Port Talbot Power! GWR 0-6-0 Saddle Tank in charge of the Dining Train on 5th July, at Hampton Loade. By Kenny Felstead
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
With summer well and truly arrived, it has been a very busy month at the Railway. We’ve commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 2007 floods which threatened to close the SVR for good. We’ve celebrated reaching the halfway point in sales for the 2016 Share Offer, and the great news that the Charitable Trust is through to the second round of its HLF bid for £1 million for the Falling Sands viaduct.
Our Patron, HRH the Duke of Gloucester has visited, and we’ve just finished this year’s 1940s events! It’s all here in your July edition of Branch Lines.
SVR fan David Pond contacted us from his home in Cape Town with a subscription request, having last visited the Railway in 2003. He’s promised to share some photos and memories of South African steam for a future edition, but expressed his sadness that steam in his country has not survived as well as in the UK. And member and shareholder Mike Parsons has also signed up saying “another avenue to get information to and from the SVR is to be applauded.”
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Simon Turner & Lesley Carr, Co-Editors
Picture by Kenny Felstead
2016 Share offer sales pass the halfway mark!
As the 2,2228th share sale went through, it nudged to the total sold at £1 each to 1,250,353, sending the 2016 Share Offer past the halfway mark.
Meanwhile, work to build the new GWR-style refreshment room is gathering momentum. SVR volunteers are working alongside Iris contractors to help keep build costs down by performing support tasks such as dressing reclaimed donated coping bricks, which will be re-used to enhance the authenticity of the overall project.
Now they’ve reached the halfway mark on share sales, the Bridgnorth Development Team is focusing on the second phase of the project. Part of this involves the long-awaited installation of a turntable, which will allow locomotives to turn at Bridgnorth – in full view of visitors – for the first time in the line’s history. Although acquired for the SVR by the Bridgnorth Turntable Fund in 1998 from the now closed Bristol (Bath Road) steam locomotive depot, its installation has been held up pending development of Bridgnorth station site. The turntable, which is 65’3” long, has been in store at the SVR for the last 19 years.
During this time additional funds of around £30,000 have already been raised to support its installation, but further investment in the Bridgnorth station infrastructure is needed before the dream can be realised. These works form part of the second phase, a vital part of the current share offer.
Tony Bending, long-standing volunteer and SVR board member, stressed the importance of meeting the Railway’s share offer target before the end of October this year to ensure development plans for Bridgnorth are fully realised.
He said: “Although reaching £1.25 million is a great achievement, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. With less than five months to go before the share offer must close, we urge all our supporters to help us achieve our target, particularly those who have registered their interest but have not yet bought shares. Full share offer information can be found at www.svr.co.uk/shareoffer Or if you would like to donate to the Bridgnorth Development Fund without purchasing shares, you can do so via the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust, which can claim a further 25% Gift Aid on your donation if you’re a taxpayer. Go to http://svrtrust.org.uk/our-projects/bridgnorth-development-project.html to download a Bridgnorth donation form.
If at first you don’t succeed …
No-one could accuse the SVR Charitable Trust of giving up on a good idea. Its original application for Heritage Lottery funding to restore the Falling Sands Viaduct was not successful. However, when HLF indicated some very specific ways in which they could strengthen the bid, and encouraged a second application, there was no need to ask twice. The Trust’s Shelagh Paterson got straight back to work:
“HLF wanted to see a much stronger programme of community engagement around the restoration project, as well as an emphasis on the social history and importance of steam railway to the region, so that’s exactly what we gave them. By the time we submitted our second application, we had a raft of ideas and proposals for activities, events, exhibitions and projects, all of which would see us working closely with schools and local interest groups throughout and after the restoration work. We spoke to dozens of organisations including community groups, schools, businesses, and arts, history and civic groups, as well as around 700 Working Members, and we found overwhelming support for the viaduct’s restoration, and a strong desire for involvement from all quarters.”
The Trust’s sheer determination has paid off, with the recent announcement from HLF that they are now extremely keen to support the bid with a first tranche of funding to further develop and refine the plans. They’ll make the final decision on the rest of the £1 million award in September 2018.
Later this year, the Charitable Trust will launch a major fundraising campaign to secure the additional £250,000 that will be needed for this exciting project.
Duke of Gloucester presents volunteer awards
The SVR’s Patron, HRH the Duke of Gloucester, visited the Railway on Wednesday 14th June to present special awards to 21 volunteers who between them had clocked up more than 1,000 years of SVR service.
The Duke travelled from Kidderminster to Highley on a train hauled by Erlestoke Manor and Bradley Manor. At the Engine House he joined a group of volunteers for lunch before presenting the awards.
Roger Hobson was among the group of award winners, each of whom has given at least 50 years of service to the Railway. Roger attended the very first meeting of the group that went on to found the SVR and he helped to create the Railway, including replacing the rails in the very early days, before becoming a guard, senior Guards Inspector and a member of Bewdley Station Staff for many years, where he still works on a Sunday. He was clearly delighted to receive his award:
“I’m very proud to have been involved with the SVR for over 50 years and it’s been great to meet up with old friends and share memories from the early years of the Railway. As my son and three other members of my family volunteer on the line, for me the SVR really is a family affair!”
SVR Chairman Nick Paul said he was honoured to welcome back the Duke to the Railway, following his visit in 2015 for the Golden Jubilee celebrations:
“We are thrilled and privileged to be welcoming our Patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester to the Railway to help us celebrate this tremendous achievement by so many of our volunteers.
“As we are predominantly a volunteer-run organisation, our volunteers are our lifeblood – without their hard work and dedication, our Railway simply could not function – therefore it is essential that we recognise and say thank you for this fantastic commitment that so many people at the heart of our Railway have shown to us, and for which we are extremely grateful.”
Ten years on –the floods that nearly destroyed the SVR
On the 19th June 2007, the first of two torrential summer rainstorms swept through the West Midlands, causing devastating damage to the Railway and triggering an unprecedented fundraising campaign to get the SVR back on track.
A decade on, we’ve opened a new exhibition at the Engine House Visitor Centre, ‘2007 Storm Damage – Ten Years On’, and on the exact 10th anniversary of the first flood, we ran a special Belmond Northern Belle train service along the line for volunteers and supporters (see separate article for more on this).
The exhibition features a range of striking photographs of the extensive damage caused to the line as well as the story of the storms and memories from those who witnessed the damage or joined the massive clean-up operation that followed.
The freak thunderstorm, which swept along the Severn Valley at around 8pm on Tuesday, June 19th 2007 only lasted around 30 minutes, but within that time, produced rainfall equivalent to that of a typical month.
The damage to the SVR’s infrastructure was catastrophic – cuttings were filled with debris and embankments collapsed, leaving sections of track suspended in mid-air. Only a section of the line between Bewdley and Kidderminster could remain open for passenger services.
However, as recovery efforts began, the Railway was hit yet again by another torrential thunderstorm on July 20th, which caused further damage towards the south end of the line.
The final repair bill was £3.8m, with funding coming from the Railway’s insurances, grants from the European Regional Development Fund, Advantage West Midlands and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Donations flowed in from fellow railways, SVR supporters and the general public from all across the country, and those, coupled with SVR reserves, made up the final funds needed to get the Railway back on track.
Repair work was extensive, with external contractors brought in to repair the worst affected areas and volunteer and paid staff and railway supporters rallying round to help the effort. Just one year later, crowds gathered to watch HRH the Prince of Wales and HRH the Duchess of Cornwall later that year make their first visit to the SVR to mark the official re-opening of the Railway.
Marketing and Communications Manager Clare Gibbard said: “Looking back to that fateful summer, ten years on, it is almost unbelievable to think that the aftermath of those storms threatened to destroy the future of the SVR altogether.
“It is thanks to the incredible level of goodwill, support and hard work from our volunteer and paid staff, supporters and the general public at the time, that the SVR is the thriving attraction that it is today – and the very fact that we are embarking on one of the biggest redevelopment projects in our history at Bridgnorth shows just how far the Railway has come and how it is looking to protect its heritage and enhance its facilities for future generations.”
A journey to remember the floods of 2007
To mark the 10th anniversary of the infamous floods that threatened the Railway’s future, one of the UK’s most luxurious trains, Belmond Northern Belle, ran a special service along the line, carrying a number of SVR members and supporters, passing along the sections of track that were so badly damaged by the event.
Belmond Northern Belle’s rake of carriages is famed for its beautiful, hand-crafted 1930s-era interiors and luxury dining experiences, and it has been stabled at the Railway since February. It takes thousands of visitors on journeys to towns, cities and events across the UK each year.
The special service took place on 19th June exactly 10 years on from the first of the catastrophic floods, and was hauled in one direction by a Class 50 Diesel engine, and in the other by No 34027 ‘Taw Valley’.
Racing to support the Railway
On June 14th more than 200 members of Worcestershire’s business community gathered in the baking heat for the SVR Charitable Trust’s annual Worcester Race Day. Many of the Trust’s corporate partner companies were represented, including Thursfields solicitors who were the main event sponsors and Allelys Heavy Haulage who sponsored the drinks reception.
As well as the excitement of the racing, guests were also able to bid on a range of auction promises, including a trip on the Belmond Northern Belle and a Cream Tea for 10 people on the SVR.
An impressive total of £23,000 was raised from the day and this will be used to sponsor an apprentice in the Heritage Skills Training Academy. Many thanks to the uniformed volunteers who were in attendance to answer guests’ questions and bring a little SVR magic to the occasion.
Landslip at County Boundary: What steps are being taken to put things right?
Many readers will have already heard about the embankment slippage around the Bridge 19 area, also known as County Boundary. Although the railway here is built over ancient landslide deposits, the SVR hadn’t experienced any significant problems until recently.
However, in 2016, a number of track ‘twist’ faults were detected. After these were corrected, a consulting engineer found signs of a more serious issue and recommended further investigation. Large cracks were found in the embankment and in order to find a lasting solution, the Railway enlisted consulting engineer Jonathan Symonds, who dealt with both the SVR’s 2007 flood damage, and land slips on the Gloucestershire-Warwickshire Railway.
During 2017, the movement has continued, and the P-Way team has regularly jacked and packed the track to compensate for the movement. A 10mph rolling speed restriction is currently in place. The accompanying photographs show the extent of the problem, and Infrastructure Manager Chris Bond explains how the remedial work will progress:
“We’ll insert hundreds of soil nails into the bedrock, using a special drilling rig. Liquid grout will be pumped down the hollow centre of each nail to the tip, from where it will flow out to backfill the voids around it. A set of sheet piles will be percussively driven into the foot of the embankment and a comprehensive drainage scheme installed to take water out of the embankment and into the river.”
The SVR has an agreement with the landowner for access, but there is also the problem that an oil pipeline runs under Bridge 19. There are restrictions on moving heavy plant machinery over the pipeline, and the only way to access the river side of the Railway is by crossing the track. As a result, during working hours, trains must now be flagged over the crossing, to ensure no conflicting vehicle movements take place.
A large long-reach excavator has graded off the embankment in prior to the arrival of the soil nailing rig at the end of June. Drilling will continue for up to 10 weeks, and the whole contract should finish by the end of October.
Chris Bond explains more about the urgency of putting things right at County Boundary:
“The slip is still active and our priority now is to start the soil nailing. There is a risk that until the stabilisation work is underway, the embankment could move sufficiently for the consulting engineer to advise the cessation of train movements over the slip. A contingency plan is in place should this event occur, but for the moment, it’s business as usual. This is a large and geo-technically complex project, and fortunately the SVR has insurance in place to cover the cost.”
Family Summer Saver
£44 for a whole day out for 2 adults and up to 4 children!
On 10th July we will be launching our fantastic Family Summer Saver offer which will be running throughout the school holidays (July 22nd until September 3rd 2017).
Commenting Clare Gibbard, Marketing & Communications Manager said "The decision to launch an offer comes after a very successful summer season last year when the family ticket deal proved incredibly popular and had a positive impact on passenger numbers. The Railway carried 29,853 passengers in August 2016 which represented a 13% increase on 2015 and 16.5% on 2014 respectively, with sales of the Family Summer Saver ticket totalling 3480"
The offer entitles 2 adults or seniors and up to 4 children to travel on one day over the summer holidays at the discounted price of £44 (‘Freedom of the Line’ conditions apply) – a significant saving over the normal £55.50 family fare.
Family Summer Saver tickets can be purchased in advance online, over the phone, at the ticket desk at Comberton Place or on the day of visit from Booking Offices and TTIs – maximising the sales opportunity for these tickets and keeping things simple for visitors.
Please help us spread the word by liking and sharing our posts and adverts on Facebook if you can!
Full details of the Family Summer Saver offer and the terms and conditions can be viewed on the website. See svr.co.uk/summersaver
Bar Supervisor Vacancy – King & Castle
There is a vacancy for a Bar Supervisor at The King & Castle, Wyre Forest CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale)’s Pub of the Season, Spring 2017.
This is an excellent opportunity for someone to join us and build on the success with the aim of ensuring customer satisfaction, retaining and attracting new customers. The key objective of the role is to deliver friendly, efficient customer service and maintain a warm and welcoming atmosphere for all customers. We expect an excellent standard of delivery and professionalism whilst achieving profitability in line with budget. Previous experience of face-to-face customer service is essential and ideally, experience of bar work would be preferable. A food hygiene certificate would be advantageous, although training would be provided. The successful candidate will be an effective communicator with customer and colleagues. They will demonstrate excellent team-working skills, have the ability to train new starters and coach others, will lead by example, setting and maintaining high standards of cleanliness ensuring the appearance of the bar and staff is exemplary and have a can-do attitude to the variety of tasks involved.
The role involves cash management, stock management, ordering, stock taking and auditing, so commercial awareness and computer skills are essential. Working hours will be 40 hours a week, worked in shifts over weekdays and weekends. It will include unsocial hours.
The Licensing Act requires that the successful candidate will be 18 or over. To apply, please send a letter with your CV giving two references from previous employers to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 21 July 2017.
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