January 2021

75069 climbs past the Rifle Range heading towards Kidderminster with the Santa train by John Titlow

Welcome to your latest edition of Express Points!

Happy new year to all Express Points readers – and we know that like us, you’ll be wondering just what 2021 has in store for the Railway. Earlier this week, Lockdown 3 was put in place, and whilst it comes as the SVR enters its customary annual shutdown period, there are implications for the weeks and months ahead. Some of the sting of this latest development is taken away by the phenomenal success of our Christmas services during December and we report on the huge efforts undertaken to make sure these could happen. Feedback from visitors has been excellent, as you’ll read.

 

Meanwhile, the project to restore Hagley Hall reached a significant milestone with the return of its overhauled boiler. Another milestone was reached at Falling Sands, where the final part of this viaduct’s restoration took place last month. We have reports from many of the SVR’s departments on what’s been achieved in 2020, and what’s being planned for 2021. And we have a tribute article to Arthur Jones who recently died. WW2 veteran Arthur was a familiar face to many at the Railway especially at the 1940s events.

The news that regular volunteering on site is currently off the cards will be a blow to many, we know. We want to reassure you that Express Points will do its best to keep you informed on news and developments on your favourite heritage railway as we stay home and stay safe for Lockdown 3.

Best wishes from us all on the Express Points team.

Lesley and Patrick, co-editors

The Express Points team is Lesley Carr, Patrick Hearn, Amy Baker and Nicola Fox

 

Lockdown 3 and what it means for the SVR

The announcement of a third national lockdown on Monday 4th January meant the senior management team needed to make a number of important decision about the coming months. 

Fortunately, the government announcement came as the Railway was about to begin its annual shutdown and maintenance period. However, uncertainty over the lockdown’s length means that February half-term services will not go ahead as planned. Plans for an Easter weekend opening will be reviewed on a weekly basis. 

On-site maintenance will continue in both the infrastructure and engineering departments in order to complete essential work that will ensure the Railway is ready for its 2021 running season. 

Paid staff in retail, catering, bars and The Engine House will be furloughed after the annual stock takes have been completed. Visitor services will provide minimum cover at Comberton Place to answer enquiries and ensure things are ready for ticket sales for the 2021 season.

Only mission critical work will be permitted on site, and this applies to both volunteers and paid staff. The majority of the Railway’s volunteers are being advised to stay at home, especially those in a high risk group. Those required to complete essential work must obtain prior agreement from their senior manager. The infrastructure department has additional volunteering opportunities over the next three months for working members from other departments – please contact chris.bond@svrlive.com to register your interest. 

All SVR accommodation will be closed throughout the lockdown; exceptions for staff needed to complete mission critical tasks will need to be agreed by the local accommodation committee. 

Security walks have already resumed, carried out by local volunteers as part of their daily exercise. Chairman of SVRG Diane Malyon is once again coordinating these. The Railway will issue regular trespass warnings on social media, and lineside passes are being revoked. 

General manager Helen Smith summed up the Railway’s position: 

“It is worth noting that we would have been closed for the majority of this period anyway. We have entered 2021 in a better cash position than we anticipated as we have been able to operate a very successful Christmas period, thanks to the huge dedication and effort of many, many volunteer and paid staff.

“At this point I would not want anyone to worry about the future of the SVR; we have done everything in our power to control costs and bring in what income we can. There are further grant applications being worked on now that will hopefully bring in additional support. We will do our very best to keep in touch with you via NBIs as before. If you are in touch with colleagues who don’t currently receive NBIs then could you please remind them to sign up for the email notifications by emailing support@svrlive.com with ‘NBI’ in the subject line, and a name and email address in the body of the email.

“What we need you to do now is focus on yourself and your wellbeing. Stay at home. Stay well and we will see you back at the Railway in the near future.”

Photo: 1501 at Hay Bridge with the 11am Kidderminster to Bridgnorth service on 30th December 2020, the last day of services. Ian Murray.

Christmas 2020 - what an achievement!

In a year of immense uncertainty, the SVR has provided thousands of passengers with a fantastic Christmas experience. Here are the impressive statistics for the 2020 Christmas season:

  • 58 Santa trains over 10 days 

  • 47 Steam in Lights services over 16 days 

  • 8 Mince Pie Specials from Bridgnorth and Kidderminster 

  • 4 evening and 3 luncheon Christmas dining trains to The Engine House 

  • 4 days of festive season services

Each operation is a complicated and well-coordinated exercise. Below, Martin White gives his thoughts about the Bridgnorth Steam in Lights operation, and events manager Lewis Maddox added his thanks to those involved in all the services:

“Not only are all the operational staff needed to move passengers and make trains run, but we also needed train managers and present packers on Santa Trains, and each set of carriages needed cleaning between services…the list goes on! And we mustn’t forget all the set up and take down teams that have to battle with miles of tinsel and thousands of sparkly lights, taking delivery of presents and filling faulty jingle bells with jingles – yes, that’s also a thing we had to contend with!”

Christmas on the SVR is a massive undertaking, but it all pays off when you read the positive reviews and survey results, as we report elsewhere in this edition of Express Points. Not only have these consolidated the SVR’s brand as an award-winning attraction, but also its reputation as a safe place to visit in a world which, at times, has been very scary. Lewis added:

“Christmas 2020 was a huge success, and that’s down to the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and paid staff. One thing is for certain; we have an amazing team of people! Every single person who helped make the SVR’s Christmas 2020 happen played a key role. At the end of it all, I feel humbled and proud to be a member of #TeamSVR.”

The hard work continues and plans are already in development for Christmas 2021. The new winning formula for Santa Trains will return with a different show, exciting extras will be added to Steam in Lights and there are hopes of welcoming back the popular Carol Trains.

Lots to look forward to, and as Lewis puts it: “Ho, ho, ho-ver and out!”

Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.

 

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Steam in Lights – true team working at its best 

The SVR’s head of engineering (and volunteer shed master) Martin White contacted Express Points to share his thoughts and appreciation for everyone involved in the Steam in Lights operation: 

I hope that the editors will think it appropriate to include this short piece in our monthly journal. This isn’t about singling out any one person, group or activity, more to recognise the dedication that so many people demonstrate on our Railway. It’s shown the length and breadth of the SVR by all sorts of different people, but sometimes I think we don’t fully recognise it or appreciate the depth of it. So herewith is my record of appreciation for those who helped out on Steam in Lights on the SVR in 2020. 

The station staff and people movers, the meeters and greeters, station announcers and car park stewards. The latter spent four or five hours on a wet and windy December night, not even within sight of the train, being the all-important first contact point with the SVR for our visitors. 

Some volunteers managed just a single night, some did one evening a week and some managed the whole lot, every night, every train. Some had not been able to volunteer in their usual place since the mid-March lockdown, but they took up the challenge and joined in during the Steam in Lights hour of need. Our visitors would not have realised that the person on the platform, working as the steward of their carriage, normally volunteers in the loco shed at Bridgnorth, or on the station at Bewdley, or has a senior management position in the company offices at Kidderminster or might even sit on the board of directors.

 

The hospitality staff, cooking meals and serving food and drink to visitors and staff alike. The gift shop staff, selling their wares and touting for trade, the booking office folks, and the ‘front desk’ folks at Kidderminster dealing with ticket holders who had gone to the wrong station and even to the wrong railway! The carriage cleaners, preparing the train for each day's visitors, and in between each train load of visitors. 

The folks who looked after the lineside displays at Crossing Cottage, Hampton Loade and Sterns. Did any of our visitors consider that some poor soul had to switch the latter off, out in the middle of the Shropshire countryside after the last train had passed? 

The signalmen and the on-train crew, guard, ticket inspectors, train manager looking after the computer system, snow machine and walkie talkie. The generator minder, who doesn’t have the most taxing of jobs as the machines hopefully look after themselves, but who also, when everyone else has gone home, has the task of turning off the car park lighting unit and locking the security gate on Station Lane. Bad enough for them to be finishing after 10pm, but some of them had started their ‘day job’ at 7.30am or had been cleaning the previous night’s ashes and clinkers from the steam loco grate at 10.30am prior to raising steam for the coming day’s service. 

The steam loco crew and cleaners. Yes, it’s normally considered to be a ‘glamour job’. But an 11-hour shift, that involves fewer than 15 miles of heading the train isn’t very glamourous…and in the dark too! And the class 14 diesel loco crew, sometimes castigated simply because it’s a diesel, or even the wrong type of diesel! It even had the audacity to break down on one occasion, but a spare loco and crew were provided. By the end of the night the trains were back on time and the broken down class 14 had been repaired and was fit for duty again the next day and no further issues were experienced for the duration. It didn’t fix itself. Somebody had to make that repair. And after all of that it never even got a negative mention in amongst all the excellent TripAdvisor feedback! 

Finally, let’s not forget, that somebody had to schedule and roster all of these personnel. And also, consider that all of the above are just the tasks during the daily operating, and there were countless hours of planning, organising, set up and take down to be done too. Thank you to all.

Photo: 34027 Taw Valley during the Steam in lights Tom Clarke

 

Return of 4930 Hagley Hall’s boiler to the SVR 

Shortly before Christmas, the boiler for 4930 Hagley Hall arrived back at the SVR after undergoing an extensive amount of work at Northern Steam Engineering.

 

The work required on the boiler was substantial and meant an 18-month stay at Stockton, the home of Northern Steam Engineering. NSE’s commercial manager Danny Dymott said:

"This has been a major overhaul with the inner firebox being removed from the boiler and stripped to component parts. It’s included a 75% new outer firebox, a new front tubeplate, produced by ourselves at Northern Steam Engineering using traditional methods, and fitting of all-new fire box stays produced at Bridgnorth by the Severn Valley Railway’s engineering team. We look forward to seeing the progress at Bridgnorth with the locomotive’s overhaul, and its return to traffic as soon as possible."

Prior to the boiler’s return to Shropshire, a steam test was carried out on Monday 7th December by Northern Steam Engineering at their premises in Stockton. During the inspection, the safety valves lifted for the first time since the locomotive last dropped its fire in October 1986.

Project leader David Fulcher-Insull is confident that the return of this key component brings the loco’s return to service a significant step closer:

“It’s always been a bit of a concern whether it would be ready; the delivery of the boiler now means we’ve got everything to move on to complete the project. We’re on target.” 

Once the flagship locomotive of the SVR, Hagley Hall was built in 1929 and clocked 1,295,236 miles in its 34 years of service for the Great Western Railway and British Railways' Western Region. Withdrawn in 1963 it was rescued from Dai Woodham’s yard in Barry by the SVR Holdings Company in June 1972. 4930 will reach its centenary at the end of the decade and has now been under SVR ownership for longer than it ran in mainline service!

The return of 4930 to steam service will see the culmination of decades of tireless fundraising and work by the Friends of Locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall who have raised well in excess of £100,000 since their formation. These funds were further swelled by £800,000 from the SVR Charitable Trust, including many donations and a legacy from a SVR supporter, along with the injection of £95,000 of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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The return of the 25-ton boiler was covered by the Railway’s YouTube channel, showing its arrival and transfer to a wagon to enable access for volunteers. Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd7R9f3ZDwE&t=19s 

 

To find out more about the Friends of Locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall or to become a friend, click on the link to visit their website.

STOP PRESS: At Bridgnorth, Dave Insull’s team have just completed work on rewheeling Hagley Hall’s bogie. They started by fitting the felt pads and under keeps (oil boxes), then assembled the spring beams, which are the suspension for the bogie unit. The second photo shows the spring set upside down in the middle of the beam. They moved onto lowering the main frame onto the axle box. The final photo shows the almost finished job, which was just awaiting the tie frame to go underneath.

Click on the video to watch on YouTube. Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.

 

Didn’t we do well?

Following a sell-out festive season, the SVR is celebrating a five-star response to its Christmas services, which included Santa Trains, the second-year of Steam in Lights and a hearty selection of Christmas dining. During this period, visitors to the Railway were asked to fill out a private survey on Survey Monkey and leave a review on TripAdvisor; the results of which were overwhelmingly positive.

On TripAdvisor, these positive reviews lead to an increased rating for the SVR, from a reasonably positive 3.4 (out of an available 5) in 2019 to an impressive 4.8. Meanwhile Survey Monkey was lit up with praise for Bridgnorth’s Steam in Lights, with almost 89% of people confirming that they’d recommend the event to a friend (an increase of 9% based on 2019) and 75% likely to return for the event themselves in 2021 (an increase of 17% based on 2019.)

SVR marketing manager Dan Shorthouse has been crunching all the numbers and told Express Points:

“The reviews we receive on TripAdvisor encourage others to visit and for the Christmas season those reviews were full of superlatives with visitors reporting that events were ‘fantastic’, ‘magical’ and most importantly ‘incredibly safe.’ Reports from our fantastic volunteers echoed those of visitors, praising the new Santa operation which involved the Santa show at Arley whilst a team of ‘magical elves’ on board each train placed named presents into compartments. 

“Thank you to everyone involved with planning, setting up, organising and helping to man this event – we’re already looking forward to Christmas 2021!” 

For those wanting more information, all TripAdvisor reviews can be seen at bit.ly/SVRLeaveAReview

The photo shows staff at Arley on 5th December, waiting to please our visitors! Helen Smith.

 
 

In memoriam

Jenny Hall I am sad to announce Jenny’s death, in a Telford Hospice on Christmas Eve. I had no idea that she was that ill, though I was aware that her cancer was serious. She loved the Railway, and when not TTIing, would often be seen taking her grandchildren ‘on the cushions’. Our thoughts go out to Graham (her husband) and family at this awful time. Jim Seaton, train crew manager (TTIs and FE hosts) 

 

Tribute to WW2 veteran Arthur Jones

The celebrated WW2 veteran Lance Bombardier Arthur Jones sadly passed away in December, aged 94. Arthur was a familiar figure to many at the SVR, appearing regularly at the Railway’s annual 1940s event where he spoke at the closing ceremonies.

 

Speaking in tribute to Arthur, Paul Bowler of the 1940s committee said:

 

“For many years we have been privileged to have Arthur attend our annual 1940s event speaking on behalf of those who fought in WW2. Arthur reminded us all of why we present this event: to remember that those who laid their lives on the line, did so for all of us who now enjoy freedom. He would always stress that the awards he wore on his chest were for not there for him, but for ‘his lads’ who had made the ultimate sacrifice. He will be sorely missed by us all at the SVR.”

Called up for service in 1944, just a few weeks after his 18th birthday, Arthur was assigned to the 147th Essex Yeomanry as a tank driver. Within just 20 weeks he and his crew found themselves in the horrors of the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Speaking in 2019, Arthur said,

 

“As far as I was concerned the papers came and you just went…. We didn’t know what we was going into did we? When I got there, I was frightened then, you grew up pretty fast, I’ll tell you.” Having fought their way inland, his tank was disabled in the French town of Levin where the crew took refuge with a French family. 

Arthur’s bravery did not go unnoticed and he was decorated several times, including most recently in July 2016 when he was awarded France’s highest distinction The Legion of Honour or Legion d’honneur, the French version of a knighthood. Presenting the award to Arthur, Colonel Patrice Morand said: 

“This ceremony is firstly a message of gratitude to men and women who were ready to give their lives to liberate us. Through the insignia of Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, France wants to thank you for your absolute commitment to freedom. To you, France owes its freedom.”

 

In addition to his appearances at the SVR, Arthur also volunteered at RAF Cosford, giving talks about his experiences to school groups. In recent years, Arthur was also featured in a short film made for Vice in conjunction with the British Legion, called Back in My Day: Members of the Armed Forces.

Click on the above link to view the film by Vice. It is also available at on: https://www.facebook.com/VICE/posts/2738364799530094

Good-Bye to All That 

On 9th December GWR 1400 Class 0-4-2T No 1450, running in autotrain mode with matching GWR Autotrailer Third 178, ran a series of private shuttles between Bridgnorth and Highley for its owners, just before the expiry of its boiler ticket. Although the sun didn’t shine, our contributing photographers were out in force as this gallery of evocative images shows. 1450 is a popular engine, and will be very much missed. 

Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.

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“The winter is at hand”

Snowfall affected the Railway in late December, leading to the SVR closing for a day on 29th December. 

Snow fell from the morning of Monday, 28th December. The Met Office issued a yellow warning for snow in the West Midlands and, in some areas, Police advised people to drive only if essential. 

The SVR ran reduced services, with one train (The Adventurer and The Explorer) commencing each end of the line. The 10.15am departure from Kidderminster (The Flyer) was cancelled and passengers still wishing to travel were transferred to The Explorer.

 

The SVR struggled with signalling equipment clogged and frozen with snow, and so trains ran late. Unfortunately, The Engine House was not able to open because staff could not get into work. 

General manager Helen Smith, said, “Thank you to everyone who made valiant efforts to run services despite the unexpected snow. I know many experienced difficulties travelling in and covering roles for others and their dedication is much appreciated.” 

With a forecast of more overnight snow and freezing temperatures the Railway made the difficult decision to cancel services on the 29th. It reopened as normal on Wednesday, 30th December, though services on the 31st were cancelled when Worcestershire and Shropshire both became Tier 3 areas for the days leading up to the announcement of a third national lockdown on 4th January.

Photo: 43106 approaching Bewdley Tunnel heading to Kidderminster on 28th December 2020. Andrew Blackford 

 

Success in spite of it all

Kidderminster C&W correspondent Angela Walker looks back on the successes of 2020:

 

Happy new year to you! Lockdown is not quite the start we would have liked, so I’m going to focus on the positives of the past year!

Despite being a very challenging year for so many people in so many different ways, the SVR’s volunteer carriage groups and paid staff achieved much in the last 12 months. Since we don’t do it often enough, I would like to take a moment to blow our own trumpet and share with our Express Points readers what the carriage teams have turned out in the year of 2020.

 

Drum roll please, and in no particular order:

 

Great Western 9055, a Churchward-designed family saloon carriage, underwent a heavy repair and repaint. Built in 1912, 9055 is the oldest carriage currently running on the SVR and rather special as she is a one-off, being a replacement for a gaslit carriage that burnt down.

 

24506, the Pigeon Van, one of our LNER Gresley Teaks, had a deeper level of work, with a repaint of the roof and the whole carriage revarnished whilst in the paint shop. 24506 received mechanical attention and had her bogies sent away for tyre turning, due to wheel flats, and minor works were carried out to the brake rigging.

 

Teaks 43600, 52255 and 7960 have all been revarnished.

 

80972 Great Western Inspection Saloon went into Bridgnorth paint shop for a medium repair and repaint. Bridgnorth paint shop also repainted BR 3083 Experimental Open, built in 1957.

 

GWR 7284 Corridor Composite received a heavy repair and repaint and was the last carriage to exit the Kidderminster Carriage Works paint shop in 2020. It was used in December on the festive trains along with 6045 GW Corridor Composite which has also just entered traffic following a lengthy body restoration and a full mechanical overhaul.

 

Talking of carriages, just out of the works and nearly ready to enter traffic is 16169, which has received a very heavy body rebuild, and has had a mechanical overhaul; the brake overhaul included vacuum brake cylinders, buckeye couplers and a replacement coil spring. Hornguide liner plates have been replaced or descaled and 16169 is currently awaiting a test run.


LMS buffet car 149 had routine planned mechanical exams and repairs, including a wheelset change on one bogie due to wheel flats.

The impressive amount of work done to Great Western (SVR) Association-owned 2242 GWR Hawksworth brake third could fill an article of its own! The list includes a complete brake overhaul, re-arranging the wheelsets, steam heat work and so much more. The owning group is currently replacing the original floor, which has been removed by specialist company D J Hinton Ltd as it contained asbestos. Mechanical work will continue when the floor is complete.

Wow! So, considering we’ve had lockdowns, skeleton staff and bubble teams I think we have done amazingly to achieve what we have!

 

Well done to the SVR family.

 

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A successful season at Bridgnorth MPD

Achieving a successful Christmas season isn’t easy but it helps to come prepared as volunteer shed master Martin White reports: 

 

How lucky were we to operate our December services in the current pandemic? Sometimes you will hear sportsmen, especially football managers, claim that you need to make your own luck. I like to think we did just that, through good planning, good preparation and good operation; all resulting in a very good loco performance.

The Santa services working out of Kidderminster were hauled by 75069 and 43106. There were some issues with the loco coal, but explanations of that would fill an article on their own! The locos themselves didn’t behave quite faultlessly but weren’t far off. The reliable performance is a testament to the Engineering Services team at Bridgnorth who not only turned them out in good shape but also effected some very rapid repairs when required. On one Saturday afternoon, the steam heat valve on 75069 was being fixed whilst it ran around the stock at Highley! A bit of luck played a part with this, as an off duty fitter was in the neighbourhood whilst conducting a line inspection on the class 14 diesel. The Santa trains were also a testament to the hard work and long hours put in by volunteer staff at Bewdley MPD. By the time the first Santa train was pulling out of Kidderminster some of those shed volunteers had probably already done more than six hours’ work. 

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At Bridgnorth, 34027, ‘Taw Valley’ was on the Steam in Light services. Five nights a week, three trains a night to Hampton Loade, top and tailed with the class 14. Maybe this sounds easy for the big Pacific? However, it was far from it, being lit up at by volunteer staff at about 11 am each day, off shed before 3 pm, ready to heat the stock and move the train out of the station well in advance of its first grand entrance at 4.20. When working from Hampton Loade, it had a load of nine carriages plus the class 14 diesel. A good load even for this class 7 loco and one that was challenging to keep moving at a steady walking pace past the lineside displays, especially on the 1-in-100 bank at Crossing Cottage. 34027 was regularly consuming more than three tons of coal and a tender full (5,500 gallons) of water on this duty. Again, the loco was almost faultless throughout the entire series of trains. 

After Christmas our luck ran out, when bad weather and Covid restrictions curtailed our operations, which was a shame, as it was scheduled that our smaller locos, 7714, 1501 and 813 would operate the season’s finale. 

On the subject of small locos, Austerity ‘Welsh Guardsman’ has gone away on hire to Embsay Railway until April. And finally, 1450 has now been withdrawn from service as its boiler has reached the end of its ‘ticket’. One last day in steam took place on 9th December, in the form of a private auto train for the loco owner, this being the first and only time in 2020 that he had seen the locomotive [see above article - Ed].

SVR Diesel committee chairman Jonathan Dunster, added: “I would like to draw attention to the performance of D9551 on the Steam in Lights operation. As with Taw Valley, was almost faultless throughout the entire series of trains which really put this fantastic little loco in the spotlight for the first time.”

Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.

 

Testing times

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Following reports in the railway press that testing of some of GBRf’s new Class 69 diesel locomotives (rebuilds of earlier Class 56s) will take place on the SVR, vice-chairman Mike Ball gives us a quick update: 

Reports are slightly premature as there are no firm dates as to when this will take place, although the SVR is in discussions with GBRf about using the line for testing some of the Class 69s and the planning process for this is underway.

This is an exciting opportunity for the SVR, and represents a potentially important revenue stream at a time when the Railway has seen a significant drop in its income because of Covid-19.

 

Please note, however, as with ‘Royal Scot’ and ‘Braunton’ last year, this would be a commercial testing arrangement, The operators are likely to plan their testing to best suit their needs on the day in a Covid-19 secure environment, and we do not expect details to be published.

 

Any information included in operating notices etc must only be published by authorised personnel, using official SVR channels.

Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.

 

Restoration of Falling Sands – job done!

In mid-December the final piece of corbelling was slotted in to place on the Falling Sands Viaduct and the Railway’s contractors left site, marking the end of the civils work on this huge infrastructure restoration.

Work began on restoring the viaduct back in December 2019 - the track was lifted, ballast removed and new concrete poured in. Phase 2, to repair the brickwork, started in June 2020 but swiftly came to a halt when bats were seen flying out from beneath one the arches! A license was obtained from Natural England and work was able to restart in July. 

The project has come up against many challenges including Covid-19, bats and even bees, so it’s a huge accomplishment for the repairs to be finished just a few weeks later than was originally planned.

However, as the project delivery manager Emma Armstrong told Express Points, this is not the end of the Falling Sands project:

“Even as we face further uncertain months ahead, this year we will be looking at new ways to engage with our visitors about the history of the SVR and the original construction of Falling Sands Viaduct, including the development of the exhibition spaces at The Engine House and within the Stove R, which we hope to relaunch this spring.”

Photo: 7714 crossing Falling Sands Viaduct on 30th December 2020. Craig Tiley

 

Health and Safety is here to stay 

Health and safety manager Richard Morris has passed on his thanks to everyone who completed the recent H&S survey. The preliminary results are both surprising and mixed: 

 

  • 75% of respondents would feel comfortable to report and address issues.

  • 80% said they’d been provided with suitable training, for the remainder training requirements need to be reviewed and realigned to their roles. 

  • There’s a divide between suitable training provided to those in ‘operational’ roles (relating to train and vehicle movements etc) and ‘non-operational’ roles (such as those in C&W, ESMP, HQ and P-Way, hospitality and catering.)

  • Some highlighted concerns such as a lack of basic H&S induction, lack of provision or incorrect PPE, and that training is reactive rather than proactive.

  • There was mixed messaging – some areas interpret the rules ‘locally’ and therefore do not align with overarching SVR Policies and Procedures. 

Richard has pledged to follow up all comments that require it, and he told Express Points

“When something is required to help keep people safe and healthy then the Railway will give it the utmost priority. It has a duty to keep everyone from harm, and both paid staff and volunteers have an absolute duty to comply with the Policies, Procedures, training and instruction given. We are one team, and everyone must carry out our work professionally and safely. This of course requires everyone’s co-operation.” 

In 2021 the Railway will review the Competency Management System and training requirements for all roles. Richard added: “It’s irksome to be assessed on equipment which you have used without incident, but it’s essential that the SVR can demonstrate to authorities such as the ORR that we train, monitor and supervise activities.”

Holdings Board director, Andy Barr is developing a strategic two-year plan to improve safety. A key element is to create further safety groups and champions across the Railway, to give individuals a platform for their concerns to be heard and for feedback. 2021 will hopefully start to unite the working groups.

Richard concluded: “If each of us working at the Railway could identify, report and make safe just one hazard, think of where we might be in 12 months’ time! I also urge all managers, supervisors and team leaders to evaluate your working areas and to address matters which require attention, or if that’s not possible identify them so you can formulate a plan for remedial action.”

Photo: Working at height on 1501, from the SVR safety video 2020 

 

Keeping alive the sounds of steam

Voluntary Eardington station master Steve Downes has been in a reflective mood.

 

It’s just after dark on an autumn evening, at a small station on a GWR branch line, and the calm of the night is broken by the distant sound of a steam train making its way along the Severn Valley.

 

The engine whistles at numerous crossings, and the sound echoes back from the other side of the valley.

 

Then the sound fades as the driver shuts off steam for a P-way slack, and even at three-quarters of a mile the rumble of carriage wheels over rail joints can be heard in the still air.

It’s a sound that has been heard here for more than 150 years, since the Railway opened in 1862. It could be the 1930s or 1950s, but it’s actually 2020 and the sounds of the steam railway are still ringing through the night air; in this case the evening train to Highley (for diners), running onto to Bridgnorth.

 

Standing on the platform at Eardington, I can clearly hear the engine’s exhaust pick up as the train accelerates away from Sterns. Soon the flickering loco lamps come into sight and then a GWR Pannier Tank is barking through the station, showering the platform with sparks. There’s a shouted ‘hellooooo’ from the train - stonemason Philip Chatfield heading to Bridgnorth and the chippy - and all too soon the taillight is disappearing around the curving cutting side, leaving steam and the sound of an engine climbing hard hanging in the air. 

Two months later and the valley is shrouded in thick mist. This time the distant whistle is that of a Bulleid Pacific, though it’s being out-hooted by a couple of tawny owls in nearby Daddy Wood. As the train pulls away from Sterns and its Steam in Lights appointment with the Cacklers, the loco slips briefly, then gets a grip and builds momentum, though the sound is much softer than the pannier’s sharp bark. Soon Taw Valley is hurrying through the station, working hard to lift a well filled eight-coach train up Eardington Bank from an almost standing start, filling the air with the scent of burning coal and the unmistakable sound of steam. Close your eyes and it could be the Southern Region in the 60s. 

It’s gratifying to know that while we’re entertaining families on board the train and bringing in much-needed revenue, we’re also keeping alive the authentic sound of real steam along the Severn Valley. Long may it continue.

Photo: Steam in lights passes Eardington December 2020. Steve Downes 

 

Wanted: your press cuttings of the SVR! 

Rob Whale in the Railway's archive department is looking for press cuttings of the SVR from 1965 onwards, and from recent and current editions of two local newspapers in particular. Rob explained: 

“Various people have contributed press cuttings over the years but, in more recent times, items of SVR interest published in the Express & Star and the Shropshire Star have completely dried up. We’d to love make contact with supporters who take either of these two papers, and who’d be willing to scan and send copies of any relevant articles to archive@svrlive.com. Alternatively, you could post cuttings to me at SVR Archive, Number One, Comberton Place, Kidderminster, DY10 1QR.” 

The SVR set up its archives in 2009. These are held at The Engine House at Highley and contain information dating back to the earliest days of the SVR’s preservation. They contain a full set of SVR News, every timetable and promotional booklet, plus many old SVR posters and timetables.

The department’s collection of press cuttings is extensive and dates back to the closure of the Tenbury branch in 1965.

Photo: This cutting showed the demolition of Hollybush Road underbridge at Bridgnorth. With thanks to the Shropshire Star for permission to use this image. 

 

Deadline for donations to the two Davids

Donations and tributes to the SVR’s two Davids have been flowing in, following the announcement in the December edition of Express Points of the Railway’s intention to honour their long service with a presentation of a gift to them both. David Williams and David Mellor were both early members of the (then) SVR Society and between them the two Davids have clocked up more than 100 years of unbroken service to the board of the SVR Company Limited.

 

Volunteers, staff and SVR friends are able to contribute towards the gift using the link https://svr.digitickets.co.uk/category/31556 or by phoning 01562 757900 (option 1).

 

The deadline for donations is the 28th February, so if you’d like to add your words of tribute and donation, you still have time. 

 

Former apprentice Max stars on TV 

Last Thursday evening (7th January), the SVR’s very own Max Green was the star guest on Channel 4’s George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. His long-term project to build a shepherd’s hut, complete with wood-fired hot tub had attracted the programme makers, who filmed with him over an 18-month period, both at home and at the SVR.

Now an improver fitter-machinist based at Bridgnorth motive power depot, Max is one of the success stories of the Railway’s pioneering apprenticeship scheme. He told us more about his fascinating out-of-work passion project: 

“My build took the form of a traditionally built shepherd's hut and wood-fired hot tub, made using the many skills which I have learnt over my seven years at the Railway. Skills passed on by experienced hands willing to share their knowledge, something that I am very thankful for. 

“Of course, opportunities like this do not come knocking. I have worked extremely hard to make my childhood dreams a reality. Firstly to work as an engineer at the steam railway so close to where I grew up, and secondly, to build my very own shepherd's hut.

“Sometimes I have to take a step back and pinch myself to really appreciate where I work and the things I have achieved. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at the Railway for giving me the opportunity to fulfil one lifelong ambition and in doing so, helping me achieve another.” 

You can watch the programme (episode 1 of series 10) on C4’s catch up service

The Heritage Apprenticeship Scheme, which Max completed over four years at the SVR, is funded entirely by the SVR Charitable Trust, and is helping to ensure the continuation of essential skills. To help fund this important initiative, you can donate at svrtrust.org.uk 

Photo: Max Green and George Clarke with Max's traditionally built shepherd's hut and wood-fired hot tub in 2020. Clare Green

 

Round the horn

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For many, Christmas is the time of giving and receiving and the best gifts are the unexpected ones. The SVR’s general manager Helen Smith was the unexpected recipient of handmade gift from the Railway’s stonemason Philip Chatfield. A chance conversation at Bewdley station, a small amount of left over stone and a stonemason who doesn’t like to be idle combined to make this unusual present, a stone carving of a French Horn. The stone in question was left over from the work Philip had been doing previously at Arley station and originated in a quarry in Morley, near Leeds in Yorkshire. Given Helen’s own origins, the connection seemed too good an opportunity to miss! Philip said:

 

“As a sculptor, I am always making something and when I was working on the Falling Sands stone blocks Helen popped over to Bewdley station and mentioned that she played the French horn and had once tried to carve one herself. I thought that would be fun to have a go at making, tricky even.”

 

On receiving her unusual Christmas present Helen said:

 

“I was thrilled and very grateful to receive the plaque from Philip, and I honestly had no idea he was carving this for me. He told me the idea came after a conversation we’d had one time, when I mentioned the fact that I studied music for my undergraduate degree. This is another example of the wonderful craftsmanship that he brings, on a much larger scale, to the SVR.”

 

Meanwhile there’s no end to Philip’s talents, as he recently became a star of BBC Radio 3. A recording of him hard at work on one of the Falling Sands Viaduct capping stones (recorded by Graham Phillips of C&W) was chosen to be one of their ‘Saturday Sounds’ where recorded sounds of life are mixed with music. Both the SVR and the Falling Sands Viaduct were name-checked in the broadcast, which you can listen to here:

 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000qy2t

 

Philip’s contribution can be heard from 1hr 14 minutes into the programme, and it’s available online until the end of the month.

Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.

 

Skills, surplus and requirement 

Welcome to a new segment of Express Points

All along the SVR are surplus materials left over from projects, and Railwayana acquired over many years, awaiting use. Meanwhile there are projects in need of such raw materials, that the project leaders may not realise are already nearby. The Railway is also lucky to have many skilled staff members such as carpenters, welders, tin smiths etc working within departments, who perhaps are not always aware when their skills are needed elsewhere. 

The solution to this is here; a classified section of Express Points set up for anyone on the SVR with requirements for skills, materials or in possession of surplus items for Railway-based projects.

Individuals and groups are invited to write in directly with details of the task/items, including a photo where possible and always a point of contact for responses. We hope this idea will greatly enhance the SVR at little or no cost.

This month’s requirement is as follows:

Wanted: GWR type 2 cast lamp posts and/or lamp tops.

There is a requirement for several GW-type cast lamp posts of the number 2 type (8 feet height) to illuminate the path from Highley Station to The Engine House. Lamp tops are also needed. If you can help, please contact James Cooper: james.cooper@svrlive.com 

Photo: Wanted: GWR type 2 cast lamp posts, such as this as Bridgnorth. James Cooper 

 

Winter works plans 

With less funding available and reduced resources, the Railway is taking the opportunity of the extended closed period until Easter to consolidate what was achieved in 2020 and finish off several projects, as infrastructure manager Chris Bond tells Express Points.

Firstly, the permanent way team will be undertaking a rail-changing exercise at Falling Sands to make use of the better quality rail obtained from Dudley (see November’s Express Points).

 

We will also complete the remaining welding, followed by mechanical stressing of the continuous welded section of track that runs from the Bewdley side of the tunnel to the loop points by the carriage shed at Kidderminster. Further tamping will take place both here and at other areas along the Railway. 

Regular readers will recall the two landslips following the floods of February 2020 (covered in updates in Express Points.)

We continue to monitor Sterns and, so far, it seems to be behaving. We will install remote ‘tilt monitoring’ systems at both locations to detect any movement in the slip areas that exceeds set parameters, and which will send out text alerts and illuminate red stop lamps either side. These will alert train crews that a movement has taken place and requires investigation before further traffic can traverse the slip. We plan to use these systems until stabilisation works have been carried out or, in the case of Sterns, until the drainage system has improved the stability.

 

We have scheduled work at Alveley Woods for mid-March when contractors will install a small drainage system adjacent to the landslip to assist with removal of rainwater, similar to that installed at Sterns. We will provide logistical support with plant and materials delivered to site by rail due to the remote location.

The Cultural Recovery grant funds a number of CCTV, fire detection and intruder alarm projects. Works have started at Kidderminster with the installation of an on-site data network provided over radio links. This will provide improved IT infrastructure around the site and remote monitoring of the CCTV from the diesel depot and carriage shed. We intend that the other works will be carried out before the end of March. 

Also scheduled is replacement of decking on Cleobury Road bridge at Bridgnorth by external contractors, and fettling works on points located on the bridge. Other planned works include:

  • Replacement of a pair of worn switches on the points controlling access to platform 1 at Kidderminster. 

  • Replacement of rail clips in Bewdley tunnel with corrosion resistant versions. 

  • Fettling work on Bewdley points controlling access at north end to platforms 2 and 3.

I hope that this will provide a flavour of what we will be doing during the closed season as we consolidate the extensive works undertaken in 2020. 

 

Photo: An image at Sterns. 9th December 2020 - 1450 & Auto Coach are seen at Sterns as they head for Bridgnorth. Ian Murray

 

Leaving a lasting legacy

At the beginning of a new year people often think a little more about the future. Yet, it might surprise you to know that that 54% of British people have not yet made a Will.

 

The SVR Charitable Trust is highlighting the enormous value of people leaving a lasting legacy in their Will. For example, over half of the £1 million it’s costing to restore the flagship locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall, for instance, was provided by gifts in Wills, helping to secure the future success of the Railway. 

Of course providing for your loved ones in your Will is your priority and once this is made certain, you may also wish to give something to support the long-term survival of the Severn Valley Railway.

 

Margaret Flint, who has done just that, explained “I love seeing families at the Railway. Although I never had children myself, it’s important to me to know that the SVR will be there for young people in the future. The apprenticeship scheme here is wonderful. Young people are getting the training they need to look after these amazing machines.” 

Making or changing a Will is much easier than you might think and the SVR offers a discounted Will writing service for supporters through its partners, Thursfields Solicitors. 

The Charitable Trust’s short film looks at why people decide to leave a gift in their Will and explains the very real impact that legacies can have at the Railway. You can view the film and look at more information about leaving a lasting legacy to the Severn Valley Railway in your Will here: https://www.svrtrust.org.uk/Gifts-in-Wills 

Photos: Margaret Flint, and 4930 in September 1986 (Keith Langston)

 

2020 vision at Hampton Loade

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The station site at Hampton Loade has been closed to passengers and visitors since 23rd March last year. The main stations re-opened in August, with Arley welcoming passengers back for Santa Specials in December. We think that (with the exception of Eardington) Hampton Loade is now experiencing the longest closure with no public access of any SVR station in preservation. So, a nice rest with nothing to do? Quite the opposite, as assistant station master (ASM) Sam Lench told Express Points: 

During the first lockdown local volunteers kept busy with site checks and line walks. On 23rd May we were due to celebrate 50 years of services between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade with a bumper bank holiday weekend special event but instead, on the day, I marked the occasion with a green flag. 

From June we could restart work. The first six weeks entailed much hard graft, reversing the decay that had set in during lockdown with a jungle of grass and gardens to be tamed. Several projects were completed including reinstating the cast iron gutter around our booking hall canopy. In the workshop long-standing volunteers Steve and Michael have been painting poster boards, benches, fencing and signage – much of which is now stored until spring to save exposure to the weather. 

Behind the scenes, 2020 unexpectedly allowed us to plough ahead with restoration of the station house for our volunteer accommodation. Station master Lee has been busy repainting the rooms whilst there are fewer volunteers around. Elsewhere on site, the Paddock Railway gang have spent the closure carrying out maintenance, resulting in a smart garden railway ready to operate as soon as it’s possible. 

We have also supported other departments. Signalling continued to open the signal box to keep signalmen ‘in ticket’, and in July their volunteers repainted the signal box and both down starting signals. The SVR electrical department too has upgraded some electrical systems. 

As ASM, my focus has been ensuring Hampton Loade is in a strong position for the future. We have completed deep sort-outs of our station house, refreshment kiosk and booking office – everything has been reviewed and decluttered. Some surplus items have been rehomed around the Railway, with more to follow. Some areas have been ‘mothballed’ such as the two fundraising shops and kiosk. We have entered the modern world by installing a card reader in the booking office for payment of fares.

Finally, in November and December Hampton Loade was able to contribute to the Railway as the terminus for Steam in Lights. Volunteers operated the light displays and supplemented the contractor’s displays with our own. It was fantastic for this event to be a success and bring in much-needed funds. 

 

Throughout the year we kept up a strong presence on social media with our Facebook page – staying connected to our followers even though they have not been able to visit.

In conclusion, 2020 has been very different with many volunteers unable to attend, but those who did so have mucked in to keep the station ticking over and ready to re-open – whenever that may be!

Click on the gallery for full, uncropped images and descriptions.

 
 

Subscription offer for SVR supporters 

Mortons, who publish a range of different titles of interest to railway enthusiasts, are offering a 10% discount on a six-month subscription for SVR supporters, and what’s more, each subscription taken up will generate a £4 donation to the SVR Charitable Trust! 

As well as the popular titles Heritage Railway, Rail Express and The Railway Magazine, Mortons have added two newcomers to their stable: Steam Days and Railways Illustrated

To take advantage of this special offer, please go to: www.classicmagazines.co.uk/severn21 

V1 10th January 2021

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