March 2019

75069 approaches Bewdley tunnel with the first Bridgnorth to Kidderminster train of the new season, 16th Feb '19 By Ian Murray

Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!

Welcome to the March edition of Branch Lines and your monthly helping of SVR news and views.  We’ve been sending this e-newsletter to SVR members, shareholders and supporters for almost two years now, and are building a steady group of followers.  We welcome quite a few new subscribers this month, all of whom have contacted BranchLines@svrlive.com asking to join the list. It’s great to have you on board, and please do spread the word to others. 

The 2019 season is underway, and we had a great first week during the February half term.  It was particularly exciting to see the return to steam of 75069. We’re also celebrating the fantastic news that the ‘helping hands for Falling Sands’ appeal has hit its fundraising target, especially as we know that many readers have pitched in with their support for this important restoration project. There are plenty of other interesting snippets from around the Railway, including a tale from the archive room and restoration updates from the loco shed at Bridgnorth and the GWR (SVR) A gang at Bewdley. We’ve also highlighted a couple of things we think you’ll like, including a new exhibition at The Engine House, Highley, the forthcoming Open House weekend early next month, and the SVR’s first-ever World Book Day themed event.  Oh, and don’t forget our first major event of the season, the Spring Steam Gala between 15 and 17 March, when we hark back to the heyday of British branchlines with Great Western Railway tank engines taking centre stage.  

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. All they need to do is drop us a line at branchlines@svrlive.com and let us know they’d like to receive email reminders once the latest monthly edition is available.     

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 branchlines@svrlive.com . Our next edition will be published on Sunday 7 April, we’ll need contributions by Thursday 4 April.   

 

Simon Turner & Lesley Carr, Co-Editors 

Picture by Ian Murray

‘Helping hands for Falling Sands’ appeal hits its target 

Announcing the news that the SVR Charitable Trust has hit the £397,000 target for its Falling Sands Viaduct appeal, director of development Shelagh Paterson paid tribute to the many volunteers, members and shareholders who have contributed: 

“Our ‘helping hands for Falling Sands’ appeal name embodied the spirit of everybody pitching in to do their bit.  We were keeping our fingers crossed that we’d attract some healthy support but did not predict the amazing level of the response we have had. Our original fundraising target was £275,000. As Christmas 2018 approached, this had increased to £397,000.  I’m now delighted to be able to tell you that, thanks to the support of SVR volunteers, members and shareholders, we succeeded in hitting our ambitious target! 

“The process of checking and putting in order each of the thousands of names has begun, and we’ll be working with our designer and manufacturer to create a stunning wall that we can all be proud of.  We haven’t got an exact date for its installation at The Engine House, Highley, but it’s planned for the current running season.” 

The Trust submitted its final bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for £1million in October 2018 and expects to hear their decision by the end of March 2019. The success of the ‘helping hands’ appeal will play a large part in securing a positive outcome for the Heritage Fund bid, although it is important to understand that this is not guaranteed. 

Shelagh added “If the full funding amount is secured, we will press ahead in June to create the exhibition and education parts of the project, through which we will bring alive the history of the Railway from its earliest days, and the original construction of Falling Sands during the 1870s. We will create an innovative mobile exhibition in the newly restored Stove R van, and an exciting, major installation at The Engine House, Highley. 

“The restoration part of the project will begin towards the end of December this year, once the Santa services have finished.  Contractors will remove the track, ballast and sandstone rubble from the viaduct. They’ll install efficient drainage channels and add a modern, waterproof membrane, before putting everything back together. Once the structure has properly dried out, damaged bricks will be replaced and the mortar repointed. We hope that the entire restoration will be completed by autumn 2020.” 

75069 in the limelight once more 

As it re-entered service during the half term holiday, newly overhauled 75069 got plenty of attention from the media. 

 

Its triumphant return was covered in a number of newspapers and on local radio, and even captured the attention of the BBC – follow this link to see their coverage of the story https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-47237824/men-rebuild-steam-engine-for-severn-valley-railway  and Arley volunteer Simon West has kindly shared his ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs of the locomotive with our readers.  He guesses that the ‘before’ picture dates from the late 80s or early 90s, and is 100% sure that his ‘after’ shot was taken on Saturday 16th Feb 2019! 

 

Photos: Simon West

Grand opening of Bridgnorth Refreshment Room 

The directors and trustees of SVR Holdings are inviting everyone who purchased more than 1,200 shares in the 2016 Share Offer to the opening of the Refreshment Room at Bridgnorth station, to celebrate the completion of Phase I of the Bridgnorth Project and the fulfilment of a commitment made to Shareholders at the time of the offer. 

The event will take place on Thursday 4 April. After travelling by a special train service to Bridgnorth, guests will be welcomed with toasts and speeches, and will then have the chance to inspect the new building, which is faithful to Great Western design in every detail, both externally and internally. 

Individual invitations are being sent out, and guests are asked to indicate whether they wish to attend by visiting www.svrlive.com/grandopening or by calling 01562 757900 no later than Friday 8 March. 

Full details of timings will be confirmed nearer the date, including train departures. 

SVR LIVE

VOLUNTEER

MEMBERSHIP

World Book Day Weekend at the SVR 

Another first for the Railway during the weekend of 9 and 10 March, when we join in with World Book Day celebrations. Youngsters are  invited to come dressed as their favourite book character and take part in activities all along the line.  

The Engine House Visitor Centre will host a range of book-based activities, including storytelling sessions with Kidderminster Library and Chris Vine, author of the Peter’s Railway book series, who will be sharing some of the exciting adventures of Peter and his grandfather. There’s a range of colourful, comedic and creative 30-minute activities with ReachOut Arts, including Gruffalo Trail, Shakespearean Insult Workshop and Dinky Groove Sessions, and  visitors can try their hand at operating puppets with the help of experts from Fetch Theatre. These sessions last around 90 minutes and places will be available to reserve. 

Not to be left out, even the SVR’s locomotives are joining the fun, with interactive storytelling sessions and an on-train library coach in conjunction with Bewdley Library on the 10am and 2pm services from Kidderminster and the 11.50am and 3.50pm services from Bridgnorth.  

Standard Freedom of the Line tickets are valid for the event and allow unlimited travel all along the line during the day, plus free entry to The Engine House and free activities. The new, reduced-price Family Freedom of the Line ticket is valid for two adults and up to four children for just £49. 

How the SVR is working to reduce line side fires 

It’s hoped that the Railway will be faced with far fewer uncontrolled line side fires in the coming season, thanks to its efforts to train and equip controlled burning teams.  The measures were taken after a significant number of emergency calls to the Fire Service last year, and are the result of close cooperation between the SVR, the Hereford & Worcester Fire Service and volunteers from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. 

Around 20 SVR volunteers, drawn from various departments at Bewdley, Arley and Bridgnorth took part in a practical, hands-on training course to learn about prescribed and controlled burning. The course was delivered by volunteers from the NYMR. They face a very similar problem, and have been carrying out a controlled burning programme for a number of years. Personnel from the Hereford and Worcester Fire Service attended and supported the course, as they are keen to work with the SVR on the issue. 

Volunteer permanent way administrator Keith Brown took part in the training day and explains:  

“The aim of controlled burning is to identify areas where the risk of a line side fire is high, and to reduce that risk by burning of any dead vegetation the might otherwise provide fuel. We learned how to assess the risk by reference to the slope of the ground, whether or not it was facing the sun, and the time of the day when exposure was greatest. Once an area had been identified, we then learned the correct method for setting fires and controlling their spread using, among other things, back pack water sprayers and leaf blowers to contain and guide the flames. 

“Controlled burning can be undertaken between the beginning of November and the end of March, with the best time being the early spring. With the new running season approaching, preparatory work has already started. The rail-mounted flail (Mulcher) has been out scything its way along the line, and large quantities of debris have already been collected and burnt, thereby creating some wider open spaces beside the track that will be easier to manage throughout the year. The next phase will be to carry out prescribed and controlled burns, particularly where there are large areas of dead bracken, as this is probably the most common source of past blazes. 

“Line side fires are usually caused by hot ashes from passing locomotives, and the hot dry weather last summer created the perfect conditions for combustion, so much so that for a while only diesel services could operate safely.”  

It’s hoped that the coming season will see far fewer line side fires, whatever the weather. That will be good for the railway, the passengers, and our relations with the H&W Fire Service. Also, our neighbours will be less inconvenienced by smoke from uncontrolled fires and lanes being blocked by fire engines. 

Personnel from the Fire Service will be joining the controlled burns, not only to give support but also to learn for themselves the practical aspect of prescribed and controlled burning, which will be of value when they have to tackle wild fires in the future. 

Photos: Rob Steward 

SVR – journey through time exhibition

There’s an exciting new exhibition at The Engine House, Highley, and it’s definitely worth a visit. Funded and developed by the SVR Charitable Trust, ‘Severn Valley Railway - journey through time’ charts the history and development of the line, starting with the growing need for transport in the Industrial Revolution.  

 

You can find out about early steam locomotives, and the embryonic days of rail in the United Kingdom, moving onto the rather stop-start development of the Severn Valley line, starting in the mid-1850s, when there were plenty of obstacles that had to be overcome for its construction. The exhibition’s timeline takes us through the role the line played in local lives until its closure to through traffic in 1963. The story of SVR in preservation follows, and brings us right up to the present day. 

  

The exhibition includes many fascinating archive photographs and articles recovered from the British Newspaper Archive. It’s the first exhibition at the Railway that’s covered the pre-preservation history of the SVR, and it heralds an innovative programme of new interpretation that’s planned over the coming year. 

 

PS: If you visit the exhibition during the weekend of 23 and 24 March, you’ll have the chance to enter a prize draw for a pair of tickets to one of the 1940s weekends, complete with Big Band tickets! 

A great investment from 1970 

Peter Darkin contacted us with another gem from the SVR archive room at Highley, where he described the wealth of information that’s available just by opening a drawer: 

“Not long ago, I was looking for something in SVR News from summer 1970, and came across an offer from the Passenger Tank Fund, which was raising money to buy 80079. All sorts of items were offered for sale including Royal Scot nameplates from 46155 ’The Lancer’ and 46165 ‘The Ranger’ at £75 and £85 respectively. Offers were also invited for matching smokebox / number plate sets from 4658 and 9607 at £13 each. And there were various other smokebox / number plates, priced between £6 for a pannier tank to £10 for one from a V2. Shedplates  were 30 shillings (£1.50) each. 

“The prices appeared to me to be ridiculously cheap, so I applied the Bank of England Inflation calculator to them and found that in today’s money the shedplates would be £23 each, the smokebox / cabside sets would be £198 each and the nameplate from 46155 would be £1,139. 

“Purely by chance the nameplate ‘The Lancer’ from 46155 was sold at auction last November for £7,100! Now that’s what I call a good investment, and I wonder who managed to snap it up for a song almost half a century ago?” 

An update on the work of the Great Western (SVR) Association at Bewdley 

Mick Haynes writes: 

Last October marked a milestone in the work of the GW(SVR)A. We’d completed Collett Composite 6045 as far as we could, until it could go inside one of the carriage workshops for the finishing paint to be applied to the exterior. Normally this would take place at Bewdley but as the major rebuild of 9615 is occupying Bewdley for some time we’re now waiting for space at Kidderminster or even Bridgnorth. It is essential the carriage is painted in good conditions to ensure the paintwork lasts, as any damp would mean it would need repainting after as little as two years.  One of 6045’s bogies is inside at Kidderminster and we could do with some assistance on its overhaul especially from anyone who can help with machining and re-bushing. 

At Bewdley, 4786 has replaced 6045 and work is progressing fairly quickly on its overhaul. This full third from 1926 was the sleeping accommodation at Kidderminster for a number of years before being replaced by 9084. 4786 as an early bow-ended coach will be outshopped in the pseudo panelling livery as found on 3930.  It continues our plan to create a set containing stock from the late 1920s / early 1930s, appropriate to run behind 9303, 4566, 5164, 4930 and 2857! The coach is remarkably complete and its condition is somewhat better than that encountered on 6045. Work is proceeding in parallel on six fronts.  

  • Repairs to the corridor side framework 

  • Stripping in the corridor section of all the paint and sleeping modifications applied during its time as S&T accommodation and as a sleeper for Kidderminster volunteers. 

  • Reinstatement of the removed parts on the underframe such as battery box slings 

  • New toilet windows 

  • Stripping and repairing the compartment sliding doors  

  • Modifying seats and backs from our sets of spares to fit in each compartment   

A working platform has been installed on the town side to permit safe access to the corridor side of the coach. The photos show the exterior and an interior view along the corridor. 

You may also be aware of the ex Hampton Loade toplight vehicle 2426, dating from 1910. It is in use at Bewdley as a workshop for both 9581 and 4786, but repairs have begun, starting with the north end framework and corner posts. The repairs are now complete ready for re-cladding. Later on this year, we’ll begin repairs on the south end. It is being restored as the second toplight, alongside 3930.   

Working parties take place on most days and all assistance is very welcome. Please see our website for more details. www.gw-svr-a.org.uk 

Photos: Bob Massey

Vacancies 

The SVR is recruiting a full time infrastructure/permanent way team leader (closing date for applications is 15 March) and a full time marketing & design assistant (closing date 8 March).  Full details of both these vacancies are at https://www.svr.co.uk/Employment.aspx  

Take a glimpse behind the scenes at SVR Open House Weekend  

Throughout the first weekend in April, we’re hosting our Open House event, with more than 30 model railway layouts, behind-the-scenes tours and a whole host of attractions up and down the line.  

On both days of the event, the SVR Charitable Trust is inviting its Guardians and Patrons (people who have pledged to leave a gift in their Will, or who are regular donors) to drop into the VIP area on board the observation saloon alongside the platform at Kidderminster to enjoy a hot drink or glass of wine. Make sure you wear your Guardian’s or Patron’s badge to gain entry, and you’re welcome to bring a friend. 

Elsewhere, you’ll be able to experience the inner workings of the SVR, with behind-the-scenes tours of the Locomotive Works, boiler shop and signal box at Bridgnorth, the Carriage & Wagon Yard at Bewdley and the Carriage Works and signal box at Kidderminster. 

There’ll also be a chance to explore the extensive photographic archive at Kidderminster Railway Museum and Rob Foxon will be showing his original 16mm film ‘Railways Remembered’ at 7.30pm. Tickets are £5 from www.krm.org.uk    

An intensive steam and diesel timetable will be in operation throughout the weekend.  

SVR Shareholder passes are valid for the event, or you’ll need a standard Freedom of the Line ticket to enjoy unlimited travel during the day, plus free entry to The Engine House. The new, reduced-price Family Freedom of the Line ticket is valid for two adults and up to four children for just £49. 

For more information or to book tickets, see www.svr.co.uk or call 01562 757900.  

A flurry of excitement and plenty of hard work in the loco shed 

Shed master Martin White writes from Bridgnorth 

The 2019 season commenced in grand style. Although we had a variety of locomotives performing over the first weekend, the star of the show, at least as far as the media were concerned, was the first revenue earning train hauled by 75069 in more than 24 years. We received numerous requests from television and newspapers for interviews and statements for the press, along with many queries from members of the public as to when the loco would be running.  

 

On the first trip from Bridgnorth some of the original group who were instrumental in purchasing the loco and completing its initial restoration in the 1970s and 80s were invited for a trip to reacquaint themselves with their locomotive. Whether it’s a favourite of yours or not, I am sure that all readers will agree that the 75’ certainly provided a lot of free publicity to the SVR. Live TV appearances, internet broadcasts, and front pages of the local newspapers all helped. The loco is now formally available for traffic, and although there are some non-critical, final finishing off jobs to be completed, it should appear on SVR trains regularly in 2019. 

 

The rest of the available steam fleet, at the present moment, consists of 813, 1501, 7714, 2857 and 34027 ‘Taw Valley’. Once its maintenance and repairs are completed, ‘Bradley Manor’, will join them. The valve and piston repairs on 43106 and 1450 will take a while longer to complete, due to the amount of work required, as explained in previous updates.  

 

In the boiler shop, work on 4150 is steadily progressing, predominantly being carried out by volunteers, aided by paid staff expertise when required. The new outer door plate for 42968 (see photo) has arrived and a trial fitting has been taking place with big hammers and lots of noise! Meanwhile, the new smoke box tube plate is having a little bit of reworking.  

 

On the contract boiler front, the repair for Isle of Man no. 4 ‘Loch’ is almost complete (see photo) with hydraulic testing for the insurance inspector imminent. The first of the new build IOM boilers looks very boiler like, with the barrel attached to the firebox, lots of stays fitted, etc. The second IOM new build is also progressing well and will be joined by new build no. 3, more or less as soon as the boiler for ‘Loch’ is despatched. Purely from an enthusiast or engineering perspective, the sight of three identical new-build boilers in sequential production will be an impressive sight. 

 

One area of the works that rarely gets mentioned is the CNC (computer numerical control) machining facility located in a booth in the boiler shop. As well as producing boiler stays and studs etc for our own locos, a considerable volume of stays for other railways are manufactured here, by the resident operator. This brings in valuable additional revenue which helps contribute to ‘keep the wheels turning’ on the SVR. For example, the past few weeks has seen 180+ crown stays produced for the East Somerset Railway. 

Another CAMRA award for the King & Castle 

Our Kidderminster pub, the King & Castle, has won the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Wyre Forest Area Pub of the Year 2019 award, with high praise from the judges for the pub’s friendly bar staff and excellent quality beer. 

Pub manager Gavin Chance is ‘over the moon’ to win the award and put the pub’s success down to its welcoming atmosphere: “Some pubs you go into and just don’t feel at home, like you are sitting in someone else’s seat or aren’t a regular, but there’s none of that here – no matter whether you are a regular or whether it’s the first time you’ve been into the pub, you will always receive a very warm welcome. 

The King & Castle was named CAMRA Pub of the Season for Summer 2018 and Spring 2017, and will now be entered into the next round of the CAMRA awards for Worcestershire Pub of the Year. 

Photo: Kidderminster Shuttle 

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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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