Double headed Warships at Tenbury Wall, Bewdley on the 19th May 2018, By Ian Murray
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
Even though the SVR’s annual Step Back to the 1940s weekends are still a couple of weeks away, preparations have already started to transport the entire Railway back to wartime Britain. We very much hope you’ll be able to join us for what promises to be a superb event – did you know that Britain’s Got Talent finalists, the D Day Darlings, are in concert at our Big Band Shows?
The dry, sunny weather of the last month or so might be popular with the general public but it’s caused significant problems on the SVR. A spate of lineside fires has led to a review of procedures at the Railway, as we report in this edition. There’s also an update from the loco shed, where they’ve been dealing with the knock-on effects.
There’s excellent fundraising news, as the SVR’s ‘helping hands for Falling Sands’ appeal hits the halfway milestone, and we bring you an interesting insight into the new, and rather special, chimney pot at Arley station.
If you have friends or family with an interest in the SVR, please let them know that they too can sign up to Branch Lines. It’s very easy, just go to http://www.svr.co.uk/EmailSubscribe.aspx and select the Branch Lines tick box.
And we’d love to hear your SVR-related news and views. Whether you’re on the other side of the world (as a number of our readers are) or you’re just down the road from one of our stations, please do get in touch with us at email@example.com.
Simon Turner & Lesley Carr, Co-Editors
Picture by Ian Murray
Spate of lineside fires prompts review
The Railway experienced a large number of lineside fires in May, and as a result is reviewing its locomotive operation practice, procedures and the meshing, where possible, of loco ash pans.
The review recognises that lineside fires present a danger to locomotive crew, train crew and passengers, and in line with current procedures, should not usually be tackled by the loco crew.
However, if a fire is of a size and location that can be easily extinguished then it can be treated by use of the locomotive hose, or by loco crew on the loco or trackside using buckets of water or extinguishers.
This may happen only if the loco crew believe it is safe to attend the fire without undue risk to themselves, and providing the fire is on a level with the train, and does not require the loco crew to climb out of a cutting or descend an embankment.
Station staff have also been reminded not to send out parties to treat a fire.
General manager Nick Ralls has announced that a special team of volunteers is to be recruited, to assist with controlled vegetation burns of the lines. The Controlled Burning team will work alongside the Permanent Way team, and training is planned for late July.
‘Helping hands for Falling Sands’ is halfway there!
As we go to press, the SVR’s appeal to save Falling Sands Viaduct has hit an impressive milestone. Just three months after it launched, the appeal has already raised nearly £138,000, more than half the target amount, set by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Commenting on the news, the SVR Charitable Trust’s Shelagh Paterson said:
“This ground swell of support shows how strongly people care about the Railway’s long term future, and that they understand the importance of the viaduct to the SVR’s operational viability. We’ve been receiving applications for our donation wall thick and fast, every single day since we launched the campaign. Well over 1,200 people have signed up to put their own name, or the name of friend or family member. Many have put in multiple applications for their entire family!
“However, although half the funding is now in place, we’ve still got the other half to find. The HLF have challenged us to raise £275,000 as match funding for the £1million we hope to secure from them as a grant to repair the viaduct. We need to keep up the momentum, so if you haven’t signed up already, please do so now at www.svrtrust.org.uk “
The SVR’s first ever donation wall will be specially created for The Engine House Visitor Centre, Highley, and it’s hoped this will go on display during the February half term week next year. It will show the names of everyone who’s donated, along with the many businesses and community organisations that have added their support as well.
News from the loco shed at Bridgnorth
Shed master Martin White reports on the knock-on effects of lineside fires at the MPD.
The main story from the past month has been fires, not in loco fireboxes, but at the lineside. You may be aware of the number of lineside fires that there have been during the dry weeks in the first half of May. You may have experienced them first hand, and the delays that have been caused to the train services, whilst the local fire services tackle them
From an MPD operations perspective, there have been notices re-issued reminding crews to operate in a manner so as to reduce the risk of fire from sparks from chimneys and ashpans. The spark arrestors on the loco fleet are generally good and effective (with the exception of 813) and it appears that most of the lineside fires have occurred due to embers falling from ashpans and igniting dry vegetation close to the lineside. However, the number and frequency of lineside fires reported in early May was extraordinary. There were numerous occasions when certain locomotives were alleged to have started fires and those locos were brought into the MPD at Bridgnorth, part way through their duties, in order for them to be examined. In at least one instance a Bewdley-based loco was examined twice at Bridgnorth during the same day, but nothing amiss was found.
However, it wasn’t the same for all locomotives and 43106 had to be withdrawn in the second week of May, because its hopper ashpan was found to be damaged and badly distorted with large gaps through which hot cinders could drop. The exact cause of the damage is uncertain, but it must have got very hot at some point. The loco will be out of traffic for about four weeks whilst the old ashpan is cut off and a new ashpan is fabricated in situ beneath the loco.
Worse was to follow when 34027 was pulled from traffic on Friday 11th May due to the fires it had apparently started along the length of the line. 7714 was at that time receiving running repairs and 2857 was not ready to return to duties, hence a diesel replacement had to be introduced for that weekend. Further stringent restrictions on the way locos were operated were immediately implemented which enabled 34027 to return to duty on Monday 14th. An apparently fire-free week followed, aided somewhat by the diesel Gala, when there was no steam traction for a few days.
The third week of May saw yet more lineside fires and temporary line closures. Fortunately, some considerable rain fall helped dampen the countryside and encourage the growth of greenery to reduce the overall fire risk. Additionally there have been some revisions made to the practices regarding the extinguishing of lineside fires when spotted by loco crews, which has helped prevent small fires from becoming major ones.
In the next edition, I’m hoping to give an update on 75069. As you can see from the photograph, its boiler is close to completion, with tubes, flue-tubes and washout plugs all fitted.
The SVR turns back the clocks back to the 1940s
It’s all gas masks and victory rolls in a few weeks, with two weekends of fun as the whole of the SVR goes back to wartime Britain. Dressing up and getting ‘in the mood’ will be the order of the day, and there’ll be costumed re-enactors at the stations and on the trains. There’s the Big Band Show, the Battle at Highley, and flypasts each day including a Dakota, Hurricane, Spitfire and Lancaster. Musical entertainment includes the D Day Darlings, finalists from Britain’s Got Talent.
The fun takes place over the weekends of June 30th and July 1st, and July 7th and 8th.
Information on all the attractions and ticket booking is at http://www.svr.co.uk/SEItem.aspx?a=49
All change at the Engine House
There are exciting plans for The Engine House this year, including moving a few engines in and out!
On Wednesday 20th June, The Engine House at Highley will be closed as we move 8F No 48773 from Highley to Kidderminster for our upcoming Last Days of Steam event on August 4th.
Whilst the 8F is at Kidderminster, GWR tank engines No 4566 and No 5764 will be moving in, and taking up residence for a period of time. These locomotives have been out of service for a number of years, and have been stored inside Kidderminster Carriage Shed awaiting overhaul.
The third and final move will be pulling Black 5 No 45110 onto The Engine House's car park for display throughout July and August, as well as its starring role at our Last Days of Steam event alongside 8F No 48773.
Michelle Bevon joins board of the SVR Company
The directors of the Severn Valley Railway Company (the Guarantee Company) have announced the appointment of Michelle Bevon to its board. Chairman David Williams tells us more about Michelle’s wide-ranging involvement with the SVR:
“Michelle’s desire to volunteer at the Railway grew after many happy childhood memories of spending time around Bridgnorth station and many journeys on the SVR, leading to her wedding reception being held on the SVR on a chartered train.
“After this she had a desire to give her time back to the Railway, to ensure the future of Bridgnorth station as a key feature of the town. She started as a booking office clerk in Bridgnorth. More recently she has taken on additional responsibilities as platform staff at Bridgnorth, a role that builds on the skills and knowledge she has gained within the booking office. It continues to enable her to be public-facing, ensuring the safety of our passengers, helping with any queries and promoting the Railway. She can also be found at Arley over Christmas since she started as a volunteer; this is a role that she really enjoys, as she feels it isn’t really Christmas until her elf hat has been put on.
“Michelle is always keen to find new volunteers and soon recruited her husband to the Bridgnorth station maintenance team (WWCC) and persuaded him to become a guard. Outside the SVR Michelle lives in Bridgnorth and is a senior management accountant for a global logistics company; her background in this profession lead to her joining Rob Whattons' finance committee, one of four sub-committees set up by the SVR G board in recent times.”
The Bridgnorth building emerges
Infrastructure manager Chris Bond reports
When the scaffolding came down, we got a foretaste of what the completed building will look like. The contrast with the painted windows and brickwork is very attractive and we all look forward to being able to see the final product, with all fencing and builders’ materials cleared away.
Other areas of progress include the connection and commissioning of the new upgraded power supply. Internally things have been busy, with the installation of the pipework and manifold for the underfloor heating system. The floor screed has been poured, which makes walking through the building much easier. Teme Valley Electrical are installing all the first fix cabling, with Iris following up behind with ceiling installation. A lot of the initial plastering has been done to provide a key for the finishing plaster.
Meanwhile, outside in the rear service yard area, the outline of what is known as the “Bovey Tracey” building is taking shape. This outbuilding is based on a goods lock up that used to adorn Bovey Tracey station on the Moretonhampstead branch in Devon. At Bridgnorth, our version will serve as a plant room housing the heating boiler and food preparation area for the volunteer SVR Venturer catering staff.
One hidden area of this project is the IT/Telecoms requirement for the new building. Volunteers Steve Bradbury, John Smith and Bob Lawson have been putting in a great deal of planning to facilitate relocating the IT equipment and associated BT line plant. The process is ongoing and reasonably complex, but in the capable hands of this volunteer team, it’s being done at a fraction of the cost we would have paid for an outside contractor.
On Saturday 2nd June, an open meeting was held to discuss the Bridgnorth development. David Postle gave an update on the development, and heritage support manager talked about catering facilities for visitors and staff, and how this will develop in the future as the completion of the new refreshment building draws nearer.
A special opportunity to commemorate the life of Edith Cavell
Edith Cavell was a remarkable nurse who helped 200 prisoners of war escape during the First World War, before her capture and execution. In 1919, a van was used to bring back her body from Belgium, and that very same van is the centrepiece of a day of commemoration at the Severn Valley Railway on Thursday 14th June.
Tickets are available to join the Worcestershire World War One Hundred team for a unique opportunity to see the carriage that brought Edith Cavell, and later the Unknown Warrior, back to England.
The day starts with a departure from Kidderminster at 10.15, travelling to Arley to view the Cavell Van. Then it’s on to Highley for a tour of The Engine House Visitor Centre, and three fascinating lectures, themed around the war.
Tickets are £25 per person including a buffet lunch (£20 with concessions) and you can book and find out more about this unique event at
The Cavell Van will also be on display during our Step Back to the 1940s weekends.
“I hope George Batchelor will be smiling down from above”
Master stonemason Philip Chatfield has been contributing his skills at the SVR once more, in a volunteer capacity at Arley station. He carefully researched the history and construction of an unusual floral chimney pot dating from 1904, so that an exact replica could be produced. The original pot was unfortunately broken some years ago. Philip explains the challenges of getting things right:
“This chimney pot was highly unusual, and was clearly not standard issue for a station at the time. However, the station master in 1904 was a man called George Batchelor, an award-winning gardener, and I have the feeling he made sure the newly built extension to his station building received a chimney pot that was a cut above. Perhaps he even paid for it himself!
“By consulting books and many old photographs of the station building, I produced full scale drawings so that a replacement pot could be fired. Infrastructure manager Chris Bond found a potter in Hampshire, Mick Pinner, who had the skills to create the new pot out of clay.
“When I was recently fitting the new pot in place, I thought of George Batchelor as I was up on the scaffolding. I know from my research that he’d wanted his station to be the prettiest on the GWR system, and I hope that George’s spirit is smiling from above, not only at the new floral pot, but also the exemplary efforts of the volunteers at Arley today, who keep the gardens and station in such great shape.”
The Sherwood Forester expected for a summer residency
The Railway has announced that, subject to a final signed hire agreement between Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) Plc and Locomotive 45231 Limited, the Network Rail registered ‘Black 5’ No 45231 ‘The Sherwood Forester’ will be joining the pool of resident steam locomotives for the summer peak period. Locomotive coordinator Duncan Ballard says:
“We expect the Sherwood Forester arrive in mid-July, staying with us until late September this year. The added bonus of this timing is that 45231 will be available for the Last Days of Steam event on the 4th of August and it will also join the cast of locomotives for the Autumn Steam Gala on the 20th to the 23rd of September.”
There’s more on No 45231 ‘The Sherwood Forester’ at
photo credit: Lewis Maddox
Based in Kidderminster, and starting in September, the successful candidate will follow an intermediate apprenticeship on day release with Heart of Worcester College for the first year. It is intended that they then move to an advanced apprenticeship.
Apply directly using this link: https://www.findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeship/-285834. Or search the National Apprenticeship Service website for our vacancy VAC001407529. No direct applications to the SVR please! Closing date is Friday 29 June.
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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.