March 2021

33108, 50049 Defiance and visiting, on test 69001 at Highley in February 2021. Matt Robinson

Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!

The green shoots are appearing literally and metaphorically, as nature does what it always does, and the SVR makes preparations to reopen in mid-April after lockdown 3. 

 

Our lead article sets out what we’ll be doing from 12th April when we restart the popular excursion services, and includes arrangements for our first two special events, the Spring Steam Up and the Diesel Bash. If you missed the big announcement, celebrate with us now that our VIP guest for the Spring Steam Up is none other than 2999 Lady of Legend! This unique GWR locomotive will be making an appropriate working debut at your favourite heritage railway’s Spring Steam Up.  

There’s been excitement amongst the national diesel fraternity as GBRf began testing its latest engine, the Class 69. The fact that this has been taking place on SVR metals makes it all the more compelling for us. We have an article about this, and a link to the SVR’s film about the work, which is bringing in much-needed income for the Railway even during this year’s extended closure period. 

In fact, there are so many updates and important announcements from different corners of the Railway this month that we think this is our biggest ever edition! 

From next month, we’ll be changing our publication day, and you’ll receive your April edition of Branch Lines on Thursday 8th April. From then on we’ll publish on the second Thursday of each month. The new arrangement will save the sanity of the Branch Lines editorial team by ending the frantic scrabble for information at the end of a working week, and the need to burn the midnight oil on a Saturday night! 

We hope that, like us, you’re beginning to feel optimistic about what’s to come. Stay safe and we hope to see you back at the SVR very soon.  

 

Lesley and Patrick, co-editors

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

The SVR’s ‘railmap’ to recovery

The good news is that the SVR’s Spring Steam Up event will go ahead in April, although the Railway won’t be able to open in time for Easter as originally planned. This follows the government statement on 22nd February, setting out its roadmap to recovery for the coming months. 

 

General manager Helen Smith has announced a phased ‘return to work’ for volunteers and furloughed paid staff, in order to make sure the SVR is ready to run public services starting on 12th April, in line with government restrictions.  

 

Just like last year, passengers will travel in their own private compartment, which will be theirs for the whole day. Other Covid-safe measures will be in place, such as social distancing, mask wearing and hand sanitization stations. These measures proved very successful and popular during the periods when the railway was able to operate in 2020.  

Takeaway food will be available from the Railway’s refreshment rooms, and its pubs at Kidderminster and Bridgnorth will offer outdoor table service. The Engine House must remain closed until at least 17th May, the earliest date that indoor attractions will be allowed to reopen. 

Both the Spring Steam Up, which runs between 15th and 18th April and the Diesel Bash, which runs between 13th and 16th May will go ahead, as planned. 

 

General manager Helen Smith told Branch Lines, “It’s a huge relief that we will be able to operate both these special events, as well as offer our regular excursion services from 12th April. We’re very much looking forward to welcoming the unique locomotive 2999 Lady of Legend to our steam event, which is already 75% sold out. 

 

“We’ll be contacting all passengers who have booked to travel up to and including 11th April. We are sorry to have to disappoint these people, but we will make sure they don’t lose out by offering them a transfer to another date or a refund.”  

 

SVR welcomes a legendary lady 

The SVR has announced No 2999  Lady of Legend will be the star guest at the Spring Steam Up between 15th  and 18th  April. Ours will be the first heritage railway to welcome the much-anticipated ‘new rebuild’ locomotive following its completion at Didcot Railway Centre in 2019. This unique locomotive is the only Saint class engine in existence and is set to prove a big draw to steam enthusiasts at the event.

 

Dubbed the 78th Saint, Lady  of  Legend  was rebuilt by the Great Western Society at Didcot Railway Centre and is a recreation  of  the previously extinct Saint Class locomotive. The project started in the 1970s and used parts from 4942 Maindy Hall, one of the classes that was developed from the original Saint design, taking the story full circle. The dream to rebuild a Saint took 45 years to come to fruition and its success is testament to the dedication and determination of the Great Western Society.

Announcing the VIP visitor general manager Helen Smith said: 

 

“We wanted to offer up something extra special to our supporters this year, after everything that happened with Covid-19 in 2020. We know that  Lady of Legend hits a lot of sweet spots for so many people; not only is it literally the only one of its kind in the world, but it’s also a Great Western locomotive which is perfect for us. Plus, this is the first opportunity for 2999 to really go through its paces on our 16 miles of line.” 

 

Graham Hukins, head of visitor experience and marketing at Didcot Railway Centre, commented:

 

“We are delighted to make 2999 available for the Spring Steam Up and hope the event will be really successful and help signal to the whole sector that tourism and leisure businesses are getting back on track. It is very fitting the first trip away from Didcot for this unique engine is to the Severn Valley Railway – a line with an impeccable GWR pedigree.” 

 

The announcement about Lady of Legend's  starring role was made live on our YouTube channel towards the end of February. It's already been viewed nearly 18,000 times, and you can ‘watch again’ at www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ti3LOIukGI

Photo: Lady of Legend taken 7th August 2019 Frank Dumbleton

Lady of Legend Steaming up. Frank Dumbleton

 

The first Class 69 is tested at the SVR

On 15th February the SVR started testing the Class 69 project as part of a commercial deal with Electro-Motive Diesel Ltd and GBRf. Operations manager Matt Robinson tells Branch Lines more:

 

Class 69 freight locomotives are converted from Class 56 diesels, with their original power unit replaced with the same model of General Motors/EMD engine that can be seen fitted to Class 66 diesels across the country. It's not possible to build new Class 66s, due to the latest emissions standards, but old locos can be retrofitted as the engine improves the emissions from their previous power units. Whilst much is altered from the original Class 56, the bogies and brake system remain unaltered.

69001 came to us on 15th February, towed from EMD's Longport works by GBRf 66702. Towing a shark brake van to aid staff social distancing, it proceeded under its own power to Highley. The following day the engineers set up the traction package, slow speed equipment and automatic sanding. Testing started with full power standing starts on gradients in both dry and wet conditions, sometimes with the application of washing up liquid onto the rails to try to make the loco slip!


The original plan was to stable the train at Highley and use Highley Bank. The engineering team, however, preferred the sections of line at Waterworks for the 'flat track' testing, and between Eardington road bridge and Pig Bridge for the ‘on bank’ testing.


The trailing weight was provided by the SVR, calculated to 833 tons made up of 22 wagons loaded with ballast, used sleepers, rail and other general items. The train was examined regularly by a fitter to ensure it remained fit to run and the loads secure. At the rear was 50049 Defiance from the Class 50 Alliance stable, appropriately in GBRf colours.


For Covid-19 security reasons, only four members of SVR staff were involved in the testing, covering the various roles as required. Martin Turbutt, normally full-time staff at Bewdley Carriage and Wagon department, was the conductor driver in a 'bubble' with the single GBRf driver provided for the complete programme. EMD provided the same three engineers throughout.


On 24th February, directors from both GBRf and EMD, including GBRf's managing director John Smith, visited to meet the team and ensure the programme was going as planned. Lesley Carr and the communications team were on site and recorded a video for the SVR's YouTube channel, which was premiered at 6pm yesterday, 6th March.


The testing has gone extremely well, and may even be completed in advance of the planned finish date of 12th March. The locomotive will then return to Longport for more tests, before going to Arlington at Eastleigh for painting. It will be based at Tonbridge.

 

Life on the Permanent Way, changing No 37 points at Kidderminster 

In bitterly cold February weather, volunteer and paid members of the Railway’s permanent way gang have been at work, as the new video Life on the Permanent Way shows. 

 

The work they were carrying out was a permanent repair to No 37 points. Back in March 2019, on-loan ‘Large Prairie’ 4144 became trapped on these points outside Kidderminster station, causing delays. As a result of the damage, No 1 Engine Line at Kidderminster was not available for use, and trains using platform 1 required a loco change rather than the loco running round its train. Damage to the point meant the point blade became severely bent, although a temporary repair was effected by use of heat and straightening the rail.

As the team explain in the film, worn stock rails and damaged switches are now replaced as new. We hope you enjoy this insight into the Pway team’s work. 

 

Photo: Point no. 37, Kidderminster, February 2021. Brent Cleeton

 

Arrival and departure at SVR Holdings

After more than 45 years of loyal service, Mick York has retired as a director of the Severn Valley Holdings board. Mick joined the SVR as a member in July 1966, initially volunteering in working parties which evolved into the Bridgnorth loco department.

 

In addition to becoming an early footplate volunteer he was also heavily involved in several early locomotive restorations at Bridgnorth. Mick joined the board in 1975, holding the position of chairman for two separate stints. Current chairman Nick Paul said: 

“Mick was fearless in defending the interests of ordinary members and shareholders, and in recent years, has continued to be a wise counsel, much respected across the Railway, and I am sure that he will continue in that role in the future. The board and I wish to thank Mick for his incredible contribution as a director and chairman.” 

Stepping into the place left vacant by Mick’s departure is Phil Swallow. A familiar face to many volunteers and paid staff, Phil has been volunteering and supporting the Railway since 1975 and is one of the co-owners of 34027 Taw Valley, in addition to several diesel locomotives. Away from the SVR, Phil’s professional career has taken him across the globe, specialising in the design and delivery of large IT systems as well as the management of outsourcing operations. Nick Paul said: 

 

“Phil brings a fresh perspective to the board, with his ability to approach problems from very different angles to deliver innovative solutions quickly. He specialises in turning around difficult, challenging and complex programmes. Phil’s passion for the SVR has been demonstrated by his considerable efforts to see the SVR succeed and his experience will be invaluable to the Railway, as we face the challenges of ensuring it has a sustainable future in the post-Covid-19 environment. The board and I very much look forward to Phil’s contribution as a director.”

 
 

Vacancy for bar manager at the King and Castle

There is a vacancy for a bar manager for the King and Castle, at Kidderminster Town station.

A regular Wyre Forest CAMRA 'Pub of the Year' winner, the pub serves a range of regular and guest cask ales, along with a choice of lagers, ciders and spirits, including a large range of gins. It also provides a great range of hearty hot and cold meals, as well as Sunday lunches.

More information can be found on the SVR website’s employment page, and on hired online. The closing date is 20th March. 

 

Photo: Dan Shorthouse

We’re surviving the pandemic, but the fight goes on

The SVR Charitable Trust’s director of development Shelagh Paterson reflects on the past year:


Twelve months ago, who could have predicted the massive impact Covid-19 would have on the future of the SVR? From the very start, the Charitable Trust was tasked with raising funds as the Railway faced receiving negligible operational income. Support came in thick and fast, and we raised just over £2.5 million from supporters like you, along with government and lottery grants. Together with loans, overdraft extensions, staff furlough and effective financial management from SVR Holdings, it’s meant the Railway could battle through the worst of the storm. However, there have been scars; a loss of £4 million in income and the need to put essential restoration and improvement projects on hold.


If you give to other charities, you will understand how relatively infrequently the SVR asks for your financial support. In my 25 years in the charity sector, I have never asked for so few donations as I have since joining the SVRCT! We are extremely careful to ensure that we do not abuse your generosity, in which ever way you choose to give, be it donations, shares or membership. It was for this reason that the three Railway boards agreed not to run a Christmas appeal in 2020, despite this being a key time when people give generously to charities, including the SVR Charitable Trust.


Although we haven’t asked for your support now for some time, we have been approaching other trusts and grant-giving bodies, as Ian Jones explained in February's Branch Lines.

Things are about to change. We’re planning the launch of our next capital appeal for what is the most urgent project at the Railway; a new roof at the locomotive works at Bridgnorth, along with an essential 8-tonne crane and various environmental initiatives including LED lighting and water harvesting. We are set to launch this next month*, and we will have just a short window to raise around £425,000 which is needed to complete this critical work.


Please look out for more information about the appeal in the near future. I very much hope you will want to add your support as we move on from simply surviving the impacts of the pandemic to making improvements for the Railway that will take us into the future.


Please contact me on shelagh.paterson@svrtrust.org.uk.


*Perhaps you find you have extra funds at your disposal because during lockdown you haven’t been spending in your usual way, or perhaps for tax reasons you’d like to donate to the new appeal sooner rather than later? If you’d like to understand more about how an early contribution to the appeal will make a difference, please do get in touch with me.


The roof and lighting are evident in this image of 46100 Royal Scot undergoing repairs in Bridgnorth MPD on 17th October 2020. Jim Norman

 

Where there’s a Will, there’s a way forward….

When making a Will, providing for your loved ones is of course, the number one priority. Once this is taken care of, you may also think about leaving a gift to a cause close to your heart, as Sue Chance, the SVR Charitable Trust’s individual giving fundraising manager, writes:


Richard James, a self-confessed ‘armchair’ member of the SVR for a quarter of a century, has left a gift in his Will to the SVR Charitable Trust. He believes it’s vital to encourage the interest of young people in heritage rail. “It’s important that we keep young people engaged and allow them a connection with our industrial past," he said, adding, " I’ve left a gift in my Will to help the Railway’s financial future. Training apprentices in the Heritage Apprenticeship Scheme is the foundation of taking the Railway forward.”


Gifts in Wills help to fund future engineers like Max Green. He benefitted from the Apprenticeship Scheme, which enables skills to be passed on from generation to generation. But these gifts also help a number of the most essential projects on the Railway, such as the restoration of the flagship locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall. Shelagh Paterson, director of development for the SVR Charitable Trust pointed to the enormous value of people leaving a gift in their Will.

“Gifts in Wills represent 40% of the income we raise to invest into the Railway. By making this ultimate gift, you will be ensuring this wonderful heritage railway continues to exist for future generations to enjoy.”


The Charitable Trust has a short film which looks at why people decide to leave a gift in their Will and explains the very real impact that legacies can have at the Railway. You can view the film and also a copy of the new leaflet and brochure which look in more detail about leaving a lasting legacy to the SVR in your Will at https://www.svrtrust.org.uk/Gifts-in-Wills.


Where there’s a Will, there is most certainly a way forward for the Severn Valley Railway!


Photos: Jack Kerswill installing patch screws inside 4150's boiler, images of the new brochure and leaflet, and Richard James,

 

Carrying on in spite of Covid-19

The Railway’s head of engineering and volunteer Bridgnorth shed master, Martin White lifts the lid on the winter maintenance:


I wrote last month that ‘winter maintenance is in full swing’. Alongside this, the heavy overhauls of the Stanier Mogul and Hagley Hall are continuing. But what does this really mean? What work is actually being undertaken? The following is just a sample of what’s been going on.


During winter maintenance, any repairs deferred during the season take place. A number of locomotives have had replacement springs fitted; these are typically big, heavy leaf springs, made up of a dozen or more leaves. If an individual leaf cracks or breaks whilst a loco is in traffic, then as long as it’s within permitted parameters, the loco is allowed to continue running with the spring being regularly monitored. Provided it’s not deteriorating, the spring can often remain in this state for a number of months. However, during winter maintenance we will often replace these monitored springs so that the locos start the new running season with new or refurbished springs.


Additionally, the steam heat control valve from 43106 has had its valve seats machined, and during a boiler examination steam test, some issues with the brake valve on 7714 were under investigation.


With regards to the overhauls; on 13268, the Stanier Mogul, a considerable period of time has been spent on the coal slacking valve. It might seem a minor component on the locomotive, but for crews it is essential for keeping a clean footplate. The long process of forming new pipework includes measuring, cutting, bending pipe and making new joints, as well as machining the operating valve.


A larger and much more obvious component now being worked on is the Mogul’s new smokebox door. The door itself is new, but the door hinges and central locking ‘dart’ have to be salvaged from the old door and accurately fitted.


In the boilershop, the specialist work of cutting threads is being carried out on the Mogul’s copper firebox tube plate. Once the loco is finished and running most people will forget that this work was ever done, although I’m sure the boilersmiths won’t! This is a solid week’s work for two using specialist equipment, yet to the uninitiated all that will be visible at the end of it is a tangled pile of copper waste known as swarf.


Meanwhile on 4930 Hagley Hall, the machining of the driving wheel axle boxes is ongoing and preparation for getting the loco back onto its wheels is underway. On the 3rd March a number of volunteers were asked to attend site to assist the paid staff with the essential work of moving and positioning accommodation bogies. The main frames will be placed on these for moving to the works’ lifting jacks, for the actual re-wheeling. In addition to shed volunteers, a volunteer signalman, permanent way paid staff, and a road railer were also needed. Oh, for an overhead crane in the works!


Activity has been slowed by Covid-19, but it’s certainly not at a standstill.

Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.

 

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On time and on budget!

A regular fixture in recent editions of Branch Lines, the Falling Sands viaduct project has been completed on time and on budget. In just over four years this huge restoration is now complete, and it has involved £1.25 million of funding raised by the SVR Charitable Trust, a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, several bats, gravity-defying engineers and a lot of hard work. Chairman of the Charitable Trust, Peter Copsey said:


“The success of the project reflects how well the three Severn Valley Railway companies have come together to deliver this huge restoration. A special thank you is also owed to SVR volunteer Nick Yarwood, who spent hundreds of hours on site overseeing the restoration. Nick helped to drive the FSV project forward, ensuring that both phases of the repair work were delivered on time and within budget.”

A short film to mark the end of the restoration project, which includes an interview with Nick Yarwood, will soon be released on the SVR’s YouTube channel. To subscribe to the channel and be notified of when the video is published, please visit: www.youtube.com/channel/UCoaT_geZ6GwRscQgOlchh_w

Photo: 7714 crossing Falling Sands Viaduct on 30th December 2020. Craig Tiley

 
 

Plans for many improvements at Bridgnorth

Plenty of work is planned at Bridgnorth in order to improve the 'public realm'. Station master Chris Thomas gives Branch Lines an update on what's in store for the coming season: 

Despite everything that the fates threw at us, we are looking forward to safely returning. The team will concentrate on improving the public experience through volunteer projects, within the Railway’s financial constraints.

Working from the south, we will improve the area around the refreshment room terrace. We aim to clear and plant the steep bank below, and to plant along the embankment fence.

Another smaller project is the new disabled toilet installed in the former gents. This is already an improvement in our facilities, but still requires completion of tiling and painting of the lobby area to bring it up to standard.

Around the station front and access footpaths, we will be renewing and enhancing lighting, using period GWR-style lights as installed elsewhere on the site. This replacement programme of external lighting has been undertaken by suitably qualified volunteers, including excavation, concreting, cabling and commissioning. To date they've raised locally £60,000 to provide 26 new GW no 2 lampposts with associated luminaires and half-harps, plus corner brackets to match the original gas fittings.

At the north end, the footpath route passes the site occupied by the 82045 Trust. We aim to make public realm improvements with new fencing, lamp posts and path, and will be able to progress this more effectively when the Trust is able to vacate its site. 

We also hope to make progress this year with enabling works toward the station improvement project. 

A significant volunteer project will be a full repaint of the station footbridge, which was deferred by Covid-19. It’s showing the effects of 17 years of locomotive exhausts since it last underwent a major refurbishment in 2004, when it was taken down for shot-blasting and powder coating.

These volunteer projects will incrementally enhance our offering in advance of the major improvements when the development project is progressed. New volunteers are invited to join our merry throng - a friendly welcome (within Covid-19 restrictions) awaits, in return for the loan of your skills and enthusiasm. Please contact chris.thomas@svrlive.com 

Photo: Donkey gallop resurfaced at Bridgnorth 2021. Sue Thomas

9615 Progress

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Restoration continues apace at Bewdley, in line with Covid-19 restrictions, as work progresses on GWR 9615.

 

9615 is a kitchen diner first. It was built in 1932 at Swindon works and saw more than 30 years’ service before being withdrawn and preserved at the SVR, appropriately alongside third class restaurant carriage 9627, which it was regularly paired with during its working life.

 

After giving long service at the SVR, 9615 was withdrawn from service in 2005 for a back-to-the-floor restoration, which finally began in 2017. Funded by the SVR Charitable Trust, paid staff Marsh Kirby and Martin Turbutt have been hard at work on 9615 during lockdown. Usually accompanied by 14 regular volunteers, the team has been reduced to the two paid staff to remain Covid-19 compliant.

In the past three months, the team has managed to replace the body corner side pieces, fit several new doors, including two pairs of double doors, and install new toughened glazing into all of the large windows. Additional work carried out includes fitting corridor and vestibule ceilings, finishing the saloon end ceiling and affixing destination board brackets on both sides of the vehicle.

 

The structural body work now complete, the only major outstanding jobs are the installation of two new water tanks and upholstering the saloon seats. Then the team will  turn their attention to the inner fixtures. Restoration is currently scheduled to finish by mid- to late-summer, and carriage restorer Martin told Branch Lines what’s left to accomplish:

 

“Once the exterior doors and small windows are finished, we will be into interior panelling, completing the pantry and kitchen ceilings, and refitting the already refurbished internal doors and pantry cupboards. The coach will then be moved to Kidderminster for a complete bogie and brake overhaul.”

 

Once all this has been done, a contractor will install a fully modern kitchen and 9615 will be ready to roll, once again catering for passengers.

Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.

 
 

Discounts and ticketing update

In this strangest of years (since the last one!) we think it’s a good idea to give an overview of the discounts available for the SVR’s non-working members, shareholders and loyalty passholders, which we hope you’ll find helpful. Please continue to check www.svr.co.uk for information updates. 

 

Booking Process 

You are encouraged to pre-book tickets online (www.svr.co.uk) or by phone (01562 757900). Tables of two, and compartments of four or six will be available to purchase. There are no first-class upgrades or flexi-rovers. 

 

One wheelchair space will be available to pre-book on each train travelling in a wheelchair accessible compartment, or in a wheelchair saloon with accompanying table(s).

Shareholders 

Shareholders with a minimum holding of 100 shares will be able to access reduced rate tickets online or by phone using their shareholder Unique Identification Number (UIN), preceded by SH. 

  • Day tickets: 100% discount. Those joining the shareholder who are not covered by the entitlement (up to the maximum number of a table or compartment) may travel for £15 each, payable at the booking office before travel 

  • Special events: 65% discount, only available for certain events 

The shareholder benefits remain as shown on the SVR website.  

Members 

SVR members will be able to access reduced rate tickets online or by phone by using their membership number 

  • Day tickets: 33% member discount  

  • Special events: 33% discount, only available for certain events  

Loyalty Pass 

Loyalty Pass holders will be able to access reduced rate tickets online or by phone using their volunteer staff number, preceded by LP. 

  • Day tickets: 100% discount. Those joining the Loyalty Pass holder who are not covered by the pass (up to the maximum number of a table or compartment), may travel for £15 each, payable at the booking office before travel 

  • Special events: 65% discount, only available for certain events. 

 

There are also arrangements for concessions, children, dogs and other tickets. Please check svr.co.uk.  

 

Should you encounter any difficulties, members should contact the membership department on membership@svrlive.com or 01562 757930 between the hours of 9.30 and 1.30 Monday to Wednesday. Shareholders and Loyalty Pass holders, and general enquiries, should email contact@svrlive.com or telephone 01562 757900 

The Eardington Lampman

One of the films released this month on the SVR’s own ‘television’ channel on YouTube is Eardington’s hidden gem – lighting the way for heritage rail on the Severn Valley Railway, featuring Eardington’s volunteer lampman Phil Harris.

Phil talks about the extensive collection of paraffin lamps and lanterns he looks after at the SVR’s only oil-lit station, and their place in railway and social history. The comments on our YouTube channel show how appreciative people are of Phil sharing his enthusiasm and extensive knowledge with the wider public. 

If you haven’t already seen it, grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy Phil’s collection. 

 

A Sterns warning

The landslips at both Sterns and Alveley Woods have been giving the SVR cause for concern for some time as many readers will be aware. Infrastructure manager Chris Bond has contacted Branch Lines with an update: 

At Sterns, the new drainage network has helped to clear rainwater from the landward side but this one of the few mitigating measures we can take without spending the millions required to sink a huge pile network.

So that the SVR’s consulting engineer Jonathan Symonds remains content for trains to pass over the slip areas, we’ve invested in electronic ‘tilt monitoring’ at both locations. Several sensors are attached to sleepers within the affected area, that feed back to a central solar-powered unit at the trackside.

This unit sends a text alert to designated recipients, should the set parameters of the sensors be exceeded, which would indicate a serious land movement has occurred. This is enhanced by the addition of red stop lights located at each end of the slip that will alert train crews that something requires investigation.

This technology is used on the national network to good effect and gives us some peace of mind that if any serious land movement takes place, we can be alerted in real time and take the appropriate action.

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At Sterns, we have also deployed a solar-powered 4G remote accessed camera to at least establish that the railway is still there!

 

In Alveley Woods, tilt monitoring will allow us additional time to negotiate with the adjacent landowner and develop the funding required for the remedial work required (already designed) in the coming years. In the meantime, let’s all hope that the two slips behave themselves and allow us to run our trains in 2021 for some much-needed revenue. 

These images from Matt Robinson show the equipment set up in early February. 50007 Hercules and 50049 Defiance top-and-tailed 22 assorted wagons in order to carry out dynamic testing, a combined weight of 1,067 tons!

Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.

 

New cylinders herald major progress on Bradley Manor 

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The delivery in February of new cylinders for 7802 Bradley Manor moves its return-to-service on the Severn Valley Railway one huge step closer.

Erlestoke Manor Fund (EMF) trustee Peter Evans told Branch Lines, “It’s an enormous boost for the whole project, which has been beset by many challenges including a foundry closure, Covid-19 lockdowns, machine breakdowns and transport delays! The cylinders and associated parts are now with the loco at Tyseley Locomotive Works (TLW) where further work, testing and fitting will take place.”

The repair and replacement of the cylinders follows extensive damage resulting from the failure of the right-hand piston rod whilst working on the West Somerset Railway in 2019.

EMF’s trustee in charge of the project Terry Jenkins added, “This development will require removal of the cab roof and boiler plus a complete rebuild of the front end of the locomotive.

“We want to thank GWS Didcot for the support they've given us in providing the original GWR Swindon drawings, Bob and Alastair Meanley of TLW, contract engineer Mike Solloway and the wide array of suppliers.”

Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.

 

Defiance on the main line

With no trains running on the Severn Valley Railway it was pleasing to see SVR-based Class 50 No 50049 ‘Defiance’ making a welcome appearance through the Midlands, as Dave Bissett writes: 

On 1st March Defiance headed train 5Q51, from the 1020 Gascoigne Wood Sidings to Newport Docks. The movement was to transfer a set of eight ex-East Midlands HST carriages from storage for final scrapping at Sims Metals, Newport.

 

The GBRf-liveried 50 is seen on the ‘fast line’ at Northfield, and once a clear road was given the 50 was heard accelerating ahead. The train was made of 50049 with two Mark 1 barrier coaches at each end, and the HST coaches on their final journey were 41071, 41072, 40753, 42329, 42139, 42140, 42141 and 44048. 

Photo: Dave Bissett

 

Public warning after trespass incidents

Last month the SVR issued a further stark warning after a diesel locomotive undertaking maintenance duties was forced to make an emergency stop because of trespassers.

 

The driver spotted what appeared to be a man running along the track and another lying alongside it in an extremely dangerous location, on top of Victoria bridge between Arley and Highley.

Driver Dave Evans said, “I could not believe what I was seeing, and it was lucky I managed to stop the engine. These two men were putting themselves in huge danger. The one lying beside the track was wearing a climbing harness and had attached ropes to this and to the rails and bridge structure. He was clearly preparing to climb over the edge and lower himself down below the arch or may have already done so. I told him how dangerous this was, and he said it didn’t matter because the Railway was closed!”

While the Railway is not running passenger services, there are many frequent movements of engineering, maintenance and test trains. Nevertheless, other trespass incidents have been reported, including family groups. In response, the Railway issued a warning to local media and posts regular anti-trespass messages on its social media platforms.

Police advise anyone who sees someone trespassing on railway property to call 999. It’s possible to provide information without giving your name.

 

Vital work at the traction maintenance depot – on film! 

In ‘Vital maintenance work at the TMD’ in February’s Branch Lines, Don Shadwell explained to us about the essential role that the SVR’s shunter fleet plays, and how maintenance operations continue throughout lockdown and the annual shutdown period in the TMD (traction maintenance depot.) 

One such engine is Class 09 D4100 Dick Hardy, named after Richard H N Hardy, a very well-respected railwayman who died in 2018 (you can read his obituary here.) This shunter is being overhauled by a small team of volunteers at the diesel depot, and so head over to the SVR’s YouTube channel to find out what’s involved 

 

Update from the archive room 

In January’s Branch Lines we included an appeal for press cuttings on behalf of Rob Whale from the SVR archive room. Rob tells us there has been a good (and very far-flung!) response although he hasn’t yet been able to check emails as the archive team do not currently have access to The Engine House because of Covid-19 restrictions. 

 

However, Rob has asked us to pass on thanks to: Louise James whose late husband Philip was instrumental in restoring the Gresley kitchen composite No 7960; Tony Potter from Ontario, Canada, who attended the very first meeting of the SVR Society all those years ago and saw the arrival of No 3205 at Bridgnorth in 1967; Trevor Shorthouse of Great Wyrley, an electrical engineer at Cashmores in Tipton where many steam locos met their demise; Steve Pritchard of Cardiff; Dave Collinge of Walsall who used to volunteer at C&W at Bridgnorth; Trevor Perks of Sandford, North Somerset; and Nigel Hunt of Maidenhead who sent some interesting photos.

Rob also mentions that his appeal for press cuttings has even made it onto the Next Stop page near the back of the current Heritage Railway Magazine. If you can help with cuttings of SVR-related news please send them to archive@svrlive.com or post to SVR Archive, Number One, Comberton Place, Kidderminster, DY10 1QR. 

 

Photo: Bridgnorth Journal 6th November 1968. Kindly reproduced with kind permission of the Midland News Association in the online ‘50 Years of Steam at the Severn Valley Railway’ exhibition. Click to see the exhibition and read the full story.

 

An end to lineside passes and photo charters at the SVR

There has been considerable speculation recently about the SVR’s stance on lineside passes for photographers and photo charters. The railway suspended passes last year because of Covid-19, no photo charters took place last season or have been planned for the 2021 season.

The Railway has now clarified its long-term position on both these issues. In the future it will not issue any new lineside passes, or accommodate any privately-run photo charters.

General manager Helen Smith explained:

“I know that this news will disappoint some people. However, I ask you to step back and understand the extremely difficult position the railway faces.

“The income we receive from lineside passes and privately-run photo charters is insignificant when compared to the potential risk these activities naturally contain. This means that to continue them makes little financial sense. As the landowner, train operating company and infrastructure provider, if SVR Holdings continues to permit such activities we also hold liability for any accidents or injuries that the participants have.

“The Office of Road and Rail has ceased its ‘light touch’ approach to heritage rail and is beginning to apply more rigorous standards to all heritage operations. The SVR is of particular interest to the ORR because of the two fall from height incidents that have happened in less than a year.

“Put these factors together and you will see why it would not be in the SVR’s interests to allow these high risk activities to continue. Only a handful of heritage railways currently do so, and I expect that soon there will not be any.”

Holders of existing SVR lineside passes will be able to use them until they expire, and the Railway will remove the temporary ban that was put in place because of Covid-19. Once expired, lineside passes will not be renewed. The Railway asks anyone with a valid pass to use it responsibly in the meantime.

The SVR acknowledges that it needs high quality images of rolling stock, both for its own use and for publication in the heritage and general press. It plans to establish a small group of official volunteer SVR photographers who will have lineside access, and who will undertake rigorous and regular safety training. In return, they will be asked to give the Railway full and free access to their work.

Martin Creese of 30742 Charters said: “A massive thank you to the SVR, its staff and volunteers who made us welcome and appreciated our contributions, for many fabulous memories. April 2022 will mark 25 years since our first event with 3442 at the SVR, and I had hoped to mark the occasion on our favourite railway. All good things come to an end and hopefully, in time, we can collaborate again. I especially anticipate the return of 4930, which our events supported, as we have 82045 and the Fight Back Fund more recently.”

Photo: Visiting Ivatt Class 2MT 41312 on a photo charter 21st March 2017. Lewis Maddox.

 

Seeking speakers! 

The popular SVR talks team members have been giving talks to interested organisations for many years. In a rare positive side to lockdown conditions, the interest in these presentations has increased during the pandemic, as virtual meetings afford entertainment from the comfort of home. The team wants to seize this opportunity to reach as many organisations as possible and kindle a desire to come to the SVR in the coming season.

 

Head of TTIs Jim Seaton is coordinating the revival and expansion of the SVR talks team and is keen to hear from anyone who has previously given talks and would be willing to continue to do so, or people with a flair for public speaking who would like to join this team of ambassadors for the Railway. Jim said: 

 

“Many organisations are seeking interesting presentations to be given virtually by Zoom or Teams, and we currently have a superb opportunity to gain their attention. After lockdown, there’s likely to be an upsurge in interest for face-to-face talks. We’d like to relaunch our offering, with a coordinated approach that allows us to share our presentations amongst team members, and to incorporate any key messages we need to share.”

Jim is already coordinating enquiries from a number of organisations, developing some promising leads, from historical societies and railway clubs to National Trust groups. A wide range of subjects is planned, from straightforward history of the line talks, through to a day in the life presentations. Existing presentations will be available digitally to those keen to join the team, and those not confident at speaking can also help. Jim continued:

“Another way you can help is by making organisations that you are involved with aware of this service and putting them in touch; we’ll be happy to chat through their requirements and match them with our team of presenters. We usually asks for a small fee to be paid to the SVR Charitable Trust, so that and the increased interest in visiting generated by the presentations will all help the Railway.”

To volunteer as a presenter or find out how to book an SVR talk please contact Jim at jim.seaton@svrlive.com or call 07854 757459.

 

Double-header for Welsh Guardsman 

War department Austerity 0-6-0ST 71516 Welsh Guardsman will be leading the charge on the 11th and 18th June as part of the SVR’s enthusiast Wanderer specials.

A standard shunting locomotive during its working life, 71516 was designed by the Hunslet Engine Company and built by Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns in Newcastle upon Tyne Works (7170 of 1944) [correction]. After the end of the war, 71516 was sold to the National Coal Board and worked for a number of collieries until saved for preservation in 1980 by the Welsh Industrial & Maritime Museum. Upon closure, the museum’s exhibits were redistributed, and the locomotive acquired both a new owner in the Felinfoel Brewery and the name, Welsh Guardsman.

The locomotive spent the Santa season hauling trains at The Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway in the Yorkshire Dales.

In a rare treat for enthusiasts, Welsh Guardsman will be double-heading with either 1501 or 7714, on the 11th and 18th June. Hauling two round trips for The Wanderer, this excursion train, starting from Bridgnorth, offers the opportunity for 71516 to stretch its legs, as passengers can clock up 64 miles behind this former industrial engine.

For more information or to book tickets visit www.svr.co.uk

Photo of 71516 Welsh Guardsman by James Rodgers

 
 

Visiting locos in March from previous years 

While we aren’t running trains, we‘ve looked into the photo library for a selection of loco visitors to the Railway in the month of March in years past. Since 2000 most Spring Steam Galas have been held in March, whereas before that date an April date was more common.

We’ve had around 50 guest locomotives, almost exclusively steam. The spring events have traditionally involved smaller locomotives, the main exception being the March 2009 ‘Festival of Steam’. GWR locos understandably lead the list with more than 20, with BR and LNER following behind at seven each.

So mostly GWR, mostly small locomotives, meaning our most frequent March guest has been … Somerset & Dorset 7F No 88 (BR 53808), a large non-GWR locomotive which appeared in 2007, 2008 and 2018! Other locos that have featured more than once are GWR pannier tanks 1638, 5786 and 6430, LMS Ivatt class 2 tank 41312, BR Standard 80072 and LNWR Coal Tank 1054.

By class, the GWR tank locos reassert themselves. Step forward large Prairie 4100/5100 Class (4141, 4144 and 5199); ‘Taffy tank’ 0-6-2T 5600/6600 Class (5619, 5637 and 6695), and small Pannier 6400 Class (6412, 6430 and 6435).

Diesel fans will be disappointed that their events have mostly started later in spring. The exceptions? Step forward Class 40 D213 Andania in 1986, and a special mention for a 4-car Voyager and a PPM50 Parry People Mover in 2002!

We hope you enjoy the gallery of some of our visitors from this month, in years past.

Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.

1/1
 

We’ll meet again! Special events are back! 

Plenty of plans for special events have come together this month, as events manager Lewis Maddox tells Branch Lines: 

 

As you’ll read elsewhere in Branch Lines, the Spring Steam Up and Spring Diesel Bash will operate as planned, but with catering outlets offering a takeaway service and the pubs a table service only. The Engine House, classed as an indoor attraction, will remain closed. 

The Spring Diesel Bash is set to have two visiting engines in attendance, so keep your eyes peeled on our social media for these announcements. Like the Spring Steam Up which is already 75% sold out, tickets are selling really quickly, so don’t delay!

When everything is back up and running, we have some exciting new adventures on offer. Our joint packages combine a trip on the Severn Valley Railway with a visit to another attraction, or participation in another experience. Whilst some plans are still being finalised, we’re looking at combined visits to Arley Arboretum and Dudmaston Hall, as well alpaca trekking, Segway experiences, cycle hire, Bewdley Brewery tours and lots more!

We’ll meet again! Our Step back to the 1940s weekends will be back on June 26th & 27th, and July 3rd & 4th, but we’ll be making a few changes to the event: 

  • Four trains in service, each running one staggered round trip 

  • Passengers must pre-book onto a certain train and only travel in their reserved seats (table or compartment)

  • Specific events and set pieces will take place at Kidderminster, Bewdley, Arley, Highley & The Engine House, and Bridgnorth 

  • Initially we’re planning for a daytime event only, but may add evening events 

 

Keep your eye on www.svr.co.uk for regular new event updates. 

7th March 2021

V2 8th March replaces image with Jack Kerswill installing patch screws inside 4150's boiler

V3 12th March, with thanks to Michael Denholm, Welsh Guardsman was constructed in Newcastle upon Tyne Works (7170 of 1944)

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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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