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November 2021

75069 at Bewdley tunnel with driver Dave Cullinen's last turn on 29th October 2021. Photo
75069 at Bewdley tunnel with driver Dave Cullinen's last turn on 29th October 2021. Photo Bob Green

Welcome to November's Branch Lines

Welcome to your November Branch Lines. The fireworks and bonfires are behind us and our public trains start again next week – our popular Steam in Lights trains begin the lead up to our Christmas services. There’s still time to buy some tickets for some of the Christmas programme but be quick, as they’re selling fast. And with Christmas in mind Michael Dunn has some ideas for your lists, presents and stockings!

The long evenings are here again, and to help you through we’ve news of a couple more films on our YouTube channel.

We’ve also highlights of the planned winter works and events for next year. A big part of 2022 will be at Bridgnorth's locomotive works where, with your support, we’ve the golden opportunity to make the roof project into a roof and crane one. All support will be gratefully received.

 

There’s also updates on our application to the Cultural Recovery Fund and for our shareholders on travel benefits. Throw in news on our locomotives, coaches and other stories from around the railway and we’ve another bumper issue for you! 

Lesley Carr & Patrick Hearn, co-editors 

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

Next edition Thursday 9th December

The railway steps into Christmas

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It’s less than a week before the Railway’s seasonal services start, and many services are already selling out. The message is - don’t delay booking your tickets!

 

The SVR’s spectacular Steam in Lights service from Bridgnorth starts on 19th November and runs on selected dates through to 23rd December.  

“This received excellent reviews in previous years,” said head of visitor experience Michael Dunn. “And in 2021 it’s going to be even better, with a superb, professional pre-departure show and twice the number of lineside displays. We've already sold as many tickets this year as we did in total in 2020, which is fantastic. Having extra services this year means we still have seats available and we’ll continue to push this to a sell-out.” 

 

A huge amount of work goes into this event, including at Bridgnorth Station where the team welcomes guests on 22 nights of services. Head of engineering Martin White summed up some of the other work involved: “Preparation of carriages started as early as the beginning of November as we shunted the set into the required formation. The set is acquiring festive decorations on the inside, and rope lights on the outside.”

Enchanted Express services run from Bridgnorth on selected dates from 27th November. This new event has proved very popular, and is now almost fully booked, with extra capacity added because of high demand. A few compartments remain, so if the train you wanted was previously full, please check again and you might be lucky!

The Railway is especially pleased to be able to welcome people back to the Carol Trains, operating from Kidderminster every Friday and Saturday from November 27th to December 18th. This year, visitors will enjoy a festive concert at The Engine House, Highley with performances by local choirs, bands, groups and orchestras.  

Sales for the flagship (or should that be headboard?) Santa Trains, which depart from Kidderminster on dates between 27th November and 24th December are extremely buoyant, with many services are already sold out. There’s better availability on the first weekend (27th and 28th November) and between 20th to 22nd December.

“Our team has put together a tremendous package of Christmas events,” said managing director Helen Smith. “The last two years have been so hard and we’re overjoyed to welcome people returning to the Railway, and to celebrate the season with them. The success of the Christmas season programme is essential for the SVR, as we secure our future, and continue our recovery.” 

Photos: A 2019 Steam in Lights image from Tom Clarke

Below: The Sunflower Saxes at the SVR

 

SVR (Holdings) shareholder benefits

We reported in October’s Branch Lines that at the SVR (Holdings) Plc (SVRH) annual general meeting the then chairman Nick Paul had put a moratorium on the decision to make changes to shareholder benefits, until the board had the opportunity to reflect and review the decisions.


Since then, the SVRH board has discussed further and agreed the proposed increases for 2022 should go ahead. However, in response to the concerns raised, it also agreed that no further changes will be considered until after the shareholders’ focus group (see below) has reported back to them. The levels proposed for implementation in 2023 will not be brought in.


As promised, incoming SVRH chairman Mike Ball wrote on 6th November to all shareholders. There are different versions, depending on the level of shares held, which confirm the reasoning for the decisions and full details of the changes as they affect each shareholder.

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Mike reiterated the SVR is indebted to its shareholders, members and donors and is extremely grateful for their support. He also asked shareholders to remember both the difficult financial situation, and that SVRH is a not-for-profit company with any surplus ploughed back into the Railway.


A reminder that the board is looking to recruit several shareholders to help conduct a full review of the shareholder benefits system before the next AGM in June 2022. If you would like to help, please contact victoria.evans@svrlive.com by 15th November, including your full name, shareholder numbers and the reasons why you would like to be included in the group.

Photo: 1501 leaves Bewdley between the houses on 29th October. Bob Green

 

The SVR applies to the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage – round 3 ‘continuity support’

40106 on 30th October 2021with wreath and tribute to local enthusiast and regular SVR visi

The Railway recently submitted a bid for almost £600,000 to the third round of the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage. This new ‘continuity support’ funding was announced in June and is aimed at helping heritage organisations as audiences begin to return, thus ensuring a vibrant future for the culture sector as the nation recovers from the pandemic. 

In November 2020, the SVR received a grant of £906,000 from Round 1 of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s package of support to protect the UK’s culture and heritage sectors from the economic impacts of Covid-19. This helped the Railway survive the initial impacts of lockdown.

The round 1 grant helped to fund staff salaries from 1st October 2020 to 31st March 2021 together with additional CCTV and security systems to protect the Railway and its rolling stock, the recruitment of a health & safety manager, and the development of the SVR’s digital marketing and communications. 

This helped the Railway to reopen and begin to operate again after the initial lockdown but, like most other heritage organisations across the UK, the very significant reduction in visitor numbers, which resulted from further lockdowns and social distancing restrictions, had a devastating impact on the organisations’ finances.

Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) plc has consequently submitted an application to this third round of the Culture Recovery Fund in liaison with the SVR Charitable Trust. This has been a major undertaking, requiring the submission of detailed financial accounts, cash flows and a Business Actions plan which has required significant work by a number of key people.

The maximum amount that we could apply for under this round of funding was just under £600,000 and we should receive notification of the outcome by mid-December. 

Photo: 40106 Atlantic Conveyor on 30th October 2021 with wreath and tribute to local enthusiast, supporter of the SVR and Diesel Traction Group, and regular visitor Gerald 'Ged/Jed' Hapel, who passed recently. Jason Hood

 

We’re very nearly Home & Dry!

The team in charge of delivering the Home & Dry project at Bridgnorth’s locomotive works has discovered a suitable second-hand crane that will provide the final pieces in the jigsaw of this essential work. The race is now on to secure the final tranche of funding to secure the purchase of the crane.

In October’s Branch Lines we reported that phases 1 and 2 of the Bridgnorth locomotive works project are funded and in project delivery - the roof, electricals, cladding, ground works and civils works.

Last week, volunteer project manager Antony Bartlam and head of engineering Martin White made an inspection visit to the Northampton site where the crane is currently being stored, along with its steel support structure.

“This was a real find for the project,” said Antony. “This second-hand 6.3 ton capacity crane is exactly what we need, and means that we won’t have to order and pay for new steelwork.

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“The issue, however, is we don’t yet have sufficient funds to order and secure the crane and supporting steel structure. This means potentially we could lose it. To purchase a new crane and steelwork would mean an associated increase in costs.”

The Trust confirmed that so far £430,000 has been raised; that’s more than 90% of the £475,000 total needed to ensure that all aspects of the works can go ahead. The Charitable Trust’s executive director Shelagh Paterson explained, “With just £45,000 left to raise, we are tantalisingly close to achieving the target. We are so grateful for the amazing support shown for this project and hope one final push should see the goal achieved”.

“This project is being led and assisted by volunteers,” added Antony. “And this means we’re saving more than £40,000 on fees and labour costs. This really is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform the workshops into a great working environment for the future.”

The SVR’s film team is creating an updated video about the project, which includes footage of the visit that Antony and Martin made to inspect the crane. This will soon be released on the SVR’s YouTube channel.

To donate, please visit www.svrtrust.org.uk/home-and-dry. Or if you’ve already donated but could spare a few extra pounds to help the project to achieve its goal, please make a small donation on the project’s JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/home-and-dry

Photo: inspecting cranes in Northampton! Lesley Carr

 

Get Christmas wrapped up with the Severn Valley Railway 

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There’s no better place to shop than www.svrshop.co.uk for everybody who loves the Railway, as head of visitor experience Michael Dunn told Branch Lines. 

 

Our shops have plenty of Christmas gifts to choose from, with our Severn Valley Railway merchandise - including our popular Christmas jumper. Our exclusive 2021 SVR baubles are back too, but be quick as once they’re gone they’re gone! 

 

Other new Christmas lines include both physical and digital gift vouchers, both of which you can customise and can be bought now for any future travel in 2022, including special events! 

If you spend £75 or more online you also get a free calendar for 2022, simply add the calendar of your choice to your basket and enter the code SVRCALENDAR at checkout. 

Across the shop, we are adding more products daily. Head to www.svrshop.co.uk now to explore the full range. All items are also available in our shops, which will be open in line with Christmas services.

 

Lest we forget…

On Sunday 14th November, Kidderminster Town Station will be holding its yearly remembrance service, and you are warmly invited to attend. 

The service will begin at 10:45pm, there will be a ceremony of hymns and prayers on the concourse. The service will pause for the customary two-minute silence at 11:00am.

Photo: 7714 runs past field of poppies at the new nature reserve at Dropping Well Farm, between Kidderminster and Bewdley on 21st June 2021. John Sherratt

7714 passes poppy field at the new nature reserve at Dropping Well Farm, between Kiddermin
 

Remembering our wartime connections

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In this week of remembrance, the Railway is commemorating the anniversary of the dedication of 48773, owned by the Stanier 8F Locomotive Society. Thirty-five years ago, the 8F was officially dedicated as the Memorial Locomotive for the Royal Engineers Railway Sappers who lost their lives in World War Two.

On 27 September 1986, the Very Reverend Peter Haynes, Dean of Hereford, performed the service at Highley, which was attended by senior Royal Engineers officers, representatives of the SVR and the 8F Society. A Roll of Honour commemorating the names of more than 400 Railway Sappers is displayed alongside the locomotive in the Engine House at Highley, where the locomotive is currently on exhibition.

Since its dedication, 48773 has provided a focus for many Remembrance Sunday services held by the SVR.

This year the 8F Society is again providing support for the event, to be held at Kidderminster station under the auspices of station master Geoff Smith. As on previous occasions, 8F Society officers will participate in the reading of names from the Roll of Honour.

Among those names are a number of railway sappers who perished in Britain’s worst maritime disaster of the last century. Two weeks after Operation Dynamo evacuated Dunkirk, there were still elements of the British Expeditionary Force fighting south of the Somme. They were spread across various depots, stores and camps throughout France, many sappers amongst them.

As part of Operation Aerial, HMT Lancastria was sent on a rescue mission to St Nazaire, arriving on 17 June 1940. Tragically, the Lancastria was attacked by the Luftwaffe in the afternoon and sank with the loss of thousands of lives. More than 100 railway sappers perished that day; recorded on the Roll of Honour, a number of these casualties will have their names read out on 14th November at the Kidderminster service.

48773 provides a unique and important link between the Severn Valley Railway and the Corps of Royal Engineers; and the SVR and the 8F Society are proud that the locomotive can play a part in the poignant commemoration of the fallen.

The full list of names on the Roll of Honour can be accessed through The 8F Society website: http://www.8fsociety.co.uk/page34.html 

 

A spooktacular success!

After a sell-out in 2020, extra trains were added to the Halloween schedule this year, with additional 5.30pm departures from Kidderminster. Passengers journeyed to the land of the living dead (or Arley, as it is more commonly known!) where a wide array of spooky characters awaited to strike fear into the heart of the intrepid travellers.  

 

Demand for the event was high once again and both the child-friendly Ghost and adult-oriented Scream Trains sold out.  

 

Feedback from passengers enjoying the event was excellent, describing the experience as “phenomenal”, “brilliant” and “amazing”. Trip Advisor reviews from both new and returning visitors alike sang the praises of all involved. One visitor enjoyed it so much, that he returned the following night… to volunteer! Passenger-turned-volunteer Scott Leese said:

“Me and my family went along and we had so much fun. The following night I went along as a volunteer and joined in helping with the scream scares and acts at the station; it was the most fun I’ve had in years. I can’t wait to do something like this again.” 

 

“The displays at Kidderminster, Bewdley and Arley were bigger than ever,” said events manager Lewis Maddox. ”Our scare teams at each site did a fantastic job at spooking our passengers. A big thank you to everyone who made the event happen, your efforts are appreciated. Bring on next year!” 

Click on the gallery for full screen images, descriptions and credits.

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43106 'The Flying Pig'
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A young engineer of distinction!

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Congratulations go to Alan Brookes who, after graduating from the SVR’s pioneering Heritage Apprenticeship Scheme, has just passed his BTEC level 4 engineering qualification with a distinction.

Alan was trained under the Heritage Apprenticeship Scheme, funded by the SVR Charitable Trust thanks principally to supporter donations and grants obtained by the Trust.

 

Within the four-year scheme, a number of young people work and learn by rotating through the different departments; locomotive running, boiler shop, carriage mechanical, and carriage bodywork.

As well as intensive on-the-job training, apprentices work towards nationally-recognised NVQ 2 and 3 level qualifications.

Alan, who is employed as an improver fitter machinist, will continue his studies in engineering management until February 2022. He commented, “Many thanks to everyone at the SVR for the support and opportunities I have received to date to further my knowledge and understanding.”

Shelagh Paterson, executive director for the Charitable Trust added, “This is a huge achievement and it is reassuring to know that we have a growing, qualified, experienced and dedicated younger workforce for our succession planning, as this is key to the future sustainability of the SVR.”

It costs £21,000 to fund an apprentice for one year, and the Railway relies on the generosity of the Charitable Trust's supporters to help pay for this essential aspect of its operation. To help develop and support the SVR's future heritage engineers, please donate at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/apprentice-scheme.

 

'Foodie' changes in store at the SVR

Following a review of rolling stock, arrangements are being made to allow the return of both on-train dining and buffets next year. It’s hoped that the buffet cars will be in service from April, and that, all being well, on-train dining will relaunch in May.

In addition, the recently appointed executive head chef Lucy Kelly is working with the catering team to explore other dining experiences across the Railway, to find ways of using what’s already in place to expand what the SVR can offer to visitors.

Lucy has worked at award-winning restaurants, catered for celebrities and large-scale, high-profile events. She told Branch Lines, “I am thoroughly excited about being a part of the culinary team at the Railway, and I want to use my experience and skills to take the food offering at the SVR to a fantastic level of quality. When we bring back our on-train dining experiences next year, these will have a creative and modern twist.”

Another key member of the catering staff is Sophie Poutney, who recently joined the Railway as food and beverage operations manager. She has a wealth of heritage and commercial catering experience, and has worked at the Black Country Living Museum, Alton Towers and Sealife Brighton.

With Christmas fast approaching, Lucy has kindly shared a favourite recipe with Branch Lines readers – smoked cheddar custard and bacon jam is her twist on traditional cheese and biscuits, which she guarantees will change your Christmas dining experience for the better!

Above: Executive head chef Lucy Kelly at work. Below: Sophie Poultney

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Coming to a TV screen near you this month!

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Flint TV visited the Severn Valley earlier this year on two occasions to film different aspects of the Railway for broadcast on Britain’s Scenic Railways, which is shown on Wednesdays at 9pm on More4.  

 

On one visit, the crew spent time with stonemason Philip Chatfield, and on the next, filmed from the footplate of 43106 with driver Bob Drew and fireman Tom Clarke.

The first episode of the series aired on Wednesday November 3rd, but the episode to watch for SVR supporters will be on the 24th November; saving the best until last!  

The SVR is proud to be a part of this programme, which will showcase the skills and dedication the Railway is renowned for. Enthusiasts and members of the public alike will be able to enjoy seeing the SVR in action, in this fantastic opportunity to peek behind the scenes.

Tune in to More4 on November 24th at 9pm to see your favourite heritage railway in operation, looking splendid and doing what it does best!

Photos:

Top, Philip Chatfield chiselling coping stones for Falling Sands Viaduct. Graham Phillips

Below: 43106 catches a glint of sun at Bewdley Tunnel on 17th October. Matt Fielding

 

Job opportunities

There’s a vacancy for a full time office manager at Bridgnorth ESMP and details are available at https://www.hiredonline.co.uk/employer/9159864/severn-valley-railway-holdings-plc/  

  

In addition, the SVR is continuing to invite applications for several casual contract catering assistants in a variety of locations.

 

Stanier Mogul Fund at 50+1!

Stanier Mogul Fund Golden Jubilee
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Amidst the turmoil of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 saw the Stanier Mogul Fund (SMF) reach 50 years as a preservation group. The Fund has at last been able to mark the event, as Peter Hudson tells Branch Lines: 

  

While practical efforts to mark this last year with a special train were thwarted, the Fund finally celebrated by organising an 'SMF 50 Golden Jubilee' charter train on Saturday 30th October 2021. 

  

With a specially-made aluminium headboard, the 9.35 am from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth comprised a set of six GWR coaches, hauled by Ivatt Mogul 43106. A two-hour layover at Bridgnorth enabled the SMF members, family and friends to view the progress of the major overhaul of their locomotive in the works, which will see it return to steam in its original 1934 ‘as built’ guise, with the number 13268 (it was subsequently renumbered 2968, then by British Railways as 42968.) 

The charter then formed a timetabled 12.45 pm for Highley. After a further two-hour visit there, it was the 3.20 pm departure back to Kidderminster. 

  

Peter’s photos show this special arriving at Highley, where the nameplate was removed to take to The Engine House for a large passenger group photo outside. Click on the gallery for full screen images, descriptions and credits.

The SMF issue regular progress reports on the overhaul of 13268 on their website at https://www.staniermogulfund.org.uk/news/

 

No time to rest on laurels at Bridgnorth MPD

The Railway may appear quiet on the outside, but behind the scenes efforts are ramping up to prepare for the winter season as Bridgnorth shed master Martin White reports: 

 

Public operations on the Railway are currently stood down, after the end of the main season and the commencement of Steam in Lights. There’s a very brief period in which the MPD can catch up on urgent repairs.

BR standard class 4, 75069, is the Steam in Lights (SiL) loco this year and is currently having a boiler washout to enable it to run for the full cycle of steamings. By the time the last of the Bridgnorth based SiL and Enchanted Express trains have run, the 75’ will have completed close to 30 steamings, the top end of our normal washout cycle (although SVR procedures do allow a few extra days to be worked with prior approval.) 

In the works, 2857 is part way through a number of repairs identified as part of its accumulated mileage-driven valve & piston exam; this work won’t be completed before the Santa services commence. Also in the workshops, 813 has been re-tubed and tested and will hopefully be able to go away on hire very soon, to assist another railway with their Christmas period operations.  

The boiler from 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’ is in the boiler shop having lagging and cladding installed ahead its final fitting in the loco frames. Over in Tyseley, 7812, ‘Erlestoke Manor’, has had a successful out-of-frames boiler steam test, following overhaul by Tyseley Loco Works and EMF volunteers. 

For the SVR’s own loco works, the planning and preparation is gathering pace for the roof and crane project. The contracts for the re-cladding and electrical work have been awarded and the cladding sheets will be ordered by the contractor within the next few weeks, for delivery in May 2022. 

7812 Erlestoke Manor's boiler successfully passes its out of frames steam test 19.10.21. C
Guest Brenda Rainbow and Erlestoke Manor Fund members as 7812 Erlestoke Manor's boiler suc

A small team of representatives from the ESMP paid staff have been considering the future layout of the works, such as the positioning of welding bays and machine tools; any necessary electrical supply and ducting can then be incorporated in the overall plans. In addition to volunteers doing behind-the-scenes planning and administration, others have been completing some pre-requisite infrastructure work on the concrete steps to the main MPD yard pit. Incidentally, some of those volunteers were involved in the original construction of the shed, more than 45 years ago!

These few paragraphs barely do justice to the range of work that is currently taking place on this project, but they do demonstrate that this scheme is for real. It is going to happen! We can all be hopeful that this will be the last winter during which paid and volunteer teams in the shed have to dodge the rain inside! The SVR Charitable Trust has done a terrific fund raising job thus far, but a bit more is still required to enable us to finish the job. So, if you haven’t already done so, please do consider making a donation to the Home and Dry appeal at https://www.svrtrust.org.uk/home-and-dry 

Photos: 

7812 Erlestoke Manor's boiler successfully passed its out of frames steam test at Tyseley on 19th October. Credit Erlestoke Manor Fund

Guest Brenda Rainbow and Erlestoke Manor Fund members. Credit EMF

 

Falling Sands reawakening

Navvy's discarded shovel
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Navvy's discarded shovel
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After conservation, Navvy's discarded shovel
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Work has restarted on the ‘activity' elements of the Falling Sands Viaduct interpretation project. A combination of Covid-19 and staff changes meant this was put on hold following the successful completion of the restoration work in December 2020. The SVR Charitable Trust’s project delivery manager Hamish Wood tells Branch Lines more: 

 

The National Heritage Lottery Funded project will see the completion of two exhibition areas, which will introduce visitors to the story of the Severn Valley Railway in the Victorian era, and the people who built it.

 

Researchers are busy tracking down material to illustrate the story and are working with archives and collections around the country. So far, some fascinating material has been collected including early photographs of viaduct construction and the working life of the navvies building them.

 

Some Severn Valley material has been unearthed, and this includes a handbill for the celebratory ‘Opening Ball’ in 1862 and some early GWR tickets for trips on the SVR line, from the collections held at Didcot. 

During the restoration work, the remains of a navvy’s shovel were unearthed from the infill on Falling Sands Viaduct (see Branch Lines, March 2020.)

 

What appeared to be a mundane find has turned out to be a unique artefact, as there is no known example in existence! The shovel has now been conserved by an SVR volunteer who is a National Trust conservator and will be displayed as part of the new exhibitions at The Engine House. 

Kidderminster College students are developing games for the project, and we plan to incorporate these into the new exhibitions as downloadable interactives. Their work so far is exceptional, and it’s wonderful to be involving this younger audience in the SVR.

As a condition of the National Lottery funding, it’s important that the Falling Sands project engages with the local community. With Covid-19 restrictions lifting, we’re once again actively working with new audiences to encourage their future involvement with our Railway. 

 

For further information on the project please contact Hamish Wood at the Charitable Trust.

Click on the gallery for full screen images, descriptions and credits.

 

6045’s day in the spotlight

On Sunday 17th October, the Great Western (SVR) Association officially commemorated the return to service of GWR Collett bow-ended corridor composite 6045 (see October’s Branch Lines) with a special train for supporters and volunteers, as the Association’s Gareth Price reports: 

Hauled by 1501, the train consisted of 6045 with fellow bow-ender Saloon 9103, Art Deco brake third 650, and Toplight corridor third 3930, all of which are owned and restored by the Association.

 

The train departed Kidderminster at 10.45 and ran through to Bridgnorth where there was a toast for all the guests and a short presentation, conducted by Association chairman Mick Haynes and SVR managing director Helen Smith.

 

As well as thanking volunteers for their hard work in restoring the carriage, Mick also thanked the supporters who had so generously donated to the fundraising appeal for the project. A special thanks was made to Robert Smallman who purchased the vehicle in 1972 for £250; nearly 40 years ago this represented a tidy sum! 

The train then moved to Highley for lunch, before returning to Kidderminster later in the afternoon. The trip was thoroughly enjoyable, with many compliments received for the star attraction.

6045 was built at Swindon in 1928 and, along with other bow-ended designs, was formed into sets for the express services of the day. As newer, flat-ended designs proliferated throughout the 1930s, the bow-enders were gradually demoted to secondary services. Many lasted in service until the late 1950s or early 1960s. Seven composites survived into departmental use, with 6045 converted for use as a sleeping and mess van in 1961. It was saved for preservation from Bristol in 1972. It is the only bow-ended composite to survive, so has some historical importance. It had to wait patiently in the restoration queue for many years, with work starting in 2015. The work took five years and cost approximately £150,000. It will see use on the SVR in the historic Great Western set.

 

Click on the gallery for full screen images, descriptions and credits. 

 
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Looking forward to 2022

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In October’s Branch Lines we announced dates for the Spring Steam Gala and the Spring Diesel Festival. We can now announce further dates for enthusiast events: 

 

  • 2nd and 3rd April - start of public services for the 2022 season 

  • 9th and 10th April - daily running commences, continuing throughout the Easter holiday period. 

  • 21st to 24th April - Spring Steam Gala 

  • 7th and 8th May - Model Railway Weekend 

  • 19th to 22nd May - Spring Diesel Festival 

  • 15th to 18th September - Autumn Steam Gala

  • 24th and 25th September - Model Railway Weekend 

  • 29th September to 2nd October - Autumn Diesel Bash 

The full 2022 events calendar is being agreed with heads of department and we’ll let you have full details in a future edition of Branch Lines.

Photo: Class 17 D8568 Departing Bewdley Station on 3rd October during the Autumn Diesel Gala with a local train to Kidderminster. Credit Kenny Felstead

 

National recognition for the Falling Sands project

The SVR Charitable Trust has announced that the Falling Sands Viaduct restoration project has been shortlisted for a National Railway Heritage Award.

 

The comprehensive project successfully restored the viaduct both operationally and visually, with missing corbelling courses and end piers reinstated.  

 

The restoration of the seven-arched viaduct has been commended by judges for demonstrating “both ingenuity and the value of positive team working with client, professional, contractors and volunteers all contributing to a very successful outcome.” 

 

The Charitable Trust has thanked volunteer Nick Yarwood for his invaluable contribution to the project. Nick attended site daily during the restoration and subsequently drafted the submission to the National Railway Heritage Awards on behalf of the Railway.  

The winners will be announced next month. 

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Nick Yarwood at Falling Sands Viaduct. Steve Leath, Express and Star

 

Resurrecting a lost locomotive class at Bridgnorth

For more than 18 years, volunteers from the SVR-based 82045 Steam Locomotive Trust have been working hard to fulfill a dream. They’re creating a new-build version of a BR Standard Class 3 tank steam locomotive, and are moving ever closer to their dream coming true. The SVR film team caught up with some of the Trust recently at Bridgnorth, and the video includes them moving the loco’s pony trucks into position for fitting to the locomotive. 

 

The hope is that 82045 will steam for the first time in late 2023, and the film showcases the Trust’s dedication and determination, as well reflecting on the fact that this will be the only Standard Class 3 tank in existence. All-in-all, it’s an exciting project, and one which should prove hugely worthwhile for the Railway. 

Grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy the video on the SVR YouTube channel. If you can give us a like and subscribe to the channel too, we’d be grateful. 

 

No rest for the infrastructure department! 

Planning is underway for winter as infrastructure manager Chris Bond tells Branch Lines:

Although we won’t be carrying out large projects this year, partly as we are still in recovery mode from the pandemic, there will nevertheless be some smaller in-house projects to address several longstanding problems. 

  

  • Replacement of point timbers identified as part of a Railway-wide survey. Some of these will require lifting of the metal components as there is insufficient room either side to slide in the replacements. 

  • We hope to build the mirror turnout at Foley Park (see May’s Branch Lines) to create a crossover; this is part of creating the first access into the area where we hope to develop a PW yard with loco unloading facilities in the future. 

  • Subject to SVR Holdings board approval, we intend to remove a deep area of ballast at Sterns caused by successive tamping over the years, and replace with a special light weight fill material. This should reduce the weight on the area by over 50%, which should help to slow down the movement we experience at the north end of the slip site.  

  • Drainage works are planned to the south of the foot crossing near milepost 144½ (‘Charlie Davies’ crossing’) near Country Park Halt. This will extend and improve previous work carried out in early 2019 to deal with rainwater that is percolating through the SVR formation. 

  • Other minor PW rectification works at various locations along the line. 

Although not an SVR project, the footbridge replacement at Kidderminster is still proceeding with Network Rail and the SVR making final preparations for the beginning of the contract. 

Bewdley North signal box fireplace November 2021. Chris Bond COPY.jpg
Kidderminster Footbridge OWW104 Autumn 2021.png

Our compound will be used by Story Contracting from 6th December for site set up, with actual work on the bridge commencing in earnest on 5th January 2022. The picture shows an augmented reality visualisation of what the bridge will look like. We’ll update you as the projects progresses. 

Finally, during October repairs were carried out to the open-fire cast-iron range in Bewdley North signal box. Our volunteer colleague Rob Hendrie instigated the repair via the infrastructure office, and I’m sure you will agree that it makes becoming a signalman a very attractive proposition! It’s important that we maintain these sort of heritage details so that we can preserve for future generations the ambience of what a steam railway was, in all its aspects. 

Bewdley North signal box fireplace November 2021. Rob Hendrie

Kidderminster Footbridge OWW104 Autumn 2021

 

Questions and answers – the Bridgnorth roof and crane project

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An SVR Q&A panel took place last month, with key people answering questions on the two Bridgnorth projects; the Bridgnorth loco works roof and crane project, and the station building development project. 

 

First on the agenda was the roof and crane project, with much of the discussion centred on the detailed planning and preparation involved. Martin White, head of engineering, explained how the site would need to be evacuated ahead of time, including relocating the Western Locomotive Association’s workshops and storage facilities. [A subsequent development is that WLA items and container will move to Kidderminster, and they will retain their workshop facilities and other storage/work containers at Bridgnorth for now at least - Ed.]

 

The expectation is to evacuate the site by the end of the year, with a detailed plan currently being drawn up to cover the removal and storage of everything affected.  

Martin also answered questions about the timing of the works, currently scheduled for Spring 2022, explaining that the 16-week project needed the best possible weather, and to avoid the event-packed winter season and the vital winter maintenance period. Martin further outlined how the work is scheduled to fall between the Spring and Autumn Galas, so as not to cause disruption to these important events.

 

Discussing the insulation, project manager Antony Bartlam emphasised the need to insulate the whole building to prevent history from repeating itself with the new shed roof. He noted the intention to install darker cladding so as not to show the dirt, and low maintenance translucent panels that could be safely cleaned using a cherry picker when required.

Martin fielded several questions about the impact of the project on productivity and volunteers, where he was emphatic about the value of volunteers and the importance of maintaining output: “After Covid-19, we never again want a time when volunteers aren’t welcome, and clearing the shed will need lots of volunteer labour.” Martin explained that the machine shop and boiler shop would continue to operate as normal whilst temporary work benches and covered facilities would be provided for the regular work required to maintain the fleet.  

Antony observed that carrying out the roof and the crane elements of the project at the same time would minimise disruption with parts of the shed accessible again once the cladding is installed. Antony also echoed Martin, stressing the importance of volunteers on this project, expecting that rather than restricting volunteer labour, the project would call for an increase in volunteer activities.

Addressing concerns about inflated costs, SVR(H) director and Bridgnorth masterplan lead Graeme Bunker-James acknowledged the increased costs of materials, with the prices for steels and other components rising, but noted having this information ahead of contracts being placed was a positive.

Responding to fears that the roof and crane project could over run, managing director Helen Smith was firm that operations would not be affected: “I’m sure it will be challenging but we can’t afford to lose any operational work. The amount of planning and effort that has gone into this project, our project leaders have a really good handle on it and will work really closely with the contractors. There’s nothing unknown in the project, we know what’s on the land and it should go as planned, unless we get a plague of locusts…!”

 

More questions and answers – Bridgnorth station project 

The first question was about the delayed start date for this project. Project manager Neil Dancer explained this was because of the scarcity of materials, which had pushed the start date of work back from 2022 to 2023, and that the work was planned to take 16 weeks. 

Answering a question about phasing, Neil noted that replacement of the lean-to building was first on the agenda. Next on the list is the construction of the snug, with the waiting room left until last. Neil said: “The waiting room will be a good storage space while we effect the other works. This has been left to last as it’s deemed of the least importance, should the project not be fully completed in the allotted 16 weeks.” 

 

Neil dealt with a question about the possible expansion of the lean-to by adding a second storey during the rebuild, and explained that, given its historical significance, the building would have to be rebuilt in original form.

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The ambience of the Railwayman’s Arms was raised, and managing director Helen Smith provided assurance that this was a key consideration, explaining that an advisory group was being established to consult on ideas for décor, and to ensure the feel of the pub didn’t change. Neil expressed the caveat that new fixtures and fittings for the snug in keeping with the period would not be cheap, and this needed to be taken into account. 

 

Replying to a question about accommodation for a store to serve the on-train services, Helen acknowledged there was an existing store, and that there is a need to review the situation, inviting the team to contact her for discussion on this.  

 

SVR(H) director and Bridgnorth masterplan lead Graeme Bunker-James answered a request for an update on the Bridgnorth turntable, stating that before the turntable could be installed, the yard would first need to be re-laid; allowing a platform 2 extension and enabling track to reach the turntable location. Replying to further questions Graeme also noted that, whilst it was not wholly ruled out, at present there were no plans for a further appeal for the turntable, and he praised the volunteer work being carried out to refurbish the components.  

 

The next ‘hot button’ issue was car parking at Bridgnorth and the proposals to install automatic number plate recognition. Helen Smith fielded this, stating that planning for this was still in the discussion stage, with a number of factors to be considered but that the geography of the site meant ANPR was the only viable option: “It’s becoming quite common now. We’ve looked at every other option and it’s not possible because of the geography of the site. I’m expecting some issues to start with, but people will soon get used to it.” 

 

How to prevent the Bridgnorth project from going over budget? Neil Dancer was firm that the scheme will be tailored to the budget, placing functionality first: “If we can achieve a good build with the right ambience, we might have flexibility to include the elaborate period fittings.”  

 

George Heiron – railway artist and photographer

The SVR’s YouTube channel recently launched the first in a new series of videos, each of which will delve into the trove at The Engine House, Highley. The series aims to uncover the treasures here, some of which are very obvious, and some of which are more tucked away in the SVR’s archive.  

 

This time round, we focus on the work of George Heiron, a renowned railway photographer and artist. Our film crew visited in the company of George's son, Richard Heiron, who talked about his father's love of railways, his work, and the two Stanier 8F pictures on display close by locomotive no. 48773 of that class. 

 

We hope you enjoy the film, and that it whets your appetite for future videos in the series. 

 

Two decades of the Kidderminster Carriage Shed!

On the 29th November, Kidderminster Carriage Shed will celebrate its 20th birthday. Whilst the carriage shed might not attract visitors to the Railway in the same way that the SVR’s locomotives and beautifully-kept stations do, it is integral to the running of the SVR and no less worthy of celebration!

Plans for a carriage shed were first mooted in 1979, and these plans were deferred and changed as the shape of the Railway changed and grew.

 

In the late 1990s, applications were made to the Heritage Lottery Fund, seeking £6.5million for a traditional-style locomotive shed. After much back-and-forth, approval to fund a modern design was granted, and the Railway was awarded £1,757,000 towards construction of the carriage shed. At the time, this was the largest grant the HLF had made to a heritage railway!

As the then-SVRA worked to raise the remaining funds, carriages and wagons that had previously occupied sidings on the site of the new carriage shed, needed new homes, as longstanding SVR volunteer Hugh McQuade recalls:

“I surveyed the sidings and stations all along the Railway and worked out that all of the eight-coach trains could be parked up in platforms at Kidderminster, Bewdley and Bridgnorth. The attractive goods wagons were sent to Highley, Arley and Bewdley Down Yard where they could be viewed by passengers. The engineering wagons found a home at Eardington sidings and the Stourport branch spur.”

The Tenbury branch remnant at Bewdley North was also extended to the public foot-crossing, to provide a home for the GWR rake, and the diesel locomotives were corralled into the sidings at Kidderminster, now the site of the Traction Maintenance Depot.

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Carriage Shed Plaque. Robin Childs.jpg

Construction of the building began in September 1999, and was completed on 19th April 2000. On November 29th 2001, the shed was formally opened by railway enthusiast, SVR patron and cousin to the Queen, HRH The Duke of Gloucester. The Duke rode on a special train to Bewdley, taking the controls of A4 60009 Union of South Africa for a brief stint. The opening is commemorated on a plaque on the side of the shed.

 

The benefits of the carriage shed are indisputable; previously a new paint job would last seven years, requiring a full strip back and build-up of primer layer, three surfacers, two undercoats, two gloss coats and two layers of varnish. The upholstery would also have been gradually bleached by the UV light outdoors. By contrast, 10 years after moving into the shed, it was decided to repaint 25346. Whereas previously, staff would have found ruined paintwork, the coach exterior was still smooth to the touch; only half the work previously carried out was required. Per coach, this saves £450 in paint alone, not to mention the staff hours, which can now be spent elsewhere. Hugh also estimates storing the carriages indoors extends the life of the upholstery by up to five years!

So, happy 20th Birthday to Kidderminster Carriage Shed and here’s to the next two decades!

Photo: top, from SVR photo library

Below: Credit Robin Childs

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Staddle Up!

Staddle stones 2. Terry Plumb.jpg

A new feature recently arrived at Arley station’s beautiful gardens, that’s both attractive and has a fascinating history. 

 

The story starts back in the summer when Terry Plumb and Malcolm Broadhurst were approached at Arley Station by a lady offering them mushrooms; nothing nefarious here, these ‘mushrooms’ were made of sandstone, and were in fact staddle stones.

 

Staddle stones were originally used across the UK in the 18th and 19th centuries as a means of raising grain stores and larders off the ground, to increase air circulation and protect them from flooding. The mushroom shape also prevents vermin from climbing the stones and getting inside the store. The curious name ‘staddle’ derives from the old English word stathol, which means base or support. Carved by local stonemasons, each stone would be unique, and they’re quite a sought-after garden ornament.

The two staddle stones offered to the SVR are likely to be over 100 years old. They were collected by Terry and John Pitman, much to the detriment of John’s van’s suspension! To make them sturdy and safe, the SVR's master stonemason Philip Chatfield happily volunteered to replace the locating tubes securing the tops to the pedestals, which over the years had corroded away. Once set in position, the staddles were then ready to be relocated.

 

The Thursday gang worked away at locating them in the border identified as the most suitable and visually pleasing place and the staddle stones are now happily situated, with a modest plaque to recognise their kind donation, made by Alison and Phil Walton. Terry Plumb said:

 

“We would like to thank everyone involved in getting these located within the station gardens. Next time you take a walk along the down platform, have a look for them. You can’t miss them in the border beneath the Arley running-in board, and they make a wonderful addition to the beautiful gardens at Arley.”

Staddle stones at Arley, Terry Plumb

 

Testing, testing 

In July and August’s Branch Lines operations manager Matt Robinson gave details of the Bayer weedkilling test train. It has returned for further testing, as Matt told Branch Lines.


The SVR are again providing testing facilities for Bayer CropScience Uk who are producing a fleet of weedkilling trains for the UK Network. Following an intensive programme of testing in June / July 2021 a reworked train 1 has just returned to the SVR for further tests to be carried out soon. It is hoped trains 2 & 3 will follow in due course for their acceptance tests.


On Monday 8th November the train arrived from Loram, Derby. The train was operated by Loram Rail Operations and worked by 20007 and 20205.

31466 waiting to leave Bewdley for Waterworks (just north of Hampton Loade) on 9th Novembe

The following day the SVR provided test facilities for one day of camera calibration works. Unusually this was done at Waterworks rather than the normal test location of Bewdley tunnel, and the order of the day was ‘static’ testing. The train will now be stored on the SVR, the main testing not due to start for at least several weeks.


Meanwhile, the last remaining HST power car 43277 is being moved up to Highley today (11th November) for further stabling, making space for Santa operations set up at Arley.

Photo: 31466 waiting to leave Bewdley for Waterworks (just north of Hampton Loade) on 9th November 2021. Matt Robinson

 

V1 11th November 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.