenty to see and events manager Lewis Maddox is looking forward to the second year of the Extravaganza: 

 

“The SVR is the perfect place for a gathering of vintage transport, with something to see at every station. You can see cars your parents might have owned, buses you travelled to school on, plus amazing steam traction engines and something different at every station on the line. 

 

“By combining our previous vehicle events into one weekend, we’re giving visitors excellent value for money, and vehicle owners have the added pleasure of sharing their much-loved pride and joy with even more people. 

 

“We’re expecting a bumper August weekend, and if the weather is favourable, we’ll also see a visit from the Battle of Britain Memorial flight!” 

 

Tickets for the Vintage Vehicle Weekend are available at www.svr.co.uk/events/vintage-transport-extravaganza

Photo: Kidderminster station on 2nd June 2022, credit John Titlow

 

Across the Railway

Keeping busy at Arley

The high quality of the SVR’s stations are a key part of the visitor experience and the team at Arley have been busy keeping this countryside station in tip-top condition.  

The maintenance team have constructed new benches and tables for the beautiful gardens using reclaimed timber, and the new furniture is now in situ for visitor use. The old passenger information board had seen better days, so volunteer Alan Davies has been busy making a new one from scratch, which will be installed outside the main station gates. Catherine Martin, assistant station master at Arley was full of praise for the team: 

“The work going on at Arley station has been excellent; the maintenance teams worked their magic, getting to work on replacement benches within days of being asked. Not to mention the marvellous job being done by Alan Davies; the skills he has never fail to surprise me, and he is a real asset to our team.” 

 

Arley station also joined the rest of the Railway in celebration of the Platinum Jubilee with volunteers hanging dozens of metres of bunting, flags representing many nations, and of course the Jubilee flag flying proudly on the mast. 

The centrepiece display for the station was a tribute to HM The Queen installed around the waiting shelter. Bob Morris created the image, which was enlarged, printed, and framed by Nige Nicholas and set off by a garland of silk flowers. Catherine added: 

“The display was a real hit, and even whilst we were carefully putting it up, dozens of people were taking photographs! Thanks go to all the staff who helped to make the whole event a memorable one, and of course for all their work throughout the year.”

Click on the gallery to see full images, descriptions and credits.

Arley Bunting - Lenny Warrington
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Work In Progress - Alan's Arely Station Passenger Information Board - Lenny Warrington
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Arley Garden Benches - Jerry Beddows
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More Bunting at Arley - Lenny Warrington
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Jubilee Art and Flowers Tribute - Catherine Martin
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Station Master and local police get into the Jubilee spirit - Liz Newton
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A fireman’s perspective

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Fireman Andy Stringer offers his first-hand experience of the challenges the current fuel options are giving the SVR’s locomotive crews. 

It’s early afternoon at Bridgnorth station. Normally, blowing off in the station isn’t the done thing, but five minutes behind booked departure time and with countless recent crews having struggled for steam on what we loosely refer to as coal, we’ll live with it. 

Finally, the guard blows his whistle and driver Martin White gently eases the regulator open, the pannier tank easily lifting six Mk 1s out of the station.

 

I have done over 500 miles with 7714, and they’ve all been effortlessly easy, but today could be a little different. As we storm up the bank towards Crossing Cottage the safety valves continue to feather and the gauge glass bobs nicely at the top, belying the unspoken concern on the minds of most crews at the moment – will we run out of steam?

One month ago, I had a most enjoyable day on Lady of Legend, with a tender full of ovoids. On that day I fired relentlessly; using ovoids means you have to shovel twice as much to keep steam up; looking on the bright side that means two firing turns for one, and cheaper than the gym.

 

Some wag suggested it was like burning £20 notes, but I corrected them and pointed out the notes are both cheaper and generate more heat! 

The reality of firing any steam loco is that there are a lot of probable causes of poor steaming that lie squarely at the fireman’s door. The ovoids make for a good excuse in the pub, but are they really the problem?

 

A day on 7714, one of the Valley’s most reliable steamers, should answer the question – at least in my own mind. There is however another school of thought that maybe it’s the coal?

 

The contents of today’s bunker gave the opportunity to test that theory, because it’s all coal. I say all, I think we found about four ovoids during the day, which I set aside for emergency use. 

Yet, as we progress up the line, the pressure is still high, and the fire is beginning to get noticeably hotter, in fact, keeping the safety valves quiet proves to be much more challenging than running out of steam.

 

There was a brief spell around Highley where the pressure dropped but not worryingly so, and by Kidderminster I’m getting to predict how the coal will behave when I put it in the hot place. 

The return journey was one of those amazing afternoons, the loco worked impeccably, the sun is out, and the views are stunning. Is there any greater privilege than this? 

A final blast up the bank to Bridgnorth (I will never tire of it) and it’s back on shed to knock out what turned out to be a really thick (but ineffective) layer of clinker formed from impurities in the coal.

 

The loco shimmers in the late evening sun, steam wisping around it, bits of brass gleaming. Just when you think life can get no better, you hear the immortal words “Can I buy you a pint?” 

What ovoids?

Photos: Andy Stringer

 

We’re simply the ‘Tess’ as SVR launches new CRM system

In a significant tripartite* move, the SVR’s new customer relationship management system (CRM) has completed the first phase of implementation with the launch of Santa Train tickets on July 4th.  

 

The investment in the CRM, called Tessitura, is the first step to streamline the Railway's multiple databases and will allow for significant cost savings.  

 

Visitors’ online ticketing experience will get easier, and as the system is rolled out in booking offices from 2023 our volunteers will also benefit from its streamlined operation. 

 

Greg Williams, who is an SVR volunteer, has been project managing the implementation. “The SVR has lots of supporters - members, shareholders, donors, and of course the travelling public,” he said. “For a while now we've been working on having just one system to collectively manage everyone, and the great news is that with the launch of our Santa tickets we've finally achieved it!   

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“The new system is officially known as Tessitura, although we call it Tess for short. Its main function is to sell tickets, manage memberships and accept donations, but it goes further than this by linking across these areas, meaning we can improve our ways of working, better understand and support our members and customers, and create new opportunities for success. 

 

“The project to deliver Tess started earlier this year, and involved several members of the SVR head office team from areas such as events, ticketing, marketing, finance, membership and the Charitable Trust. Working together with the Tessitura team we've spent quite a lot of time getting up to speed with how the system works, migrating and combining data, setting up new events, figuring out financial flows, configuring hardware and so on.  

 

“We set ourselves the challenge of being ready to sell Santa tickets on July 4th, and thanks to the hard work of everyone involved at 11:00 that Monday morning we sold our first tickets as planned!  

 

“Shortly we'll be adding the Steam in Lights and Enchanted Express events, and after that we'll be working on how to complete our Tess transition by the end of the year. 

 

“The Tess project been an inspiring example of what can be achieved with great teamwork, and has delivered a much-needed bridge to the future for SVR!” 

 

*Tess covers the databases of SVR (Holdings) PLC, the SVR Company Limited (the ‘Guarantee’ Company) and the SVR Charitable Trust.

Photo: A snowy Santa service with 7812 Erlestoke Manor at Stourport Triangle on 18th December 2010. Paul Pearson

 

Spotlight on SVR royalty

A documentary on the SVR made by Hornby Magazine when they visited during the Platinum Jubilee event is now up on YouTube.

 

Associate Editor of Hornby Magazine Richard Watson follows No. 70 ‘Elizabeth II’ from preparation in the morning, to the naming ceremony through to a full trip up the line from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth. This informative documentary includes interviews with two of No. 70’s owners and several SVR personnel across the many operating departments needed to keep the Railway running.

 

Cameras mounted on the outside of the locomotive and inside the cab give access to views not normally seen by passengers and as we go to press the video has already garnered 21,000 views.

 

Swings and roundabouts….

Like all departments at the SVR, the TTIs and FE (footplate experience) Hosts have seen ups and downs in the numbers of active members since Covid started to affect our world, as the head of department Jim Seaton writes:

In the past, we’ve had nearly 120 TTIs (travelling ticket inspectors) on the books, but during the lockdowns and identification of vulnerable folk, the numbers dropped as low as the 80s.

Since our return to normal (what is that?) we’ve seen a fantastic number of new recruits added to replace those who had drifted away – grown older, found other things to do or (most sadly) died.  

We partially trained some once we were able, and they were given assistant TTI status until they could experience the ‘Full Monty’.

 

There followed a short period of conversion training for them. 

Additionally, we’ve had a steady stream of new starters via the wonderful Volunteer Liaison Office. This has meant we now have 102 full TTIs, plus those in training – and more are being inducted (induced?) as I write this…

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Hopefully, part of our emergence from the Covid tunnel is that more folk want to come out and do something worthwhile like volunteering with an organisation like ours. Certainly from the depths of 2020/2021 I feel far more confident that we will have an adequate supply of great folk to help keep our fantastic Railway running.

The role of TTIs is very much a passenger-facing one. As well as checking tickets, you’ll make sure people are generally comfortable, know when and where to alight the train, and you’ll be ready to answer a host of heritage rail-related questions from “why can’t I hear any announcements through the loudspeakers?” (Hint: because there aren’t any!) to “What happens when you flush the loo?” (I’ll leave you to work that one out!) Speaking as veteran of many years of TTIing, I guarantee plenty of satisfaction and fun.

If you would like to find out more about volunteering as a travelling ticket inspector, or for any other role at the SVR, your initial point of contact is the Volunteer Liaison Office on vlo@svrlive.com or 01299 401776 and there’s also information at https://www.svr-vlo.org.uk/   

 

Report from SVR (Holdings) AGM

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The Annual General Meeting for shareholders of SVR (Holdings) Plc took place at St George’s Hall, Bewdley on Saturday 11th June.

 

Chairman Mike Ball welcomed everyone, and started by paying tribute to his predecessor Nick Paul CBE, before introducing members of the board.

Mike spoke about the particular difficulties that 2020 and 2021 had brought to the SVR, with Covid lockdowns and social restrictions.

 

Passenger numbers were significantly reduced, and there was growing pressure on disposable incomes, plus recruitment problems especially in the hospitality sector.

Mike went on to say, “Just as our expectations for 2022 were heightened, further challenges quickly surfaced. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th almost immediately saw the availability of coal supplies virtually disappear. Not only that but where supplies could be found the cost had trebled.”

 

Fortunately, 2022 has also brought much to celebrate, including a record attendance for the Spring Steam Gala, and a ‘fantastic array of traction’ for the Diesel Gala. There was the excitement of running in and testing contracts for Britannia and Sir Nigel Gresley, along with contract work for Bayer. National recognition for the SVR came in early June with the VisitEngland Bronze Award for Excellence in Resilience and Innovation.

Shareholders voted to approve the minutes of the 2021 AGM, re-elected Chris Thomas, Peter Pearson and Graeme Bunker-James as directors, received and adopted the financial statements for the year ending 3rd January 2022 and re-appointed Crowe UK LLP as auditors. They also voted, as required annually, to approve the limits on retaining share capital of £14 million. 

Managing director Helen Smith gave her review of the year, including the SVR’s achievements, and assessing the challenges it faces. Head of finance Louise Whitehouse gave a finance update, then consultant Jonathan Durnin outlined the initial findings of the recent independent shareholder review.

The review highlighted the importance of improving the relationship between the Railway and the shareholding community.  Recommendations from the review included the production of a shareholders’ handbook, implementing photo ID, and taking an evidence-based approach to managing key event capacity. The review found that most shareholders invested in the Railway to support it, but that benefits were important. A full report is being produced, and the board will share the findings and recommendations with shareholders in due course, and report back on progress by the end of this year.

 

Bridgnorth loco shed project powers ahead

The project reached an exciting milestone this week with the arrival of the crane steelwork and the overhead crane itself. On Tuesday July 12th the components and steelwork were safely delivered and by the 15th July, it’s hoped that the crane will be operational and fully certified for use.

 

The electricians will commence work next week to install the lighting. This state-of-the art lighting is partly courtesy of a significant donation from IST Lighting, who are supplying all the technology. The lighting will take around two weeks to fully commission.  

 

By the beginning of August, the shed will be ready to be handed back to operations, who will begin the task of restoring the shed to working condition. The current plant in the machine shop cannot be re-used in the main shed, so orders have been placed for new ventilation equipment for the welding and hot metal bays. 

 

The cladding works are ongoing with the roof now fully complete, and the ventilation fans installed. The scaffolding has been removed and work is advancing well on the wall cladding. Road 1 elevation is the current focus, with the liner sheet in place and by the end of this week most of the top sheet will be fitted. The hot weather is proving difficult for the contractors as working in this heat is not easy.  

 

Volunteers have again been integral to the project, with works last weekend to demolish walls and this weekend to pour concrete for the infill around the crane bases. They’ll also be needed to put everything back into the shed.  

 

“The project has been fortunate in that few unforeseen situations have arisen,” explained head of engineering Martin White. “This means that it remains on track from both a timeline and financial perspective. Whilst the shed remains a construction site, ESMP staff are working at Bewdley as and when required, carrying out maintenance such as changing broken springs and repairing grates and firebox brick arches.”  

 

Volunteer project manager Antony Bartlam added, “With five weeks left on the project, by the time the next issue of Branch Lines is published the works will be almost complete, and the shed will be back in use.”

Arrival of the steel work for the crane. Martin White
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The steel work in place, ready for the crane. Martin White
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Rolling stock

The view from Bridgnorth MPD

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The team at Bridgnorth are keeping many plates spinning, as Bridgnorth’s volunteer shed master Martin White reports: 

 

I generally tend to avoid the well-worn phrase of ‘by the time you read this’. Overhauling, maintaining, and operating a fleet of steam-powered locomotives is fraught with unknown and unforeseen situations, catching out those who are foolhardy enough to even think that phrase, never mind go into print with it. But, on this occasion I feel more at ease in doing so, because I am applying the phrase to the building works at Bridgnorth loco works. So, here goes: 

 

By the time you read this, the overhead crane and gantry for the loco works will have been delivered to site and installation should be well underway. As reported elsewhere in Branch Lines, the crane is scheduled to be erected and installed by the end of the week.

On the locomotives, the main project that is moving towards conclusion is the heavy overhaul/rebuild of GWR 4930, ‘Hagley Hall’. Considering the extent of the work that has been carried out, (the loco has new cylinder blocks, remember), we are generally pleased with how the testing has gone so far. Once the testing and running in has been successfully concluded, space has been allocated with the diesel depot at Kidderminster in order than final finishing and painting can be completed; Bridgnorth works and paint shop will not be available whilst the contractors remain on site.

Also during June, the SVR’s external independent boiler surveyors granted 2857 a six-month extension to its ticket, meaning that unless anything unforeseen happens (I did use that word at the start of this piece!) the 1918-built locomotive can operate on SVR until the end of this season, in early January 2023.  

 

In other boiler news, the boiler from 13268 is now on a boiler wagon in the MPD yard where it has had its first fire lit in order to ‘cook’ the boiler. 

Away from the locomotives and the physical loco works, proposals and plans are being drawn up for how SVR engineering will be organised and function in the future. There will be some changes, and the ability to adapt and adjust will be essential in order to tackle the considerable uncertainties that we will all face going forwards. We will share these plans as soon as we are able to do so.

Photo: 75069 at Bewdley MPD on 22nd June. Matt Fielding

 

Carriage report

Running a Railway with an array of different trains means a variety of passenger accommodation and by extension, a range of skills to service them. Hugh McQuade updates us from Kidderminster, where many jobs are currently being carried out:

 

Works staff have been busy cleaning former BR Mark 1 Buffet Restaurant carriage No 1667, ready for the arrival of contractors who will carry out a catering-quality clean-up of the equipment. 1667 has been remodelled into a Kitchen Car with its bar and seating removed and is on the verge of returning to service. 

 

BR Mk1 Corridor Second 25498, which operated as part of the Covid-compliant red-and-cream set last year, has been receiving structural attention. Whilst the doors themselves are intact, the framework has rotted. The team have been hard at work rebuilding these doorways since March. It is expected this work (and the subsequent repaint) will be completed ready for the coach to re-join the red-and-cream set in time for the school summer holiday services.

Sophie Putney, Rob Steward with Colin Astbury with BR Restaurant Buffet 1667, looking at i

In the carriage storage shed, Ronan O’Brien has completed painting BR First Open 3109 from BR (Western Region) chocolate-and-cream livery to BR maroon. 3109 was painted into chocolate-and-cream back in 2005 whilst used for dining purposes, however the return of two Great Western coaches has now freed it to up to act as spare coach for the maroon set. Recently celebrated for his work on the repaint of No. 70 ‘Elizabeth II’, the SVR’s purple locomotive, Ronan is now turning his attention to a repaint of GWR Brake Composite 6913.

 

The list of jobs continues; in an ongoing project, BR Mk1 Restaurant Miniature Buffet 1853 is gradually having its seats changed, and the former Pines Express carriage destination boards were repainted to celebrate the Jubilee train. Once the Jubilee duties are fulfilled, these boards will be repainted to advertise a future express train. 

 

The work never stops!

Photo: Six months ago...Sophie Poutney, Rob Steward and Colin Astbury with BR Restaurant Buffet 1667, looking at internal configuration and refreshing the space since it was last used over two years previously. Michael Dunn

 

Diesel news

20048 arriving into Kidderminster with the first train of the day from Bridgnorth Kenny Fe

Last month saw the arrival and first workings of Class 20 diesel electric locomotive 20048.

The SVR has agreed with owner Class 20189 Ltd to hire the locomotive until October 2022 to assist resident Class 14 D9551. Both will work Bridgnorth-based turns that are seeing increased diesel usage because of coal supply problems.

It is one of 228 built to the English Electric Type 1 Design, and at over 60 years old, it fits in well with the SVR diesel fleet. 20048 has undergone a recent full overhaul and is working its first trains for many years.

The Railway has thanked Michael Owen of Class 20189 Ltd for providing the loco and SLC Operations for providing support for its move. 

Given the issues with coal supply, the SVR has also taken the opportunity to retain Class 46 ‘Peak’ D182 following the Spring Diesel Festival, to give another locomotive for use during the main season. It’s a type not normally seen on the Railway and will prove popular with enthusiast visitors. The Railway has expressed its thanks to the Peak Locomotive Company Ltd for their support this summer with D182. 

 

Both locomotives will be available for the Autumn Diesel Bash event.

20048 arriving at Kidderminster with the first train of the day from Bridgnorth. Kenny Felstead

 

People

A student’s eye view of the SVR

Undergraduate student Liam Kane has been a volunteer on the Severn Valley Railway since he was 11, as a member of the Junior Club. When the opportunity of a work placement with the marketing and communications team came up, he jumped at the chance and sends this report: 

 

This placement was part of my university course, and my assignment covered how the SVR aims to improve people’s everyday experiences. This included finding out what benefits volunteers feel they receive from working on the line, what cooperation goes on between the various SVR institutions with national and regional organisations, and how the relationship between company employees and Railway volunteers can be built upon.  

 

I met many individuals and groups across the Railway who have first-hand experience of what I was researching. These included members of the Charitable Trust, the Volunteer Liaison Office at Bewdley, and engineers at the boiler shop at Bridgnorth. Everyone I spoke to was very welcoming and happy to talk to me, and I would like to say a big thank you to all those who helped form my understanding of individual experiences. 

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The work I was doing during my placement was varied, fun and sometimes surprising, such as taking photographs of a toy Perry the bull, the mascot for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, at different locations along the line. 

 

We were blessed with the Platinum Jubilee falling at the end of the second week of my placement. I helped with background tasks in the last few days before the celebrations, and supported Lesley Carr and Dan Shorthouse on the morning of 'Elizabeth II’s renaming ceremony. Joining in the event was a particular highlight of my placement, celebrating the Jubilee, the locomotive and its striking new purple livery. 

 

It was wonderful to see so many people enjoying the Railway (and the weather!) on that memorable day, and hopefully they will come back to the SVR soon. To me, this shows that making bold decisions will reap rewards in terms of much greater awareness of our Railway. 

 

A massive thank you to Lesley and Dan for three fantastic weeks!

 

Other news

Country Park Halt restored!

Country Park Halt restored. Chris Bond
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Country Park Halt restored. Chris Bond
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Country Park Halt restored. Chris Bond
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Country Park Halt is now looking more like its old self after contractors finished rebuilding the passenger shelter.  

 

The shelter suffered at the hands of arsonists in August 2020 and was left badly damaged. Sadly, with so many other pressing concerns, the halt had to be side-lined for a while.

 

However, with trains now able to stop at all intermediate points on the line, it was time to return the shelter to its former glory.  

Part-funding was provided by Shropshire Council-owned Severn Valley Country Park and MJR Property Services completed their work on 5th July. Head of infrastructure Chris Bond said: 

“We’re got a close working relationship with Country Park, which is demonstrated by their donation of £1,500 towards the project. It’s taken a while to get around to, partly because of Covid restrictions and partly because of its isolated location, but the ops department has been a big help in getting all the materials to the site.  

 

“To prevent any future arson attacks from taking hold, we have lined the inside of the roof with fireproof mineral board. All that’s left to complete the restoration is a paint job and the addition of some specialised, decorative wood moulding.

Click on the gallery to see full images.

 

You make it happen

Earlier this year, the Charitable Trust announced that it would be turning 10. To mark the occasion, a special edition of Platform Magazine has just been published which celebrates the important rolling stock, infrastructure and educational projects that are making a tremendous difference to the Railway, thanks to your incredible support.

In total, since 2012, when the Charitable Trust was set up to build on the foundation created by the Rolling Stock Trust, you’ve helped raise £8.74million!

To give just a few of the many highlights, donations have helped restore Falling Sands Viaduct on time and on budget, raise the funds for vital repairs to Bridgnorth locomotive works, bring locomotive 4930 'Hagley Hall' back into steam after 36 years, restore diesel shunter 12099, keep apprentices learning the heritage skills that are important for the Railway’s future and much, much more.

Executive director of the Charitable Trust Shelagh Paterson, said: “The Charitable Trust also truly appreciates your support through more challenging times, for example when the Railway was heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and now as it battles rising fuel, energy and material prices. Through the good times and the tough, your support ensures the Railway’s precious heritage is preserved and it can be enjoyed for generations to come. Thank you for all your support. We couldn’t do it without you!”

Download your copy of the 10th anniversary edition of Platform Magazine to see all the important projects you’ve helped to make happen.

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Knives and forks at the ready!

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The Railway’s catering team has worked up a fantastic menu of dining options for passengers – plus Branch Lines can reveal some exclusive news. 

 

Whatever your favourite cuisine is, there’s something for you – afternoon teas have returned on train, served in LNER Kitchen Composite 7960; delicious Sunday lunches are now available at the King and Castle at Kidderminster every Sunday; and, wait for it, on-train dining is set to return for the first time since 2019 – although dates are currently yet to be confirmed. 

 

The King and Castle sold out of Sunday lunches on the first day they were offered, and the service has been met with rave reviews from passengers and staff alike. 

 

Food and beverage operations manager Sophie Poutney said: “The team have worked extremely hard to put on a variety of options for all price points whilst aiming to return to normal service. 

 

“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to get back to some normality and now, with on-train dining returning imminently, we can prepare the team and get back to what the SVR does best – putting on first-class food and drink experiences for passengers.” 

 

Alongside Sophie, executive head chef Lucy Kelly has played a key role in formulating some delectable menus and takeaway items – including a new homemade pork pie-and-a-pint deal at the King and Castle, a dramatic steam-themed amuse-bouche to kick off afternoon teas alongside homemade cakes and sandwiches - plus a yet-to-be-revealed silver service dining menu that will be exclusive to the new on-train dining services. 

 

More information about all food and drink offerings, including on-train dining, is at svr.co.uk/eat-and-drink 

 

Discount offer for emergency and armed forces personnel

The Railway celebrated Armed Forces Day on 25th June with the launch of a new travel offer for Blue Light Card and Defence Discount Service card holders.

Michael Dunn, head of visitor experience, said: “We’re delighted to be able to support our armed forces, NHS and emergency services personnel in this way. We’re extending a special welcome to an extremely important part of our local community. This is just our small way of giving something back.”

Members of the Army, Royal Air Force and Navy along with NHS and emergency services personnel will benefit from 33% off individual ticket prices on presentation of their card at an SVR booking office, and there is no need to book. The offer applies all year round, applying to standard services only.

Terms and conditions apply. Find out more at SVR.CO.UK

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SVR supports the Red Cross’ Ukrainian Crisis Appeal

Volunteers Richard Cresswell and Geoff Smith fly the flag for Ukraine at the SVR. Dan Shor

On 2nd and 3rd July, the Railway added its support to the Red Cross’ Ukraine Crisis appeal. Volunteers raised £850 by putting on a bucket collection and the SVR has increased this amount to £2,000 by donating from its operating profits.

Since the Russian invasion, Red Cross teams have been working around the clock to get critical care to those who need it most, both in Ukraine and its bordering countries. The charity is offering medical care, food and shelter to people leaving the war-torn country, both in Ukraine’s neighbouring countries and the UK. 

 

Michael Dunn, head of visitor experience said, “When we cancelled our Step Back to the 1940s weekends as a mark of respect to people suffering in Ukraine, we also pledged to give direct support in the form of a charitable donation. 


“The first weekend in July would have seen one of our 1940s events, so we thought it fitting to make this the focus of our efforts.  

“We’re also working closely with local organisations to host visits by refugee families, both from Ukraine and other countries affected by war.” 

 

Visitors to the Railway over the weekend also enjoyed a fly past by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Lancaster aircraft. 

Photo: Volunteers Richard Cresswell and Geoff Smith fly the flag for Ukraine at the SVR. Dan Shorthouse

 

SVR apprentices have a ‘grand day out’ 

The SVR’s apprenticeship scheme is currently having a root and branch review to address some of the challenges on syllabus, retention and pay structure, so that it will best suit not only our current engineers but the Railway in the future. Volunteer Jonathon Kneebone is helping to shape the future of heritage apprentices at the SVR and explains more:

 

In order to continue to run locomotives, carriages and the infrastructure that goes with it, the bespoke skills particular to our sector need to be both trained and retained, in what is becoming a very difficult time for recruitment and retention. The challenge for engineering apprenticeships is to develop initiatives that promote personal development, job satisfaction and a good working environment for all.

A committee has been formed which includes the chairs of SVR(H) and the SVR Company Limited (the ‘Guarantee’ Company), the managing director and members of the senior management team, who have begun the conversation on how this can be done.

 

This includes active participation and feedback from our current apprentices.  

As a qualified teacher in further education and having managed apprentices in several roles, I have been asked to help develop the apprenticeship scheme as part of my volunteer role within the HR team.

 

Following initial meetings with the apprentices, one of their first suggestions was to visit other heritage engineering sites in order to understand how they operate. They opted to visit the North Yorkshire Moors Railway as the first of these visits.

SVR apprentice visit to NYMR. From left to right Chris Price, Helen Smith (and Bertie the

Helen Smith (managing director) and Martin White (head of engineering), and apprentices Barnaby Hill, Jack Kerswill and George Whitehead and I were given a general overview by Paul Middleton, better known as ‘Piglet’, who is the director of mechanical engineering at the NYMR. This was followed by a full tour of multiple engineering sites, conducted by Chris Price (CEO of NYMR). There were several opportunities for discussion at all levels, not only on the current issues affecting heritage railways, but also ideas on training, volunteer initiatives, equipment husbandry and accommodation. 

 

Whilst the results of those discussions are yet to be discussed at the next committee meeting, all who attended agreed that the visit was very worthwhile, and on behalf of all I would like to thank Chris Price and his team for taking such good care of us throughout the day. 

I welcome any suggestions for future visits or initiatives that would enhance training of our young people. Please contact me on jonathon.kneebone@svrlive.com .

SVR apprentice visit to NYMR. From left to right Chris Price, Helen Smith (and Bertie the dog), Jack Kerswill, Barney Hill and George Whitehead. Jonathon Kneebone

 

V1 14th July 2022

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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.