56098 and 20048 at The Devil's Spittlefied Nature Reserve on the 2.05 pm from Bridgnorth on 1st October 2022 during the Autumn Diesel Bash. Kevin Whitehurst
Welcome to your latest edition of Branch Lines!
Wherever one turns at the moment there are tales of challenging times, and the Railway is no exception. We’ve an important update from the managing director on the current and future financial position, which offers a small amount of hope, but cautions against more tough times ahead.
There’s news of the coming Halloween and Christmas services and new food offerings at Kidderminster. These are crucial to the Railway’s success – please share the SVR’s social media posts with your friends – every ticket sold counts towards our success.
Recognition of what we do is also so important. You can read about the successful model railway exhibition and autumn steam and diesel galas, and enjoy many images from our photographers’ group. We’ve news of the Railway again nominated for tourism awards.
Added to that is news of engineering of both infrastructure and rolling stock, and from across the Railway. It's all here in your bumper edition of Branch Lines!
Lesley and Patrick, co-editors
The Branch Lines team is Lesley Carr, Patrick Hearn, Amy Baker and Nicola Fox
Scroll down or click on the item to be taken straight to it
A financial update from the managing director
As the SVR prepares to enter its busiest period, managing director Helen Smith has shared an important financial update, and some outline plans for 2023:
After a great deal of very hard work to reduce costs this year and some success in increasing income in some areas, we have reforecast that the Railway’s contribution (or surplus) should be slightly better than originally expected, depending on the success of our Christmas events. However, we will still not be anything like past the challenges that the past few years have brought. We are expecting 2023 to be even more challenging than this year has been.
Naturally the Railway has been affected by recent events (Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis, soaring inflation) which have caused rapid rises in the cost of fuel, utility and supplies, and staff shortages. We have had to be as agile as possible, reviewing and re-planning all aspects of the business, as we react to a fast-changing environment.
Increased grants and donations, together with decreased expenditure have enabled us to offset a decrease in budgeted income for 2022. Providing everything continues on course, we should be left with a modest surplus at the end of the year.
This year we’ve seen a drop in visitor numbers, and rising costs for staff, food and supplies. Profit from food and beverage has dropped by 65% compared with what we expected at the start of the year.
We’ve seen a drop of almost 22% in traffic numbers on normal operating days. We’ve had to absorb an extra £363,000 on top of what we had budgeted for utilities, coal, oil, water and insurance.
However, we have achieved a better than budgeted income from events. We brought in a Cultural Recovery Fund grant of £500k and the ring-fenced Roof and Crane donation of £475k, which were both missing from the original budget as we didn’t know they were going to happen. We have saved considerable amounts on staff salaries, and loco hire costs. We have plans to bring in more contract work to cover some engineering staff.
Looking to our budgets for 2023, it is difficult to know what to plan. Everything is so uncertain with the cost-of-living crisis, and nationally visitor numbers are down by 30%. Let’s have a look at where the plans are now:
Visitors are continuing to purchase on a ‘value for money’ basis, this is evident in the fact that event traffic has continued to be strong. A ‘value for money’ purchase is not a price- based decision but the purchaser’s perception of the value they’re getting for the money spent. Giving free 2023 tickets for all children coming to our Christmas events is a good example of how this works, and will encourage whole families to come back. Events will be important to drive visitor numbers in 2023 and we will see the welcome return of the Step Back to the 1940s events as well as other themed weekends.
Concerns over supply, cost and quality of coal will continue. We cannot keep putting up entry prices so the answer lies in having sustainable timetables, whilst maintaining steam working as far as possible.
As you can see from this update, we are still experiencing unprecedented and very tough times. I’ve given just a snapshot of what we are doing to get through this. The SVR is fortunate to have some of the most talented people in the heritage world working with us at every level of the organisation and I am confident that we will all pull together to get through this. We'll enjoy the Halloween and Christmas events and create some magical memories for our visitors.
Photo: First day crowds at the Autumn Steam Gala greet visiting Black Five 45231 The Sherwood Forester. Jason Hood
Autumn Diesel Bash success
An ambitious and innovative timetable together with attractive visiting locomotives proved to be a winning formula for the Autumn Diesel Bash event. Despite a rail strike taking place on Saturday 1st October, passenger numbers were 2,806 plus significant numbers of shareholders travelling on passes and complimentary tickets. This figure comfortably beat the event’s budget and the number of attendees for the last comparable Autumn Diesel event in 2019.
Star main line attractions were ‘grids’ pair 56081 and 56098. SVR Holdings vice-chair and chair of the SVR diesels committee, Gus Dunster told Branch Lines: “The Class 56s were provided by our good friends at GB Railfreight for the Saturday and Sunday of the event. Both trains were absolutely packed.”
The main heritage locomotive attraction was 55009 ‘Alycidon’ and the Railway was very grateful to the Deltic Preservation Society for making this impressive machine available.
From the home fleet, the return to service of 50033 ‘Glorious’ after a two-year period undergoing overhaul also proved to be hugely popular. Gus added: “Mention must be made of the amazing work undertaken by the Class 50 Alliance team led by Tony Middleton, who had only refitted the 34-ton engine back inside the locomotive at the beginning of September.”
As always with a complex event, there were a few hiccups. Class 46 D182 had to be withdrawn from the event on day two due to a fault with the engine cooling system, and 50033 itself developed an air brake system fault on the final day. The ensuing delays were recovered well by the operations team, with Class 09 D4100 'Dick Hardy' stepping up on the Highley shuttles.
Gus continued: “The attendance and success of the event is really good news for the Railway given the challenges we have seen this summer. It was another enjoyable event showcasing the SVR at its best and thanks go to everyone who was involved in planning and delivering it. Feedback from visitors during the event and online has been overwhelmingly positive, which is of course what we always aim for!”
Click on the gallery to see full images, descriptions and credits
Autumn Gala steams ahead
The SVR’s premier steam event of the year, the Autumn Steam Gala, took place on the 15th – 18th September.
Despite falling on a weekend of planned rail strikes, during a national period of mourning, and with the cost-of-living crisis looming, more than 5,500 turned out for the event, a significant increase on the figures from 2021.
Preparing for the gala requires many unsung heroes; ahead of the event, ex-GWR Mogul 7325 was moved from storage in the Kidderminster carriage shed to the station dock platform for static display.
After years of storage, the locomotive was looking less than pristine and so, in one example of the many threads that have to be woven together to pull off a successful event, volunteer Tom Clarke led a merry to make 7325 presentable again, before it was shunted into position.
Sadly, 4930 Hagley Hall had to be withdrawn after service on Friday 16th following a number of lineside fires, which required attendance by the fire services. The engineering team are currently looking into the cause.
“The loco is undergoing various snagging jobs following its recent heavy rebuild,” explained Duncan Ballard, head of steam engineering. “This was always planned to happen after the recent recommissioning train and Autumn Gala appearances. Whilst the loco is stopped we are taking the opportunity to look at the front end of this and other locomotives in our active fleet to reduce any live sparks leaving the smokeboxes, and this will continue throughout the autumn and winter period.”
Despite the withdrawal of 4930, TripAdvisor reviews were very positive, with visitors praising the facilities, organisation of the event and the all professionalism of all departments across the Railway.
“Bearing in mind the cost-of-living crisis,” said Helen Smith, managing director, “and the late cancellation of two days of rail strikes, the difficulties these factors would have posed for some could have influenced their planning decisions.
“Nevertheless, we were pleased with the attendance. The numbers show a very significant uplift on 2021’s figures, and of course in 2020 we weren’t able to hold the event because of the Covid-19 lockdown. It’s true that we’ve a little way to go to get back up to pre-pandemic levels but we’re not overly worried.”
Click on the gallery to see full images, descriptions and credits
Steam is back, following the SVR’s fourth steam ban
After an exceptionally hot summer, the autumn rains have arrived and allowed the Railway to return to operating steam services once more.
Four steam bans and some steam service reductions took place during in July, August and September, with heritage diesels valiantly taking over duties from the steam fleet.
These bans and restrictions were enforced followed a prolonged period of dry weather, a number of lineside fires and communication with Shropshire Fire & Rescue Service.
Thankfully, as the leaves have begun to fall, so has the rain, and the Railway was able to lift the restrictions in time to run two steam footplate experience trains on Friday 7th October. Of course, no steam haulage was required for the previous weekend’s Autumn Diesel Bash!
Steam ran as usual last weekend with 75069 and 1501 hauling services throughout the day, in the company of Class 40 40106.
However, the fire risk status is still red and the SVR is closely monitoring the situation. There was a small fire last Sunday which was dealt with without the need for the Fire Services to attend.
Photo: Now in its last few months of its boiler ticket, ex-GWR 2857 at Bewdley Tunnel with a Footplate Experience on 7th October. Bob Green
The science behind the SVR’s Christmas marketing
The SVR’s marketing campaign for the main Christmas events is now fully gearing up, and this year, the Railway is using data-driven evidence to inform the way in which the events are being sold.
The marketplace is more competitive than ever, and the cost-of-living crisis means that spare cash for non-essentials is under extreme pressure.
Dan Shorthouse, marketing manager explains more: “At the beginning of 2022, I ran some audience analysis on our core festive events to see who was visiting, where they were coming from, what approximate age category they were in and how many times per year they visited. It was a bit like 1984 and Columbo mixed in to one exercise!
“As a result, we came up with a ‘sample customer’; the average buyer who is booking tickets for Santa, Steam in Lights and Enchanted Express. This knowledge has driven a lot of the decisions and messaging for our premium festive products.
“People aren’t buying as they used to; they’re looking continually for added value and want their money to go further. Customers are savvier than ever before and will take their time to make up their minds, comparing experiences from competitors. It’s a crowded market.
“People are tending to book later and we need to work hard to help them make a decision to buy as early as possible, before they go anywhere else.”
Santa has the biggest campaign with five weeks' advertising already underway on Free Radio and a giant illuminated board for four weeks on the M6, whilst Steam in Lights will make its TV advertising debut on Sky in mid-October, geographically targeted to get the best impact. Enchanted Express is being boosted by a strong digital campaign, based around the strong appeal of its lead narrator, Dame Julie Walters.
All events are backed up with paid-for targeted social media, organic content with mass reach, intuitive Google Search advertising campaigns, eye-catching Google Display campaigns and extensive advertising in magazines and newspapers.
Since early July, leaflets at booking offices and posters at high-footfall areas have been promoting all Christmas events, reaching each passenger throughout the busy summer period, at Galas and the Model Railway Weekend.
“The offer of a free 2023 ticket for every child travelling on our three main Christmas events has been a big driver for sales,” added Dan. “That’s added value in action right there! Plus, when children return next year, they’ll bring their paying parents or guardians with them, so we’re working to help future-proof next year’s sales.
Some services across all three main Christmas events are now selling out, so make sure you get yours at svr.co.uk or by calling the team on 01562 757 900.
SVR shortlisted for prestigious awards
The Railway has reached the shortlisting stage in the current round of Visit Worcestershire awards. It’s been selected in both the Large Visitor Attraction and Taste of Worcestershire categories.
Members of the judging panel will make undercover visits in the coming weeks to see the Railway in action for themselves, as they weigh up its merits in both categories. For the Taste of Worcestershire category, they’ll be sampling one of the on-train dining services.
The shortlistings for the 2022/2023 awards come on the back of the SVR’s triumph in the previous awards, when it clinched the top Visit Worcestershire prize in the Resilience and Innovation category, and then went on to win an award at national level.
“Progressing to this stage represents an achievement in itself,” said Michael Dunn, head of commercial and visitor experience. “It’s testament to the tremendous hard work and team spirit that exists across our organisation. These awards are the most prestigious in the tourism and visitor attraction sector, and will hugely influence how potential visitors look at us and make the decision to visit. Fingers crossed!”
The 2022/2023 Visit Worcestershire awards will be announced at a ceremony in March next year.
The SVR team at the Visit Worcestershire awards ceremony earlier this year
Coming up soon
An SVR Christmas offers more than Santa Claus
To paraphrase a famous high-street retailer, this isn’t just any Christmas, this is a Severn Valley Railway Christmas! The SVR has dining delights and musical experiences set to amaze, alongside more family-focused events.
From fine dining and murder mystery experiences to traditional Christmas luncheon on board the train, the team has put together some superb festive menus to warm the cockles as the weather gets colder.
It’s knives and forks at the ready from 26th November as the season opens with First Class Festive Dining Services. Alongside a fantastic four-course menu, there’s a drinks reception and live band each evening!
If you’re looking for something very traditional, three daytime Christmas lunch services are planned on Wednesday 7th, Friday 9th and Wednesday 14th December.
Expect turkey, mince pies, mulled wine and Christmas pudding as you steam up the line in comfortable, snug dining carriages.
If testing your grey matter is firmly on the festive agenda, as well as dining in style, then the two Murder Mysteries planned for the 15th and 16th December might be right up your (Baker) Street. Solving a whodunit alongside a mouth-watering four-course meal – what could be better?
For all dining experiences, shareholders will receive the cost of travel off their bill, meaning they get a first-class service for a lower price!
Don’t forget the Carol Trains, which will hit all the right notes, taking you to The Engine House where choirs and bands will fill the air with song each Friday and Saturday night from Saturday 26th November to Saturday 17th December.
It’s easy to step into Christmas at the Severn Valley Railway – in fact, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Book your place at SVR.CO.UK or call 01562 757 900.
7714 powers through the Bewdley snow 30.12.2020 Alan Corfield
Things are about to get seriously spooky at the SVR
Double, double, toil and trouble, firebox burn and water bubble!
The SVR is renowned all year-round for gruesome tales of ghosts that wander the platforms, loiter in station buildings or move things in maintenance facilities.
But, between 27th and 29th October, the Railway will fully embrace its scary side, as it becomes a magnet for Halloween-lovers.
There are two separate events; the more family-friendly fright night of Ghost Trains, and the blood-curdling 18+ Scream Train. Both of these will plunge passengers into darkness in their private compartment, and thoroughly spook them – both on the train and outside the carriage window – with zombies, monsters, ghosts, ghouls and everything in between.
Visitors join the train at Kidderminster, where the concourse is filled with ghastly ghouls alongside Halloween-themed music, before heading to Arley, where a frightful spooky show takes place. Bewdley station will, of course, be dressed for the occasion too!
Some services are close to selling out, so make sure you don’t miss out. Book either event at svr.co.uk , if you dare!
Across the Railway
It’s a dog’s life at the Severn Valley Railway
The SVR is renowned for being dog-friendly, but things have now gone a step further. The Railway is working with a Worcester-based organisation to provide a venue for some very exciting dog training scenarios.
Worcester Search and Scent Dogs (WSSD) are holding a series of sessions using various locations at the SVR, to train pet dogs to locate specific scents, and to find hidden people.
“The purpose of training could be to build a dog’s knowledge of a particular scent, such as gun oil,” explained instructor Gail Voyle. “In another activity, we get them to specifically track down a missing person, using the scent of an item of clothing, in an exercise that’s called mantrailing.
“Although our training sessions are strictly for fun, if a dog and handler show particular aptitude, they can progress to further training with professional search and rescue organisations, and ultimately go on to do potentially life-saving work.”
WSSD approached the SVR because of the particular challenges presented by the environment of a heritage railway.
“It’s a unique location,” said fellow instructor Sandra Raw, “because of the smells of the engine oil, the steam, the noises, all of which can have a distracting effect on a dog, so the more we expose them to this, the better they’ll be at tracking what we want them to track. Of course, it’s also great to be here because it’s so picturesque!”
“We were really keen to get involved with hosting the training sessions,” said health and safety manager Richard Morris. “We pride ourselves on being a dog-friendly place to visit at all times, but it’s particularly rewarding to work with another organisation from our community, and when you see what these dogs are able to do, it really is very impressive.”
WSSD is making a financial contribution to the SVR in return for the use of Railway premises, and there are more details about the training sessions at www.wssd.co.uk
Photo: WSSD instructors Natalie Dolton, Gail Voyle and Sandra Raw with Munch, Braith and William at Kidderminster station. Lesley Carr
Infrastructure news across the Railway
This update from head of infrastructure Chris Bond covers work at other sites across the Railway:
The long-running Network Rail project to replace OWW104, the long footbridge at Kidderminster, was expected to have taken place last weekend. Unfortunately, a paperwork problem with the police escort prevented the bridge being delivered to be lifted in, and another attempt will hopefully be made this coming weekend, 15th-16th October.
Further work at Kidderminster to replace the points at the south end of platform 2 run round is planned in November. The costs for this have been significantly reduced by using existing stock and re-handing a set of surplus switches. Subject to budgetary approval, further work at Kidderminster is planned during the shutdown.
Plans are gearing up for the Bridgnorth Yard restoration project with the some of the materials required including turn-outs on order due to the long lead times. Work is ongoing to flesh out the programme to identify a complex number of tasks that will need to happen sequentially in order to achieve completion in the available
shutdown time. Similarities with the roof and crane project abound, with close liaison with ESMP and their winter activities required.
Volunteers Nick Yarwood, Gary Winton and Gordon Malcolm have been carrying out some roof and crane ‘mopping up’ works on the east side of the restored ESMP building. The rainwater drainage is being replaced by new, due to the poor condition of the existing. A large bore buffer pipe is being installed as part of the scheme to help prevent the existing 4-inch pipe that crosses the track being overwhelmed in a downpour.
Nick and Gary moved on to Arley to carry out the installation of a drainage connection that will allow a temporary toilet to be used by the Christmas show actors. As the marquee will prevent access for a standard temporary toilet, this solution will solve the problem experienced in previous years.
The recent scrap rail drive has raised some £38,000 to date. We have used a hired-in rail cropper supplied by Story Plant Ltd at an advantageous rate to reduce the scrap rail to short lengths. The scrap drive is ongoing and we hope to top £40,000 by the end of the year.
Click on the gallery to see full images, descriptions and credits
Heritage infrastructure project at Bewdley
In the first of two updates, head of infrastructure Chris Bond tells us about a project taking shape for several heritage improvements at Bewdley, which could attract external funding:
Structural work is required on Bewdley South signal box where the sandstone on which the box sits has eroded over time, causing movement and a loss of integrity. We surveyed the site with Geobear (of Alveley Woods’ fame - see Branch Lines August 2022) but at this time it does not look like a geopolymer solution is practical. This leaves a more invasive method, whereby the embankment at the rear of the box is excavated to gain access to the affected area in order to underpin the masonry. This will be a sizable undertaking which will require careful planning.
The team are looking at improving the visual appearance of the current unsightly generator hut which is constructed from concrete blocks. The solution will be to enclose the existing structure with something that will represent a GWR-style lamp hut.
On Bewdley station, it is hoped that external funding can also support the creation of a disabled toilet facility on the station platform. This will hugely improve facilities for our less-abled visitors.
Once the project plans are fully developed, the SVR Charitable Trust will make grant applications. CT trustee Tim Hargest is the volunteer project manager for the Bewdley heritage improvements.
Additionally, the Permanent Way (PW) team have been busy carrying out significant work on points at Bewdley in order to bring them back into use in the facing direction. Many of the defects have been worked out of the points by the skillful use of a large grinder under the direction of PW manager Barry Light. This has allowed us to defer the replacement of the switches by around five years, saving an immediate spend of some £15,000.
50049 Defiance passes Bewdley South signal box at the Autumn Diesel Bash on 29th September. Rob Steward
Stepping up at the SVR thanks to Severn Trent
Bridgnorth hosted seven staff members from Severn Trent Water (STW) on 5th October, as part of STW’s community assistance scheme. Groups of staff are allocated two or three days a year to work with communities, charities and not-for-profit organisations.
SVR Holdings director and volunteer Bridgnorth station master Chris Thomas explains more:
“Some years ago, a planning recommendation for the Bridgnorth refreshment rooms was for access to be provided to Pan Pudding Hill. More recently, Shropshire Wildlife Trust have prepared a recommendation for the whole hill, which includes a steadily graded path in a zig-zag formation up the south face to the summit. It proposes minimum ground invasion using stakes, gravel boards and ash.
“The STW gang helped construct a flight of six steps up to the fence alongside the headshunt. These utilised tanalised timber risers and runners, with surfacing of compacted ash on a waterproof membrane. Thanks are due to STW, and this will be of great value in providing future access.”
The Railway will now need to take the Trust’s report to the Shropshire Council conservation officer. Chris added: “Given that the Trust and council officers are well-known to each other, we are hopeful the council would approve the next stage.
“In addition, the STW team expressed interest in an ongoing agreement with the Railway, with the possibility of larger groups and projects. We should embrace this enthusiastically.”
Pan Pudding Hill is a scheduled ancient monument which overlooks Bridgnorth station. The man-made hill was built in 1102 as a siege earthwork to attack and capture Bridgnorth Castle, a use which continued until 1646 and the English civil war. The Railway purchased the hill in 2015 in a parcel of land, part of which now forms the Bridgnorth west car park.
Click on the gallery to see full images, descriptions and credits
Celebrations and business as usual, at Bridgnorth MPD
There’s much to celebrate at Bridgnorth motive power depot as Bridgnorth volunteer shed master Martin White reports:
With a couple of significant celebrations and events within a few days of each other, the early part of September was certainly a good period for showing off the MPD and locos on the SVR.
As reported in detail in last month’s Branch Lines, the main loco workshop at Bridgnorth was officially reopened on Wednesday 7th September. On display in the works was 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’.
The financial investment represented by both 4930’s overhaul and the workshops refurbishment, amounts to almost £2 million. That’s something everyone involved in supporting SVR, whether a donor, a volunteer, a shareholder, or member of staff should be immensely proud of.
The second celebration took place 48 hours later, when 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’ was officially recommissioned at a ceremony in Kidderminster. An enjoyable day from start to finish, with plenty of happy smiles amongst the attending supporters, donors, volunteers, staff and suppliers who had contributed to the overhaul.
The following two days saw SVR participation in the National Heritage Open Days events, during which small groups of visitors were given tours around Bridgnorth workshops. These popular tours were all fully booked in advance. Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped conduct these tours.
The Autumn Steam Gala also went well from the perspective of steam locomotive operations, the only hitch being the withdrawal of 4930 due to it causing of a number of lineside fires during the first two days of the event; spark arrestor modifications are currently being worked on.
Now to the rest of the steam fleet!
Immediately after the Gala, 7714’s valves and pistons were removed for an exam, along with various other components such as connecting rods and cross heads. These examinations on steam locos are based on accumulated mileage, typically occurring after 23 – 25,000 miles, which for a frequently-used loco such as a Pannier Tank is approximately every three years. Early indications are that there won’t be too much work to do, and it can be completed quite quickly. We then intend to smarten up the paintwork, as some areas are looking quite worn.
75069 has received some attention, notably to some leaking steam pipework (the brake ejector supply pipes) on the side of the boiler. 75069 is also having some spark arrestor modifications, similar to those being applied to 4930, in an effort to reduce the emissions of glowing sparks.
43106 is being nursed through to the end of its boiler certificate in July next year. However, one fault, which has been under observation for a little while, now requires attention. The loco’s steam brake bell crank bracket (a big assembly beneath the cab floor which transmits the force from the steam brake cylinder to the brake pull rods) has developed cracks, significant enough to warrant attention. Some of the younger shed volunteers dismantled this last weekend, which has meant the paid staff could start repairs on Monday this week.
Bridgnorth volunteers working beneath 43106 on Saturday 8th October. ‘Theo Croom-Johnson working in the bell crank bearing, assisted by Oliver Renwick just visible through the top of the assembly
82045 benefits from the first lift of the new crane!
On 29th September, the first lift using the new crane was carried out at Bridgnorth loco shed, lifting one of 82045’s tanks into place.
When completed, 82045 will be the first Riddles BR 3MT traffic locomotive to steam since 1967, when they were all withdrawn for scrap.
To achieve this lift, the front of the boiler was moved forward to accommodate the tank, which was craned into place and secured. The team are now working on creating the holes that will allow the tank to be bolted into place before the tank will be lifted off again.
The 82045 Trust are currently looking to purchase the final materials to complete the boiler, which will cost in the order of £50,000. To raise this money, they have set up a scheme allowing people to make a donation equivalent to the value of these components, for which they will receive a sponsorship certificate. Donation amounts start at £30 to sponsor a boiler stay. More information is available at http://www.82045.org.uk/news/82045_news-sept22-chairmanschat.html
Plans for return of DMU
The DMU Group West Midlands is based in Bewdley and operates five Class 108 diesel multiple unit (DMU) railcars on the Railway. Since 2018, cars have been unavailable with various mechanical and electrical issues, with their last operations being a two-car unit of 50933 and 52064 in late 2020.
Earlier this year, the group commissioned a third-party engineer, as the group’s Mark Miller told Branch Lines: “They carried out a mechanical inspection of all of the units and produced a report detailing repairs and maintenance work required in order to return the DMU to traffic on the SVR.
“Chief among the work necessary is the overhaul of bogies. Those under car 52064 were overhauled by SVR Carriage and Wagon in 2019. The group owns two spare bogies which will be used as accommodation bogies and we’re seeking an external contractor to carry out further bogie overhauls, initially on the bogies currently under car 51941.”
The DMU railcars are very useful vehicles which can be used as separate two- and three-car units, or combined to form a four- or five-car formation. Their train heating means they are capable of operating year-round standard diesel services, and are also used for purposes such as the summer scenic specials and Christmas carol trains.
Mark added: "Other work identified by the report will be carried out by group members using facilities at Bewdley and Kidderminster with the intention of initially returning 52064 and 51941 to traffic as a twin power car set.
“In addition, the rebuilding of an overhauled replacement engine for car 50933 is nearing completion.”
The DMU at Bewdley 16th September 2022. David Bissett
Thirty-eight years in Kidderminster booking office
When Dave Wilcox rings up his final ticket sale later this month, he’ll be bringing to an end 38 years of volunteering as a clerk in Kidderminster booking office.
Dave shares some memories and some reflections on how things have changed. He started in 1984, working from a makeshift booking office in a coach. Kidderminster station was newly-opened, but building the current station complex was only in its early stages.
“There really wasn’t very much here then, just a platform, and we had a coach parked where the sleeping car now is. In the brake van end of that coach, we set up an office, with a desk, and the drop down windows were used as the ticket hatches.
The current booking office wasn’t opened until the Autumn Gala of 1986, within the station building. The design was based on the former station at Ross-on-Wye, a typical GWR building from the late 1890s. In nearly four decades of selling tickets, Dave has seen plenty of changes.
“Initially there was no pre-booking, so everyone had to come into the booking office to buy their tickets on the day. Over the years, that’s obviously changed, and the importance of pre-booking really showed itself during the pandemic.
“There’s more to it than selling tickets. We’re the first people the passengers meet, and we can answer any questions. Some people arrive, and they know exactly what they want, but others really haven’t got much idea of what’s on offer here. So we give all sorts of pointers and advice, and especially making sure that they know what time the last service back is. It’s a long walk if they miss it!
“Everything used to be done using a train account book, with opening and closing numbers for each different type of ticket. Now, it’s a matter of pressing a button. Then, at the end of the day, we press another button and that tells us exactly how many tickets have been sold, and how much money we should have in the till. We used to have to do all that manually, of course, and it was very labour-intensive.
“The most money we ever took in one day was £29,000, during the very first Thomas the Tank Engine weekend that we did, back in 1992. We sold so many tickets, we had to turn people away!”
David Wilcox, who is retiring from Kidderminster booking office, after 38 years. Lesley Carr
The original 'booking office' in a repurposed coach at Kidderminster in 1984. Tony Bending
Recent appointments to SVRG board
Following recent meetings, a number of appointments and reappointments have been made to the SVR Company Ltd (often referred to as the Guarantee Company, or SVRG). This company is responsible for the membership and volunteers of the Severn Valley Railway. All board roles are undertaken voluntarily.
After a vote at the AGM in July, David Williams will remain as a director of SVRG for the next three years, along with James Cooper and Alan Davies. Michelle Bevon has been appointed as deputy chairman.
Further to this, Tony Bending, Michelle Bevon and Diane Malyon have been reappointed as SVRG representatives on the SVR Holdings Plc board of directors.
Charlie Wright (pictured) also joins SVRG as accountant-in-training, taking over from David Mellor to allow David to lighten his volunteer workload a little.
“I am pleased to announce these changes to the Severn Valley Railway Company Ltd and also to welcome Charlie Wright to the fold,” said SVRG chairman Diane Malyon. “Many thanks also go to David Williams, who has supported me during my first two years as chairman of SVRG.
“In addition, I would like to wish our accountant and company secretary, David Mellor many happy returns for his recent 80th birthday, which happened to fall on the day of our board meeting evening…and he still came to the meeting! That’s dedication for you.”
Fifties at 30 on the SVR
This year marks 30 years since 50031 ‘Hood’ appeared at the Railway’s 1992 diesel gala, becoming the first class 50 locomotive to haul a public passenger train in preservation.
To celebrate this anniversary, the Railway and the Fifty Fund rostered Class 50s to the ‘S1’ diagram on Saturday 24th September, during the O gauge event.
Trains operated with a class 50 either end of the LMS carriage set, running with saloon 80972. Locomotives carried a special headboard to commemorate the occasion.
Fifty Fund chairman and SVR Holdings vice-chair Gus Dunster told Branch Lines: “It was good to see so many visitors enjoying the day, including some from as far afield as Canada who’d made the trip specially to attend!”
The day also saw the return of 50033 'Glorious' following 18 months out of traffic for overhaul, with replacement of its main generator and other work. Also in use were 50007 ‘Hercules’, 50035 ‘Ark Royal’ and 50049 ‘Defiance’, with the locomotive changes taking place at Kidderminster after the first return run.
Gus also gave an update on the other locos in the Fifty Fund’s care. “50031 couldn’t repeat its 1992 appearance as it was withdrawn from service in 2020 pending an engine overhaul. 50044 ‘Exeter’ underwent some further testing back in March. It still needs further attention, but this was deferred so that 50033 could be completed in time for the Autumn Diesel Bash.”
Click on the gallery to see full images, descriptions and credits
Small is beautiful at the Severn Valley Railway
Hundreds of model railway enthusiasts from across the UK flocked to The Engine House Visitor Centre at Highley on 24th and 25th September for the second O Gauge Get Together event.
The event was organised by the Bewdley MPD O Gauge Society, a group of volunteers based at Bewdley motive power depot. It featured nine O gauge layouts and three displays and attracted many model railway companies to set up trade stands.
It’s only the second such event at the Railway, and the organisers were delighted with both the turnout of visitors and the comments they received.
“We had more time to plan our 2022 event than we did when we put it on for the first time last year,” said volunteer fireman Harry Bradley, “and that’s meant more layouts and a wider range of eras. We’ve had fantastic support from traders and the feedback from visitors has been hugely positive.
“One of the highlights for us was being able to raise £1,100 in a raffle for the Bridgnorth Locomotive Yard appeal, and it was a great feeling to present a cheque for this amount to the SVR Charitable Trust on the Monday morning after our event!”
“Another plus was a limited edition wagon, commissioned specially for our event,” added fellow organiser and volunteer driver Martin Wood. “We worked with Dapol Ltd to produce 50 ‘E.B. Mason’ sand wagons, and most of these were snapped up over the weekend. There are just a handful left, and if anyone’s interested in buying one, please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org .”
The organisers are already making plans for the next O Gauge Get Together in 2023, and talked extensively to visitors over the weekend to find out what they’d like to see in the future.
Click on the gallery to see full images, descriptions and credits
Celebrating Hagley Hall’s return to steam
On 9th September, the SVR’s flagship locomotive – 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’ – hauled its first passenger service in 36 years following a £1.4 million overhaul. After the ceremony and nameplate unveiling, more than 100 guests climbed aboard the train for its inaugural journey.
The SVR has express its deep gratitude to everyone who made a donation or left a legacy to support the extensive overhaul through the Charitable Trust, the tireless fundraising of the Friends of Locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall, the National Lottery Heritage Fund for awarding a substantial grant, and all the volunteers and staff who worked on the locomotive over the years to make this dream moment finally happen.
The Charitable Trust has commissioned a short film celebrating the locomotive’s original journey through the night to the SVR back in 1973 to its restoration and return to service this year, and this film will shortly form part of a display stand dedicated to ‘Hagley Hall’ at The Engine House.
Rare High Speed Train visits the SVR
The SVR welcomed a highly unusual visitor on Tuesday 27th September 2022 when a CrossCountry High Speed Train railtour arrived for a special visit.
The event was organized by CrossCountry in conjunction with Modern Railways magazine and included a joint ceremony, renaming CrossCountry’s power car 43366 as ‘HST 40’ and naming GB Railfreight’s Class 66 locomotive 66799 as ‘Modern Railways – Diamond Jubilee’.
The HST travelled from Leeds to Kidderminster, where 60 additional passengers were able to join the train to enjoy the SVR leg of the railtour, which saw the train make two return trips along the 16-mile line to Bridgnorth.
“An InterCity 125 travelling along the length of our beautifully preserved line isn’t something you see every day,” said Helen Smith, managing director. “In fact, it’s more than 20 years since an HST has hauled a charter visit here. It’s been a pleasure to welcome this special celebratory rail tour, and add our own sprinkling of heritage magic to the day.”
CrossCountry’s managing director Tom Joyner explained why they chose the SVR for this event:
“When we were thinking about how best to celebrate 40 years of CrossCountry operating HSTs, we needed somewhere that represents a great day out and really has some meaning from a railway perspective, and this is it! Where else would you go?”
Philip Sherratt, the editor of Modern Railways added: "Thank you to everyone at the Severn Valley Railway for hosting us. It was a great collaborative event, and everything went well, from the logistics of getting both the Class 66 and the HST on and off the Railway, the organisation of the naming, the facilities for visitors and a splendid lunch for our invited guests in an excellent setting. The feedback from passengers was that they thoroughly enjoyed the day."
Click on the gallery to see full images, descriptions and credits
The SVR’s award-winning King & Castle pub at Kidderminster station has unveiled an exciting new food offering, starring its very own Worcestershire take on tapas.
The selection of Worcestershire-inspired tapas dishes are priced at £10 for three. Included in the range are potato skins with Worcester Gold cheddar cheese, buffalo cauliflower and Worcestershire-reared beef chilli bon bons.
The new menu also offers wholesome pub grub, such as Batham’s beer-battered fish and triple-cooked chips, steak and local ale pie and slow-braised beef lasagne, as well dishes to appeal to vegetarians and vegans such as a mixed bean chilli.
This unique offering has been created by the heritage railway’s executive head chef Lucy Kelly.
“I wanted to make sure there’s something for everyone, from those with a big appetite to those who fancy something a little lighter. I’ve sourced ingredients locally, as far as possible, and concentrated on providing great value for money.”
“The King & Castle is very much a community asset,” said Sophie Poutney, food and beverage operations manager. “Our front-of-house team have worked hard to make sure we’re showcasing the best of what the county has to offer, both in terms of food and drink.”
Due to the rising cost of energy The King & Castle also has temporarily reduced its opening hours. It will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but doors open from 11am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 12 noon on Wednesdays and Sundays. Alterations and changes will be made to opening hours on special event days when trains are running, such as Bank Holidays and Gala events.
Sophie Poutney, Lucy Kelly, Sarah Gibbs with new King and Castle menu
Sixty years ago at the SVR
The R. J. Sellick photographic collection, hosted by the National Railway Museum, includes 14 images taken on the Severn Valley branch in September and October 1962, 60 years ago. A few are reproduced here for your enjoyment.
It was a time of change. GWR railcars appear with BR railcars and diesel multiple units. Ex-LMS 2MT tank 41202 and ex-GWR pannier tank are both captured.
At that time the branch formed part of BR’s Western Region and publication of the Beeching Report was still several months away. Retrenchment was already occurring, however, with the branch under review.
Services were already withdrawn between Bewdley and Tenbury Wells, and further north so were services from Buildwas to Much Wenlock and Wellington. A year later, the Severn Valley line north of Bewdley was closed to passengers.
The collection includes photographs by Sellick himself, but much is the work of the Box family, Arthur Halls and others. The Museum has made photos available for non-commercial use, with attribution.
The collection features many photos of the pre-preservation SVR in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The unofficial SVR Wiki has catalogued these for viewing at https://www.svrwiki.com/Sellick_Collection
Click on the gallery to see full images, descriptions and credits
V1 and V2 13th October 2022 (main photograpgh changed)
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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.