7714 bursts out of Knowlesands Tunnel on 29 October 2023 Keith Wilkinson
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
The main part of running season is behind us, and with very little gap, the Railway moves onto the Christmas season services and Festive services. Your Branch Lines brings news of the ‘countdown to Christmas’, and your help please to spread the word will be invaluable as we prepare for our busiest period.
We’ve also a look back to the popular late Autumn ghost and scare services, and joint staff/volunteer projects such as the recovery of pointwork from Brownhills to go toward the next stage of the essential Bridgnorth Yard project – another example of the benefits to the SVR of its relationships with the ‘big railway’.
The heritage of the line is boosted by the welcome return on test of Stanier Mogul 2968 after a longer-than-anticipated overhaul.
For those of you that hold shares in the Railway we’ve an appeal for ‘lost’ shareholders. There’s a significant number who have moved and for whom the Railway has no current address. Please do get in touch.
With news from around the Railway, welcome to your November Branch Lines!
The Branch Lines team is Lesley Carr, Karen Crick, Amy Baker, Pete Cherry and Nicola Fox.
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On the countdown to Christmas
With less than a month to go, the festive season is fast approaching at the Severn Valley Railway.
There’s something for all the family from Santa Trains and the Enchanted Express, to a Luxury Yuletide Evening Dining experience, Enchanted Afternoon Tea and the newly launched Festive Gin Trains (over 18s only please).
Santa Trains will be departing Kidderminster from Saturday 25 November. Services run at weekends and on Friday 22 December. Passengers can experience a magical steam train journey to Arley where they disembark for an all-new pantomime. This year, Jingle and Jangle the elves will be joined for some festive fun by Santa and Jack Frost, who will be appearing for the first time.
The Enchanted Express promises a magical journey for all the family and the first trains depart from Bridgnorth from Saturday 2 December. The voice of Dame Julie Walters narrates, and passengers meet Santa and a host of costumed characters on board the train, in an interactive experience inspired by the festive tale ‘Twas the Night before Christmas.
Both experiences include a present for each child and reserved seating for the whole family.
Places on the dining experience trains are now limited with a just a small number of tables available for booking. The new Festive Gin Trains make for an unusual treat for friends and loved ones. For those who enjoy a tipple, you can have the pleasure of tasting Coal-Infused Gin, which is available exclusively on the Railway. You’ll also be able to learn about the flavours and botanicals that have gone into creating its unique flavour.
Preparations for the festive season are well under way and we’re looking forward to seeing the Railway transformed for Christmas.
Celebrate the most wonderful time of year on the Railway, book tickets at svr.co.uk or call 01562 757900.
SVR tracks down ‘lost’ shareholders
The SVR has lost touch with a significant number of its shareholders and has launched a bid to reconnect with these ‘lost’ supporters.
“We think that the most likely explanation is people have moved,” explained Chris Walton, chair of Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) Plc. “If they’ve forgotten to update their address with us, it’s unfortunately impossible for us to contact them.
“A lot of shareholders purchased shares in support of the SVR many years ago and may even have forgotten they have them! However, we’d love to hear from them so we can make sure they’re benefitting from any annual shareholder benefits to which they’re entitled.”
The SVR appeal has been launched across the heritage press and it is hoped will see shareholders reaching out to reconnect with the SVR.”
SVR – Network Rail partnership helps Bridgnorth Yard project
The former oil depot near Brownhills, on the disused South Staffordshire line between Lichfield and Walsall, was the scene of activity in mid-October. The SVR’s permanent way team assisted by volunteers arrived to dismantle turnouts and track components in a week-long operation that yielded three sets of points. The pointwork was donated as part of the landmark partnership between the SVR and Network Rail. Volunteer project manager Nick Yarwood explains more:
One of these sets of points has suitable dimensions and configuration for the Bridgnorth Yard project and is destined to be put back into service this winter on roads 1 and 2. These are the ones against the back of platform 2. The last time it was used would have been around 20 years ago, for the last of the oil trains.
There are another two sets to be recovered and these will be used elsewhere on the Railway for planned replacements.
We are fortunate for, and very appreciative of, the assistance given at Brownhills by Quattro Plant Ltd, who have a lease on the old terminal oil yard. Quattro is a specialist equipment supplier to the rail industry, and they kindly loaned us the use of one of their road/rail vehicles, which was essential to the success of the operation.
One of our new infrastructure volunteers, Jon Evans, joined us for his first couple of days of volunteering. He said he’d used muscles that hadn’t had so much use in ages – feeling achy, but well satisfied with his experience and contribution to the job. A great start to working with the SVR. In the photo, he’s captured removing chair screws with the ‘Monster’. His smile says it all!
Volunteers are still needed to help with track lifting, track relaying, alterations to the pit on Road 2 and concreting works. Please volunteer if you would like to learn new skills or have construction or permanent way experience. We need a few more willing volunteers to help the project to run like clockwork. It could be YOU!
Work will be taking place from 10 January until mid-March. To sign-up to a very worthwhile project, please contact the Volunteer Liaison Office on 01299 401776, firstname.lastname@example.org
Click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits.
What's coming up?
Seasonal gift ideas in the online shop
With an ever-growing range of products to buy, the online shop has some ideas if you’re looking for an unusual gift this Christmas.
For stocking fillers, try Top Trumps, reduced in price to £5.00 (plus P&P). The SVR Monopoly set is a great game for all the family, or how about an SVR Beanie hat available in a choice of two colours? The 2024 Steam Calendar is proving a popular choice and is available, while stocks last.
All profits go towards supporting the work of the Railway and you can browse the online shop and order now in plenty of time for Christmas delivery Severn Valley Railway Official Store – Official SVR Shop
Spoilt for choice, or can’t decide? For those who would like some flexibility, why not give your loved one an SVR gift voucher? Vouchers can be purchased online at Gift Vouchers | Severn Valley Railway (svr.co.uk) there are several amounts to choose from, or you can select your own amount.
The vouchers can be redeemed for special events including the galas, or for treats such as the popular afternoon teas.
Click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits.
Special event ‘price-buster’ ticket offer
The Railway has launched an early-bird offer for a number of 2024 special events, so visitors can save money by buying in advance at 2023 prices. The special ticket offer is available for a limited time only, on purchases made before 7 January 2024.
“Rising costs mean we’ll need to increase the ticket prices for our events in 2024,” said Lewis Maddox, the SVR’s visitor engagement manager. “But to help those who love a discount, we’re making this special offer available for a limited period.
“Our special events this year have proved very popular, and we know that many people are already planning their diaries for 2024. We wanted to give them an extra incentive to come and visit the SVR next year. Tickets for one of these events would also make a wonderful Christmas present.”
The offer for 2024 tickets at 2023 prices includes April’s Spring Steam Gala, May’s Spring Diesel Festival, the Step Back to the 1940s weekends in late June and early July, the September Autumn Steam Gala and the Autumn Diesel Bash in October.
Find out more at 2024 Events Offer | Severn Valley Railway (svr.co.uk)
Photo: Class 40 diesel locomotive 40106 Tony Middleton
Service of remembrance
The annual service of remembrance at Kidderminster Town station will take place on Sunday 12 November at 10.45, in memory of all Royal Engineers who have lost their lives in military conflict. There are no public train services that day, but all are welcome.
In addition, for quite a few years now, members of station staff have joined in the annual remembrance parade at Bewdley and laid a wreath. Bewdley’s Dai Phillips explains: “At this time of year, thoughts go to the station's own first world war casualty, Alfred Rowland Crew. A short tragic life, his parents died in 1914, which may have prompted him to enlist in the Worcestershire Yeomanry. We believe that he died in action at Oghratina, Sinai, in April 1916 and was buried where he fell.
“He is commemorated on the GWR war memorials displayed at various stations around the country (there is one in Kidderminster Town booking hall) and on the war memorial on St. Anne's church in Bewdley. We also have a memorial to him in the waiting room at Bewdley.”
Photo A R Crew
The SVR supports Bewdley’s Christmas lights switch on
The Railway is again supporting Bewdley town’s Christmas lights switch on! Visitor engagement manager Lewis Maddox told Branch Lines: “On the evening of 2 December we will run a diesel-hauled ‘park and ride’ public service between Kidderminster and Bewdley.
“Leave the car in Kidderminster where there is ample parking, and hop aboard the special heritage train to Bewdley.
The train will depart from Kidderminster Town station at 4.30pm, getting to Bewdley in good time for the lights switch on. Bewdley station is just a short walk from the town centre, where you’ll be entertained, have the chance to do some Christmas shopping and ride the funfair, before joining the Mayor and Father Christmas in the countdown to the lights switch on at 5.30pm.
“The train will return from Bewdley at 7.30pm, leaving time to visit local restaurants, bars and pubs. Train tickets are just £5 (return) or £2.50 (single) per person and can be purchased from Kidderminster Town station on the day only.
“We’re delighted to support again this local event."
Bewdley Station at Christmas time, credit James Pearson
Next chapter for 5164
After a decade of storage at Barrow Hill Roundhouse, Large Prairie 5164 is departing to be the centre-piece attraction at the Warley Model Railway Club Show at the National Exhibition Centre over the weekend of 25 & 26 November.
The locomotive, which first ran on the SVR in 1979 and was most recently withdrawn in 2014, is in line for overhaul by owners Erlestoke Manor Fund (EMF). Following its appearance at Warley, it will move to Tyseley Locomotive Works where the plan is to store the loco whilst EMF completes the overhaul and repairs of 7802 Bradley Manor and their new-build tender project T2329. This work will occupy a large part of 2024.
During 2024, EMF will continue to make further detailed assessments of 5164’s condition and purchase materials as necessary. Currently over £40,000 has already been spent in this way. Chris Field, EMF Trustee and 5164 Project Lead, said:
“EMF is extremely grateful to the Warley Model Railway Club Show organisers for the chance to get the 5164 project moving, as well as enabling us to raise the profile of the 5164 Appeal and Erlestoke Manor Fund membership through highlighting our work over 50 years with our other two locomotives – 7812 Erlestoke Manor and 7802 Bradley Manor.
“The 5164 Project will be used as an educational and transitional focus for younger engineering volunteers to project-lead whilst learning from the more experienced engineers involved in EMF, thus preserving many much-needed skills for the future”.
More details on the 5164 Appeal and EMF can be found at www.erlestokemanorfund.co.uk
5164 at Barrow Hill in 2021 at handover to EMF Trustees - credit Robert Davies
Across the Railway
“Phenomenal” dynamic tamper at the SVR
We reported in October’s Branch Lines that the Railway was benefitting from the attention of a state-of-the-art dynamic tamper – the result of some partnership working between the SVR and its operators, SB Rail.
You can learn more about this in the recently released film on the SVR’s YouTube channel.
A case of kidnap on the Pigeon Express?
SVR volunteer Hugh McQuade has spent 50 years as a guard, and has plenty of hair-raising stories to tell, but a couple of weeks ago he made a discovery that surprised even a man of his experience.
Hugh was working the LNER ‘teak’ brake third 24506 on a Sunday afternoon. This carriage was built at Bewdley out of sections of former pigeon vans including 70442. To illustrate its history, earlier this year, four racing pigeon baskets were placed on the shelves, complete with several fibreglass pigeons. Hugh takes up the story:
“The LNER used to have heavy traffic from the north east of England in pigeon racing baskets and vehicles like 24506 had tiers of shelves especially for them. However, I noticed that the birds had disappeared from the baskets!
“This posed the question, who let the birds out? Was it someone determined to end their captivity? Or was it some hungry passenger looking for a cheep (pun intended) meal?
“I thought I’d better check our other pigeon basket inside the ‘Stove R’ van, 2886 as soon as I got back to Kidderminster. Fortunately, all three pigeons were still safely roosting in their basket, guarded by a fibreglass greyhound.
“Will we see a ‘Free the Stove R Three’ campaign in due course? Is the greyhound in danger of being dognapped? Or will the pigeon-napper see the error of their ways and return the SVR’s pigeons to their home inside 24506, affectionately known as the ‘Pigeon Van’? It never ceases to amaze me what disappears from our trains, including toilet rolls, plumbing, light bulbs and now fibreglass pigeons!”
Click on the gallery for larger images, descriptions and credits.
A visitation at Bridgnorth!
The SVR was delighted to support a local community project on 30 October, when Bridgnorth station provided the perfect backdrop for the Pattingham Drama Group to help publicise their production of Ghost Train!
Written by Arnold Ridley in 1923, Ghost Train was inspired when Ridley found himself stuck overnight at a deserted railway station. The story follows six passengers stranded in the waiting room of an isolated Cornish station. Warned to leave by the stationmaster who speaks of a spectral train that haunts the line, bringing death to all who set eyes on it, they incredulously refuse to budge and are left to watch the terrifying events unfold.
For Iain Coleman of the Pattingham Drama Group, whose visits to the SVR date back to childhood in pre-preservation, there was only one location perfect for their cast photoshoot. He said:
“Aided by twilight time, we got just the right mysterious atmosphere. With background shots of a locomotive in steam and interior lit carriages, combined with the platform lighting, the photoshoot gave us the perfect ghostly touch. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed being photographed, and stationmaster Chris Thomas was so friendly and helpful. It was a brilliant experience.”
This production takes place at Pattingham Village Hall, near Wolverhampton between the 15 and 18 November 2023 at 7.30pm.
Cast of 'The Ghost Train' in Bridgnorth station yard. Martin Cartwright
Even locomotives can suffer from upset innards, as Bridgnorth Shed Master Martin White reports.
One of the problems with writing an update like this is that the news is only valid at the time of writing. Last month, for example, I wrote that Stanier Mogul 2968 hadn’t yet had its chimney fitted and yet within hours of sending my update to the Branch Lines team it had been fitted. As I write this month’s contribution, it is being readied to undertake its first day of loaded test-runs (see separate item - Ed).
The rest of the SVR steam fleet has had a few ups and downs in recent weeks. 75069, 7714 and 21C127 ‘Taw Valley’ had brief spells away from SVR shortly after our own Autum gala, as visiting guest locos at other railways. Unfortunately, upon its return to SVR from NYMR, 75069 suffered the steam locomotive version of a tummy upset caused by the ‘foreign’ water.
Having had a few tenders full of Yorkshire water the loco suffered from a severe bout of priming, when water is carried over from the boiler into the valves and cylinders. In extremis this can cause significant damage to the cylinders and pistons such as bent rods or covers being blown off. But even in mild cases, priming can compromise the lubrication in the valve chests and cylinders. At SVR, the water dispensed to locos at Bridgnorth and Kidderminster does not tend to raise priming issues, having passed through the Reverse Osmosis water treatment plants at each end of the line. But the Yorkshire water served up to 75069 on its holiday wasn’t to her liking, resulting in the loco priming even with a low level of water in the boiler. So severe was this that the loco had to be failed and a boiler washout carried out to remove any remnants of the ‘foreign’ water.
We have seen similar occurrences in the past, but rarely have they resulted in a loco having to be removed from traffic. As a result of this, as a precautionary measure, both 7714 and ‘Taw Valley’ had their boiler and water tanks drained and a quick swill out of the boiler on return from their visits, before they were steamed, to ensure that they had SVR treated water in them.
More recently ‘Taw Valley’ also failed due to a regulator stuffing box gland issue, which resulted in a sizeable steam leak. This couldn’t be repaired in time for that evening’s Ghost Train, but by some juggling around of locos and trains, the operations manager arranged for 7714 to work the evening train in its place. Whilst repairs to ‘Taw Valley’ were completed in the following days, the old faithful ‘Flying Pig’ 43106 stepped into the gap. The ‘Pig’ is certainly doing sterling service this year, the last on her current boiler certificate, and will hopefully last until a final farewell in the January Winter Gala.
7714 bursts out of Knowlesands Tunnel on 29 October 2023 Keith Wilkinson
The mighty mogul!
LMS Stanier Mogul 2968 steamed on 16 October for the first time since January 2013, for what will be her third spell in SVR traffic. A successful visit from the boiler surveyor three days later allowed Bridgnorth ESMP (Engineering Services Motive Power) to undertake the next stages of commissioning, with some light engine movements between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade.
The focus was for the locomotive to attend the AGM of the owning group, the Stanier Mogul Fund, at Kidderminster on Saturday 21 October. This move was the furthest the loco had gone, and it still had less than 100 miles on the clock.
Further fettling followed before loaded testing commenced in early November. The testing was utilised to complete some carriage movements, including LMS buffet 149 which was moved to Bridgnorth paint shop for a repaint.
All is looking good so far. This is a fantastic achievement by all involved in this longer-than-anticipated overhaul.
A visit to the paintshop in the New Year for full lining out will see the locomotive revert to its ‘as built’ identity of LMS number 13268.
First loaded test for 2968 at Bewdley on 6 November 2023 Bob Green
Half term on the Railway
Half term saw a busy nine days operating on the Railway and included a Christmas Gift Fayre at The Engine House visitor centre at Highley, and three nights of Ghost and Scream trains.
Passengers were able to enjoy the Autumn colours along the Severn Valley and for youngsters there was an Autumn-themed scavenger hunt to try for fun.
The Christmas Gift Fayre started the festive season at SVR with some 50 stalls selling hand-crafted and locally sourced products. The Fayre was popular with visitors and generated lots of positive feedback.
Half term was topped off with a near sell-out of ghost and scream trains. This is a popular event on the SVR calendar each year and a great, but scary and frightful time was had by all.
Festive Season service to start on Boxing Day
If you need a break from all the festivities and mince pies, trains will be running from Tuesday 26 December through to Tuesday 2 January, including New Year’s Day. Wrap up warm and travel by heritage steam or a diesel-hauled train, through 16 miles of the stunning Severn Valley countryside.
More details at Festive Season Service | Severn Valley Railway (svr.co.uk)
On Friday 29 December, the Railway will be holding a Winter diesel day to help round-off the year, with members of the home fleet. Two trains will be in operation, with 40106 on one and Class 46 D182 on the other, both providing steam heat. Trains will be 'top & tailed’ with other locomotives during the day. Revised fares will apply for the Winter diesel day. Passengers will not be able to use their free return tickets and vouchers. More details at Winter Diesel Day | Severn Valley Railway (svr.co.uk)
Photo – 40106 on a frosty day - photo credit John-Sherratt
v1 9th November 2023
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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.