At the Autumn Steam Gala are ex-GWR 0-4-2T No. 1450 and autotrain. Photo: David Dew.
Welcome to October’s Branch Lines
We arrive at the end of the Autumn Diesel Gala as we publish this month’s edition, and there’s just a brief period of respite before the SVR gears up for its very busy festive season. Our new event, Steam in Lights has almost sold out and tickets for the Santa trains and Carol trains are in great demand too. Next year, we celebrate 50 years of running as a preserved line, and we have a special appeal to get in touch and let the Railway know what it means to you. We also bring you a comprehensive list of dates for your 2020 diary. And we have news of an exciting Pendolino nameplate auction, proceeds from which will benefit the SVR Charitable Trust and the Kidderminster Railway Museum. Plus a host of other updates and articles from all across the wonderful Severn Valley Railway.
We love hearing from Branch Lines readers, who are located literally across the globe! Whether it’s your news, your views or your photographs, if it’s SVR-related, please do get in touch by emailing BranchLines@svrlive.com
Wolf Kirchmeir got in touch (we think from Canada) to ask whether we could send a pdf version of the e-newsletter, as he prefers to print it off and read a hard copy. It's a good point Wolf, however if we tried to send out thousands of emails with a pdf attachment, we'd probably end up in a lot of spam boxes. There is a solution and we think it's worth sharing with all our readers. You'll need to use an online convertor tool (such as web2pdfconvert.com Simply type in the url of the webpage you want to convert to pdf, and it will perform its magic in about 60 seconds, then you can print out your own copy of Branch Lines.
Please pass on your reminder link for Branch Lines to anyone else you know who is an SVR shareholder, member or supporter, or who’s simply as interested as you are in the Railway. Sign up for monthly email reminders at BranchLines@svrlive.com
Lesley Carr & Patrick Hearn, co-editors
Morning sun lights the cab of 2857 on 20th September 2019.
Photo: Alan Campbell
Celebrating 50 years of running on the SVR
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the SVR’s first service as a preserved railway. In 2015 we celebrated saving the line and our founding members, and next year will be about celebrating what the SVR has meant to the local community, our passengers and volunteers over the last five decades. It’s also an opportunity to look to the future and engage younger generations. During 2020, a marketing campaign will highlight:
What the SVR means to you: we want to contact passengers who travelled with us on May 23rd 1970 to see if they’ve continued to visit, and to tell us how the SVR has been a part of their life. We also want to find where the Railway fits into the life of our everyday passenger. We’ll talk to new volunteers on why they choose to give their time to the SVR, and to those who were there at the start and are still here 50+ years later. Can we find a couple who met and married on the Railway?
Generations: we want to celebrate families who have been brought up on the Railway, looking at what it means to them. How many generations of a particular family have travelled on Santa Specials? Why do they keep coming back? What is so special about the place?
Photo: 3205, the first train out of Bridgnorth on 23rd May 1970
Look out for other features including memory scrapbooks, local community partnerships (linking events, the SVR’s impact on local towns and business), our role in the heritage railway industry, our progress as a railway attraction, and how we manage our carbon offset.
Lewis Maddox is co-ordinating the 50th Anniversary Campaign and would like as many contributions as possible:
“I'd really like the campaign to feel personal, creating empathy. After all, the Railway conjures up emotion every day (the sound, smell, sight) and I want to shout about this. I want people who have never heard of the SVR to share our burning passion for the Railway and fall in love on their first visit. Like me, I am sure you want to shout about this, so if you have anything to contribute, please let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
2020: a year of exciting events at the SVR
Building on the recent success of 2019’s ‘A Very British Summer’, the SVR will be concentrating on railway nostalgia next year. Trains will be central to each event plan, with Railway-appropriate activities taking place. To ease the burden on volunteers, we have reduced the number of events in the calendar, and their demands on the workforce. Here are the dates for your diary:
Photo: Kat Fereday
Ding ding! – Model trams at The Engine House, February 15th-23rd
With trains running between Bewdley and Bridgnorth only, we’re bringing an added attraction to The Engine House; the Manchester Model Trams.
Full line service resumes - Easter Holidays, April 4th-19th
Our first Falling Sands Viaduct event will take place on April 4; to coincide with the reopening of the line. We’ll host a re-enactment of the opening with Victorian actors, fun family friendly activities and more. Expanding on this single day, the Easter Holidays will be a traditional Victorian Easter.
Back with a bang – Spring Steam Gala, April 16th-19th
Running in an all-new four day format, the Spring Steam Gala will see up to three star visiting engines and the launch of the Charitable Trust’s Stove-R. The move into April will allow us to run trains later in the evening and we should benefit from better weather – no snowstorms please!
Little engines rule - Open House Weekend, May 2nd & 3rd
Open House Weekend moves into May, with model railways in The Engine House at Highley and Kidderminster Diesel Depot, and a number of areas to peep behind the scenes.
The BIG diesel bash - Spring Diesel Festival, May 14th-17th
The Spring Diesel Festival continues to prove popular, so with our sights firmly set on increasing passenger numbers and revenue, the event will continue into Sunday.
Long live the SVR – 50th Anniversary of running, May 23rd-25th
May 23rd 1970 was the first day the SVR ran trains, and in 2020, we’ll mark this important anniversary with a commemorative event to celebrate the past, and more importantly, the future of the SVR. The event will concentrate on Bridgnorth, Eardington and Hampton Loade - a full event proposal is being drawn up; it promises to be very exciting!
Getting hands on – Young Steam Engineers, May 23rd-31st
Whilst the first few days of half-term will focus on May 1970, the rest of the holiday will celebrate the future; the younger generations!
Glad rags at the ready - Step Back to the 1940s, June 27th, 28th & July 4th, 5th
We step into the Wartime Britain once again!
Building on success! – A Very British Summer, July 18th-September 6th
Following the success of the 2019 campaign, summer 2020 will revisit A Very British Summer with an updated itinerary of attractions, linking in with the 50th marketing campaign.
Traction engines galore – Steam on the Road, August 8th & 9th
Steam-powered vehicles will return to Kidderminster Station in 2020, with an expansion along the line with gatherings of other types of vehicle; tractors, motorcycles etc.
The wheels on the bus – On The Buses, September 5th
On The Buses in 2020 will not take place at Bewdley, so the main displays will move to Kidderminster and Bridgnorth, with rides from both stations.
All vehicles great and small – Classic Car Day, September 6th
Working alongside the Italian AutoMoto Club, Classic Car Day moves back to a Sunday, and the event extends into Bridgnorth town. The event will run in much the same way as 2019, with vehicles at every Station, but with the added attraction of moving exhibits.
Back to the future – Autumn Steam Gala, September 17th-20th
Continuing the 50th anniversary theme, all the much-loved Autumn Steam Gala features will return, with overnight running, goods train etc, and some rather nostalgic visiting engines.
Spotlight on the home-fleet – Autumn Diesel Gala, October 1st-4th
We’re expecting this year’s event to be a success, so the we’ll be looking at the same in 2020.
Do you dare to take a ride? – Ghost Trains, October 29th-31st
It’ll be business as usual for the sell-out Ghost Trains, with three trains running per night, taking passengers on a spooky ride to Arley and back.
Gifts galore – Christmas Gift Fayre, November 14th & 15th
Gifts galore with a festive twist at The Engine House, running to a similar format to 2019’s planned event.
The most wonderful time of the year – Christmas services, December
Steam in Lights, Santa Specials and lots more in late November and December. We’ll see how this year goes!
Fancy a genuine piece of modern railway history?
If you visited this weekend’s Diesel Gala, you might have spotted an impressive collection of Pendolino nameplates on display in the Kidderminster Railway Museum. These are fresh off the set, and have been donated to raise funds by the lovely people at Virgin Trains.
The plates are being auctioned in support of the SVR Charitable Trust and Kidderminster Railway Museum. With Virgin due to hand over the keys for their west coast route to First Trenitalia in December, there’s never been a better time to bag yourself a much sought-after railway artefact. There are also five nose cone plates on offer.
Photo: Photo: Richard Stanton of Virgin Trains with Richard Shaw of the Coalyard Miniature Railway and a sizeable collection of Pendolino nameplates
The nameplates and cone plates, all in a ‘weathered’ condition, have come straight off the set of Class 390s. The following plates are available:
City of Birmingham
City of Carlisle
City of Liverpool
City of Stoke-on-Trent
City of Preston
To be in with a chance, simply send a sealed bid to email@example.com with your name, address, the plate(s) you’re bidding on, and your offer price. Maximum of three bids per person, and there’s a reserve price of £500 on each plate. The auction closes at 5pm on 14th October and winners will be notified the following week.
Update from the Wagon department at Bewdley
Regent Tank 345 in its all black livery awaiting signwriting with GWR Open 98480 behind.
Inside the goods shed is GWR Mink Covered Goods Van 101961 which has had a new canvas roof. Due to space restrictions, this had new doors and a repaint on one side only. It then went to Kidderminster for turning and is now back inside for the same treatment on the other side.
Also inside is GWR Mica Refrigerated Meat Van 105873. This van is double-skin construction for insulation and unfortunately had suffered badly from dry rot due to dampness and lack of ventilation within the enclosed spaces. The main structure of the body is steel, which is in quite good condition, but much of the timber framework and planking is being replaced.
GWR Mica 105873 showing the new timbers bolted to the steel framework
The Wagon Department are also assisting with the cosmetic restoration of GWR 6 ton Hand Crane 446. This sat neglected at the Stourport Triangle for many years, but is now at Arley where it will make an interesting static display in the yard.
GWR 6 Ton Hand Crane 446 at Arley.
Graham Phillips sends us this report (all photos by Graham):
Work is progressing on four goods wagons at once at Bewdley, with the weather being the main deciding factor on whether it's the two inside or two outside the goods shed which get the focus of attention on any given day.
The most conspicuous wagon at the moment is Regent tank 345 which was built in 1960 to carry 22 tons of aviation fuel. This is in a very good condition mechanically, so work consists mainly of a full repaint.
Behind this is GWR 5 Plank Open 98480 of 1921. This is a much bigger project and will require replacement of all the bodywork timber and repairs to the underframe as well as the fabrication of new brake parts.
Autumn Steam Gala – some alternative views
The photographers were out in force for the Autumn Steam Gala last month, and many were kind enough to send examples of their work to the svrlive website. A selection of ‘less usual’ views of the Railway from more than 20 contributors is included at www.svrlive.com.
Here’s one to whet your appetite from Robert Batty who explains, “This was early on Saturday morning, just as the sun had started to warm the air up, but as you can see, the air was still a little cold for some.”
Autumn Diesel Gala photos
And hot from this week’s Diesel Gala, you’ll find another gallery of images kindly sent in by a number of photographers, including this photo by Jason Hood of 50033 Glorious and 40106 Atlantic Conveyor meeting at Highley as Glorious shunts its stock.
See more images at the SVRLive home page
Recreating the past at Eardington
Eardington Halt welcomed record numbers of visitors during the Autumn Steam Gala, despite the fact that no trains stopped there. People came to see the volunteer team’s careful attempts to ‘recreate’ some of the very limited number of photographs that exist of the tiny station from before the 1960s. The challenge for the team was to bring the black and white photos to life in living colour, as Steve Downs explains:
“We tried to match the original signage where possible. The Wailing Wall gang at Bridgnorth helped us with materials, including the old bar door from the Railwayman's Arms, which we stripped for plywood. Hampton Loade lent us a notice board, Steve Dockerty supplied period posters, and a volunteer paid for three replica enamel signs, made by local company Kyoti Graphics. These were used to recreate exactly the signage on display in 1910.
“The re-enactments were a lot of fun to do and created a great deal of interest, with almost zero financial outlay. Our visitor numbers on the Thursday and Friday of the gala set records for us, but Saturday was something else, possibly the busiest we've ever been. We were turning folks away most of the day and our little car park was bursting at the seams. Our volunteers rose to the occasion and did a magnificent job keeping everyone happy. We also sold a mountain of homemade cake!”
New book raises funds for Diesel Depot
The latest publication from Chime Whistle would look great on any coffee table, but more importantly it gives a fantastic insight into the people and the work that goes on in the SVR’s Diesel Depot. Entitled 'Kidderminster Diesel Depot: The Old Oak Common of preservation', it’s a beautiful 300-page, A4 hardback publication, packed with hundreds of colour photos on high quality art paper.
Chime Whistle are generously donating £5 for each copy sold to the SVR Charitable Trust to fund diesel projects. Pre-orders are already coming in thick and fast – make sure to order yours at Chime Whistle.
Bridgnorth MPD is in a mellow mood
Volunteer shed master Martin White writes from Bridgnorth, where he’s obviously been reading a bit of poetry! So, here we are in the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ (from To Autumn, by John Keats, in case you were wondering.)
The September Gala has been and gone and the midweek running season has ended. We have a few weeks respite from seven-days-a-week operation with just weekend running and the odd footplate experience train before things pick up again at half term, and Halloween, and then Santa trains and Steam in Lights.
This short period of respite will allow a couple of significant and important jobs to be undertaken by the running maintenance and boiler shop teams at Bridgnorth. Top of the list is the annual boiler insurance examination on 34027 ‘Taw Valley’. Firstly, a cold exam, with the boiler drained down and washed out, and smokebox and firebox cleaned thoroughly and then subsequently a hot, in steam exam. It’s rather like a car MOT, in that it’s illegal to operate the loco without annual boiler insurance approval.
The second major task for the maintenance team is a valve and piston exam on 1501. Many readers, not just from the loco dept, will have heard the loco emitting odd noises and uneven beats this season which need to be rectified. In addition to sounding odd, the loco is consuming more water than it should and is a little lacking in performance, but not excessively so, due to these valve issues. In addition to the valves and pistons, some of the motion requires attention, especially the big ends and side rods. The day after the September gala, work commenced in stripping the loco, removing the valve and cylinder covers, the valves themselves and side rods, etc. Measurements were taken to ascertain what work and replacements are required and requests were made to Bridgnorth pattern shop for them to make some wooden patterns that the foundry will use to make the moulds for the casting of new bushes. These were quickly provided and sent off to the foundry for quotations.
So, if 34027 or 1501 are your favourites and you are wondering why you’ve not seen them recently, there are good reasons for their absence.
Other work is scheduled to take place on 43106. Some routine activity such as brake block changes, but also more longstanding issues, for example the driver’s brake valve, which is undergoing detailed investigation into an irregular application.
Photo: 1501 undergoing V&P work in Bridgnorth works with the valves and pistons having been removed. The valves are on the bench in the foreground
Still to come in 2019
There are plenty of reasons to visit the SVR during the remainder of this year. Here’s a rundown of what’s still to come:
Wizard Express services – Young witches and wizards and their families can take a magical trip to Highley for Wizard School, with plenty of spellbinding entertainment on the journey. Tickets at The Wizard Express webpage or phone 01562 757900.
Ghost Trains – go on a thrilling excursion to Arley station, where you’ll meet a host of ghoulish characters. Three nightly services on 26th, 27th, 30th and 31st October. Tickets at the Ghost Trains! webpage or phone 01562 757900.
Tornado – the world-famous locomotive makes a welcome return in November. Two services a day from each end of the line on 9th, 10th, 17th and 24th. Book tickets at the SVR Tornado! event webpage or phone 01562 757900.
A host of festive season events with something for all ages, starting towards the end of November and running through December. We have Santa Specials, Christmas Carol Trains, Christmas Dining, and the Engine House Christmas Carvery. This year sees our first ever Steam in Lights event, which has already almost sold out. Book all these events at www.svr.co.uk or phone 01562 757900
Strange, but true
Peter Darkin writes to us from the SVR archive room at The Engine House, Highley, where he was looking through back copies of SVR News.
“In edition No. 17 from summer 1970, I came across some notes on Bewdley station by J. Francis Parker. One paragraph intrigued me:
‘I can just remember seeing at Bewdley before the first world war one of the Wolverhampton saddle tanks encased in sheeting painted and panelled to represent a carriage. This was one of four so treated for push and pull trains. It was thought people might be nervous of an engine boiler in between two carriages! The scheme caused difficulty with maintenance and was discontinued.’
“Curious, my first port of call was Wikipedia but this produced nothing nor did conversations with various other people who might have known. Next I went to David Postle at the Kidderminster Railway Museum. He was unable to enlighten me although he said that the late J. Francis Parker was well-respected and very knowledgeable about all things Great Western. A few more dead ends before I contacted the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society (RCTS) where their archivist Andy Davies came up trumps.
“In August 1906 No. 2120 (2021 class) underwent a complete transformation at Swindon. In an effort to harmonise the locomotive with the carriages on push - pull trains the loco was fitted with short square tanks and completely clothed in a shell which from the outside looked like a coach body, complete with windows and fully lined out in carriage livery. Two windows at the front looked in on the smokebox whilst the others looked on the tank. The roof ran from the front buffer beam to the rear with the chimney protruding and holes for the safety valves and to fill the tanks with water. The enclosed cab must have made conditions on the footplate extremely hot although the fitting of a full length roof would have been an improvement on the original half cab. Coaling must have been a nightmare. The four-coach auto trains were intended to operate in the Plymouth area so how one came to Bewdley is open to speculation.
“No. 2140 was similarly transformed at Newton Abbott as were Nos. 533 and 833 of the ‘517 class 0-4-2T’s. The dummy coachwork was removed at the end of 1911.”
Thank you Peter – keep digging around in those archives!
Erlestoke Manor overhaul makes progress
The Erlestoke Manor Fund recently posted a comprehensive update of the work being carried out on 7812 at Tyseley Locomotive Work. The update contains a wealth of photographs, including this one by Adrian Hassell showing part of the boiler which is currently awaiting a visit from the specialist copper welder for lap joint repairs.
Erlestoke Manor's 10 year boiler ticket expired at the end of 2017 and she moved to Tyseley for overhaul to commence in January 2018.
Photo by Adrian Hassell
Dusk falls on Bridgnorth
Thanks to Mike Catton for sending us these photographs he took at Bridgnorth a couple of weeks ago, just as dusk was falling. Mike is a volunteer in Carriage & Wagon at Kidderminster.
Urgent funding needed for GWR 9581
The LNER Coach Fund volunteers are making good progress on their restoration of GWR 9581 at Bewdley, but Richard Hill says they urgently need more funds to take the project forward:
“The SVR Charitable Trust owns this coach, and donations made via the Trust can attract a further 25% Gift Aid at no extra cost to the donor. For £100 you can ‘sponsor an inch’ and there are specific items available for sponsorship, such as roof vents (£150) and coach doors (£750). General donations of any amount are welcome at any time. A downloadable donation form is at: http://www.lnersvrcoachfund.org.uk/gwr9581-5043.html .”
Project leader Richard Gunning explains what’s been happening in recent months:
“The roof’s interior needs to be well insulated to avoid condensation. This means many coats of bitumen paint, then a generous layer of insulating fabric. One option being considered here is natural wool, which has excellent insulation qualities.
“We’re fitting the interior ceiling ‘carlines’ and will then attach the decorative ceiling. The curved shape is achieved by gluing lengths of thin ply together within a ‘master’ former frame and allowing this to cure. The ceiling is also receiving the framework that will support the heavy water tanks to supply the buffet bar and the WC facilities.
“And as you can see in the photo, we have made a start on the first coat of green body primer paint.
“Ideally we’d like to equip GWR 9581 with sufficient electrical power to drive the lighting, water heating, a fridge and a couple of cool drawers for soft drinks. But that would be beyond the normal output of a conventional railway dynamo. That said, electric technology has progressed significantly in recent years, and some early thought is being given over whether hybrid car technology might have a modern-day application. Before the anguished cries of ‘never done by Swindon’ are heard, it was in fact developing Swindon and Wolverton thinking that led to this concept being applied to railway uses (eg in the BR Mark 2 coaches) and eventually to hybrid road vehicles.”
Network Rail staff lend a hand at the SVR
A team of volunteers from Network Rail caused quite a stir in late September when they spent a day at Highley taming the vegetation on the embankment and pathways around The Engine House. The visit was arranged by Keith Brown, our volunteer permanent way administrator, who said, “This is the second time Network Rail have had a volunteering day with us. It’s certainly been hard work, and everyone has pitched in with lots of enthusiasm. We’ve also valued this opportunity to get to know colleagues from another train operating company and have built connections that will be valuable in the future. We are very grateful for everyone’s time, energy and dedication.”
Mike Black of Network Rail added, “We give our staff five days off to volunteer for good causes, so they get the pleasure of directly helping and making a difference. It offers a great opportunity to team-build and allows our office-based colleagues to experience the challenges that Network Rail’s front line staff face. This should help them understand the impact that their decisions make on the front line.”
Improved baby changing facilities on trains
Our photo shows Hugh McQuade of Carriage & Wagon fitting a new baby changing unit on board 80776, one of the most recent carriages to emerge from an extensive overhaul and refurbishment. This brings the SVR’s total ‘baby-friendly’ carriages to four – all funded by the SVR Charitable Trust, as Hugh explains:
“Three years ago, 24105 was fitted out as part of the teak set. Recently 4399’s restoration has been completed and this will soon join set C. And there’s 4690 from set M, which is currently having a repaint in the workshop.
“All four are wheelchair accessible coaches with more spacious toilet facilities. These mean our restorers can fit in the fold-down baby units.”
80776’s restoration was funded by generous donations to the SVR Charitable Trust. To help restore further carriages, please make a donation via the SVR Charitable Trust's online donation page.
Falling Sands artwork exhibition
As part of the Falling Sands Viaduct educational activities programme, children from Sutton Park Community School in Kidderminster have created artwork based on the viaduct. The paintings will be on show at The Engine House, Highley during October and November. The pictures were painted following a trip to the site of the viaduct in Kidderminster, when the pupils discovered how the Victorians built the seven-arched structure, and how children of their own age were expected to work alongside adults.
A dedicated Falling Sands website goes live on Tuesday 8th October, with all the latest updates on both the restoration work to the viaduct and the associated events, exhibitions and educational activities.
What do you think about Kidderminster Town Hall?
Kidderminster Town Hall has been the town’s focal point for over 150 years providing a venue for concerts, events and exhibitions. It has also played an important role in the lives of the citizens of Kidderminster by as the home of the Register Office and the District Council Customer Services Hub.
Kidderminster Town Council wants to open up the ground floor of the building and is seeking the views of SVR members and shareholders, especially those who live locally or spend time in Kidderminster, to help them decide how it could best be used.
As an added incentive to complete their online survey they’re offering entry to a prize draw for a family ticket to Cinderella, the Town Hall’s first pantomime.
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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.