New GRP corbelling is lowered into position on Falling Sands Viaduct. Photo: Jonathan Symonds
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
Well, the past two months have flown, and here we are, well-established in running our post-lockdown services. We’ve seen impressive visitor numbers, especially during the school holiday period in August, and for The Pioneer diesel days which began last month. We’ve caught up with general manager Helen Smith for this edition of Branch Lines, as she looks back on what’s been achieved, and shares her insight into the Railway’s position now and as we head towards the very important Christmas season.
As well as full details on the SVR’s services for October, November and December, we’ve updates on the Charitable Trust’s work to fund various projects around the Railway. These have all been made possible in tandem with the Trust’s integral role in fundraising for the SVR’s Fight Back Fund.
We also peek-behind-the-scenes at MPD, C&W, the signaling department, the diesel depot and much, much more.
Plus, there’s the chance to add an essential item to your winter wardrobe for 2020 – the SVR’s first-ever branded Christmas jumper!
Lesley and Patrick
Branch Lines is edited by Lesley Carr and Patrick Hearn with technical assistance from Amy Baker
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Two months in - the General Manager reflects
Now that the Railway has been up and running again for a full two months, Helen Smith takes a moment to reflect on how things have gone and what the future holds for the SVR.
The great news is that we covered our costs for the first operating month of August, and I would like to thank all staff, both paid and volunteer, for helping to achieve that.
Our new excursion services have worked well, and visitor feedback we’ve received has been excellent. We have managed to provide a service that works and covers its costs, in extremely difficult circumstances. However, the management team will be looking to revamp the working timetable for 2021 to accommodate a more flexible service. It will be one that is more akin to what we would normally offer, but will take into consideration that the pandemic may continue well into 2021.
If we look at 2020 as a whole so far, there’s no escaping the fact that the closure of the Railway for four months, and the reduced services since August, have had a devastating effect on our traditional income streams. We have lost £2.8m in revenue this year.
Furthermore, the mix of income has been very different to what we are used to, and we have relied heavily on donations and grants.
Thank you to the SVR Charitable Trust, who have done an excellent job in identifying and applying for grants to keep the Railway open.
What next? We need to make a success of Christmas, with our Santa Trains and Steam in Lights services. The furlough scheme is coming to an end and we want to keep operating, although this is likely to be at a loss when you add in the cost of running whole business.
However, we have planned for that, and we are very much looking forward to the Christmas services, when we hope to see a welcome return to more normal levels of income.
Finally, on the fundraising front, the Fight Back Fund stands at £900,000, we have recently been awarded £50,000 from Wyre Forest District Council’s discretionary business grant scheme, and we’re still waiting to hear whether our bid to the Cultural Recovery Fund has been successful.
Photo: Autumn blooms to brighten a mundane Monday afternoon. During the 'itinerary timetables' Hampton Loade, Arley and the halts are closed to the public, but the volunteers still maintain the stations ready for when it is safe for their return. Credit: Sam Lench, Hampton Loade Facebook 7th September 2020.
Steaming into Autumn
Following great feedback from passengers and staff, the SVR plans to continue trains into October and November, with two fantastic new services added.
The excursion services see the addition of a new itinerary, The Wanderer, a double-headed steam service. Planned traction is GWR Pannier Tank 7714 with GWR 0-4-2T No 1450 on 9th October, and 7714 and ex-Port Talbot Railway 0-6-0ST No 813 on 23rd October.
October also sees the return of Ghost trains from 29th-31st October. This year an all-new adult event is the Scream Train, on which you can take a trip into the darkness … if you dare! Thanks to Sam Birchall for producing a promotional video “All aboard the Scream Train on the Severn Valley Railway 2020”. This train is in addition to our usual family fun services.
Existing itineraries, The Flyer and The Explorer (steam) and The Pioneer (diesel) continue.
Our Sunset Specials now pick up passengers at Bewdley! You can also join the train at Bewdley when booking tickets for The Flyer and The Explorer.
Passengers travelling on The Explorer or The Adventurer will be able to pre-book a vintage afternoon tea at The Engine House.
Each train offers a whole day out on a specifically timed itinerary, operating on certain days of the week. Click on the image to download a summary of services.
The use of compartment carriages continues, permitting up to six people per compartment to travel. In addition, a single open vehicle on each train is available for single travellers and couples, with those passengers wearing face masks at all times and social distancing maintained. Reduced prices apply to members and some capacity is reserved for loyalty passholders, shareholders and working members.
Passengers are encouraged to pre-book, allowing the Railway to safely control how many people are on the Railway and on each train. Tickets may be available to purchase on the day from Kidderminster or Bridgnorth booking office and availability will be shown on the website the evening before.
The promise of Christmas at the SVR
After four months of lockdown closure, and limited passenger numbers since reopening, the SVR is looking to its Christmas services to bring in some much-needed passenger revenue.
Santa Trains will run six times a day from Kidderminster to Arley, where passengers will disembark for an all-new, professionally produced Christmas show – Jingle, Jangle and the Christmas Cookbook. Departing from KR on selected dates between 28th November and 24th December.
The Steam in Lights services will run three times an evening from Bridgnorth to Hampton Loade, and the experience will be hugely enhanced this year, with brand new narration and music during the journey, and the promise that at the SVR it will snow! Steam in Lights services depart from Bridgnorth on selected dates between 27th November and 23rd December. More services are taking place this year, because the Railway needs to make up revenue it can’t take on the Santa Trains, where this year capacity has had to be reduced.
The SVR is well placed to attract visitors, especially in view of the fact that so many other attractions and venues have had to cancel their Christmas event plans.
Tickets are bookable at svr.co.uk or by phoning 01562 757900. Please share the information with your friends and family on social media, and by tell them how fantastic it will be!
Photo: Bob Green
All I want for Christmas...
..Is most definitely the first ever, SVR-themed Christmas jumper!
Available in a full range of adult and children’s sizes, this is the festive garment you’ll want to wear all December. The smart navy blue sweatshirt jumpers feature Santa Claus in the cab of 1450, and we’re reliably told they’re suitable for even the grumpiest of elves! Not that we’ve seen many of those around these parts….
SVR Christmas jumpers are available to pre-order at svrshop.co.uk and will be dispatched in late October, so you’ll receive yours in plenty of time for maximum festive fun.
Hurry, as they’re going fast!
You won’t miss this!
The Railway has hit the road with a bold new marketing strategy that runs alongside one of Britain’s busiest stretches of motorway.
In a first for the SVR, the Railway has partnered with Midpoint M6 to appear on its digital board, 24 hours a day.
The location alongside the M6 is between Junction 9 and the M5 junction next to Walsall FC. It will feature eye-catching SVR graphics every day for 10 weeks on Europe’s largest LED ad screen.
Dan Shorthouse, marketing manager, said: “When I began my role at the Railway, getting this in place was a high priority for me. It’s taken a long time to finalise but I’m really happy with the final result.
“The opportunity to reach hundreds of thousands of motorists every day across the busiest network in the UK is huge, like those ad boards, and I can’t wait to see what results it brings for the SVR.”
The adverts went live on September 21st, and started with promotion for autumn journeys. In the future, the LED screen will feature graphics for Halloween, Christmas and the Steam in Lights services, with the aim of attracting new visitors from across the Midlands. Look out for it next time you’re driving along the M6!
Falling Sands restoration resumes and some exciting exhibition news
Thanks to the recent warm weather, work is progressing well at Falling Sands Viaduct. Laura Hines, the project manager, updates us on both the onsite work and some exciting news about the associated interpretation that’s been funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the project.
Since receiving the bat licence from Natural England our contractor CAN Ltd has been able to resume work on the arches that were previously restricted because of our ‘winged friends’. This means the brickwork repairing and replacement now spans over the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal.
The samples of replacement corbelling made from glass reinforced plastic (GRP) have now been colour-matched to fit with the current brickwork. This has been signed off by the team and the Wyre Forest District Council Conservation Officer. The next stage is to have the new sections cast and coloured, ready to be fitted over the next two months. Masonry stone for the capping stones has also been sourced from a disused viaduct in Manchester. Philip Chatfield is working on this at Bewdley station, and once completed, it will be transported to the viaduct on a road railer.
As expected, the presence of the bats has led to some cost increases, but we had this covered with a healthy contingency in our original budget, so this has not caused any great concerns.
As part of the interpretation activity that’s part of the Falling Sands viaduct project, we’re pleased to announce the launch during half-term week of our mobile exhibition inside the specially adapted Stove R brake van. The team have been working really hard to get everything ready, and special thanks go to all the staff from Carriage and Wagon. You can see the Stove R at Kidderminster station from Friday 23rd October.
Meanwhile, up at The Engine House, Highley, there are talking historical character totems which bring the story of the Railway to life, and the ‘build your own viaduct’ area will be open, with the chance for children and adults alike to have fun dressing up as people from the past, associated with the SVR.
Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and description
Support the SVR’s £10,000 Christmas appeal with Amazon Smile
Covid-19 continues to impact the Railway’s income, and as part of the ongoing Fight Back Fund, the SVR Charitable Trust is launching a £10,000 Christmas appeal.
When you sign up to Amazon Smile, you can buy exactly the same products, at exactly the same prices – and at no extra cost to you, 0.5% of the net purchase price will go directly to the SVR Charitable Trust.
All you need to do is sign up at smile.amazon.co.uk, select “Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust” and shop away!
Remember to access your Amazon account via smile.amazon.co.uk each time you buy.
For more information about Amazon Smile go to https://smile.amazon.co.uk/about
Cash donation envelopes are back on the trains
As you may already know, the SVR’s ticket revenue cannot cover the cost of training the next generation of heritage engineers, and right now the need is greater than ever. With reduced trains and passenger numbers, the Railway’s income has taken a significant hit. Yet it is vital we keep heritage engineering skills alive in order to restore and maintain our rolling stock for the years to come.
If you are travelling with us in the near future, look for the donation envelope that you’ll find in your compartment and please, pop whatever you can spare inside to help train our engineers of the future.
Thank you so much, as always, for your support.
Photo: TTI Alan Timbrell with a cash donation envelope
VIP visitors at Bewdley
Last week Bewdley station hosted a VIP delegation that included the Mayor of Bewdley, Cllr Anna Coleman, and the High Sheriff of Worcestershire. Mark Jackson OBE was visiting the Worcestershire town to show his support and appreciation for the efforts made this year following the February floods and the coronavirus pandemic.
Hosted at the SVR by assistant station master Dai Phillips, the High Sheriff met a delegation of Railway volunteers, and staff from Wyvern Omnibus who’d done a sterling job in running a bus service to link Bewdley and Wribbenhall during the floods earlier this year, when Bewdley bridge had to be closed. The High Sheriff also paid tribute to the SVR’s volunteers for everything they’ve done to get the Railway back up and running after the lockdown measures were eased.
Our delightful photograph, taken by Anna Coleman, shows the High Sheriff in full regalia, about to wave through the crew and passengers on The Explorer as they passed through the station on their way up the line.
Success for The Pioneer
The Severn Valley Railway’s post-lockdown services started on 1st August with steam-hauled trains. Heritage diesel enthusiasts had another month to wait for their chance, but from September their patience was rewarded with The Pioneer diesel service. Diesel committee chairman Gus Dunster gave us an update.
The first month’s services proved very successful, with September’s diesel services attracting an overall 87% of compartments sold. The Pioneer was the second most popular (by percentage sold) of our four itineraries.
The first Friday saw a sell-out for travel behind four class 50s on different legs of the three round trip service. The four locos in operation were Nos 7 Hercules, 33 Glorious, 35 Ark Royal and 49 Defiance. Marketing manager Dan Shorthouse produced an analysis with an attendee map showing what an amazing pull our diesel day had geographically!
The following week saw 33108 on its 60th birthday with '60' blinds, with some ‘Southern’ wags claiming it to be operating Portsmouth semi-fasts! The loco was constructed at BRCW, Smethwick, and entered service as D6521 at Hither Green on 11th September 1960.
The 18th saw the first locomotive substitution. Class 37190 had suffered serious engine issues but the 50s stepped in, with a great effort by Class 50 Alliance volunteers to get all four locos again working the diagram.
The last trips of the month saw the second stand-in. The advertised Class 17 was still undergoing work in Kidderminster TMD so D821 stepped in to pair with D9551 in a 96-mile hydraulic fest, with locos top and tailing and double-heading.
Head of communications Lesley Carr and diesel committee chairman Gus Dunster put together a behind-the-scenes film about the first Pioneer Day with the 50s. Diesel Days of (late) summer at the Severn Valley Railway on YouTube was published on 18th September.
October continues with The Pioneer on Fridays and Sundays. Sales are again strong with the 4th October services sold out, and tickets going fast for the rest of the month, especially on the Sundays. Traction is planned to be: 4th October, Class 50s; 9th October, Class 42 No. D821; 18th October, Class 40 No. 40106 and 23rd October, D1062 and 40106 (top and tailing).
A mix of types of diesels will see use on the Ghost trains too this month. No Pioneers are planned in November.
For those who have kindly supported The Pioneer diesel operations we would appreciate if you could leave a review on Trip Advisor so we can hear your views and continue to improve our visitor experience.
Gus gave a fleet update last month. Here’s this month’s fleet news in brief:
The Charitable Trust’s Class 11 12099’s heavy overhaul is progressing well and 30th September saw the engine lifted and replaced into the engine compartment. Some side doors were replaced and painting of parts and cab continue.
37190 (see above) is out of use, stabled at Bewdley, awaiting examination by owners Locomotive Services Limited. It’s expected to leave the SVR shortly.
40106 ‘Atlantic Conveyor’ returned to Bury on 22nd July, to be lifted for segmental bearing and steam heat pipework repairs. It will haul the diesel service at the East Lancashire Railway on 19th September before returning to the Valley around 15th October. It is rostered for The Pioneer on 23rd October.
Class 47 - 47773. The contract body work and repainting is in the final stages now and should be complete by the end of October, after which it will be returning to Tyseley depot where it is based for Vintage Trains.
DMU - work continues to return a 3-car set to traffic but the bogie overhaul needs to fit in amongst other projects for the Carriage and Wagon team.
The Class 999  Parry People Mover Car 12 left the SVR at the beginning of September for repairs.
Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions
The SVR is advertising for two employment opportunities, with closing dates in October:
Project Delivery Manager – Falling Sands (maternity cover). This role is with Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust, and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Permanent Way Technical Specialist
Head on over to the website employment page for details of the roles and how to apply. Good luck!
A double welcome back at the MPD
Two locomotives get back into steam, and there’s plenty of restoration progress on others in the workshops. Volunteer shed master Martin White gives us the lowdown on the past month at the Motive Power Depot in Bridgnorth.
A three-day working week for the engineering staff has meant that many tasks have taken longer than normal to be completed. However, September did see the return to operational service of 1501, and by the time you read this 43106 will have steamed along The Valley again. The former has been declared to be in excellent ‘nick’ after its extended winter maintenance, and the latter has a considerably refurbished brake valve, which should hopefully banish some of the issues it suffered from during 2019.
Within the works, ‘Hagley Hall’ is coming along nicely, with final jobs on the tender being progressed, work on the loco axleboxes commencing and some of the Sunday volunteers fabricating new cylinder cladding. Within the boilershop, the last couple of dozen boiler stays have been manufactured for the Hall and sent to Northern Steam for fitting into what is now a very nearly complete boiler.
Work on 13268, the Stanier Mogul, has resumed, although at a slower speed, with some of the paid staff having been diverted to other tasks. The volunteers from the Stanier Mogul Fund have however returned en masse on Sundays to resume their efforts on preparing and painting components large and small, one biggish lump being the cab roof. During a recent peep inside the boilershop, these Sunday volunteers from the loco owning group were pleased to note further progress on their boiler since they last saw it.
Also in the boilershop, the ashpan of 4150 has started to take shape, from a pile of shaped steel profiles that were delivered during the lockdown. This is being put together by the owning group volunteers who have also finalised the grate design for which firebars are being sourced.
Boiler contract work on Isle of Man new builds 3 and 4 is ongoing, and also another Hunslet quarry locomotive boiler is having a fairly substantial rebuild, with a new barrel to be fitted on ‘Holy War’. Incidentally, I have always considered this to be one of my favourite loco names as it is so quirky. I only found out recently that it is in fact named after a racehorse!
Loco maintenance and examinations are a never-ending cycle and in the last few weeks our ‘film star’ loco 2857 has had a successful annual examination, as has the 30-ton steam crane boiler. It’s just two words to write; ‘annual’ and ‘examination’, but those words conceal the considerable time, effort and work it takes to prepare for both the mechanical and boiler exams especially, when hindered by the three-day week working rota. At this point I will gave a big ‘shout out’ to the 2857 Society and the engineering report prepared for their members’ journal, which gives considerable detail on the work that is undertaken to keep this 102-year-old loco active. I learned a few things reading it, so if you can get hold of a copy, I highly recommend it.
Photo: 43106 is in steam again. Credit: Martin White
Calling all amateur film makers
We have news of a free-to-enter competition that’s calling out for you!
The Wirral International Festival of Transport Films 2020 is holding a competition for non-commercial films. The film genre is open but must feature modern or vintage transport in some form. James Chalmers, the organiser, said:
“There may be amateur filmmakers amongst your staff or volunteers who would be interested in this competition. I would be grateful if you could make the details known to all those who might be interested.
“Due to the current coronavirus restrictions there won’t be a public screening – but the entries will be judged and places awarded.
“Film running time is 10 minutes maximum – and the subject matter anything to do with transport.”
The closing date is 6th November, just click on the graphic for terms and conditions. If you are interested, please contact email@example.com
Greetings from across the pond
We have received a lovely message from the other side of the Atlantic, from Alan Zelazo, the vice chairman of The Shore Line Trolley Museum (East Haven, Connecticut).
The Museum operates the 1½ mile Branford Electric Railway, opened in 1900 and the oldest continuously-operated suburban trolley (tram) line in the USA.
Alan said: “I'd like to express my admiration of the wonderful job you are doing! I have visited your Railway and was quite impressed. Keep up the great work! I hope to visit again in the near future”.
Thanks, Alan. We hope to see you soon!
Photo: Johnstown 357 crossing trestle bridge August 2016. Kathy Radziunas via Wikipedia Commons
Rifle Range Halt centenary
We’re indebted to shareholder and Engine House volunteer Phil Wright, who has been in contact to remind us that this month marks the centenary of the closure of Rifle Range Halt on 4th October 1920.
The Halt was constructed on the ‘Kidderminster loop’, adjacent to the Devil's Spittleful, at a cost of £145! It opened in June 1905, served by a new steam railmotor service between Kidderminster, Bewdley and Stourport, also calling at Foley Park Halt which opened in January that year.
Unfortunately, no photo seems to have survived (unless you know differently?) and no traces of it remain today.
Why ‘Rifle Range’ Halt? From around 1887 a range existed for the benefit of the members of the local corps of Rifle Volunteers (the 1st and 2nd Volunteer Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment, from 1908 the 7th and 8th Battalions, Territorial Force).
During the First World War the range was used mainly by volunteers from the Yeomanry. A research project completed during 2012 and 2014, paid for out of public and National Lottery funds, includes a section on the range. The area now is a nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its high-quality lowland heath habitat.
Photo: Territorial battalion the 2/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment which was formed at Kidderminster in September 1914. From WorcestershireRegiment.com
Carriage works updates
Plenty to report from the Carriage Works, as Angela Walker writes:
It is starting to feel rather autumnal. The evenings are now drawing in, and the leaves are changing to varying colours of reds, yellows, golds and browns…. Similar to the colours seen on our carriages; within the lining, sign writing, transfers, and the body colour itself.
Well that’s what is happening outside… but what is happing inside I hear you say?
In the paintshop, 7284 GWR Corridor Composite (CK) is receiving more attention. Side one of the carriage seems to be in fairly good condition; some screws have been replaced and two windows have been re-bedded with new bottom frames as the old parts were rotten. All doors have been overhauled, this includes lock, hinges (cleaned, greased and checked screws are secure.) Small patches have been welded in, for example below the windows and on the door. New battery boxes are complete. Side two, however, is not in such good condition. Upon removal of one of the lower body panels, some of the wooden framework was showing signs of rot, so these pieces have been removed and replaced. The knee irons (brackets to support joints and add strength to the body) have been repaired or replaced with new. One of the photos shows the split in the body framework, from years of the door-stop being banged against it.
GWR 2242 Hawksworth brake third, owned by the Great Western (SVR) Association, is awaiting asbestos removal contained within the floor by D J Hinton Company Ltd, a local asbestos specialist removal company. The GW (SVR) Association team and Carriage Works paid staff have worked hard to remove steam heat fittings, radiators and the guard’s brake setter. The items are in storage, ready to be re-fitted once the carriage has the all-clear from Hintons and a replacement floor fitted. Removing these fittings would normally be a fairly easy task (although they are heavy), but the Covid-19 social distancing rules made the job a bit more challenging, so well done to all involved.
Mechanical work continues on the second bogie of 16169 BR Corridor Composite (CK); horn guide liners need work along with brake rigging to be overhauled. All coil springs and packing plates require cleaning, de-scaling, painting and re-fitting.
Some of you may remember back in May’s Branch Lines, I mentioned 6045, a Collett designed Corridor Composite (CK) carriage built in 1928, with a bow-end, owned by GW (SVR) Association. Here’s a recap in case you missed it; the mechanical team finished her bogies and had given the all-clear to run, apart from needing a test run to check nothing was running hot and the brakes work. One of the engineers usually rides in the carriage on its test run to listen out for any unusual noises which should not be there. Well at long last, the day has come, and next week it’s out for its test run. It is quite an exciting time for this carriage as it’s never run in preservation, and sat derelict for many years. She is very special as the only surviving one of this type. She’s not the oldest carriage on the SVR but at 90+ years old, she’s not far off. A huge well done to everyone involved on this project.
Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions
Charitable Trust update
The Trust’s director of development Shelagh Paterson writes with an update on the wide-ranging activities that have taken place in the past months to fundraise for the Railway:
Whilst the Railway has been busy welcoming our visitors and ensuring they have a safe and enjoyable day, the SVR Charitable Trust have been heads down, working in the background to raise more funds, to keep us ‘on track’.
We were delighted to be able to work with SVR (Holdings) Plc and the SVR Company Limited to raise £900,000 for our Fight Back Fund. In addition to the income raised for the Fight Back Fund this year, we have given just under £780,000 to support other projects, including the much awaited GWR 9581 wheelchair accessible buffet car, GWR 9615 kitchen first diner, the Hawksworth 2242 brake van and the revarnishing of our much-loved set of Gresley carriages.
With regards to locomotives, ‘Hagley Hall’ 4930 remains a priority for the Trust, and we, along with the Friends of Hagley Hall, very much look forward to this flagship loco being back in steam in 2022.
The apprentices continue to be funded in total by the Charitable Trust, and we were able to give urgent funding to ensure work at Sterns was completed in time for the 1st August reopening. I am also delighted to share that all this support has been achieved whilst still protecting our Future Fund investment.
As you will imagine, with the levels of funding we have invested to help keep the Railway operational, we now need to start building up our funds again.
The fundraising environment, as you will appreciate, is getting much harder; we knew it would. People gave generously to our Fight Back Fund, and other causes dear to them. Many grant makers who would normally support the Railway, diverted their funding to support charities providing front line services for the pandemic, and we know income from grant makers will reduce over the coming months, as the economy worsens and investments are hit. However, as a fundraising team, it is difficult to dampen our spirits. A key factor for this optimism is due to the tremendous love and affection our supporters have for the Severn Valley Railway and the generosity we receive from you, at the times we ask for your help.
We are currently working on launching a regular giving appeal, to which we hope as many people as possible will give £10 per month. This will enable us to plan for essential restoration in the future. Additionally, if things get tougher over the coming months and income from operational activities is further reduced, we can use these funds for emergency support.
With the three companies working strategically together, the sum is now much greater than the parts, and this was evidenced in the £250,000 the Charitable Trust was able to secure from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for an emergency recovery grant for SVRH. In addition, we wait, with everything crossed, to hear the outcome of our application for a £1 million grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund, again for SVRH but submitted by the Charitable Trust team, who possess the fundraising expertise.
For more detail on the projects currently being funded by the Charitable Trust, please go to svrtrust.org.uk
Photo: Apprentices Harry Coates and Jack Kerswill in the boiler shop, January 2020. Credit: Lesley Carr
The SVR goes to Hollywood
Have you seen Enola Holmes, the latest movie release on Netflix yet? Last month we reported its release on 23rd September, and it’s already causing a great deal of interest from the public and the local media, who are keen to see the locations and rolling stock that were used when the film crew took over the Severn Valley Railway for three intensive days last year.
Starring Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin, the film showcases Kidderminster and Arley stations, along with steam locomotive No 2857 and several vintage carriages, all of which are currently in use on the railway.
Security was tight during the filming in July 2019, but contracts manager Duncan Ballard managed to get close to all the action:
“We were sworn to secrecy about the whole project, although it caused quite a stir when the film crew was here. It was exciting to see the stations transformed into fictional locations for the film. Although they look a little different on camera, they are clearly recognisable as ‘ours’. The production company chose to use locomotive 2857 because it had exactly the look they were after, and our ‘toplight’ carriages also fitted in well with their plans.
“Catching a glimpse of the actors was definitely a thrill. The SVR has hosted many film and TV crews over the years, but you can’t help being impressed when so many top Hollywood stars come to Kidderminster!”
Helen Smith, general manager added:
“Appearing in such a high profile film is a great boost for us, and it’s certainly attracting visitors who want to see the locations and rolling stock that were used in the movie. I highly recommend the film to anyone who loves a great adventure story, and especially those who love to see heritage trains in action. I must admit to closing my eyes in one scene where one of our precious carriages appears to suffer some serious damage, and all I can say is thank goodness for special effects!”
Enola Holmes is based on a spin-off series of novels about Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister, and has just been released on the Netflix streaming service.
Photo: Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, and Millie Bobby Brown in Enola Holmes. Credit: Netflix
A welcome return for coach parties
On 13th September the SVR was delighted to welcome its first post-lockdown coach party group. Sales and customer advisor Kellie Downey was there to ensure that all went smoothly. Over to Kellie...
Railtrail Tours are based in Leek, Staffordshire, and have brought clients to the SVR on a number of occasions. The group were socially distanced in an open carriage, seated at tables of ones or twos. They travelled on The Adventurer, so departed Bridgnorth at 11:00am, stopping at Bewdley and Kidderminster on the first leg of their journey, then stopping off at The Engine House Visitor Centre before returning to Bridgnorth at 5:45pm.
Coach parties tend to do a single journey as part of their tour, with the coach dropping passengers at one end and meeting them again at the other. Due to our current services that is not feasible and so we offer a different experience. This party was delighted to have a full day out on the SVR!
At Bridgnorth we were visited by a family whose business owns a beautiful vintage bus, which they travelled to Bridgnorth in for their day out on the SVR. The bus looked perfectly fit parked up outside the entrance to Bridgnorth Station, and really set the scene for the other travellers! [Boultons of Shropshire operate tours with three vintage coaches, including this 1957 Bedford SBG Duple Vega.]
The owner mentioned that they wanted to start doing group tours on their bus and would like to bring groups to the SVR in the future - last week they called to book their first group tour at the SVR, which was wonderful news!
And Kidderminster joined the (coach) party, with a group on the 23rd September from Blakes of Devon.
Thanks to Kellie for updating us on this – she's been looking after groups whilst Karen Bromell is working at The Engine House.
Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions
Tales of 1981
Branch Lines correspondent, Bob Kershaw, is digitising 35mm transparencies from the early 1980s into ‘Postcards’ video slide-shows. A recent project relates to his first-ever Severn Valley Railway visit in May 1981 and the published video is shown here. It includes lots of shots of current out-of-traffic locos and Engine House incumbents when they were out on the line in action. The scary thing for your editorial team is that 1981 doesn’t sound old, but it’s almost 40 years ago!
Bob told us, “Reading through August’s Branch Lines, Tales of 1969 through photos caught my eye. I have already completed video slide-shows parts 1-5 for the Bluebell Railway (Images of the Bluebell Railway on YouTube channel RJAS 365) and was starting on my SVR slides. My 39-year-old notes have generally stood the test of time – possibly better than some of the transparencies! I did have a problem in identifying one location and luckily a request to Branch Lines was able to help”.
The photograph in question (at 1:48 in the video) was taken travelling northbound, approaching Hampton Loade station and visible is the south-facing siding with the bay goods platform adjacent to platform 2. The Branch Lines’ brains trust was able to identify the tarpaulined vehicle to the right as parts of GWR Large Prairie 4141 on an isolated stretch of track for restoration. GWR 3467 Fruit D Van was used to store spares so would be one of the other items there. Restoration of 4141 was never completed before it was sold and left the SVR in around 1990.
Nowadays the Fruit D (now the Hampton Loade Station Fund shop) and GWR 66 Breakdown Tool Van (the Barry Railway Carriage Trust sales van) are both situated in the bay platform, with Barry Railway Carriage no 163 under long-term restoration on an unconnected length of track in the yard.
Bob added, “Comments and constructive criticism are always welcome, as they help with future projects. I’ve also produced another ‘postcards’ video using slides from our SVR visit in May 1982, when the weather was rather better than in 1981”.
The SVR is Good to Go
Following the release of the SVR’s short welcome back film, produced to reassure visitors about the measures we’d put in place for reopening in August, we were delighted to receive an invitation from Visit Britain. They asked to use clips from the SVR’s film as part of a special film they were commissioning to promote Britain to home and international tourists. Head of communications Lesley Carr explained more:
“It was a great feeling to know we’d caught the eye of Visit Britain, the official tourism website for Great Britain, and an honour to be asked to represent the heritage rail sector. As you’ll see, we appear in very good company in the film. It’s all about showing visitors that attractions across Britain are open for business and that all the necessary safety measures are in place. Many thanks to Sammy B films for working with us on this project.”
SVR loco’s historic mainline trip, 25 years ago
The Stourbridge Line User Group’s Platform e-magazine for September 2020 includes an article by John Warren recalling the opening of passenger services over Birmingham’s Jewellery Line, and an appearance by an SVR-based engine. The following is a short extract from the introduction.
“Twenty-five years ago this month, at 09:50 on Sunday 24th September 1995, the Severn Valley Railway’s British Railways Standard 2-6-4T locomotive 80079 departed from platform 3 at Birmingham Snow Hill station with a trainload of dignitaries, including shadow Transport Secretary John Prescott. By doing so, it became the first train since March 1972 to carry passengers over the complete length of line between Snow Hill and Smethwick Junction and also the first train to stop at the country’s newest three stations - Jewellery Quarter, The Hawthorns and Smethwick Galton Bridge. It then continued to Stourbridge Junction.
"Later journeys were operated for the fare-paying public with every trip completely sold out. The following day, scheduled passenger services started over the Jewellery Line, thus changing the journey habits of Stourbridge line passengers forever.”
80079 operated on the main line in two spells between 1980 and 1999. It last ran in 2002 and, after cosmetic restoration at Bridgnorth, 80079 was displayed at the NRM Shildon in March 2005. It was among the first locomotives to be displayed in The Engine House in 2008 and remains on display there. 80079 is owned by The Passenger Tank Fund.
Photo: 80079 Highley 2001 by Ian Murray. An image of that opening train is on Flickr.
Severn Valley Railway AGMs
Severn Valley Railway Company Limited (The ‘Guarantee’ Company)
This year’s AGM will be held on Saturday 10th October 2020, but for the first time ever, due to the current pandemic, members will not be able to attend and instead it will be held ‘by proxy’
The AGM notice was sent to members with the recent SVR News and is on SVRLive.
In addition to the other fundraising, SVRH has also secured a £50,000 grant from Wyre Forest District Council’s discretionary business grant scheme.
Following the reopening of the Railway as planned on 1st August the SVR received very positive reviews. Tickets were 87% sold out for August. Indications are that Christmas sales are really strong for both Santa and Steam in Lights and we should see revenues similar to those in December 2019 by the end of this year.
All resolutions were approved unanimously.
Responding to questions received by email ahead of the AGM, the Chairman confirmed:
The final cost of the Bridgnorth refreshment rooms was more than expected, in the pursuit of historic detail. Difficult negotiations with the contractor lead to a settlement agreement that is confidential.
There is a figure of £264K allocated in the accounts to the 2016 share issue and meetings are about to reconvene to put towards finishing the Bridgnorth project, incorporating the experience of the 2019 review (see Bridgnorth development article below).
There are no plans at the present time to construct new stations, nor to reopen Eardington Halt other than on limited occasions as in the past.
The Chairman thanked the shareholders for their proxy votes, Chris Walton for chairing the Audit Committee and for taking over the role of Company Secretary. Chris Walton thanked Tony Bending, Bill Griffiths and Michael Howard for consolidating the proxy votes.
Photo: While the virtual SVRH AGM was taking place on 12th September, work continued by members of the Western Locomotive Association on their locos D1013 Western Ranger (full overhaul) and D1062 (bogie work) at Kidderminster TMD. Photo: Darren Shelmerdine
Severn Valley Holdings PLC (‘SVRH’)
On Saturday 12th September the PLC held its AGM by proxy only via Microsoft Teams conference call due to the Covid-19 restrictions. All directors were present (with the exception of Mick York) together with Helen Smith (General Manager), Louise Whitehouse (Head of Finance) and Vicky Williams (auditor, Crowe LLP).
The Chairman Nick Paul explained that the SVR’s Fight Back Fund continues to grow and has now raised over £900,000, which is a magnificent achievement, thanks to very generous shareholders and donors.
Bewdley South wooden bracket signal
As mentioned in September’s Branch Lines, the main post of the large wooden bracket signal outside Bewdley South signal box (Bewdley South 6, 7, 9 and 14 and Bewdley North 37 signals) has not fared well and suffered from serious rot even though it was renewed as recently as 2006. Chief signalling engineer, Paul Marshall brings us up to date:
A visit from a timber expert in mid-August confirmed the seriousness of the situation and recommended that it was taken down before it fell down.
The decision was taken that a temporary signal would be erected and the wooden signal taken down as soon as possible. By the end of that week a suitable signal post had been located and volunteers were coming forward to form a gang to help build the new signal.
Over the next few weeks, the temporary signal was painted, suitable fittings located and refurbished and assembled ready for movement to Bewdley. By Sunday 27th September the new signal had been moved to site and the hole was being dug ready to be lifted in the following day.
The railway engineer’s toy of choice – the big red steam crane – was brought to Bewdley and steamed up. All went very smoothly and the new signal was in the ground early on Monday afternoon. By Monday evening the old signal had been signed out of use and work had begun to remove the easy-to-reach components.
The next few days saw the new signal fitted with arms and a finial and, while the old signal was being stripped of its valuable fittings, connected up to the signal box. The hire of a MEWP (Mobile Equipment Work Platform) was invaluable as it allowed us to do all the necessary work without having to climb any signal ladders.
On Thursday 1st October, the old signal was lifted down and laid down in the down yard pending complete dismantling, a start on which was made immediately. On Friday the new signal was commissioned and the work site tidied up of bits of signal wire and cables and the general detritus which seems to collect when you do a job like this. Most important was that Bewdley South signal box operating floor was cleaned up as we had used it as a bit of a mess room during the week.
The next part of the project is to lower the wooden bracket on the Stourport line (Bewdley South 5/20 signal), which is also suffering from rot, but to a lesser extent, and provide a temporary signal for that.
It is planned to have both signals refurbished and back in action after the end of midweek running next year. A lot depends on the railway’s financial situation and the success of fund raising as the replacement post for the large bracket is not going to be cheap.
I won’t mention names as there have been many who have assisted during the project so far, but thank you to everyone who has helped in one way or another.
Please click on the gallery for full size, uncropped images and descriptions. Also, see the video courtesy of Brent Cleeton.
Bridgnorth development update
SVR (Holdings) Director and Deputy Chair, Mike Ball reports on the latest news for the Bridgnorth development project:
At the recent Annual General Meeting of SVR (Holdings) Plc, Nick Paul, (Chair SVR (Holdings) and SVR Charitable Trust Director) announced that there is a figure of £264,000 share monies allocated in the accounts to put towards finishing the Bridgnorth project. This is ring-fenced for the remaining phase I of the project; the Bridgnorth station building conservation and extension of the bar.
The Charitable Trust will be launching an appeal to raise funds for the urgently required roof replacement at ESMP and the crane.
Phase II of the project, which includes the turntable and renewal of track work in Bridgnorth yard along with the provision of a new loco pit, will follow, but there will be a need to raise further finance, once Phase I is completed.
During the lockdown, a tripartite group of Directors and Trustees was established to review all capital projects and consider the next priorities for development. It will perhaps come as no surprise to many that the cost of the full list is more than £14 million.
The members of the group are Peter Copsey and Paul Fathers for SVRCT, David Williams and Diane Malyon for SVRG, Nick Paul and myself for SVRH, supported by Helen Smith and Shelagh Paterson. I have been asked to chair this group, and our intention is to drive collaboration between the three SVR organisations to achieve real progress on our capital projects.
For Bridgnorth, meetings have already begun under the leadership of Neil Dancer, following the interruption to progress from the pandemic. A thorough review was carried out in 2019 of the planning and delivery of the refreshment room and toilet block in order that future civil projects such as this will benefit from the experiences learned. The station plans are in various stages of development and will need detailed quantity surveying and architects’ plans to be drawn up before going for confirmed costings. This inevitably will take some time, but we are sure it is the right approach and the remaining share monies will continue to be ring-fenced for this work. In addition the Charitable Trust are currently seeking funding for a new wheelchair access toilet within the original gents’ WC block.
Photo: During July, in preparation for trains to restart, the 'Wailing Wall Construction Company' (the Bridgnorth station gang) made a huge effort to show the station at its best. This photo by Sue Thomas is however an indication of the conservation required for the Grade II listed building.
V2 4th October 2020
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Any opinions or views expressed in this newsletter are entirely the opinions of the contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Directors of Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) PLC. which owns the Severn Valley Railway, Severn Valley Railway Company Limited, the members of which are responsible for its operation, or the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust.