Visiting 2999 Lady of Legend was much photographed during her stay. This lovely image comes from Matt Fielding
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
We’ve another bumper edition for you this month! As we go to press the Diesel Bash is underway and we’ve news of planned changes to train services with tantalising prospects of a return towards the ‘new normal’. Our refreshment rooms and The Engine House are on the cusp of reopening (from 17th May) too – fingers crossed that better times are near.
More good news is that we’re celebrating with the Class 50 Alliance their prestigious award from the Heritage Railway Association, On the steam front, both Hagley Hall and the Stanier Mogul are back on their wheels and making progress towards completion of their overhauls.
As our recovery gathers pace, general manager Helen Smith shares the Railway’s strategic thinking, our Talks team is spreading the word and we have updates – and an appeal – on the Bridgnorth site, where the SVR story began.
We’ve also news on a successful Spring Steam Up and lots more from around the Railway for you to enjoy.
We hope to see you soon on the Railway and on our trains.
Lesley and Patrick, co-editors
The Branch Lines team is Lesley Carr, Patrick Hearn, Amy Baker and Nicola Fox
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Spring Diesel Bash is underway!
At 8.25 this morning (13th May), 50035 ‘Ark Royal’ left Kidderminster Town station bound for Bewdley and Bridgnorth, and our Spring Diesel Bash began! Eleven locomotives are in action on each day, with trains running till the evening of Sunday 16th.
There’s still time to book, we've added more tables of two and as we go to press, some tickets remain available on all days Friday 14th to Sunday 16th May. All trains have either compartments for four or tables for two people available and most have compartments of six or tables for one. Check out availability and get your tickets at https://bit.ly/SVRSpringDieselBash.
Jonathan Dunster, chair of the diesel committee told Branch Lines: “Even under Covid-19 restrictions our teams have organised a massive modern traction event, with over 1,700 miles of haulage.
“Stars of any event are our guest locomotives. A late addition is 20227 ‘Sherlock Holmes’ which carries a striking Metropolitan Railway ‘midcared’ red livery. The loco was until recently was on hire to the North Norfolk Railway and comes courtesy of the Class 20 Locomotive Society (C20LS) and Class 20189 Ltd.
“As previously announced, we’re also joined by Vintage Trains’ 47779, which like the Diesel Traction Group’s class 17 D8568 has been repaired and repainted in our own Kidderminster TMD. Both look absolutely superb.”
Among the home fleet, D1015 Western Champion again has two operative engines following a huge amount of work. 50035 too has been recommissioned following fitment of engine preheating and electric lub oil priming systems, which will vastly reduce engine wear and considerably reduce exhaust emissions when starting from cold.
They’re joined by GBRf-liveried duo 50007 and 50049 and stalwarts D821 Greyhound, 33108, 40106 Atlantic Conveyor and D9551.
We’ve some early Bash photos to whet your appetite!
Click on the gallery for full images and descriptions.
Returning to ‘the new normal’
Earlier this week the government announced further easing of lockdown restrictions, and there has been positive news from the NHS vaccination programme. With the prospect that social distancing restrictions may also ease in the coming months, the SVR plans some changes to day services from 6th July. In addition, other events are underway and in planning, as events manager Lewis Maddox tells Branch Lines:
The Adventurer, our Bridgnorth service, will become a local train service offering two round trips to every station along the line. This also opens the opportunity for passengers to purchase shorter journeys and buy tickets on the day of their visit. We will all be pleased to see this return for the first time since March 2020, giving people the flexibility to plan their own day.
A new excursion, The Sightseer, will start at Kidderminster and use part of the Adventurer train service. It will offer passengers a short return from Kidderminster to Highley (until 2nd July) or a whole line return from Kidderminster (from 6th July.)
Although for both The Adventurer and The Sightseer you’ll still have to book (or be allocated on the day) a compartment or socially distanced table, we hope these changes will see people return to the Railway for a service that’s more akin to what we used to do before the pandemic.
The changes to The Adventurer also allow us to welcome back groups for the first time since 2019 and to work through the backlog of reservations. The BR and LMS carriage sets will have an additional open carriage added at the Bridgnorth end of the train for group travel. If not reserved by groups, they will be opened to the public to book, creating more availability for groups of two.
Our relationships with local attractions is getting stronger! Our first Alpaca Experience worked a treat in the first week of May and we’ve received a steady flow of bookings for Arley Arboretum – both combined with a train ride. Our next venture will be a partnership with Dudmaston Hall: passengers will be able to pre-book a vintage bus ride from Bridgnorth to the Dudmaston Estate and receive discounted tickets on entry, returning later on the same bus. We’re also working on partnerships with a local canoe company and a bike hire shop amongst others.
Step Back to the 1940s (26th and 27th June and 3rd and 4th July)
Day tickets are currently on sale and the 1940s committee and events team are finalising plans for an evening event at Kidderminster on each Saturday. Keep an eye on the website and SVR social media for more!
Photos: 2857 arrives at Arley on 9th May 2021 with a late running Bridgnorth bound working. Davis Bissett
The first Alpaca Experience at Country Park. A big welcome to our two newest members of the team – Roulette and Alfonzo. Kellie Downey
Help us get Home & Dry!
The SVR Charitable Trust’s Home & Dry Appeal is now live! This appeal aims to raise funds to make Bridgnorth locomotive works a safer, drier, and more efficient place to work.
As reported in last month’s Branch Lines, Bridgnorth locomotive works is long overdue some substantial investment. The current roof, which dates back to the late 1990s, is estimated to only have a two-year life span and has widespread holes and gaps. Additionally, lack of natural daylight and heavy lifting equipment makes work difficult and time consuming. None of these situations are suitable for a 21st century working environment.
The Charitable Trust’s £425,000 Home & Dry Appeal will change all of this. It will pay to:
Build a new roof with insulated panels, at least 15% of which will be translucent to maximise daylight
Install energy efficiency measures including insulation and provide full LED illumination in every part of the building, providing the workforce with a well-lit environment that uses less electricity and saves money
Install an overhead travelling crane, allowing the SVR’s engineers to move heavy items safely and efficiently.
The Charitable Trust’s director of development Shelagh Paterson said:
“These vital measures will make Bridgnorth locomotive shed a facility that the SVR can be proud of and will help the Railway become even better at what it does best – preserving heritage rail for future generations. We are aiming to raise the £425,000 required for improvements to Bridgnorth locomotive works, in time to start work around May 2022.”
To find out more, and to make your donation, visit svrtrust.org.uk/home-and-dry
Click on the gallery for full images and descriptions.
A three-part strategy for the SVR
During the months of lockdown, general manager Helen Smith has been developing a strategy for the Railway’s future, and will continue to work on this in the coming months in consultation with staff across the organisation. As the SVR celebrates a successful start to its somewhat-delayed 2021 season, Helen sets out the key areas on which the strategy will focus:
For some time now I have been considering what the best approach would be going forward and I am privileged to have Keith Norton, one of our talented volunteers helping me formulate the plan.
The SVR is a heritage attraction, and I am mindful of the importance of celebrating and preserving the past and presenting this in a format that all our visitors can appreciate. Whilst being able to enjoy our yesterdays, it is also important to plan for our tomorrows and to be able to continue to adapt our organisation to 21st century legislation and business practices.
For this reason, I have decided to focus on three key areas in the strategy. Safety, People and Heritage.
Safety must be central to everything we do. We want everyone to recognise that we are a professionally-run railway. We must take advantage of 21st century safe working practices to protect our teams and visitors, and allow us to operate in what is often a fluid and complex environment.
We want to be the best heritage railway in the UK to volunteer at, work at and visit. People who enjoy being a part of the SVR, visiting, maintaining or operating the Railway, can only continue to do so through the patronage of the members, visitors, shareholders and donors. We therefore need to develop and take care of all our teams to make sure the Railway is both a fulfilling place to work at whilst also recognising the need to diversify and develop the visitor experience, as one cannot flourish without the other.
The SVR was founded by very dedicated and hardworking people. We continue to strive to be the best at what we do. We are recognised for excellence in preserving and sharing our heritage. A great example of this comes from our colleagues in the Class 50 Alliance, who’ve recently won the first ever diesel preservation award in the Heritage Railway Association’s 2021 scheme, which is fantastic news!
Our visitors appreciate and come to experience the culmination of all that hard work, and it is through their generous support the Railway can continue to be preserved for future generations to cherish.
However big or small you consider your part to be in making this organisation work, the SVR needs you, and we appreciate your ongoing support.
Photo: People at the SVR. The crew of 7714 are captured exchanging the tokens on 1st May 2021 on the southbound run of ‘The Rambler’ at Hampton Loade. David Bissett
And it’s live!
In the last year, the pandemic has kept many away from the railway, because of travel restrictions or health reasons. Now supporters of the Railway can virtually revisit four key locations, thanks to the SVR’s partnership with Railcam!
On 14th April, shortly before the Railway’s Spring Steam Up, the clapper boards slammed shut and the SVR set cameras rolling on six new livestream cameras, which provide 24/7 coverage to viewers across the globe. In the opening week alone, the six cameras achieved 535,000 + views on the SVR’s official YouTube channel and more than 2,300 new subscribers to the channel, each of whom will be notified when a new SVR video goes live.
The 24/7 live webcams open up the Railway to a wider audience whilst offering enthusiasts the chance to experience the thrills of heritage rail from the comfort of their home. The scheme has been implemented by Lesley Carr and Dan Shorthouse, alongside Bill Griffiths, and the team continues to work with Railcam to tweak the system. Dan Shorthouse told Branch Lines:
“We have already made several adjustments to improve the experience for all concerned and would like to thank everyone who has been in touch with their thoughts. These cameras have drawn viewers from as far afield as Australia, USA, India and China and continue to grasp viewers for their addictive nature and ability to take them back to their favourite place.”
Partnering with Railcam to implement the live feeds, the launch of these cameras ties into the SVR’s long-term digital content strategy.
Since Spring Steam Up, the total views for the first month climbed to an impressive 1.18 million, which will shoot up again for the four days of the Diesel Bash.
You can watch the live feeds at www.youtube.com/c/SevernValleyRailwayOfficial alongside a selection of other short films available free and on demand. But be warned – it’s highly addictive!
Kidderminster webcam image 12th May 2021 with 33108 and D821 Greyhound at the bufferstops.
Heritage looks to the future
Work has begun at the Kidderminster diesel depot to carry out the UK’s first-ever conversion of a diesel locomotive to run on hydrogen power. For this ground-breaking scheme, the SVR has teamed up with the University of Birmingham and local start-up company, Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions.
In preparation for its new power system, donor vehicle Class 08 shunter No 08635 is being stripped down by a team of young volunteers, who are removing the existing diesel engine and generators and overhauling other components.
Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions is designing the hydrogen-battery hybrid traction system. This will be made up of hydrogen cylinders, a hydrogen fuel cell stack and a hybrid battery.
The equipment will be mounted on a sub-frame, fitted to the existing engine mountings. It will supply the existing traction motors of the Class 08, which will keep its existing controls.
Mike Ball (SVRH vice chairman) has been closely involved with the project from its inception:
“As a heritage railway, we’re actively looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint and having a hydrogen-powered shunter will play a key part in that plan. The group working on the 08 are all still in their teens, and their ability to plan and implement this task has been nothing short of amazing. They’re the volunteers of the future, working on a locomotive for the future.”
Vanguard’s engineers are developing the power pack design at the University of Birmingham and will install this into the Class 08 in the coming months. Testing of the hydrogen-power shunter locomotive will take place on the Railway later this year. The development of such technology is predicted to have a global significance, and the teams are working towards translating this to heavy-haul applications.
For more information on the project head to the SVR’s YouTube channel to see a short film, which charts the progress so far, featuring some of the young volunteers at work on the donor shunter.
And the winner is… Class 50 Alliance!
Class 50 Alliance are winners of the Heritage Railway Association Award for Diesel Locomotion 2021. This is a prestigious new award from the HRA, aimed at recognising achievements by those involved in the preservation of heritage diesel traction, and was announced online on 28th April.
Accepting the award Jonathan Dunster, SVR (Holdings) director and chair of both the SVR diesels committee and C50A, told Branch Lines:
“It was a great privilege to have been nominated for this award, and I would like to thank the dedicated volunteers of the Class 50 Alliance and our many supporters over the years for helping us to achieve this wonderful fleet. I would also like to mention the Severn Valley Railway, without whose support and incredible diesel depot, we would not be able to continue doing what we love so much.”
The Alliance was incorporated in 1992 as Project Defiance Limited and later merged with the Fifty Fund. It currently owns or operates six English Electric Type 4 diesel locomotives, all of which are resident on the SVR. A volunteer-only group, its work in preserving, restoring, overhauling, and operating locomotives is as exceptional as its achievements are impressive.
On the SVR it regularly turns out three or more machines for excursion trains, operations services, special events and galas. It held the Class 50 Golden Jubilee Gala in 2018, attended by nearly 4,000 visitors. This is not the group’s first award, however. The Alliance took the runner up prize at the HRA Awards 2020 in the Coiley Locomotive Engineering Award category for its restoration of 50033 Glorious.
Off the SVR, at different times, four of the six locos have been mainline certified and have seen use on more than 80 railtours. The C50A also has a close relationship with freight company GB Railfreight, seeing two locomotives repainted into GBRf livery in 2019 to work mainline trains on their behalf.
Coincidentally, Jonathan Dunster has authored a superb eight-page article in the May edition of The Railway Magazine giving a full history of the Alliance’s approach and strategy over the past 30 years, its move to the SVR and its role in the construction of Kidderminster TMD – the diesel depot.
The awards are on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkwvuCI6wnI, with the HRA citation and Jonathan’s acceptance from 48:30.
The Class 50 Alliance's current belle of the ball is 50035 Ark Royal, fresh from its winter overhaul plan. Here are a few images from this month, click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.
Bridgnorth station building plans
In April’s Branch Lines we reported that the SVR will concentrate on two projects at Bridgnorth – the station building and the MPD roof and crane projects, with the SVR Charitable Trust launching a major appeal to fund the latter (see separate article in this month’s Branch Lines). Meanwhile, the Bridgnorth station building plans continue, as general manager Helen Smith explains:
Having completed the car parking, refreshment room, toilets and other work, the SVR Holdings Board (SVRH) are keen to finish the 2016 share offer projects at Bridgnorth. Still to do are the station building renovation and installation of the turntable. With the decision to concentrate on the station building, now’s a good time to update you on the progressing plans.
To recap, the station building renovation will:
Extend the bar
Reinstate the waiting room with additional interpretation of the space
Move the shop and shop store
Replace the windows and frames
Replace the guttering
So we don’t repeat the issues with the refreshment room development, Graeme Bunker-Jones (SVRH director) becomes the project masterplan director, to ensure the strategic view and coordination of the projects.
Also working on the station building project are:
Neil Dancer – project manager
Helen Smith – commercial development, interpretation, and visitor experience
Shelagh Paterson (Charitable Trust director of development) - fundraising
Chris Thomas (station master) – operational impact of project
Alan Davies – planning advice and support, heritage
Chris Bond (head of infrastructure) – building and management of contractors
Nick Yarwood – development advice and guidance, carbon reduction plan coordinator
Additional fundraising will be needed to supplement the £264,000 of remaining share issue money that SVRH holds, the Charitable Trust hopes to fund this. You can help by donating to this project at www.svrtrust.org.uk.
We will keep you informed of our progress as the work begins to take shape.
Photo: Volunteer led, Charitable Trust funded, the new wheelchair access toilet is one of the small projects already completed at Bridgnorth. Sue Thomas
Top up with ‘Deltics’ diesel fuel!
There’s still time to get your hands on 24 bottles of limited edition Bewdley Brewery real ale, but you’ll need to be quick!
SVR fireman Andy Stringer, has very kindly donated four sets of Bewdley Brewery beers to the Charitable Trust to be raffled over the course of the Diesel Bash event which continues through till Sunday 16th May.
Andy recently commissioned these unique sets of beers, containing 24 bottles per set, with each one having a different name and photo of one of the 22 Deltics, plus one for the prototype and another of the engine design.
“I’m donating these to the Railway to raise money for the SVR Charitable Trust,” said Andy. “As there are four sets, that’s one for each day of the Diesel Bash. If the winners are attending the event, they can enjoy them on their day out, or save them for later!”
One draw will be made each day of the Bash, so there’s still time to get your hands on a set of 24 bottles of limited edition Bewdley Brewery real ale, an exclusive collector's item for the diesel enthusiast. You can buy your raffle tickets at svr.digitickets.co.uk and you don’t have to be visiting the Diesel Bash in order to take part. Raffle tickets are £5 each and all proceeds go to help fund the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust's diesel-related projects.
SVR sets the bar at Spring Steam Up!
After months of closure, the SVR ended its first week of operations in style during April with a skilfully planned and operated Spring Steam Up weekend.
The Railway welcomed 2,588 visitors for the event, bringing £120,000 of much needed revenue. This included £77,677 in ticketing income and - despite restrictions allowing outside table service only – generated £15,000 in bar income and £13,500 in catering.
An impressive effort and one the refreshment teams can rightly be proud of.
The gift shops also showed the desire of returning visitors to part with their pounds in support of the Railway, as the intake there was £18,000 - a £4,000 increase on the previous year’s event with 60% of visitors making a purchase in the shop.
Running a complicated timetable required complex turns for crews, which the SVR volunteers took in their stride and despite Lady of Legend retiring early, because of a bent pin on the valve gear, visitor enthusiasm remained undampened. General manager Helen Smith, said:
“The event was a resounding success; the atmosphere was great throughout and the visitors enjoyed themselves immensely. When Lady of Legend unfortunately had to be pulled out of the running on Sunday, the visitors were understanding and there were lots of smiling faces everywhere.
“We will now work on ideas to further improve on our achievements at the Spring Steam Up and convert even more of our footfall into sales to benefit the Railway. It really is great to be open again. I want to thank every single volunteer for everything you do for the SVR, where teamwork makes it happen.”
Click on the gallery for full images and descriptions
A lifting time at Eardington
Another major infrastructure job in April was the removal of the rather rusty preservation era water tank at Eardington station, using the 30-ton steam crane. Chris Bond again explains:
The tank itself originated from the GWR Withymoor Goods Yard in the Black Country and served the SVR in the early days. Redundant for many years, its condition has deteriorated and it had become an eyesore that the station team, led by Steve Downes, wanted to be removed.
The lifting job was very ably planned by Tony ‘Fred’ Cotterell, whose valuable input made the day of the lift go very smoothly.
All the components are now stored pending an assessment of whether the tank is reusable elsewhere. The current thoughts are as a replacement for the LNWR pattern one on the MPD at Bewdley to create a more Great Western feel to the shed environs, but this is a fairly low priority project at the moment and will crucially rest with whether the tank can be saved.
Click on the gallery for full images and descriptions.
Forty three years at Bewdley
The last unsteamed locomotive on the SVR is ex-GWR large Prairie 4150, which arrived at Bewdley in ex-scrapyard condition on 19th January 1978. The substantially restored locomotive has now moved to Bridgnorth to complete its restoration. The 4150 Fund’s Pete Maddicks recounts the momentous day of the move:
At 3.34pm on Friday, 30th April we set off from Bewdley to Bridgnorth MPD, the loco’s first move from Bewdley in 43 years!
Winding back, the recent shunt at Bewdley Down Yard (see April’s Branch Lines) had released the loco and Fruit D to the front of the yard. We were expecting a call and it came, giving us two weeks’ notice of the move.
We stopped all other work on the loco and arranged a Covid-19 compliant working week. This allowed us to finish all the jobs to get the loco ready, including moving 4150 onto the pit in Bewdley MPD. Here we found that part of the brake rigging was on upside down, not easy to see without a pit and impossible to put right without one. We also loaded more stores into the van. Fitness-to-run exams followed on the morning of the move.
Class 09 No D4100 Dick Hardy led the consist, hauling GWR Fruit D 92080 (the Fund's stores van), loco 4150, LMS goods brake van 730866 and SR/WD brake van 55577 to carry socially distanced members of the support group.
We had a good run to Bridgnorth and the loco rolls very well. The only problem was a hot axle box on the Fruit D van, so we dropped the keep at Highley, cleaned the pad and put it all back. It was cool on arrival at Bridgnorth. We left the loco and van on the shed and set off back to Bewdley, very tired but happy.
Click on the gallery for images and descriptions.
Mallard comes to the SVR – but not the one you’d expect!
In the past weeks, social media has been gripped by the repetition of a viral tale from 2020 (dubbed #operationmallard), in which for two years running a retired naval officer rescued ducklings who hatched on his ninth floor balcony. However, Manchester isn’t the only place to have a Mrs Mallard laying her eggs in an unexpected place!
The flower bed on Kidderminster station, between both tracks, became home to Worcestershire’s own resident duck, just days before the Spring Steam Up in April. Kidderminster station is a beautiful place to enjoy the sight and smells of heritage locomotives and trains, but not such a safe place for a nesting mother and her hatchlings!
To keep Mrs Mallard safe, volunteers contacted several wildlife charities, who recommended leaving the mother duck undisturbed and erecting barriers and wired netting around the area to create a safe enclosure. Kellie Downey, SVR events coordinator and animal lover said:
‘Kidderminster Station staff kept a close eye on mother duck making sure that her water was topped up and that she could get in and out of her enclosure with ease. Several members of the team at Kidderminster contributed to mother duck’s care by bringing in wild bird feed and hay, as advised by wildlife professionals.”
Mrs Mallard is obviously a steam fan, as three busy days of Spring Steam Up with its strange sounds left her unfazed. To keep Mrs Mallard out of the public eye, and respect her privacy during this exciting time, the nesting was also kept under wraps. However, now that the ducklings have hatched, Branch Lines is excited to bring you a full account of events, as they happened.
On Friday 30th April, when the Railway was closed to the public, staff from the carriage shed spotted ducklings running around on the platform, with a couple having dropped down to explore the tracks. Fortunately ducklings are fairly robust and were uninjured. The staff from the carriage shed quickly came to their rescue, putting them back securely in their enclosure.
Shortly after, Graham from local charity Little Meadow Animal Rescue arrived at Kidderminster Station. Normally the mother duck would lead her ducklings to water but with dangerous roads between them and safety, Graham and Kellie teamed up to catch Mrs Mallard (no easy feat) and put her in a cat carrier along with her impressive brood of 13 ducklings.
The ducks could then be safely moved to their new forever home, a residential care home for the elderly with dementia near Tenbury Wells with a vast amount of land, rural setting and large pond. Kellie said:
“We are delighted that mother and all her ducklings are safe. Staff at Kidderminster Station did a wonderful job in looking out for our resident duck’s welfare and we are all absolutely thrilled that the family were able to stay together to live happily ever after.”
Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions
Photos: Mrs Mallard walking her ducklings along Kidderminster Platform. Kenny Felstead
Graham with the rescued family in carrier. Kellie Downey.
Springing into action at Bridgnorth!
There’s never a really quiet time at Bridgnorth MPD and works, as Bridgnorth Shedmaster Martin White explains:
The April 2020 lockdown and furlough period may have been quiet at Bridgnorth but April this year really was a busy month with some notable work being accomplished.
The most obvious achievement inside the works is that Stanier Mogul 13268 no longer occupies the lifting jacks. The rolling chassis of the locomotive has come off the lifting jacks and been moved around the MPD yard to allow 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’ to be lifted.
The Hall’s frames were shunted around to the jacks on a pair of accommodation bogies and subsequently lifted, the bogies then being removed out of the way. A morning’s work with the lifting jacks resulted in the loco driving wheels being installed into the frames, which is covered in greater detail in a separate article this month.
Meanwhile the team working on 13268 were busy marking up and drilling holes in its new smokebox to affix the front ring. The results of much preceding work and preparation are showing, as within a period of less than two weeks, great strides have been taken on the two heavy overhauls taking place within the works.
In the boiler shop meanwhile, the contract overhaul of the boiler from ‘Holy War’ has been completed and it has been shipped back to its home in Wales where the rest of the loco was ready and waiting for it. By the end of April, the third new-build boiler for the Isle of Man was complete, except for the tubes. This is an important milestone, as it means the next stage payment invoice can be raised. During early May the tubes were fitted. On 13268 the missing crown stays have been fitted and a start has been made on riveting the foundation ring.
The running maintenance gang also had a very busy month, ensuring that the home fleet locos were in fine fettle for Spring Steam Up. Rebuilt Saint class, 2999 Lady of Legend had a lot of work done to it after delivery from Didcot. To describe the activities in detail would occupy the whole of Branch Lines!
Suffice to say, that considerable time was consumed adjusting the springing, loco brakes and drawgear between loco and tender, along with the fabrication and installation of a spark arrestor. The Saint performed well on test and the first three days of Steam Up, but unfortunately suffered a mechanical failure identified at the end of service on Saturday. Despite the combined best efforts of SVR personnel and the Didcot support crew, including an attempt to use parts from ‘Hagley Hall’, 2999 was unable to run on the Sunday. The ensuing repair kept a couple of folks busy for the next few days and she was able to run without issue in her booked slot on Friday 21st.
In fact, such was the popularity of Lady of Legend at Spring Steam Up that this much-loved engine then operated an additional six days after the event, including two days on The Adventurer from Bridgnorth. After her highly successful visit Lady of Legend is now preparing to depart the Railway in the coming weeks.
Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions. You can also view the recent video: please also click and subscribe to the from the SVR's YouTube channel.
A stressful time at Foley Park
It’s been a very busy month, as Infrastructure Manager Chris Bond tells Branch Lines:
By far the biggest SVR track relaying project has concluded with the ‘stressing’ of around a mile of continuously welded track at Foley Park. This ensures that in hot weather the rails do not buckle as they expand.
The process is labour intensive but thanks to a fantastic turnout of our PW volunteers we reduced the contractor costs. A ‘butty van’ organised by Donna Sheridan may have influenced the turnout! The process takes much longer to carry out than to explain:
An engineering possession of the track is organised and taken from the signalman.
The rails are cut with a gap left. One side is the anchor point and the other will have the tension induced.
Large hydraulic rail pullers are attached to the rails.
The rail is unclipped from the sleepers with machinery and hand tools. Each sleeper has four clips so the mile represents an awful lot of unclipping!
Rollers with a cam mechanism are inserted at intervals to lift the rails clear of the sleepers and reduce the friction, to allow them to move when the tension is induced.
The hydraulic puller then draws the rails towards the anchor point effectively stretching them.
Whilst under tension the rollers are removed and the rail clipped back down to lock this in – another laborious job.
The join between the pulled rails is welded using thermite.
This all had to be carried out twice, as there were two different pulling points over the section. In hot weather the expanding rail can now ‘relax’ into the tension which will (for most English summers) prevent the track from buckling.
The section from Bewdley tunnel to the Kidderminster outer home bracket is now all at 25mph line speed. Additionally, following the Falling Sands Viaduct project, the longstanding 20mph restriction has now been removed. Assuming the signal is clear, drivers now have an unrestricted run into Kidderminster.
Click on the gallery for full images and descriptions.
Developments at Foley Park yard
Following on from news of stressing rail on the running line at Foley Park, Branch Lines can update readers on plans for the adjacent Foley Park yard, for which a turnout in the running line was installed as part of the track relaying in 2020.
An infrastructure planning meeting in April 2021 confirmed the intention to lay a siding at Foley Park using redundant track, and the S&T department are busy installing the ground frame and ancillaries that will eventually control the access into the yard.
Infrastructure manager Chris Bond told Branch Lines where plans currently stand, “Further potential developments have been proposed over time, such as making permanent the access road, a loco loading/unloading facility and wagon storage shed. All these proposals are currently for the medium-term future.
“We’re looking at possibly constructing a mirror turnout in the yard to create a crossover. This would both help anchor the turnout in the running line installed last year, and allow us to lay a siding and head shunt so that we might keep some permanent way rolling stock on site.”
The current S&T works will only procure and install the siding half of the proposed crossover. The S&T department’s Chris Hall added, “The ground frame will be released by the occupation key but further electrical work to allow a release during traffic hours will not, at present, be pursued.
Chris gave some detail on the scope of work underway. “We’ve had to order around 1/4 ton of new materials, otherwise we’ve used spares from our stock including point rodding recovered from Pontypridd Junction about 10 years ago.
“By Sunday 2nd May we had buried five concretes and installed nearly all the rodding stools and lengths of point rodding. There’s a significant amount still to do including rodding, cranks, compensator, further large concretes and pin joints, as well as the mechanical locking for the ground frame and more bricks.”
Photo: Foley Park ground frame construction on 2nd May 2021. Chris Hall
Ringing the changes
During these challenging times, the SVR has been fortunate to continue to receive support from a wide range of people. In the last year, ensuring the Railway’s financial security has been the top priority, but the SVR also acknowledges the continued role played by shareholders and loyalty pass holders.
In order to both reward these supporters and ensure the Railway’s financial security, a new system of benefits has been created for 2021. The benefits available are now tailored to the level of shareholding or pass, and full details are available on the SVR website. Discounts and benefits for special events remain unchanged. The online booking process will remain the same with share and pass holders able to purchase tickets online ahead of travel.
General manager Helen Smith said:
“In 2020 and during the first two quarters of 2021, we offered high level discounts to thank our shareholders and loyalty pass holders for their support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. However in the Railway’s best interests, we had to make changes for the rest of the 2021 season. The team has worked hard to offer attractive benefits, and we’d like to thank our shareholders and loyalty pass holders for their continued support for the Severn Valley Railway during what continues to be a difficult time.”
For full details of the benefits available please use the following links.
For any further questions or help to book, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01562 757 900 where the SVR team will be happy to assist.
Another milestone for 4930 Hagley Hall!
Thanks to the numerous donations and gifts in wills received by the
Thanks to the numerous donations and gifts in wills received by the SVR Charitable Trust, progress continues to be made on the restoration of 4930 Hagley Hall.
On 21st April, using the lifting jacks within the loco works, 4930’s main frames were raised to enable the locomotive’s 6ft diameter driving wheels to be rolled into position beneath. After just a few hours work the driving wheels were in place; the culmination of hundreds of hours of skilled work refurbishing the axle boxes, the frames, and wheels themselves. Shelagh Paterson, the Charitable Trust’s director of development said:
“It’s wonderful to see Hagley Hall reach this significant milestone. None of this would have been possible without the generous donations made by the supporters of the SVR Charitable Trust, which fund this and other similar restoration projects across the Railway, and our thanks go out to them.”
There are two short films, covering earlier stages of Hagley Hall’s restoration project on the SVR’s official YouTube channel, and a further one will be added about its re-wheeling in the near future.
Click on the gallery for full images and descriptions.
SVR Talks team is in demand
In March’s Branch Lines, train crew manager Jim Seaton explained how he was coordinating the revival and expansion of the SVR Talks team. Since then, impressive progress that’s been made with ten bookings since the relaunch, including one for the National 41 Club – a club for Round Table members over the age of 40. More than £300 in donations has come in for the SVR Charitable Trust as a result, with further bookings already in the diary.
Jim’s talk for the Nation 41 Club covered multiple aspects of the Railway and was extremely well received. The club’s newly elected vice president Jim Conway offered the following review:
“The speaker tonight was fabulous and has inspired me to get off my backside and visit the Severn Valley Railway!"
This demonstrates the value of these talks in spreading the word about the SVR, as Jim explained:
“The aim of the programme is to make folk want to visit us, so we're offering a bespoke service - from the simple ‘trip up the line’ to ‘a day in the life of...’ and things have moved very quickly. In addition to the 10 existing bookings, we’ve also had enquiries from a variety of groups. We're doing really well with the WI and now have Probus, local history groups and the more traditional railway and transport interest groups. The progress is really exciting.”
Jim is also working with the SVR Charitable Trust to put together content relating to the Falling Sands Viaduct project, as part of the community involvement aspect of this project that’s been part-funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Following on from this initial success, Jim is now looking forward to the new head of visitor experience taking up his position, so they can work on follow up curated visits.
Half a century for 80079!
This month sees the 50th anniversary of the arrival of BR Standard class 4 tank No 80079 at the Severn Valley Railway.
Designed by R A Riddles based on previous LMS designs, 80079 was built at BR’s Brighton works and entered service in 1954, mainly hauling trains on the London, Tilbury and Southend route. It had the misfortune to be involved in a fatal rear end collision in 1958 but was repaired and remained in BR service until 1965 when it was one of the lucky locomotives sold to Barry Scrapyard.
Purchased by the Passenger Tank Fund in 1971, on 15th May of that year, 80079 became the 13th locomotive to leave Barry, arriving at the SVR by rail.
Upon arrival at Bridgnorth, restoration began immediately, and 80079 entered service on 17th April 1977. Renowned for its free steaming, the class 4 spent the early 80s and most of the 90s hauling numerous rail tours, often with former shed mate 80098.
Like many of the locomotives based at the SVR, 80079 has also seen its fair share of fame, appearing in ITV’s Game for a Laugh in 1981.
In summer 2002, after recording in 103,509 miles in preservation, 80079 experienced tube failure just before the end of its boiler ticket, and was withdrawn awaiting overhaul. Since then, the standard class 4 has been cosmetically restored and placed on display as part of the opening exhibition at The Engine House.
Phillip J Wright, volunteer at The Engine House, explained:
"Although 80079 may not be in operational use at present, it is important to mark its 50th anniversary on the SVR. Visitors to The Engine House are always especially fascinated to hear the locomotive’s history, both before and since its arrival half a century ago! We are looking forward to the 17th May when we can reopen the building and welcome visitors back, to give 80079 the attention it deserves.”
A total of 155 Riddles class 4 tanks were built, of which 15 have survived into preservation.
Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.
Shining a light into a historic railway controversy
The April edition of The Railway Magazine carried a major feature by Nicola Fox on Edward Thompson, wartime Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNER. Relevant to your Branch Lines how? Well, Nicky’s a communications associate with the SVR working with Lesley Carr and, more importantly, part of your Branch Liness team!
Thompson succeeded Gresley and was in turn succeeded by Peppercorn and his period in office has proved controversial and at times vitriolic, both in terms of engineering and his relationship with others. Much of what’s been written has been highly critical of Thompson and his legacy, but arguably has repeated previous work. Nicky’s article robustly challenges many of these preconceptions.
Nicky’s article is inspired by the work of Simon Martin, who spent eight years researching and writing a book on the subject, with publication pencilled in for later this year. Nicky said, “For those interested in the subject, Martin's book offers an alternative perspective on this much maligned CME and the level of research that has gone into it is astounding!”
Nicky interviewed Simon Martin in 2020. He commented recently on National Preservation: “It’s [Nicky’s] interpretation of my research - whilst there’s a few things I wouldn’t necessarily have written, ultimately Nicola’s work does get the points across. It’s a great article and she should be proud of asking the hard questions of my research when she interviewed me.”
Further supportive comments on the article appeared on the Readers’ Platform page of the magazine’s May edition.
Nicky is a freelance writer and an established railway heritage journalist for periodicals such as The Railway Magazine and Heritage Railway, producing extremely well researched articles on subjects diverse as British heritage railways and Sierra Leone’s National Railway Museum. Features of her writing are balancing viewpoints and challenging established arguments where necessary. Her research and eye for detail keep the rest of the Branch Lines editorial team on our toes!
The article is available from The Railway Magazine by the usual means, and you may find back copies (for free!) though your library’s Libby or RB Digital platforms. For editorial integrity, Nicky hasn’t contributed to, or seen, this item. You can follow Nicky on Twitter at @HeritageJourno.
Trackside magazine - subscribe and earn money for the Charitable Trust!
21st May will see the launch of a brand-new railway preservation magazine called Trackside, with the opportunity for SVR members who subscribe to earn £5 for the SVR Charitable Trust.
Publisher Paul Appleton told Branch Lines: “The new magazine is aimed squarely at railway preservationists, especially those actively involved as volunteers or who work on projects at Britain's heritage railways.
The first issue includes a major feature on the SVR along with several other news stories, including a report on the successful Spring Steam Up with GWR ‘Saint’ Class 2999 Lady of Legend and the latest news from across the railway preservation world.”
Trackside will donate £5 to the SVR Charitable Trust for every subscription by an SVR member or supporter. Via the website at www.tracksidemag.co.uk enter the promotion code ’SVR’ and add your membership number in the appropriate box when completing your checkout. Non-members should enter the code ‘Branchline’ in order to activate the £5 donation.
Alternatively, telephone the dedicated Trackside subscription number 01293 312241 and give your details over the ‘phone.
V2 18th May 2021 (added photo credit for Paul Dorney)
V1 13th May 2021
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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.