Class 08 No 13201 with a short S&T works train approaching Bewdley Tunnel on 18th October 2020. Ian Murray
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
The Prime Minister's announcement of a further national lockdown yesterday evening will have a significant impact on us all. And the Railway is no different. We will make a public announcement tomorrow that we are to close for a four-week period. However, we are still planning for that all-important Christmas season, and you'll find details of our festive experiences in this edition.
There was good news last month, as the government’s Culture Recovery Fund awarded us £906,000 to help us get through the next six months, and cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our business. We also catch up with general manager Helen Smith, who reflects on the ups and downs of her first year in role, and looks forward to the challenges that lie ahead.
There’s news from all corners of the Railway, including a look back at some significant anniversaries at the SVR, the extremely vintage components being used to repair Falling Sands Viaduct (225 million years old!) and we catch up with a much-loved former resident of Bridgnorth station.
We were delighted to hear recently from readers Steve and Gill Bullock who told us, “This weekend we had our first trip on the railway since the unpleasantness began in the spring. It was great to be back. Everyone in the organisation should be immensely proud of what has been achieved. The organisation was faultless and every staff member we met behaved in a cheerful and professional manner - which must be quite a challenge sometimes in the current circumstances!”
Although you won't be able to visit the SVR for the coming month, we're thinking of you, and sending very best wishes. Stay safe, and we'll see you soon!
Lesley & Patrick
Branch Lines is edited by Lesley Carr and Patrick Hearn, with technical assistance from Amy Baker
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SVR to close as second lockdown begins
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday about new national Covid-19 restrictions, the SVR is to close from this Thursday, 5th November up to and including the 2nd December. This decision was taken by the SVR’s Gold Command team – which is made up of key representatives from the boards of all three SVR companies, general manager Helen Smith and Shelagh Paterson the SVRCT’s director of development - who met this morning to consider the way forward. Helen Smith explained more:
“The restrictions prevent us from operating the Railway. Additionally, the pubs, catering and retail will have to close to the public. We will be making a public announcement tomorrow (Monday 2nd November) to say that all services will be cancelled during this period. Visitors will be encouraged to move their booking where possible, however it may be inevitable that refunds will need to be issued. There is a real risk that the restrictions may continue after the 2nd December and we must all prepare ourselves for that outcome.
“From a business perspective this will obviously be another challenge to overcome, but in truth the impact would have been far greater at other times of the year. We have just had a great week of half-term services and the Ghost and Scream Trains went really well. As long as this set of new restrictions does not get extended then it will only affect the first weekend of the Christmas services. We are confident that we can re-allocate the bookings and will look at running on an extra day during the lead up to Christmas to pick up the cancelled services for Santa. We can get through this; it is frustrating but not the end of the world, and we will get through this. Thank you so much for your support during this extremely testing time.”
Photo: Steam in Lights 2019, Bob Green. This is one event affected by the closure to 2nd December.
A lifeline as the SVR is awarded £906,000 of government funding
Last month brought the terrific news that the Railway’s application to the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage was successful, with a grant of £906,000 being awarded to help us survive the Covid-19 crisis.
The grant was close to the maximum of £1 million available under this part of the scheme and was one of the largest grants made in the West Midlands region, facing direct competition from heritage organisations from across the UK.
A considerable amount of work went into compiling this application, which was submitted by the SVR Charitable Trust on behalf of Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) plc, as general manager Helen Smith explains:
“This tremendous achievement is the result of close working across the three SVR organisations, bringing together the expertise and knowledge of the Charitable Trust, Holdings and the SVR Company Limited. Many people have been involved and I would like to thank Shelagh Paterson and Ian Jones of the Charitable Trust, Holdings chairman Nick Paul CBE and head of finance Louise Whitehouse, for the significant contributions they made.
“Grants under this scheme are specifically targeted at essential costs relating to the Covid-19 crisis and to help organisations to protect their heritage assets over the six-month period until 31st March 2021. Our award must be used for staff salaries, additional CCTV and fire/intruder protection, funding our new health & safety manager for six months, and for additional digital marketing and communications support to promote the Railway.
“Other costs, such as new or ongoing capital projects, were not eligible for funding as part of this award, and we will need to monitor and provide evidence that the funding has been used in accordance with the grant offer.
“We would like to thank the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for providing this generous funding through The Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage, and the Heritage Fund and Historic England who administered the fund.”
The SVR was singled out for further prominence on the day the awards were announced nationally, as we hosted the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, Nigel Huddlestone MP. He had a tour of Kidderminster station, meeting loco and train crews, station staff and other volunteers as part of his visit. Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier, also attended, along with Eilish McGuinness, the executive director of business delivery at The National Lottery Heritage Fund .
Helen added: “Although this award from the Culture Recovery Fund will make a huge difference for the Railway, there’s a long way to go to get the SVR back onto an even keel. Although we’ve been running services since August, reduced passenger capacity means we haven’t been covering our operating costs every month, and with a second period of enforced closure now about to begin, the need to continue fundraising is as strong as ever.”
Photo: on 9th October the SVR welcomed the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, Nigel Huddlestone MP. Tim Thursfield, Express & Star
“It hasn’t been the easiest of starts…”
Helen Smith’s words are perhaps something of an understatement, but as she reflects on her first year as the SVR’s general manager, she finds a great deal to be proud of, and she’s clearly relishing the challenges that lie ahead. Over to Helen:
It hasn’t been the easiest of starts to my career in heritage railway; flooding, a pandemic, Brexit, a national recession; but life is not perfect, it’s a challenge for all of us and it takes courage to get through it.
Courage is gained from experience. During my career I have been privileged to work with and learn from some of the best leaders in the country. When I joined the SVR and met some of the key people - Nick Paul (chairman SVRH) and Mike Ball (deputy chairman SVRH), David Williams (deputy chairman SVRG), Diane Malyon (chairman SVRG), Shelagh Paterson (director of development SVRCT) and Phil Swallow (major shareholder) I knew that I would be well supported in the role. It felt like the SVR was at a crossroads in its development.
Nick Ralls had done a wonderful job and had grown the organisation’s annual turnover from £5 million £8 million. It was time for a new injection of energy and entrepreneurial thinking to drive the SVR onto the next 10 years.
My background is in visitor attractions and museums. When I joined the SVR I was told that there is an ongoing debate about whether we are a preserved railway or heritage attraction. Does it mean one doesn’t make money and the other does? Is one pursuit more noble than the other? I think it is perfectly possible to have a preserved railway that IS a heritage attraction. I strongly believe we should strive to improve our profitability, and we need to be future-ready. I am passionate about developing our commercial performance because I see the opportunities are there but I will not lose focus on what is important to the SVR. The money we make goes into funding the visitor experience, teaching heritage skills, preserving the Railway.
I was tasked by the board back in January, to write a 10-year strategy for the Railway which I would like to develop in consultation with everyone across the three organisations. Some work has already been done by Neil Taylor (former head of engineering) on this and we will be reintroducing some follow-up workshops in the New Year. We need to know what you want to see in the strategy. What can we do to improve volunteering and make the visitor experience better? The strategy will also be informed by external research from non-users of the Railway. Why don’t people visit? What can we do to reach out to new audiences and increase our diversity? What are the challenges facing the heritage railway industry in the next 50 years? How can we best prepare for them?
There is a great deal to be done, but I am absolutely determined we will succeed. Looking around me at our SVR family, I see a wealth of experience, knowledge and creativity. Together, we will overcome the obstacles, make the most of the opportunities, and secure a viable future for the heritage of the Severn Valley Railway.
Photo: Helen being interviewed by ITV last month. Lesley Carr
New life for old track
Track removed as part of the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension has been given a new home at the SVR by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) and the Midland Metro Alliance. More than one mile of track has been removed from along the disused railway corridor and donated to help with our annual track replacement programme.
Some of the donated track was loaded at Eardington before being moved to its storage location. The bulk of the track, along with thousands of sleepers, is being stored for the SVR by an outside contractor until it can be brought into use to replace some of the existing rail in future track re-laying operations.
Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, was at the official handover earlier this month, and told Branch Lines: “We are great supporters of our heritage railways and know that many thousands of people enjoy reliving the golden age of steam with a ride on the Severn Valley Railway. So it is fantastic that the track from the former South Staffordshire Railway, which we don’t need as part of our Midland Metro expansion plans, will be recycled and once again used on an active railway line.”
The SVR’s general manager, Helen Smith, said: “We are hugely grateful to TfWM and the Midland Metro Alliance for their generous donation of track and sleepers. It will go a long way in helping us to replace track during our regular annual track relay operation. This donation will also help to save us a considerable amount of capital, as it means we will not have to purchase rail and sleepers when we next carry out track relaying, and this is a welcome boost during these uncertain times. Gifts-in-kind like this from outside organisations are very important to the SVR, and we urge other companies to get in touch if they are considering supporting us in this way. This donation comes is hugely welcome at what is an extremely difficult time for the Railway.”
Brent Cleeton of the permanent way department told Branch Lines: “The rails loaded onto the wagons at Eardington will be going out to the lineside at Falling Sands imminently, as we get the opportunity between public trains. Otherwise, Dudley-Wednesbury isn't connected at either end now, so all materials come out by road and are going to Worksop for storage. The 45ft flame-cut panels will be broken down there by our volunteers, with sleepers being stored until we can accept them. Rails will come down an articulated lorry-load at a time.”
The donated line was last used for traffic around 1993. Brent added: “Rail won't deteriorate greatly over time, other than superficial rust. There are a few badly worn rails, but not many. The railhead profile is worn on the previous running edge but is new on the outside, so we'll turn them to run on the good edge. It's more than suitable for our line speed.”
The Midland Metro Alliance is building the extension on behalf of TfWM as part of the UK’s biggest light rail project. The 11km extension will branch off the current Metro line just east of the Wednesbury Great Western Street Metro stop, before heading through Tipton and Dudley on its way to Brierley Hill.
Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and description. Video is from the West Midlands Combined Authority
Festive Food is on the menu at the SVR
With the season of goodwill just around the corner, the Railway is serving up a whole host of festive favourites at The Engine House. From traditional turkey to careful crafted meals, there’s a variety of options for all palates.
New national restrictions are about to come into force until the 2nd December, and may continue after then. It’s planned that our Luxury Christmas Dining Experiences will now start on 5th December, with guests seated amongst the historic locos at Highley. The team have carefully curated a special menu with award-winning chef Richard Stuart to take your taste buds on a winter adventure. Each three-course meal begins with a glass of fizz and a festive journey along the line from Kidderminster. Tickets start from £80 per person.
If the highlight of your festive season is the traditional Christmas lunch with all the trimmings, we’ve got just the ticket, and it’s guaranteed to be a cracker!
Starting from both Kidderminster and Bridgnorth, steam your way to Highley for a trio of festive plates and Christmas fun. With mulled wine, Christmas crackers and turkey, it’s the perfect way to head towards the big day. Tickets, including train travel, are £55 per person.
And this year sees the introduction of a new passenger experience - the SVR’s Mince Pie Specials from Bridgnorth and Kidderminster. With a homemade mince pie and festive hot drink, including mulled wine, for every passenger, steam your way towards Christmas with a railway adventure. Running between 6th and 20th December on certain dates, tickets are £30 for two, £60 for four, and £90 for six.
More information can be found on the SVR website.
A ‘full house’ at Bridgnorth Motive Power Depot
Elsewhere in this month’s Branch Lines, we report that Martin White is stepping into the role of head of engineering at the Railway. In his volunteer guise, as Bridgnorth’s shed master, Martin has been updating readers on the happenings at MPD for several years, and this month is no different. It’s been a busy one, as Martin explains.
October saw all of the small locos from the home fleet being used. Pannier tanks 1501 and 7714 have been regularly rostered, with the former accompanied on some special Friday services by either 1450 or 813 double-heading. Whilst we have not had a gala weekend on the Railway this year, hopefully these special Friday services have given our enthusiast visitors something a little bit different; 96 miles of steam haulage during the day, double-heading and some movements after dusk.
813 has also been involved in a day and night of filming at Kidderminster, although this was jeopardised by an unexpected failure of a boiler tube whilst the loco was being steam tested a few days earlier. The Bridgnorth boiler smiths were able to install a bung in the tube to enable 813 to perform both at the filming and for its scheduled day in service. The fitting of a replacement tube is expected imminently, thus ensuring the engine is fit for use should the need arise. It is hoped that a final few days working of 1450 can be slotted in during November, which will be a final hurrah for the little 0-4-2T, as the boiler ticket expires in December.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Bridgnorth MPD has been host to a number of large, mainline locomotives lately. No 34046, ‘Braunton’ arrived on the SVR hauling a charter on 7th October. Unfortunately, it was ‘failed’ at Bridgnorth with a hot little end (for non-technical people, this is the leading end of the connecting rod) which resulted in the loco having to stay over for repairs. The following week ‘Royal Scot’, 46100 arrived at Bridgnorth, for a pre-arranged visit to make use of the facilities within the workshops. The Scot is maintained by the LNWRH team based at Crewe, who also look after ‘Braunton’, both locos operating under the Locomotive Services Ltd (LSL) banner. There was some remedial work which they wanted to undertake which necessitated removing a driving axle. The easiest and safest way of doing this is on a wheel drop. As the Bridgnorth works has a drop-pit with the capability of dealing with the Scot’s 6ft 9ins diameter wheels, this had been arranged some while in advance. In order to better manage social distancing and reduce the risks of Covid-19 cross infection, it was agreed that the folks from Crewe would predominantly work in the shed at weekends, when SVR paid staff would not be present and volunteer staff numbers could be managed in line with our Covid-19 procedures. The unexpected presence of ‘Braunton’, resulted in the folk from Crewe undertaking work on both locos simultaneously. Incidentally, 6960, ‘Raveningham Hall’ also comes under LSL auspices and so SVR has had three locos from that stable, all residing in Bridgnorth MPD yard at the same time.
Once the work on 46100 had been completed, 34027 ‘Taw Valley’, took its place in the works to undergo its annual mechanical and boiler inspection. These activities are scheduled to be concluded during the second week of November, ready for it to appear in this year’s Steam in Light operation from Bridgnorth.
Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and description
SVR saves the day for mainline railtour
On Wednesday 7th October, the Railway received a visit from Saphos Trains’ ‘Severn Valley Enterprise’ railtour, hauled by ex-SR 34046 Braunton, bringing both interest and much-needed revenue to the SVR. The day was not without problems, but the SVR, as always, rose to the occasion! SVR’s operations manager, Matt Robinson, was on the train and gives us his account of the day.
Due to the provided timings being less than ideal we had already altered how the operation on the SVR was going to look as the timeframe was quite tight. I boarded in Crewe with key staff from Locomotive Services Limited (LSL) and Saphos Trains. We agreed we would again review the SVR plans when we left the water stop at Bescot, and if we were more than 25 mins late, we’d consider changing things.
It was a sedate run from Crewe climbing to Madeley, gradually slipping to around 20 late whereon we sat for the entire run. We left Bescot 30 minutes down and along with the trip’s responsible officer (RO) and Saphos’ train manager (TM) we decided to bring 34027 Taw Valley to Kidderminster from Bewdley to change engines there.
Although this would lose a bit more time, it would preserve the servicing time for Braunton by omitting the need for it to run through to Bewdley to detach, run round its support coach, return to Kidderminster to turn and then start heading north. Instead the loco detached and turned and was only 15 minutes behind the tour into Bridgnorth for servicing, and ahead of its booked time!
The TM also requested a stop and the opportunity to alight in Kidderminster Town (SVR) platform as some people had been on the train nearly seven hours at this point and wanted a break. This was easily achieved as there was a class 47 (D1935, 47805) attached to the rear which hauled the train into platform 1. The spectacle of the ‘changing of the Bulleids’ was enjoyed by on train passengers who perhaps otherwise would not have witnessed this taking place had it happened, as planned, at Bewdley.
I’ll now ‘fast forward’ an hour or so to Bridgnorth. All had gone well, the set had been watered and moved under the guidance of the station master, Chris Thomas. Braunton was coaled and ready on the MPD having the final touches made ready for departure when a warm bottom end bearing was found. Further investigation saw the loco’s engineering team decide to call the engine a failure and so problem number two of day cropped up! After a few phone calls and a quick on platform meeting between the new RO and the TM, it was decided to get Taw Valley going again to return the train to Bewdley. The TM was keen to have some steam action on the return, even if only for the first 12¾ miles! Operationally, this also avoided the whole train having to be repositioned to be able to run the class 47 round its train again at Bridgnorth. To water the set and allow room to get the steam loco and support coach back on the train, the rear coach was now over the track circuit at the boilershop end of the station, and so would have needed shunting!
34027 was quickly arranged and with advice that an hour late from Kidderminster would give a Network Rail slot again an hour behind the original one this was what was aimed for, and we made it with a few minutes to spare! Taw Valley had the limelight both ways on the SVR and the 47805 took the train forward from Bewdley, after running round there. The train paused briefly to drop off SVR staff at Kidderminster before heading for Crewe. Arrival at the first drop off point, East Midlands Parkway, was bang on time. Despite the problems it was a job well done and we have received excellent feedback from our friends and colleagues at LSL and Saphos.
Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and description
Video credit: Sharpos world. Revenue from these videos (over £150 to date) goes to the SVR’s Fight Back Fund appeal, with thanks to Paul Sharpe.
Notes from the Diesel Depot
SVR(H) director and chair of the diesel committee Jonathan Dunster writes with a monthly update, including information about additional operating dates.
Traction Maintenance Depot report
Overhaul of LMS-design Class 11 No 12099 has seen the engine lifted back into place as well as the control cubicle. More recently the cylinder liners have been refitted into the engine and work has continued on refurbishment of the cab. Another shunter, 09107, has also come in for examination this month
Class 17 D8568’s repaint is progressing well and the sight of it in BR blue is eagerly awaited!
The overhaul of a spare Class 50 engine (ex 50018) destined for 50031 Hood is progressing too, with stripping down to the point now where the block can be moved into the TMD for the work to continue.
The repaint of 47773 from Tyseley (contract work) is reaching the final stages with top coat on the roof and body sides. The loco will be departing once completed.
One setback this month has been the withdrawal of Class 52 D1062 Western Courier from traffic until 2021. After completion of the bogie work, ‘62’ underwent test running on the weekend of 7th and 8th October. All was looking good but unfortunately an intermittent brake fault has manifested itself and the only sensible decision was to remove the locomotive from traffic for further investigations.
‘The Pioneer’ running days have again proven popular during October with four Class 50s, Class 42 D821 Greyhound with 40106 Atlantic Conveyor and finally Class 52 D1015 Western Champion and 40106 Atlantic Conveyor operating respectively. Feedback from passengers has been overwhelmingly positive and with the steam heating of the Class 40 now fully commissioned, three further dates between Christmas and New Year have now been confirmed as follows:
Dec 26th - 40106
Dec 31st - 40106 top-and-tail with other locos to be confirmed
Jan 3rd - 40106 top-and-tail with other locos to be confirmed
Details of other locos will be advertised as soon as possible
At the end of last month we had the popular Ghost Trains operating again and these were top-and-tailed diesel and steam, with the diesel locomotives D821 and D1015.
Steam in Lights will largely feature Class 14 D9551 and 33108, whilst 40106 will be the nominated standby locomotive at Kidderminster for the Santa period.
Finally, we were very pleased to be able to mobilise for 50007/49 at less than 24 hours' notice for GB Railfreight again on 15th October to enable them to be utilised for another rake of withdrawn HST vehicles, this time being moved from Gascoigne Wood to Barrow Hill for storage. This was another great example of the facilities we have at our disposal and the benefits of our connection to Network Rail.
Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and description
Continue to ‘Fight Back’ against Covid-19 with a regular monthly donation
The support of Branch Lines readers during the coronavirus pandemic has been, and continues to be, absolutely vital for the Railway’s survival during these unprecedented times. The SVR Charitable Trust is launching an appeal for regular givers, as director of development Shelagh Paterson explains:
“We know it’s a difficult ask, but with the continuing negative impact of coronavirus on the Railway, we must continue to fight back. Ticket sales and takings from our cafes and bars have been severely reduced and cannot cover the cost of keeping the Railway running, maintaining the track and infrastructure, safeguarding the rolling stock, and training our future heritage engineers. Now, we are facing a second period of closure, after the announcement of a further lockdown by the Prime Minister yesterday.
“When you make a regular monthly donation, you are helping us to plan ahead, in the knowledge of what level of income we can rely on each month. Please, would you consider signing up to become a regular giver? Or, if you already support us in this way, perhaps you might consider making a small increase in your monthly amount?
“It’s very easy to sign up at svr.co.uk or by using the leaflet you will soon receive in the post. When you do, you’ll automatically become a member of our Patrons’ Club, receiving invitations to special thank you events at the Railway and a silver lapel badge in recognition of your support.”
A glimpse into the SVR’s past
Visitors during the past week have been the first to see an exciting and innovative ‘mobile’ exhibition that lifts the lid on the fascinating history of the 158-year-old line.
It’s housed inside the specially-adapted brake van, No 2886, stationed alongside the loading dock at Kidderminster station. Beautifully restored last year by experts in the SVR’s workshops, the van, affectionately known as the Stove R, now contains interactive exhibits with the sounds, sights and smells of the railway over the years. Visitors get a glimpse into the lives of a series of characters associated with the SVR, through voice recordings and diary entries.
Meanwhile, The Engine House visitor centre at Highley goes even deeper into the lives of SVR folk over the centuries. Full size totem characters give a rich insight into their experiences; visitors can meet Sarah Woodward, a businesswoman who built her fortunes on the railway’s arrival, and Edward Wilson, the engineer who designed Falling Sands viaduct at Kidderminster. There’s the chance for young children to build their own viaduct, and try out being a navvy, transporting rocks with a shovel and wheelbarrow.
The exciting new exhibitions in the Stove R and at The Engine House have been made possible by funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and generous donations, as part of a £1.25 million project to restore the SVR’s Falling Sands viaduct. Work on the viaduct itself continues, as contractors use rope access equipment to repair the brickwork and repoint the mortar on the outside of the structure.
Photo credit: Elizabeth Songhurst
Lest we forget
This year due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the SVR cannot hold the usual remembrance service on Kidderminster concourse. Station master, Geoff Smith, told Branch Lines:
“The railway chaplain has kindly offered to come and hold a simple service on the platform next to the locomotive on the morning of the 8th November at 10:45am. We mustn’t have people gathering on the platform due to the rules, so could we please ask that you do not try to attend the service if you are not working or travelling on the railway. Volunteer Amy Baker has kindly offered to stream the service live on the SVR Facebook page. We hope you can join us virtually on the day.”
(You can access the SVR Facebook page, even if you have not joined Facebook. It’s also available via the SVRLIve social media page by clicking the Facebook icon).
Meanwhile, arrangements are in hand for a Remembrance Day wreath to be placed on locomotive 48773 at The Engine House, Highley. The Stanier 8F Locomotive Society’s Jeff Ryan explains more:
“Newer SVR supporters may be unaware that Stanier 8F No 48773 is the Royal Engineers’ Memorial Locomotive. Under its previous identity of LMS 8233, our locomotive was dedicated in 1986 to the memory of WW2 military railwaymen of the Corps of Royal Engineers (the ‘Railway Sappers’).
The locomotive was built 80 years ago as War Department WD 307 to serve with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France. It served in Iran and Egypt, and on the Longmoor Military Railway.
“The Dunkirk evacuation of the BEF (Operation Dynamo) took place between 26th May and 4th June 1940, but not many are aware that large numbers of British military personnel remained in France. On 17th June Britain’s worst maritime disaster of the last century occurred with the sinking of the troopship Lancastria. Casualties outnumbered the combined losses of the Titanic and Lusitania. The French government surrendered on 22nd June.
“WD 307 first steamed on 27th June 1940, just 10 days after the loss of the Lancastria. So, what is the connection? It was not until 2002 that the Society researched the names of casualties to record on a Roll of Honour. To our great surprise, more than 100 of the casualties lost their lives on 17th June 1940, many of them connected with the Lancastria disaster. It was the heaviest daily loss of railway sappers throughout WW2.
“When in traffic, 48773 was always rostered to haul the Remembrance Day special. For a number of years, the Society has supplied the names of casualties to be remembered at the annual Kidderminster service. The large number of casualties throughout 1940 meant that some names were included in the 2019 service. Remembrance Sunday will be very different this year and the planned reading of further names from the 1940 casualties has been postponed.
“The Society’s Roll of Honour is displayed at The Engine House at Highley, and from time to time is visited by family members. Names may also be viewed on the Society’s website www.8fsociety.co.uk.
“Anyone unfamiliar with the Lancastria story is recommended to access Janet Dempsey’s account at The National Archives: ‘Forgotten tragedy: The loss of HMT Lancastria’.”
Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and description
Call to SVR members to help save costs
Amanda Palmer and Victoria Evans from the SVR membership team have contacted Branch Lines to ask for your help. In a drive to reduce costs and streamline the membership renewal process, they’re looking at ways to save money. Over to Amanda:
“We’re asking loyal members of the SVR to make the switch over to the ‘tech world’, as this will help to bring down both postage and administration costs, and it’s really very easy.
“Firstly, could you switch to using direct debits as your preferred payment method? This will automatically renew your membership each year, saving us the cost of posting out paper renewals, and you the bother of replying with your payment. All you need to do is call me on 01562 757930 to request your direct debit form.”
Victoria added another way in which members can help to slash the administrative costs:
“Please would you let us have your email address? This will allow us to keep in touch with you easily to send renewal reminders, announcements or offers that we want to make you aware of. Just send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org, including your name and address in the email so we can match this with our records. Thank you so much for your continued support, and for helping to ensure the future of the SVR.”
All change at the Guarantee company
It’s a time of change at the SVR Company Limited (also known as the Guarantee Company). On 23rd October, the Board made some important changes with longstanding director Di Malyon becoming chairman. Beforehand, on 10th October the company held its AGM by proxy only, via telephone conference call, due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. The former chairman, and now vice-chairman, David Williams reports:
At the board meeting on Friday, 23rd October, a ‘role reversal’ took place. David Williams, who had been chairman of the Company for 41 years, retired and proposed that his successor should be Diane Malyon; the Board agreed unanimously. It was further proposed that Diane’s previous role as vice-chairman should be conferred on David Williams, which was agreed unanimously.
At the same meeting, forthcoming Guarantee company representation on the Holdings board was also agreed; Alan Davies and Tony Bending would continue in this role, and Diane Malyon would join them. Previously, at the AGM on Saturday 10th October, Michelle Bevon, Alan Longdon and Diane Malyon retired as directors by rotation and had offered themselves for re-election. Additional nominations had been received from James Cooper and Lawrence Mortimer. The votes cast were: Michelle Bevon 468, James Cooper 446, Alan Longdon 336, Diane Malyon 505 and Lawrence Mortimer 384. Therefore Michelle, James, Diane and Lawrence were elected to the board, and Alan was unsuccessful.
The chairman, David Williams, on behalf of the board, thanked Alan Longdon for his service as a director for the past 15 years, and his contribution to various committees in the operating and safety fields. The board was pleased to note that recently Alan had received his 50-year certificate as a volunteer from our Patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester.
Lawrence Mortimer has been involved in the SVR since 2002 when he joined the Junior Club. He has worked as a platform porter and the booking office at Hampton Loade and as a signalman, guard, passed fireman, duty officer and on the staffing committee. He is a strategic short-term planning operator on the mainline with train operating company Great Western Railway. and operates heritage transport operator Wyvern Omnibus.
James Cooper has been involved in the SVR since 2002 when he joined the Junior Club. He has worked as a platform porter at Arley and as a signalman, guard, driver and Bewdley MPD shed representative. He is treasurer of the Stanier Mogul Fund. He is a driver on the mainline with train operating company Avanti West Coast, and a fireman with Locomotive Services Limited.
All other resolutions of the AGM were passed.
Quentin Haigh wrote to offer warmest congratulations to secretary, David Mellor, who he believed had achieved a 50-year stint in this important role for the Company. This was indeed true, and more since! David also deputised as necessary in similar roles for the Holdings Company, so the sentiment was echoed by all the directors present, and we are sure by all our members too.
A fuller report of the AGM can be found on SVRLive.
Photos: Diane, James and Lawrence.
With the recent changes, SVR Charitable Trust trustee Paul Fathers has been in touch to suggest that we put names to faces for the boards of all three SVR companies. All are available online on the following links:
A day in the life of the operations department
“No trains running today” said the SVR website for Thursday 15th October. Certainly, no public trains, but a very busy day nonetheless for our line. Operations manager, Matt Robinson, recounts the day.
The first operation was annual drain train which left Highley, double-headed by 33108 and Class 09 D4100 ‘Dick Hardy’. It was led by Steven Caws of the permanent way department, and included a SVR driver and guard. Contractors provided a lorry which we carried on a Loriot wagon, and we also provided a tanker wagon with water to save continuously refilling the lorry. The train operated through that week, working southwards, and inspected drains and jetted them out where necessary. This was the final day of operation for this year.
Kidderminster was the hub for most interest for the day. At 10.17 we had a 5Z46 arrival from Crewe. This was headed by preserved mainline registered Class 40145 hauling classmate 40106, steam loco 46100 ‘Royal Scot’ and a support coach. 40106 was returning to its semi-permanent position as steam heat diesel. It provides the Railway with cover for the winter season and avoids having to turn out cold trains should a short notice diesel substitution be required. It will also perform on some booked diesel turns. The loco had returned home to the East Lancashire Railway, Bury, for the summer where it has undergone mechanical work on the locomotive and boiler.
‘Royal Scot’ has arrived at the Railway as part of a contract to use the facilities at Bridgnorth to drop out a driving wheelset. On arrival the ‘Scot’ was turned and attached to four Mk1 carriages for the trip to Bridgnorth, and it will be using these coaches for test runs in a few weeks’ time. The original plan was to just run light engine for the test runs to prove the ‘Scot’, but following the failure of 34046 ‘Braunton’ the previous week, this too needs testing after repairs. Therefore, the two locos have gone out together, but to restrict the weight of two large express locos over our structures, the four coaches are used as ‘weight spreaders’.
This is a commercial testing arrangement, with the owners planning their testing to best suit their needs on the day, and we do not expect details to be published.
The final parts of the day’s jigsaw were the outward moves. 40145 left the Railway bang on time back to Crewe as 5Z47. This move took two HST Mk3 trailers and a sleeper coach that have been stored at Kidderminster. The sleeper acted as one of the HST trailer barrier vehicles and the support coach that arrived with the ‘Scot’ acted as the second. There is already a support coach at Bridgnorth which will return with 46100 and 34046 to Crewe. Just to keep the rails polished on the exchange, we then had a GBRf move in the form of 0Z50 from Kidderminster to Leicester using 50007 and 50049.
It certainly was a busy day!
Please click on the galleries for full size, uncropped images and descriptions. The second gallery are images of the testing.
Get Christmas all wrapped up with the Severn Valley Railway
Calling all festive elves! If you’re one of those people who like to have the tree up in November and have all the presents sorted before the snow begins to fall, then there’s no better place to shop than www.svrshop.co.uk where there’s plenty to delight everyone this Christmas.
There’s plenty to choose from, including one-of-a-kind Severn Valley Railway watches, our first ever Christmas jumper, the 2021 Severn Valley Railway calendar and a variety of face masks, featuring your favourite home locos!
Safe to say, we’ve got Christmas all wrapped up! Head to www.svrshop.co.uk now to explore the full range.
Goodbye to Neil Taylor – but not completely
Head of engineering Neil Taylor has stepped down from his role to put his energies into his other businesses at home in Wales, where he also runs a pub, bed and breakfast and is doing up a cottage. During Neil’s time at the Severn Valley Railway he has transformed the Engineering Works at Bridgnorth, taken over managing Carriage and Wagon and been instrumental in the development of the strategic vision for the future. Neil told Branch Lines:
“I would just like to thank the board of the SVR for providing me with the opportunity to contribute to the best heritage railway in the country, and I would like to thank all of those many people who showed me patience and kindness and helped me enjoy a dream job. It’s been a blast.”
The winter edition of SVR News (sent to all members) will carry an in-depth article from Neil about his time at the Railway, and in the meantime general manager Helen Smith paid tribute to him:
“I’m delighted to say that Neil’s not escaping the SVR completely, as he will be back in 2021 to restart the consultation work already begun on our 10-year strategy. I’m sure everyone at the Railway will join me in wishing him the very best of luck, and thanking him for the invaluable contribution he has made, and will continue to make, at the SVR.”
Helen added, “Martin White will step into Neil’s shoes as head of engineering. He’s been volunteering at the Railway for more than 40 years and started working for us three years ago. Martin has an excellent CV and a vast knowledge of the challenges we face across our engineering services. I am looking forward to him leading the team in these challenging times.
“And Richard Morris has recently joined as our new health and safety manager. He has an impressive CV with a myriad of safety qualifications. He’ll be out and about over the next few weeks finding out what everyone does and how he can help us do our jobs more safely. This role is part-funded by the Culture Recovery Fund for the first six months. I am looking forward to seeing the difference Richard will make to our safety culture.”
Upper photo: Neil Taylor (second from left) hosting a tour of Charitable Trust donors at the Bridgnorth motive power depot. Lower: Martin (l) and Richard (r).
Reducing the Railway’s carbon footprint
A wide-ranging and pioneering plan to reduce the SVR’s carbon footprint and increase sustainability has been launched, with the backing of all three SVR organisations – SVR (Holdings) Plc, the SVR Company Limited and the SVR Charitable Trust.
It’s being led by volunteers Nick Yarwood and Dave Rowley, working with the SVR Charitable Trust’s director of development Shelagh Paterson. Nick currently assists with the project management of Falling Sands Viaduct’s restoration and Bridgnorth Phase II, and who was formerly the highways contracts manager for Worcestershire County Council. Dave recently retired as regional director for Ringway Infrastructure Services, and is particularly interested and experienced in carbon reduction, sustainability and recycling.
Nick explains more:
“As a leader in the heritage railway sector, we need to have an SVR-wide carbon reduction and environmental plan so that we can all address and take action to reduce the carbon footprint and increase sustainability in all our activities on the Railway.
“Greening the Railway is always going to be imperfect. Burning coal and diesel is an essential part of our business. Nevertheless, as a premier player in the heritage railway sector, we can take the lead on assessing our carbon footprint, and finding ways to reduce it.”
The SVR’s Carbon Footprint Reduction Group includes senior managers and board directors, and will establish a clear, co-ordinated approach to managing the environmental impacts of the Railway’s activities, and ensuring its carbon footprint is reduced by identifying, agreeing and prioritising a wide range of initiatives. Nick continues:
“Our starting point is to calculate the current carbon footprint of the SVR in every business area such as operations, engineering, infrastructure, administration, visitor-facing, investments and suppliers. We have already spoken with many leaders on the Railway and a wealth of ideas and practical suggestions have been made. The support for the initiative is very encouraging and we’ll be inviting more people to offer their suggestions and ideas.
“Once we have identified our carbon footprint, we’ll assess the carbon reduction measures identified, agree the reduction target, and calculate costings. With approval from all three SVR boards, activities can be rolled out in earnest from March 2021 and we’ll monitor, evaluate and publicise the impact of these. We are working closely with the SVR Charitable Trust who are already seeking sources of funding and who are contacting companies that may be interested in supporting a socially responsible project such as this, if you are aware of organisations or individuals who may want to lend their support either financially or with expertise, please do get in touch.”
The team would love to hear your ideas on carbon reduction and sustainability for the Severn Valley Railway and you can get in touch by emailing email@example.com
Photo by Nick Yarwood: A recently completed project to replace the lighting in the car park at Kidderminster is saving 75% of energy.
Christmas is coming
Although new national restrictions are about to come into force until the 2nd December, and may continue after then, we continue preparations for Christmas services as events manager Lewis Maddox explains:
With Covid-19 restrictions, we have something very different this year for Santa services, a pantomime-style show in a marquee at Arley, with steam trains there and back. Tickets have sold out for the December weekends, and the last weekend in November will be cancelled because of the new restrictions. We are operating a waiting list for passengers who have missed the date they wanted should tickets become available.
There’s been a change in the organising committee this year, with Diane Malyon passing the co-ordinator role on to me. Many thanks to Diane for all she has done, having held that role since 1995!
A small team led by Dave Beaman has been lighting and decorating Arley station, and Ian Latimer and Catherine Martin are getting things organised.
The SVR is also guaranteeing a merry and bright start to the most wonderful time of the year with Steam in Lights, a magical adventure from Bridgnorth station. Tickets are selling fast, so if you want to be escorted on an experience like no other, then don’t miss out.
New this year is that passengers travel in private compartments for the whole journey. With expanded lineside displays, there are surprises dotted throughout that can only be seen from the train itself and, for the first time, the SVR is guaranteeing snow on every Steam in Lights journey.
Tickets are going fast, please do publicise this event amongst friends and on your own social media. Tickets and more information are available now from www.svr.co.uk/SteamInLIghts
We’re also operating a number of other festive food-related experiences - see our separate Festive Food article.
The Festive Season Service will operate 26th December - 3rd January steam and diesel trains from Kidderminster and Bridgnorth.
Be sure to spread the word! More information can be found on the SVR website.
Photo: 34053 Sir Keith Park on Christmas services 2nd December 2012. Jed Bennett
And to cap it all off …
The SVR’s stonemason Philip Chatfield has recently taken on the challenge of creating four capping stones to grace the Bewdley end of Falling Sands viaduct. It’s no mean feat, as each block weighs more than a ton, and as part of the process they’ve required turning. It takes Philip about a week to carve each of the stones and he told Branch Lines more about the process:
“I need to get the dimensions of the Bewdley end stones exactly the same as those on the Kidderminster side of the viaduct, and I’m carving off a great deal of stone from the tops to form the large slopes, or chamfers to use the technical term. There’s a lot of hammer and chisel work, and probably a quarter of a ton of waste that comes off each stone.”
The explanation for the missing capping stones dates back to 1972, as infrastructure manager Chris Bond explained:
"It seems that British Rail started to take down and rebuild the parapet walls and remove the corbelling from the viaduct, presumably to reduce the weight on it for some reason. We can only assume that part way through this, they either ran out of money or changed their minds and left it in its current condition."
We’ll probably never know exactly what happened then, but Philip was able to tell us more about the history of the 21st century replacement stones:
“These are reclaimed red sandstone blocks, recovered from recent works to a viaduct that crossed the river Irwell in Manchester that formed part of the Liverpool to Manchester railway, dating from George Stephenson's era of 1830, the dawn of the railway age. Recent railway engineering of the Ordsall Chord has meant huge engineering changes required for new railway infrastructure to wend its way through the city of Manchester. The old red sandstone viaduct had to be partly dismantled so some of the old stone became available. Thankfully, four blocks were large enough to be sawn to the dimensions I needed for the Falling Sands project. So, this historic railway stone has now found another historic home at SVR. The stone is what is called Triassic sandstone or new red sandstone and is approximately 225 million years old. Whilst carving the stones, I’ve uncovered wave-washed pebbles!”
There’s another twist of interest that might puzzle future generations if and when they come to move these giant stones in years to come; on the hidden side of one of the stones, they’ll find a carefully carved capital ‘K’. That’s ‘K’ for Katie Isles, the site manager for the Falling Sands contractors CAN Construction Limited, who was keen to have a go at stone carving. Philip was happy to oblige and reported that she’d done very well. However, the ‘K’ will be completely hidden once the stones are in place, so now you know an SVR secret!
Once completed, the stones will travel on the road railer to the viaduct, where they’ll be lifted onto the specially reinforced pilasters for Philip to finish the lime mortar pointing.
This work is part of the £1.25 million Falling Sands project, funded by the SVR Charitable Trust thanks to generous donations and a substantial grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and description
A well-earned rest for Puddles
Although thousands of people have been able to visit Bridgnorth station following lockdown, there’s one regular who hasn’t been back – Puddles the station cat. We love a human, sorry feline, interest story, so here’s the tail, sorry tale!
As the country went into lockdown in late March, there was concern about how Puddles would cope. She’d been living at Bridgnorth station for around 15 years, catching the very occasional mouse, and delighting all the visitors, but who would look after her now? A decision was made that Puddles would move into temporary lodgings at the home of The Railwayman’s Arms manager Samantha Hayward, who was on maternity leave. Sam told us more:
“Puddles is quite an old lady now, we think between 16 and 18 years old, and was clearly ready to enjoy a little bit of luxury. She loved being in a heated house, and stretching out on the sofa to watch television. She’s become very close to our 10-month-old daughter Tillie-Rose, and loves nothing better than hanging around underneath the high chair at mealtimes where she knows she’s bound to end up with something extra to eat!
“Seeing how well she’d settled in, we hadn’t the heart to take her back to the station when the Railway reopened. Although she’d been well fed and cared for there, it was quite a hard life. She used to sleep underneath the coaches alongside platform 1, finding a bit of residual warmth on the wheel arrangements.”
One of Puddles’ biggest supporters at Bridgnorth over the years has been volunteer Tony Bending, in whose office she could often be found. He’s pleased that she’s now found a new home:
“She’d sit on the shop counter, getting lots of admiration from our visitors. She really has been an asset and an ambassador for the Railway. She features in the ‘SVR Activity and Colouring Book’ that we sell in the shop. Once she stowed away on a train and ended up in Hampton Loade, where a member of staff recognized her and arranged for her return to Bridgnorth. It’s true she wasn’t exactly the best rat catcher around, but she added a great deal of feline charm to the place.”
So, a happy retirement to Puddles from everyone at the Railway – and of course, there is now a vacancy at Bridgnorth – CVs to Sam and Tony please!
Photos of Puddles at Bridgnorth and in her luxury retirement home by Sam Hayward
Spooky goings-on a sell-out success
The SVR’s Ghost Train was joined this year by The Scream Train, an adult only thriller. Events manager, Lewis Maddox, took a break from the fun to tell Branch Lines how well the event went, and some of the work behind it:
The Ghost Train is now a ‘family fun’ fixture of the SVR special events calendar. This year we have had to replan the event around current restrictions using a mixture of GWR/LMS compartment stock from the day’s Flyer and Explorer itineraries.
All tickets were sold out in advance for all three days (28th-31st October), 468 compartments in total carrying around 2,500 people, all safe and socially distanced. In the current climate this is an essential revenue earner for the SVR.
Lighting and sound effects were used at Bewdley and Arley Stations, as well as scary displays and dressed-up volunteer actors roaming the platforms. A show was provided at Arley, with a mini-display taking place in the graveyard.
Our passengers enjoyed an enhanced experience this year, with the addition of a smoke machine, and extra lighting effects at Kidderminster.
Also new this year was an over-18s version, The Scream Train, with passengers ‘trapped’ in their compartments while 10 cackling actors roamed the corridors of the train.
Thanks are due to Angela and Pete Smith and the team at Kidderminster. At Arley a mention for Lorraine and Lee Spendlove, Malcolm Broadhurst, Lenny Warrington and the volunteers who assisted with lighting and decoration. James Pearson and the team at Bewdley also went to town, decorating the station with all kinds of ghoulish installations. Special mention to Matt Davis at Arley for feeding the on-duty scary folk (even the living dead get hungry!). All the Scare Teams, both on and off the train, have done an amazing job and I cannot thank you enough for your support. Halloween continues to grow into one of our most popular events! Not to forget of course the train crews, signalmen and others that made the three evenings such a spooky success.
Photo: guess who? Your general manager Helen Smith joined other volunteers on scaring duty. Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions
November in SVR history
Recently in Branch Lines we have been looking back at earlier days of the SVR. We’ve had some really good feedback and think you might enjoy a review of some November events from 20, 25, 30, 40 and 50 years ago.
50 years ago: in 1970 BR(W) Hawksworth 1500 class 0-6-0PT No. 1501 arrived on SVR metals, the 12th steam locomotive to do so. The 15XX Pannier Tank Fund had purchased the loco from NCB’s Coventry Colliery earlier that year and by October it had reached Bewdley. On 7th November 43106 towed 1501 to Bridgnorth across the SVR boundary of Milepost 144½ at Alveley. After restoration, mostly back at Bewdley, it first steamed in 1997. David Cooke’s photostream has images of its journey to the Valley.
40 years ago: D2961 arrived on the SVR, where it remains as Bridgnorth boiler shop shunter. In 1980 four Ruston and Hornsby 165hp locos were bought from Patent Shaft Steelworks, Wednesbury. SVR volunteer and loco owner Pete Cherry told Branch Lines:
“When brought to the SVR, the Railway were not really aware which of the locomotives were any good! It transpired that sister locomotives Archibald and William were not going to be kept long-term. Diesel-electric 418596 (D2961) would stay as Bridgnorth shunter rather than be used by the P-Way as was originally thought. I had bought Archibald and at that point we agreed to swap ownership”.
30 years ago: in 1990 LMS Stanier Mogul 2968 moved under her own power for the first time since BR days. The following is taken by Jim Norman, the Society archivist, from the Stanier Mogul Fund’s Pictorial History:
“At 11.00 am precisely, with the engine still without boiler cladding sheets and some pieces of running plate, Fund Restoration Officer, Colin Williams, who had done so much of the physical work to bring the engine to this point, often single-handedly, wound her into back gear, released the brakes and eased open the regulator [SVR Works Manager Graham Nangreave was also on the footplate, with Jim Norman taking photos for posterity]. With steam roaring from the cylinder drain cocks, her wheels turned under her own steam for the first time in almost 24 years. She left Bridgnorth Yard and headed tender first to Highley for her first and very successful shake-down run. She made in all two return trips to Highley that day, a total of 28 miles of running, stopping frequently to check for warm bearings, motion bushes or any other signs of all not being well. Nothing untoward occurred.”
A longer article by Jim appeared in the recent ‘SMF News’.
Also notable, for her third outing on Monday 19th November, authority was given to run to Kidderminster. Unfortunately, the first run was turned back at Highley because of a bomb scare at the Sugar Beet Factory at Foley Park!
25 years ago: in 1995 Peckett 1738 of 1928 departed the SVR. This little 0-4-0ST had arrived as long ago as 1968 but had seen little subsequent use. It moved to the for the South Devon Railway but returned to the SVR in 2000 for a ‘Thomas’ weekend, masquerading as ‘Percy’ to Jinty 47383’s ‘Thomas’.
20 years ago: November 2000 was an eventful month. Firstly, torrential rain caused a major landslip at Knowlesands tunnel, leaving three lengths of track hanging in space with the embankment spread across the field below. Contractors completed repairs during the same month.
Also, BR Standard 9F 92212 arrived to help operate the season’s Santa Special services. The home fleet was at the time still recovering from the recent boiler crisis (the Railway had experienced a series of boiler failures, from a combination of water quality, type of coal used and methods of firing).
Finally, a train hauled by 8F 48773 was in collision with an Astra van on Northwood Crossing. HM Railway Inspectorate found that the crossing equipment was in full working order and that the Railway was not at fault, independent witnesses having testified that the driver had passed the flashing red lights when the train was only a few yards from the crossing. Thankfully, nobody was injured in the collision. Rob Newman adds that the incident happened late in the day and was sorted out in the dark, the locomotive was back in traffic the following day with broken glass on the running plate!
The Shoreline Trolley Museum
“Thanks so much for mentioning our museum. I started there as a member in 1997 and am still a member. Johnston 357 is my favorite trolley/tram to operate, it has both leaf springs and coil springs in its suspension and it rides like a Rolls Royce.
“We have had very good results with our Covid-19 social distancing program. In fact, the strange thing is that we have had a busier season than normal, as many people are unable to travel, and are working from home. You know the quote: people are not aware of what is in their own back yard!
“Stay safe, and keep the heritage rolling! John (from the Connecticut Colony!)”
Photo: Connecticut Company 500 at the Shore Line Trolley Museum, 15th May 2004. Photo by Frank Hick, Commons Creative licence.
V1 1st November 2020
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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.