46100 Royal Scot at Bewdley on 8th September 2021. John Sherratt
Welcome to September's Branch Lines
Welcome to your September edition of Branch Lines!
Big news broke yesterday as the Railway announced the replacement of LMS 6233 ‘Duchess of Sutherland’ by GWR 4953 ‘Pitchford Hall’ at the Autumn Steam Gala which starts next Thursday 16th, running through till Sunday 19th. This loco is particularly appropriate for our line because of a close geographic link – see the article below to discover what this is!
The sun put on its late-summer hat in time for the re-launch of our hop on, hop off services on Tuesday this week, and brought passengers in their droves.
In other news, as they say, the past month has seen the welcome reopening of Bewdley buffet thanks to the splendid efforts of the on-train buffet volunteers and others, along with the return of observation saloons and footplate experiences. The SVR has scooped a prestigious TripAdvisor award (putting us in the top 10% of visitor attractions in the world!) And we’ve updates on carriages, locomotives, signalling plus a report from last weekend’s O Gauge model railway event at The Engine House.
The past month has seen us make great strides in terms of getting back to normality, and it’s testament to the continued hard work of SVR volunteers and staff that this has been possible. We very much hope that you will be able to get along and enjoy the wonderful Severn Valley Railway in the coming months!
Lesley Carr & Patrick Hearn, co-editors
The Branch Lines team is Lesley Carr, Patrick Hearn, Amy Baker and Nicola Fox
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4953 ‘Pitchford Hall’ to appear at Autumn Steam Gala
In a late change to the lineup for the forthcoming Autumn Steam Gala, GWR 4953 ‘Pitchford Hall’ will make a special guest appearance. This follows the unexpected withdrawal from service of one of the planned guests, LMS 6233 ‘Duchess of Sutherland’.
“We’re thrilled that ‘Pitchford Hall’ will be joining us later this month,” said general manager Helen Smith. “This really is a splendid locomotive, and its unusual livery of BR lined black is very eye-catching. It’s never run the full length of our line before, and we think it’s going to prove very popular.
“We’re sorry that the Duchess of Sutherland won’t be able to join us for our special event, but like any other heritage steam locomotive, unexpected problems do arise. We hope that we’ll be able to welcome 6233 to the SVR in the not-too-distant future.”
Head of engineering Martin White explained more about the issues affecting 6233:
“The loco has been undergoing some extensive repairs and maintenance at its base in Ripley, Derbyshire. Quite late in the work schedule, a problem was identified with the driving-wheel axle boxes. Some of the metal bearing surface had cracked and become loose, necessitating replacement. Unfortunately, this is not going to be completed in time for our event.”
‘Pitchford Hall’ has been based on the Epping and Ongar Railway since 2012. The Hall class is considered by some to be the first true mixed-traffic locomotive. 4953 clocked up an impressive 1,344,464 miles during its working life, before it was withdrawn and sent to the scrap yard at Barry in 1963. It spent more than two decades there before being rescued, and it wasn’t until February 2004 that it steamed again, in preservation.
Back in 2007, the locomotive hauled a special shuttle service between Bewdley and Snow Hill, Birmingham when the rest of the Severn Valley line was closed because of extensive flood damage. There’s a geographic connection with the SVR as well; the locomotive is named for Pitchford Hall, a stately home in Shropshire, located between Much Wenlock and Shrewsbury.
‘Pitchford Hall’ joins another guest loco, GWR pannier tank 9466 and members of the SVR’s home fleet for the four-day event, between 16th and 19th September. A special souvenir programme has been produced, featuring profiles of all the locomotives taking part, along with a variety of interesting articles about the SVR. Make sure you reserve your copy at www.svrshop.co.uk. Day rover tickets are pre-bookable at www.svr.co.uk or can be purchased on the day.
Click on the gallery for full screen images, descriptions and credits.
‘Hop on, hop off’ services return
From 7th September, the Railway welcomed back ‘hop on, hop off’ passengers to all regular services, either with full day ‘Freedom of the Line’ tickets or on journeys between selected stations, as general manager Helen Smith explains to Branch Lines
We know that many people will be thrilled to see a return to local services, giving them the flexibility to board any train at any station throughout the day. We’ve thought long and hard about making this change. It’s been a delicate balancing act between operating safely and returning to our traditional way of operating. With the progressive easing of government restrictions and the success of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, we think now is the right time to go back to a more traditional service at the SVR.
We will continue to offer private, pre-bookable compartments, where passengers are guaranteed exclusive use of a compartment on a single train, throughout the day. We know there’s a demand for these, and the high numbers of 5* reviews we’ve received in recent months show how much confidence they gave people to return to the Railway.
Passengers at the forthcoming Autumn Steam and Diesel Galas will also now be able to choose their itineraries, rather than travelling on designated trains as originally planned (see separate articles.)
The Railway has contacted passengers with private compartment bookings, including those for the Autumn Steam Gala in September, offering the choice of keeping these or swopping for flexible tickets.
Full day ‘Freedom of the Line’ are pre-bookable, but tickets on journeys between selected stations are only available on the day. For more information and to book tickets, please visit www.svr.co.uk
The reintroduction of local services has also had an impact on timetables, as operations manager Matt Robinson explains:
“For September, the Railway already had bookings and a reasonable number wished to retain the excursion style option. Therefore, the timetables have stayed the same with the downside that the service is uneven for ‘hop on/hop off’ passengers. Because we hadn’t yet opened bookings for October we’ve been able to put a bespoke timetable in place, which is back to something all may view as more normal.”
Photo: 7714 at Alveley Halt on 26th August 2021. Alan Corfield
‘Type 2’ locos set to steal the show at the Autumn Diesel Gala
Two VIP guest locomotives that will star at the Autumn Diesel Gala have been announced. ‘Type 2’ locos 24081 and 31466 will take part in four days of diesel traction from 30th September to 3rd October. Services will start early morning and run through to the evening.
24081 is one of four surviving examples of the Class 24, and was the last one to be withdrawn from main line service in 1981. It’s owned and maintained by the 24081 Locomotive Group, based at the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway.
31466 is a Brush Type 2 diesel-electric locomotive and its striking EWS livery makes it something of a head-turner. It’s owned by the Dean Forest Diesel Association and has arrived recently on hire.
The visitors join the SVR-based fleet which includes D9551, D8568, D1015 Western Champion, D1062 Western Courier, 40106 Atlantic Conveyor and Class 50s from a pool of 50007, 50035 and 50049.
Pre-bookable day and evening rover tickets are on sale and demand is expected to be high. Tickets will also be available on the day.
The gala will return to a traditional operating pattern with full flexibility for passengers to choose the services they travel on.
Diesels committee chairman Jonathan Dunster told Branch Lines: “We’re particularly pleased to welcome our guest locomotives. These ‘type 2’ engines are sure to be popular with visitors. The Class 24 is making its third visit and we’ve had many requests for its return, whilst the Class 31 is making its first SVR Gala appearance. Many have already commented on its superb condition, following its recent arrival at Kidderminster.”
Class 24 No. 5081 (24081) under threatening skies during a previous visit, at the October 2013 diesel gala. Ian Murray
31466 tails & gives assistance with Saphos Railtours' 11 coach train through Highley on 21st July 2021. Peter Hudson
Footplate Experiences are back!
As restrictions ease and after an 18-month absence, footplate experiences are finally returning to the Severn Valley Railway.
These represent an important revenue stream for the Railway, with the chance for participants to spend a ‘day in the life’ of our drivers and at the coalface – literally - of their favourite steam engine.
There are a small number of scheduled days in September and October to run the experiences alongside standard day services, and pre-existing voucher holders have already been offered the opportunity to book themselves in.
Head of visitor experience Michael Dunn said:
“With the relaxation of social distancing and after discussion with loco crews, we’re glad to be able to add another ‘normal’ attraction for our visitors. Footplate experiences continue to be popular. During the nine months when we couldn’t run them, we sold an additional 112 experiences!
If you have an outstanding voucher and want to book your experience in September or October, please call the Visitor Services team on 01562 757900. Or, if you want to purchase a footplate experience for yourself or a loved one, please visit https://svr.digitickets.co.uk/category/32031 to purchase.
We love an excuse to delve into the photo library, and here's a small gallery of locomotives either visiting or not in traffic on the SVR, on footplate experience trains. Click on the gallery for full screen images, descriptions and credits.
A sight for sore eyes!
On 15th August the SVR hosted its first observation saloon experience since before the beginning of the pandemic.
“The observation saloon experience is a premium service in one of two luxury observation coaches,” explained events co-ordinator Kellie Downey. “These stunning saloons offer an impressive view of the locomotive and idyllic surroundings of the SVR from the large windows at each end of the coach. These experiences are a popular choice for celebrations of all kinds, such as anniversaries, birthdays, wedding receptions and more. Our saloons certainly cause a stir when they’re out and about!”
The lead guest can choose to hire an observation saloon on the back of a service train or to book a completely private charter train, all to themselves. The Railway has been able to operate both of these in recent weeks.
Guests have exclusive use of the coach for up to 23 people, plus unlimited hot drinks and top quality food, including a very popular afternoon tea option. Once on board, passengers are looked after by a team of volunteer stewards throughout the whole experience, allowing them to sit back and enjoy the breath-taking views with friends and family.
“I’m thrilled that we have been able to resume observation saloon experiences,” said Kellie. “We have had absolutely outstanding feedback from our guests, many saying that we have exceeded their expectations by miles. Everybody involved in bringing these services back has worked incredibly hard and it shows in the top quality experience that we provide and the feedback that we receive. It has been wonderful to work alongside our on-train buffet stewards, whose dedication and hard work has been second to none.”
The future for observation saloon hire is looking extremely healthy, with many bookings already in the diary for this year and into next. Further enquiries are coming in thick and fast. To make an enquiry, please contact visitor services email@example.com or phone 01562 757900.
Shareholder benefits to change in 2022
The SVR has announced that the benefits for its shareholders will be changing from the beginning of next year.
This is the first change to benefits for 11 years and sees an increase in the shareholding levels at which various benefits will be given. A full list of the new levels is available here.
General manager Helen Smith explained the reasoning behind the changes:
“An adjustment to the benefit levels is overdue, and very necessary. The decision to change the benefit levels has been debated since I arrived at the Railway in 2019 and there was never going to be a good time to do it. The original plan was to change them in 2020. We have delayed it until 2022 as we are aware that, due to the pandemic, we have not been operating normally for many months now and many shareholders have been unable to visit.
“The SVR is indebted to shareholders, members and donors; it’s you who have helped to keep the Railway going from its earliest beginnings, through to the current day, as we fight to keep our heads above water in the face of unprecedented circumstances. We fully acknowledge your support and are extremely grateful for it.
“We would like to encourage you to use your shareholder benefits; we want you to enjoy the Railway and see the difference your support is making in what we’re doing. We’ve re-introduced full 'hop on, hop off' services earlier this week for both regular services and galas, and I hope that will encourage you to come and visit.”
“The Board is committed to make changes to the shareholder benefits scheme more regularly in future to ensure that this apparent sharp level of rise in doesn’t need to happen again.
If you are a shareholder and wish to maintain the benefits which you currently enjoy, you may wish to purchase additional shares in the Railway, either online via Severn Valley Railway - Heritage Steam Railway. (svr.co.uk) or by calling our Visitor Services Team at Kidderminster on 01562 757900, choosing option 1.
Photo: 7714 crosses Victoria Bridge on 28th August 2021. John Sherratt
2021 financial reforecast
Helen Smith talked further about the wider financial position:
We are still feeling the impact of the pandemic and will do for many years. The SVR (Holdings) Plc accounts for 2020 showed a loss of nearly half a million pounds, and 2021 has been another year of lockdowns and restrictions, meaning we are forecasting a larger deficit. There are still uncertainties, and recovery is going to be long and hard.
The Railway is in survival mode and every penny counts. Things will be difficult for a few years yet. Heritage attractions and hospitality businesses are amongst the worst-affected during the pandemic. A key part of my role as general manager is making sure that we generate enough revenue so we can pay back the £1.5m CBILS loan to the bank. This is going to cost £30,000 per month. To do that, I need to make sure that we are tightening up on all our systems and procedures, and the system is robust and sustainable. We found that we were ineligible for support from round 2 of the Culture Recovery Fund grants which was a blow; we are currently preparing an application to round 3.
We want to thank all supporters for standing by the Railway again this year. We know it has not been easy. We’ve had to react to the constantly changing situation, unable to consult about every decision because of time pressures and operating in perpetual crisis management.
We’ve already achieved a huge amount. The SVR will recover from this situation, and it’s as important now as it ever was, that we all pull together as one Railway. Let’s get on and achieve the great end to the year we all want.
Photo: Maintaining the railway. Foley Park rail stressing April 2021. Chris Bond
Valley of the living dead?
Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand…never have the lyrics from Michael Jackson’s Thriller seemed more appropriate. The SVR has launched its 2021 Ghost Trains and adults-only Scream Train, and brave passengers are already flocking for a horrifying journey.
Passengers will be treated to a whole host of ghosts and ghouls as they journey to ‘the land of the living dead’ (which doubles as Arley station for the rest of the year!). Thrill seekers on the 18+ Scream Train service are being encouraged to ‘lock their compartment door’ as frightful characters lurk in the corridors!
Displays at Bewdley and Arley already promise to be bigger and scarier than last year, with light shows, music and a zombie-load of characters haunting the platforms.
All Halloween events sold out last year, so if you’re looking for a frightful journey, be quick! Tickets available at www.svr.co.uk
Ever closer to being Home & Dry!
Donations to the Home & Dry appeal in support of major improvements to the Bridgnorth locomotive works have topped £360,000, which includes a grant pledge of £25,000 from the Roger & Douglas Turner Charitable Trust. Shelagh Paterson, the SVRCT’s executive director commented, “We are moving ever closer to our target of £475,000 which is fantastic news indeed”.
Whilst fundraising continues at pace, the project itself is to be phased to avoid any delays in getting things underway, with the main phase concentrating on the roof and all associated, necessary works, including the foundations for the crane and all electrical works.
“The roof has a very limited life span, just two years at most,” Shelagh said. “It’s critical that this is addressed as soon as possible, with the crane being installed after the building is made safe and dry. The total cost of this first phase is £380,000 and so we are already very close to being able to fund this in its entirety.”
Volunteer project manager, Antony Bartlam has confirmed that planning permission is progressing well, and that he expects approval by mid-October at the latest.
Meanwhile, the Charitable Trust continues its drive to raise the £475,000 necessary by encouraging the many kind and generous supporters of the Railway to make whatever donation they are able to, whilst also putting in numerous grant applications to secure larger contributions to the project.
To donate to the Home & Dry appeal, please go to www.svrtrust.org.uk/home-and-dry. Donations in excess of £75 not only secure the donor a signed, limited edition Alan Reade print of Bridgnorth locomotive works, but will also pay for a steel purlin in the new roof.
Photo: Inside Bridgnorth loco works. Antony Bartlam
Heart-warming messages from our youngest supporters!
The SVR Charitable Trust were delighted to receive recent donations to the Home & Dry appeal from two of their youngest supporters.
Six-year-old Nicholas, who recently visited the Railway with his parents, so enjoyed the steam trains and seeing the locomotives up close at the Engine House, that he not only offered to help with the design of the improvements to the Bridgnorth locomotive works, but also donated his £2 pocket money towards the cause! His parents also gifted £50 to the appeal.
Fundraising co-ordinator for the Charitable Trust, Gem Bilek, commented, “This is the loveliest donation I have ever had to process, it really reinforces my faith in human nature!”
In a separate donation, two young SVR enthusiasts enjoyed their train journey with us so much that they added their pocket money coins into the SVR Charitable Trust envelopes, which are available on each train for people to make small donations towards the Home & Dry appeal. Again, the parents also added some notes to the envelope to support our fundraising efforts.
Fundraising manager at the Trust, Sue Chance, said “It is really heartwarming to know that the SVR has such dedicated young enthusiasts who already want to help towards the future well-being of the Railway. It is fabulous to note that they are also inspiring their parents to follow suit! We cannot thank them enough for cheering up our day.”
Photo: Gem Bilek holding Nicholas Ragan's donation to the Home & Dry appeal in September 2021
A bold approach to Christmas sales
The Railway managed to get ahead of the festive game for 2021, launching its main three Christmas events during the school summer holidays. Head of visitor experience Michael Dunn explains the thinking behind such an early launch, and how sales are going:
Christmas is a very special time of year for us all across the Railway, especially since Covid-19 restrictions last year meant it didn’t turn out to be what we were hoping for.
We made the bold decision to put our Christmas services for 2021 on sale in July and August, in the middle of a heatwave no less! It’s proved to have been the right thing to do, as we face strong competition from many other venues to attract Christmas visitors.
Sales are going well, in fact our new Enchanted Express service has already almost sold out! It all means that we’re getting some much-needed cash into the bank to help keep the Railway going. As I write, we’ve notched up 2,150 compartment sales, heralding the way for another sell-out for Christmas.
This year, we start the festivities on November 19th with Steam in Lights departing from Bridgnorth. From 27th November, we have Santa Trains from Kidderminster with a special family show at Arley. On the same day, we’ll start our brand new Enchanted Express services from Bridgnorth, with recorded narration from the much-loved and instantly recognisable Dame Julie Walters. We’re incredibly lucky to be working with Dame Julie, as her narration will whisk passengers away on board the Enchanted Express, as they steam into the festive season with Santa Claus, the story characters and our team.
As always, the SVR’s festive services are a key revenue source, and continue to be popular year after year. Never has this been more important than 2021. Whilst these events aren’t part of the heritage aspect of running the SVR, they are vital to our survival. Since joining the Railway, I’ve been in awe at the amount of time and dedication that our volunteers and paid staff put into events, and it makes all the difference to keep the Railway going.
If you’re thinking of joining one of our special Christmas services, don’t delay! Last year was a sell-out, and this year is fast heading that way. Tickets available at www.svr.co.uk
Bridgnorth station building development progressing at pace
Planning Permission, including listed building consent, has been granted to further develop the Bridgnorth station building. The development team is now seeking Building Regulations Approval as well as preparing the structural calculations needed.
In parallel, invitations to tender are being sent to a number of carefully selected building contractors for the main works, and quotes for other works, such as electrical, shop fit and pub refurbishment are being collected.
There are other jobs to be done to enable the works to start, such as finding new locations for items that need to be moved to release the space.
“Interpretation will be an important part of this project,” said general manager Helen Smith. “Telling the history of the building will attract external funding, and the SVR Charitable Trust will help us with this. We’ll launch a public appeal for historical photographs and stories about the station building, in particular the parcels office, to supplement what we already have. If Branch Lines readers have anything that you think would be useful, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description of the material.
“We will only know the timescales of the project when the selected contractor confirms the price and their availability. We need to do the works in the shut-down period which will be January to March of either 2022 or 2023. As you may be aware, the current climate makes it difficult to gain commitments from contractors, due to the pandemic and the lasting effects of Brexit, both of which are causing supply issues for both staff and materials for all construction companies.”
Decisions need to be made on the décor for the Railwayman’s Arms, and Helen is asking anyone who want to be involved to contact email@example.com. She added, “I am sure you’ll be pleased to see progress on this project. It certainly feels like things are moving at pace now. Let’s hope we can get some assurances from contractors about when they might be able to begin work!”
Although August was cool and dull, our contributing photographers have done us proud as this gallery shows. Click on the images to see full descriptions and photo credits.
Whizzo Woods – carbon offsetting for the WLA
The SVR-based Western Locomotive Association has become the first diesel-owning group in the country to go ‘carbon neutral’. Working with a specialist rewilding charity, it is planting trees in the Scottish Highlands to offset the carbon produced by operating its Class 52 Westerns on the Severn Valley.
“One of our board members put it quite bluntly,” said the WLA’s press officer Paul Finch. “He said our engines are ’60-year-old gas-guzzling machines’. And so we decided to take action now, to offset the carbon emissions they produce.
“A class 52 consumes one gallon of fuel per mile, and an average running day on the SVR is 64 miles. We plan to operate on 20 days per year. We know that each gallon of diesel fuel burnt produces 10.9kg of carbon dioxide, so if you crunch the numbers, we’ll produce around 15 tonnes per annum."
The group turned to the charity Trees for Life, to set up ‘Whizzo Woods’ grove, reflecting the nickname for Class 52s. The grove is located in Glen Affric, some 15 miles to the west of Loch Ness, where Trees for Life have been rewilding for 25 years.
“Trees for Life have advised that for every tonne of carbon produced, we need to plant 4.19 trees,” explained Paul. “So, by planting a minimum of 62 trees a year, we will offset our carbon emissions. The WLA has set up a direct debit mandate to purchase half the trees every year, and we’re asking for donations for the rest. We’ve already covered the first year, which shows how much support there is for this initiative.
“The WLA wants to reduce its carbon footprint and become a carbon neutral operation by having our own strategy and commitment to the environment. As well as planting trees, we will, wherever possible, select suppliers that also support carbon neutrality and use environmentally sustainable processes and materials, and have their own clear commitment built into their strategies and policies.”
Trees cost £6.00 each and if purchased through the WLA they also attract Gift Aid. You can also purchase directly from Trees for Life at https://treesforlife.org.uk/groves/315992/
The WLA owns Western Courier and Western Ranger, which is currently being overhauled.
The Class 43 High Speed Train power cars stabled at Arley (see August’s Branch Lines) have been out on the Severn Valley in the last few weeks, as operations manager Matt Robinson explains:
The spectacle of a pair of power cars ‘back to back’ is very unusual, but a pair along the SVR is a first!
As part of our contract with Colas Rail to stable these five vehicles, we’ve afforded them the opportunity to take advantage of SVR facilities (such as pit access) and test runs, all on a paid contractual basis.
Various smaller, mostly internal jobs have been undertaken at Arley. A request then came through to move 43272 and 43274 from Arley to Kidderminster to undertake an exam. So, at around 6.30am on Monday 23rd August, 50049 Defiance departed from Kidderminster to collect the vehicles.
They were tripped from Arley to Kidderminster and shunted to the Carriage and Wagon pit for the exam and a brake pad change. After two days of work on the pit, they were signed off. On the Tuesday afternoon they worked ‘back to back’ under their own power for a test run from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth, and then back to Arley.
A similar request saw 43251 and 43257 moved by 31466 on 2nd September, again to Kidderminster for a brake disc/pad change and exam.
All four locos mentioned above have had fitness-to-run exams as a prelude to their return to the main line when paperwork is complete. The departure moves for all five should take place shortly as we prepare Arley yard to be used for the Christmas operations.
43274 in the tent in the Carriage and Wagon yard prior to going for a test run. Kenny Felstead
SVRH Annual General Meeting
A reminder that an ‘in person’ Annual General Meeting of SVR (Holdings) Plc is being held this Saturday 11th September 2021 at St George’s Hall, Bewdley starting at 2.30pm.
Full information and instructions have been sent to SVR shareholders either by post, or by email where possible to save funds. Downloadable documents and online voting can be found at https://www.svrlive.com/agm2021.
Should you intend to vote by proxy, you must send your online proxy vote or hard copy proxy form to the Company Secretary, to be received no later than 2.30 pm on 9th September 2021, to meet the deadline of 48 hours prior to AGM.
Bridgnorth MPD: a story of ‘failures’ and successes
Activities in the loco shed and works at Bridgnorth have been a mixture of the norm and a burst of sudden activity, as Bridgnorth shed master Martin White reports:
The norm has been the usual running maintenance, repairs, and boiler washouts, mixed in with steady progress on the overhauls of 4930 and 13268. However, that routine maintenance has itself thrown up some unexpected issues, a result perhaps of tempting fate last month by referring to the SVR locomotives’ good reliability!
Both 34027 ‘Taw Valley’ and 75069 were declared ‘failures’ during post-washout steam tests in the second half of August, meaning they were unfit to run. 34027 was the first to succumb, as steam was noticed leaking from beneath the boiler cladding. In order to investigate the source of this steam the loco was moved into the shed and had an access tower assembled alongside to enable the dome cladding and two sections of boiler barrel cladding and lagging to be peeled back.
With the source of the leak not obvious, ’Taw Valley’ was steamed out in the MPD yard, where a small jet of steam was seen emitting from a seal weld on the dome base. This required a specialist weld repair which was carried out on Saturday 4th September, and the boiler was successfully tested the next day.
75069 failed its steam test primarily due to the two boiler water gauges in the cab giving different readings. Any footplateman will tell of the dangers that this situation could pose, so the loco was deemed unfit to run. After the boiler had cooled, the gauge frames were stripped for examination, and a small fragment of gland packing material was discovered causing an obstruction in the gauge frame. In the meantime, other repairs were carried out, including to the delivery pipe clack valves, after which the loco was subsequently re-tested and was passed fit for traffic on Thursday 2nd September.
So, that’s the norm, what about the sudden burst of activity? GWR 2-6-2 tank 4150 had been resident at Bewdley for many years and was moved to Bridgnorth in April. Since then, not a great deal of work was able to be done by the owning group. However, August witnessed the group’s volunteers undertaking a huge amount of activity, assisted by other regular Bridgnorth shed volunteers. The cab roof and bunker were removed, enabling some welding work on the underside of the latter to be carried out. The motion and brake gear were removed, and the loco positioned on the works lifting jacks recently vacated by 4930 ‘Hagley Hall’. This allowed the loco to be raised, facilitating the removal of the driving wheels and pony trucks, which will permit the completion of some frame repairs and allow an examination of the axle boxes and replacement of the lubrication pads.
Finally, as expected we said goodbye again to out-of-ticket 6960 'Raveningham Hall', which was collected by low loader on 6th September 2021 for storage by the locomotive's owner.
Click on the gallery for full screen images, descriptions and credits.
Kidderminster Town station looks ‘blooming’ lovely
Kidderminster station has been full of colour this season with a display of flowers in raised garden beds, tubs and hanging baskets. It’s all thanks to the hard work of volunteer Bob Mitchell and £1,500 of grant funding provided by the Finnis Scott Foundation. The Foundation has commented that the results are “nothing short of brilliant, it all looks absolutely amazing – well done!” Many visitors and passengers have congratulated staff at the station on the combination of plants and colours that have been used.
Using more than 40 containers has given scope for a range of displays across the site, at the car park entrance, on the station concourse and platforms. They provide spring and summer displays from March to October. Raised beds allow greater accessibility for the mobility-impaired and wheelchair users. Displays with a profusion of colour and scent are attractive to the visually impaired. Displays in the sunnier spots are designed to be attractive to insects, particularly bees.
The grant included provision for equipment which, with bulbs and perennials used, will give a lasting benefit into 2022 and beyond. Sustainability has again been a feature, with self-watering hanging baskets containing a water reservoir, which only needs filling once a week during the summer. Readers may also recall Bob’s bug hotel (‘It’s a bug’s life! Branch Lines, March 2020.)
Bob worked with the SVR Charitable Trust to apply for the funding. “We would like to thank the Finnis Scott Foundation for their generous support,” he said. “This has enabled the Kidderminster gardeners to carry out this fabulous project. We have thoroughly enjoyed the work and are delighted with the results and the positive feedback received. We have also been successful in recruiting four additional volunteers, and we are grateful for the advice and support that we received with our designs from The Royal Horticultural Society. The station looks fantastic!”
Click on the gallery for full screen images and descriptions
Pioneer Sundays in September
September has seen the return of heritage diesel services, operating as ‘The Pioneer’ excursion trains. Trains kicked off last Sunday, 5th September with 40106, with further trains to run on 12th and 26th September. These offer 96 miles of haulage, with three full return trips.
The 12th September diagram offers a day of Class 52 haulage.
Trip 1 will feature D1015 Western Champion and trip 2 will have D1062 Western Courier, each running solo. Trip 3 will feature both locomotives in top-and-tail mode, with D1015 at the Bridgnorth end and D1062 at the Kidderminster end.
The 26th September diagram offers a day of trains with locomotives from the Class 50 Alliance’s fleet. As a bonus, 40106 is also planned to be in use that day on an empty coaching stock move.
These are the first public diesel passenger turns since 11th July and have been warmly welcomed by the enthusiast community. See www.svr.co.uk for full details of service times and to book.
Photo: 40106 ‘Atlantic Conveyor’ leaves Bewdley with 1.30pm to Bridgnorth on 5th September 2021. Rob Green
Three generations of Kidderminster railwaymen
A little bit of history was made last week at the Severn Valley Railway, when former steam loco driver Tony Barfield stepped back onto the footplate of 43106 for a trip down memory lane. Tony’s career in steam dates back to 1952, when he joined the Western Region of British Railways as a loco cleaner at Kidderminster Shed, which was adjacent to the Kidderminster loop line (and now SVR) in Hoo Road.
His guides for the day were driver Paul Fathers and fireman Will Pedersen, both also from Kidderminster, and so three generations of railwaymen from the town were represented.
“It was absolutely wonderful!” said Tony. “You never forget what it’s like. Just like riding a bike, it all came back to me immediately, the moment I stepped onto the footplate. Will asked if I wanted to put a few shovelfuls of coal into the firebox, and I said yes please! From then on I did most of the firing! Will told me where the speed restrictions currently are and I fired accordingly. I could remember where the gradients are, because I worked up and down this line so much in the 1950s.”
Back in the 1950s, Tony progressed to become a fireman and eventually a driver working trains in the area for 10 years, including the Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway. He is the author of two books, When there was Steam and Panniers and Prairies.
His connection with the Severn Valley started in the late 1960s when his former school pal Keith Beddoes persuaded him to get involved. Tony remembers the heady days of the line first opening to the public in preservation, as he spent two days cleaning 3205 in readiness to haul the first public service from Bridgnorth to Hampton Loade in 1970.
“Everyone at the SVR is doing a marvellous job, to be honest,” Tony added. “When you visit here, you get exactly the same feeling that there was back in the day. Seeing Hinton Manor on display at The Engine House was a particular highlight, as I worked on the footplate of this particular loco in the 1950s.”
Having travelled all the way from his home in Cornwall, Tony made the most of his visit, and the following day he repeated his trip along the line, this time with 7714, with Will firing once again, and David Milford driving.
Paul Fathers, Tony Barfield and Will Pederson with 43106 at Kidderminster. Margaret Barfield
Update on the Bewdley South Bracket Signal appeal
It’s nearly a year since the removal due to rot of Bewdley South Bracket Signal (see Branch Lines October 2020.) The restoration of this very visible structure is an important aspect of the SVR’s heritage infrastructure.
Paul Marshall from the signalling department told Branch Lines: “We have our new signal post delivered to Kidderminster, which is being prepared. We are making every effort to ensure it is re-erected in the autumn, if possible, as the compound in which the post is sitting will be needed for the contractors working on the replacement footbridge at Kidderminster later this year.”
The new post has been paid for initially from the signalling department’s budget, which would have meant other projects being pushed back.
However, the SVR Charitable Trust has stepped in, seeking to raise £5,000 through a JustGiving appeal, to replace the main post and two smaller ‘dolls’ of the signal. The CT’s executive director Shelagh Paterson said: “We are very pleased to have received £3,110, which represents 60% of the appeal total, and are still welcoming donations at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/bracket-signal. ”
Paul added: “We are hoping people will continue to donate and help to raise the final £1,890, so that other essential signalling projects don’t lose out.”
Bewdley south box and signals taken on the 18th September 2020. Ian Murray
Exciting progress on GWR ‘access for all’ buffet coach 9581
With the gradual relaxation of some of the Covid-19 working requirements, the LNER Coach Fund continues to make progress on this important rebuild, transforming the once-rotting gutted shell of a GWR bow-ended compartment coach into a 1930s-style buffet car to give access for all. This project is being entirely funded by the SVR Charitable Trust.
The passenger accommodation for the coach is divided into two areas, the first a saloon with tables and seating that allows circulation space for wheelchairs, the second a buffet bar area decked out in a style reminiscent of the glorious ‘Clapham Buffet’, a onetime SVR resident, which proudly represented the Railway on the main line for many years.
Since the last report, the basic floor structure has been completed, using 18mm flooring grade plywood. The ‘It Might Come In Useful’ stores above Kidderminster C&W shed has proved useful, providing some heater pipework, for the bar and saloon – the SVR’s ‘best value’ policy kicking in with a vengeance here! Further technical areas have seen the completion of the underframe wiring, the communication valve fitted and its pipework on.
The LNER-style tongue-and-groove boarding used for lining the ceiling has now been covered in 4mm plywood, with the joints beaded over GWR-style. A set of GWR decorative vents was generously sponsored and made by hand and these have now been fitted, with the whole ceiling fully painted in three coats of white. Also, beginning to come together in the middle of the coach, (dividing the two passenger areas) is the large disabled access toilet, with a wide connecting side corridor giving wheelchair access between saloon and bar.
“The panelled walls are now fitted,” said volunteer Simon Marshall, “and the forthcoming green paint scheme with brown lining might raise a few modern eyebrows, but once the wonders of the art deco-era styling with its stainless steel trim sinks in, you will love it! The saloon is also starting to take shape with 1920s GWR-style varnished mahogany picture frames appearing in their carefully allotted places. Our thanks are due to a GWA member who made these parts at home.”
Finally, the frameworks for the corridor connections have been fitted, a first for this vehicle since it was rebuilt as a workshop in the 1950s. The actual job itself required a mere 45 minutes with the fork-lift, thanks to three (albeit challenging) days of prep from Simon, writing the risk assessment.
As work continues apace, Simon invites everyone to “watch this space!”
Click on the gallery for full screen images, descriptions and credits.
Protecting the SVR’s signals
The midweek S&T (Signal and Telegraph) maintenance team recently took on the task of fitting new anti-climbing boards to the fixed access ladders of some of the signals at Arley. Volunteer Brian Graystone tells Branch Lines the details:
The anti-climb boards are being rolled out across the length of the line to help protect signals from vandalism and to prevent unauthorised access to the top of signals, which is an obvious health and safety issue. This followed an incident at the Arley down distant signal, located by Victoria Bridge, where the finial was removed and presumably thrown into the River Severn, or stolen by trespassers.
The new anti-climb boards are made of black powder-coated steel, and they simply hook over a ladder rung high up so that they hang down. They cover a number of rungs, which prevents access to those rungs. The board is then secured to the ladder by a padlock at the bottom. With the right key, the boards are simply removed for maintenance access as necessary.
The signals being fitted with the new anti-climb boards are generally in remote locations which are out of sight of stations, or are located close to crossings which are accessed by the public. Not many people get to see these remote signal structures close up and it’s a privilege to be able to do so.
As always, nothing is standard on the S&T, and the spacing between the ladder rungs is not the same from ladder to ladder. It’s therefore been necessary to drill additional holes in the anti-climb boards so the padlock can be fitted round a ladder rung. This was done on-site, hence each anti-climb board is individually fitted to its signal.
The Arley signals with the anti-climb boards are the up distant, the down homes and the down distant signals.
Click on the gallery for full screen images, descriptions and credits.
‘Smart’ work at Kidderminster Railway Museum
A restored wagon has had its new signage painted at Kidderminster Railway Museum this week - by none other than former Gloucestershire and England wicket keeper Jack Russell MBE!
Jack is an established professional artist; unsurprisingly cricket is a key theme, but he also covers a wide range of subjects including transport and heritage railways. This is, however, his first foray into sign writing.
The wagon is painted with ‘James H. Smart & Sons’; James Harry Smart was a prominent coal merchant and carrier in the late 1800s based on the Cotswolds canals at Chalford in Gloucestershire. As was usual at the time, Smart had a fleet of private owner wagons.
It’s a four-wheeled seven-plank wagon and was one of several donated to the SVR from 1969 by the British Sugar Corporation, then at Foley Park. Its original identity, builder and age are a mystery and more information can be found on the SVR Wiki. The wagon is now owned by the Kidderminster Railway Museum collection.
Photo: Jack Russell signwriting at the KRM in August 2021. Mike Anderson
There’s been a lot happening over the past few weeks, as infrastructure manager Chris Bond tells Branch Lines:
Planning permission and listed building consent has been granted for the proposed renovations on the original 1862 station building at Bridgnorth (see separate news item.) Planning continues for a detailed schedule of works that will allow tendering for the renovations. Meanwhile, the SVR's stonemason Philip Chatfield is to carry out repairs to the stone mullions (the vertical columns separating the window casements), using original stone recovered from the long-demolished goods shed office.
A couple of new projects involve Network Rail (NR) at Kidderminster.
During the small hours of 15th August a NR possession allowed SVR’s contractors Walsh Construction to repair the rainwater down pipes and remove a quantity of vegetation on the main line side of Kidderminster carriage works (the Pickford’s building.) Story Contracting supplied the mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) and engineering staff to supervise the operation. Many thanks to SVR volunteer and Story Contracting professional Chris Baines who helped enormously with the volumes of paperwork required.
The long-mooted plans by NR to replace the footbridge at Kidderminster that dissects our site, have now been given financial approval. This project has been in discussion for several years but is now programmed to start with site mobilisation in December. Work will then continue throughout the closed period with completion due in March 2022. The proposed design will be a single-span constructed in ‘weathering steel’ with new abutments at each end, as shown in the drawing. All traces of the existing bridge will disappear including the central brick pier, the removal of which will aid the sighting of the main line colour light signal.
Clearly the work will impact on the operation of the site and we have discussed the implications internally to identify any problems. The list of issues generated will be fed into future discussions with NR and their principal contractor as the start date draws nearer. Close cooperation will be required to ensure the SVR is not unduly inconvenienced by the works. Updates will be issued in future editions of Branch Lines once the work begins.
Elsewhere on the SVR, minor works continue. Scaffolding has been erected around three sides of Hampton Loade signal box to allow external painting to take place. Also, permanent way staff are working their way through an important programme of fettling work to all the turnouts along the Railway, based on a recent survey.
As reported elsewhere in this issue, vacant permanent way and signalling posts are advertised and we await applications to fill these key positions.
Click on the thumbnail for a full screen image of the plan. Credit: Network Rail
A taste of the Caribbean in Kidderminster!
With the sun making a welcome appearance over the Bank Holiday weekend, the SVR turned up the temperature with a unique food offering on Kidderminster concourse.
Caribbean Kitchen took up a five-day residency to serve a taste of traditional street food to passengers and pub visitors.
The selection of tasty dishes proved popular whilst helping to boost visitors to The King and Castle for an accompanying local ale.
“Back in July 2020 we proved that partnering with pop-up catering companies on the Kidderminster concourse really works well to drive footfall to the pub,” explained Michael Dunn, head of visitor experience. “This is the start of us ‘dipping our toes in the water’ with a variety of smaller events, managed by partners, to see what is feasible and what the interest is. There’s no risk for us and we benefit from the expertise of other businesses.”
Caribbean Kitchen at Kidderminster. Nathan James
Two accolades in a row for the SVR
For the second year running, the Severn Valley Railway has been given a TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award. TripAdvisor looks at locations around the globe and gives them awards based on feedback from genuine visitors.
As a result, the SVR and The Engine House has been given the accolade for appearing in the top 10% of visitor attractions globally.
Alongside this, the King and Castle has been awarded the equivalent prize in the ‘Restaurants and Eateries’ category.
Michael Dunn, head of visitor experience at the Severn Valley Railway, celebrated receiving the award for the second year running: “The Severn Valley Railway has always been synonymous with a quality service, from our customer service team to our dedicated volunteers. Our TripAdvisor reviews show that customers are enjoying each and every visit they make to the Railway.
“We continue to improve all areas of the Railway and value customers’ honest feedback to help us deliver the best experience we can. Whether you’re visiting us for a beer, a meal, an event or a family day out on a heritage loco, you know you’re guaranteed a quality service, every time.”
You can read the SVR’s reviews and add a review of your own on TripAdvisor.
The SVR is inviting applications for several roles to help run the Railway. Current vacancies include:
Casual contract catering assistants (variety of locations)
Food and beverage operations manager
Permanent way manager
Permanent way track worker
Signal engineering department maintenance technician
See our latest job opportunities, with employment information and application closure dates, at https://www.svr.co.uk/Employment.aspx. Please also publicise these vacancies.
Happy Birthday 24506, doesn’t time fly?
The 20th of August marked the fifth anniversary of former pigeon van 24506 entering service on the SVR. Originally built in 1943, LNER Brake Third 24506 arrived on the SVR in a sad state in 2005 and underwent extensive restoration and conversion to become a valuable and valued member of the SVR fleet.
2016 was a very busy year for the LNER Carriage Group, as former member and keen supporter of the LNER Carriage Group Richard Hill observed:
“This year also saw Restaurant Car 7960 visiting King's Cross for the unveiling of the Sir Nigel Gresley statue - 7960 being steam-hauled on the main line into the station and out again by the oldest restored Gresley engine, 0-6-2 tank N2 No 1744. This year also marked A3 Flying Scotsman's visit to the SVR where it hauled the first nine-carriage teak train in preservation. It was quite a year…!”
Not only was this particular train a first in preservation, it was a sight not seen since the Gresley Society ran a special train in 1964, with the-then 4472 hauling a set of nine BR maroon Gresley teaks.
In addition to these fabulous achievements, the LNER group also delivered an upgrade to the interior of LNER Open Third 52255. All in all, 2016 was a productive year, and one to look back on with pride!
Click on the gallery for full screen images, descriptions and credits.
Proving ‘small is beautiful’ at the SVR O Gauge event
Last weekend, 4th and 5th September, a group of volunteers organised a O Gauge get together at The Engine House, Highley. Attracting nearly 900 visitors across the weekend, it proved well worthwhile, as Nick Willcox tells Branch Lines:
Guildex, the main O Gauge Guild model railway event had been cancelled for the second year running, and a group of SVR model railway enthusiasts had the idea of putting on our own event. Martin Wood, Tom Clarke, Harry Bradley and myself started the ball rolling back in June, and hundreds of emails and Facebook messages later, we pulled it off with five layouts at The Engine House. The cancellation of November’s Warley show at the NEC means we have been almost the only act in town!
Layouts included Kevin Cartwright’s Warley award-winning Ventnor West, Dan Evason’s Little Burford, fresh from exposure in Hornby Magazine, Tom and Harry with Burlish Road, and the Luton O Gauge group with Willowbrook Marsh and Treolar Sidings. There were displays of superb loco building from the Bridgnorth group, complete with their diorama of Bridgnorth station itself and Woody’s Wagons. Alan Buttler brought his 3D body scanning stand, and the trader line up was completed by Dapol, Connoisseur Models, Ragstone Models and Walsworth Models. Brian Malyon staffed the Gauge O Guild’s information stand giving help and advice to any budding modellers.
While some layouts were setting up on the Friday morning, we had a visit from BBC Radio Shropshire’s Ryan Kennedy who was able to report on our antics on his breakfast show the following morning. As this went out, final tinkering was taking place on the layouts as everyone awaited the first train and a hint as to whether we would get the hoped-for turnout. Thirty-six hours later and it was all over; happy exhibitors who were glad to be able to do what they enjoy and show off their hobby, happy traders, most of them taking more than they expected, happy visitors, and happy Engine House staff who had seen the busiest weekend of the summer with the secondary spend well up.
Thanks must go to all the layout owners who came without expenses, Dave Brattan for writing up a risk assessment and Nicky, Mel, Carol and the other Engine House staff who could not have been more welcoming and accommodating. Now we get to start plotting all over again for next October, but in slightly less of a rush!
Click on the gallery for full screen images, descriptions and credits.
SVR online shop – volunteer help required
Head of visitor experience Michael Dunn is looking for a number of volunteers to join in growing the SVR’s online shop:
As many turned to online shopping in 2020, our own store at www.svrshop.co.uk became well-established, with a regular customer base. We’re looking to build on this and become the online one-stop shop for all things heritage railway.
We’re seeking volunteers who can commit at least six hours a week to help us with our online offering.
The role is based in Kidderminster but working across the line, with travel on board our services provided on running days.
Duties will be designated by the retail manager and include:
Listing items on ecommerce platforms (full training given)
Update existing online listings
Researching the value of items from other suppliers
Packing items for dispatch – can involve heavy lifting
An understanding of Microsoft Office and Excel is desirable, but full training will be given on the Shopify system and other back-office systems.
If you’re interested in applying for the role or have any questions, please get in touch with retail manager Lesley.firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Boosting resources for Volunteer Liaison
Barry Moreton and SVR Company Ltd (the Guarantee Company - SVRG) chairman Diane Malyon have been reviewing the wide-ranging volunteer liaison officer role. They are now looking to recruit new volunteer co-ordinators, as Diane told Branch Lines:
Barry and I concluded that the VLO role is now too onerous for one person. The staffing committee and SVRG board have approved a plan to create a ‘family tree’ of five new volunteer co-ordinator roles, who will report to Barry.
Listed below are the roles, together with a brief scope of each. Some lend themselves to working from home or around the Railway, so that the VLO office is unlikely to become overcrowded.
The closing date for expressions of interest is 15th October 2021. If you are interested in any of these, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send a job description.
Inductions and retention co-ordinator - induction and liaison with location reps for of new volunteers or those changing depts, check up on settled volunteers, liaison with zone reps regarding volunteer issues/suggestions
Volunteer database management co-ordinator - management of database, liaison with the database administrator and inductions and retention co-ordinator, communication with volunteers to ensure up to date info
Clothing and uniforms co-ordinator – sourcing, supplying, reordering and storage
Volunteer website management co-ordinator - management of volunteer website and functionality, liaison with database administrator and SVR communications & marketing
Pastoral co-ordinator – illness and bereavement liaison, remembrance and ashes dispersal for volunteers, manage the new railway chaplain initiative, management of long service and retirement passes and entitlements, management of volunteer voucher scheme
*Please note the Volunteer Office will remain closed for the immediate future due to present circumstances. https://www.svr-vlo.org.uk/
Decidedly not “all mirth and no matter”!
Outdoor theatre company Illyria has recommenced touring in 2021 after the pandemic restrictions were lifted with several productions, including Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Relevant to your Branch Lines how? Well, the professional cast includes Nicky Fox, one of your Branch Lines team!
Illyria productions are known for a small cast and gruelling productions (this features just five actors) which each playing multiple roles, often in the same scene with quick exits and quicker costume changes! Nicky has spent the summer touring Britain and playing principal characters Beatrice and Claudio, amongst others. You can see a gallery of the production on Illyria’s website.
Another of your team, Patrick, was in the audience for one of the final productions of the tour in grand surroundings of The Orangery at Goldney House, Clifton in Bristol. He reports it was a brilliant performance and production, including Nicky playing two parts on the same stage at the same time! The audience reception was amazing.
Nicky’s talents don’t end there as she’s also a freelance writer, an established railway heritage journalist and a communications associate with the SVR working with Lesley Carr. She puts the rest of the editorial team to shame! We’d like to say we wished her a rest as the tour ended, but instead she’s been at work helping bring you this issue of Branch Lines
Photo: Illyria's Much Ado About Nothing 2021 with Nicky Fox (left) as Claudio. Credit: Illyria
V1 9th September 2021
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Any opinions or views expressed in this newsletter are entirely the opinions of the contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Directors of Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) PLC. which owns the Severn Valley Railway, Severn Valley Railway Company Limited, the members of which are responsible for its operation, or the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust.