June 2020

50031 Hood's rededication ceremony on 17th September 2016 with Jon Dunster and Admiral Phillip Wilcocks of the HMS Hood Association. Jonathan Willcox's article recounts the fate of three ships that have given their names to members of SVR's fleet. Photo: Dave Redbourne

Welcome to your latest edition of Express Points!

We’re about to go into the 13th week of enforced closure for the SVR – but at long last, there’s hope that our fortunes will be looking up in the coming weeks and months!  Plans are now moving ahead for the Railway’s reopening, with a projected date of 1st August.  

We know that like most Express Points readers, you’ll probably be itching to get back to the SVR, and there is some good news for you in this edition.  The way back is being planned, although it’s not going to be ‘business as usual’ as we learn from general manager Helen Smith in our lead article. 

There are behind-the-scenes updates from the operations department, carriage & wagon and the MPD, plus we catch up on a variety of restoration projects from many different corners of the Railway. There’s news on the landslips and on phase 2 of work at Falling Sands Viaduct, and from the car park at Kidderminster where sustainable lighting improvements are being made, at no cost to the Railway. 

As ever, we are very grateful to everyone who has contributed to Express Points this month. Now more than ever, it feels important to keep in the loop about what’s going on at the Railway. Express Points is ultimately about the SVR’s people, their work and their passion. Please do get in touch with news you’d like to share with other working members and staff. Just email us at expresspoints@svrlive.com and please do include photographs!  

Keep safe and well,

 

Lesley Carr and Patrick Hearn, co-editors

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Looking to the future 

Hopefully, we will see sights such as this again before too long as we operate trains in a safe environment. GWR 0-4-2T No 1450 is seen here on 16th March, the last weekend of trains. 1450 is in the final months of an extension to her boiler ticket. Photo: Ian Murray

Plans for the SVR’s reopening are progressing well, although many uncertainties remain as to how things will have to be managed, especially from a visitor perspective. The Railway is working towards a target date of 4th July to reopen its pubs, the King & Castle at Kidderminster and the Railwayman’s Arms at Bridgnorth, and 1st August for the reopening of the line itself to the public. 

 

One of the first priorities is bringing back the Railway’s 1,800 working members. General manager Helen Smith has shared some early detail on how this will happen: 

 

“Your head of department will inform you when it’s safe for you to come back to work. We’ll operate a phased return programme, where you will be given set days and times when you can come in to work. This is not because of your working environment in itself, where we believe social distancing will be achievable. Rather it’s because of the staff facilities, such as toilets and staff rooms, where it’s more difficult to safely manage numbers. Please respect the times you have been given and stick to them – you will not be able to volunteer outside the slot you are allocated. 

“We will be taking full advantage of the Government’s furlough scheme to allow a phased return of paid staff across all areas of the business. If you are currently furloughed and you are required as part of the Railway’s reopening, your senior manager will be in touch with you next week to share the plan for your return. 


“Safety of our working members and paid staff is our over-riding concern, and we are working very hard to put in place a number of measures. Before returning, you must complete a short online coronavirus awareness course*, and it’s vital that you familiarise yourself with the SVR guidelines that will be on display at each station, and which will reflect the latest Government advice. If you’re unsure about anything, please ask! 


“We won’t prevent anyone from returning who wants to do so, but will understand if you're uncomfortable with coming back because you fall into a high risk category because of age or an underlying health concern. If you wish to change roles so you are not in a public-facing role, please ask and we will accommodate your request where possible.” 


Reopening the line to the public is an immense task, and managers predict that the SVR will come under a great deal of scrutiny.  Helen has appealed for everyone to be mindful of this fact, when they return: 


“Whatever role you fulfil, once you’re back, you’ll be on show to our neighbours and the public. Remember that every visitor is likely to be carrying a mobile phone which they might use to record and publish on social media any behaviour which they consider breaks the rules. Whilst you are wearing SVR uniform you are representing the Railway, so please make sure you are fully aware of what we expect of you and ask if you are unsure. We are all getting used to a new way of working, so people will make mistakes. Please challenge each other if you see someone doing something you think breaks the rules. 


“Finally, I would like to thank you for your help and support over this period. We have managed the COVID-19 situation in the best way possible. We have by far the most successful fundraising campaign of any heritage railway, with a total that’s now exceeded £745,000. I am incredibly proud to lead a team of such dedicated and enthusiastic people and I am really looking forward to getting back to what we are all here for – running the best heritage railway in the country!” 


*The online course can be found at https://www.virtual-college.co.uk/courses/prevent-covid-19-free-training. Please print off a copy of the certificate when you’ve completed the course, as you will need to show this to your line manager when you return. 

 

Your ticket to ride! 

As the SVR gears up for its 1st August reopening, there’s some great news for working members and paid staff – the chance for a long-awaited trip along the line before it’s opened to the public.  As well as being a long-awaited treat and a thank you for your support, this is an important part of checking that everything is running smoothly and practising the ‘new normal’ before the SVR opens its doors to paying visitors. Remember the Railway did this last year before the Steam in Lights events? 


The trips will be pre-book only, for the very obvious reasons of avoiding overcrowding and maintaining social distancing. No dates have yet been set, but watch out for further announcements.  

Discussions of compartment or open coaches gives us the chance to share this image of GNR 2701. Hopefully the weather will be better when we're back in action!

 

Fight Back Fund continues to grow 

Donations and share purchases for the SVR’s Fight Back Fund have brought the total to more than £745,000. Thanks are due to everyone who has contributed – your support is much appreciated. 

 

As we report in this month’s lead article, the Railway faces considerable challenges in the months and years ahead, and needs as much financial support as possible to get through the devastating blow that the coronavirus pandemic and resulting closure has inflicted on its operation. 

 

If you haven’t already contributed, please consider adding your support. Donations to the SVR Charitable Trust attract an additional 25% Gift Aid if you're a taxpayer at no extra cost to you.  Please go to Fight Back Fund to donate.  

 

Alternatively, by purchasing SVR Shares you can also help the Fight Back Fund. Please go to SVR Shares to download a form and make your purchase. 

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Financial update 

The Railway has applied to HSBC for a £1.5 million loan under the CBILS scheme, which alongside its existing overdraft facility of £1.5 million will mean £3 million cash is available should it be needed. The hope is that the opening goes ahead on 1st August as planned and that the Railway won’t need to use all of the money, however it is there if the worst-case scenario happens. 


The SVR Charitable Trust will be applying for a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to support the reopening of the Railway. Grants between £50,000 and £250,000 are available to help organisations who have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. 

 

Bats cause temporary halt to work at Falling Sands

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Phase 2 of the Falling Sands Viaduct restoration project started on 18th May, earlier than originally scheduled. The contractor CAN took control of the site and skilled workers suspended on ropes began to rake out damaged mortar and prep the bridge arch by arch, for the much-needed repairs. All the work took place with strict social distancing and safety measures, in line with Government guidelines.  

However, the good weather which had enabled phase 2 to start early also led to some unexpected visitors taking up residence under one of the arches.  

On 29th May, the onsite team spotted some bats! These are a protected species and in accordance with Natural England regulations if one is sighted on a construction site, all works must cease until an inspection is delivered.  

Infrastructure manager Chris Bond told Express Points: 

“On 3rd June the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust confirmed ‘bat activity’, which means that by law at least two more surveys must be delivered (at least 10 days apart) to understand to what extent the site is affected.  At the end of this month we will receive guidance on whether the works can progress or have to be delayed until the requisite licence from Natural England can be obtained. Importantly, we don’t believe that the presence of bats on the underside of the structure will prevent us from running trains at any point. 

“The good news is that the original plan was for the repairs to the brickwork to take place whilst trains were operational. Therefore, even if this phase of restoration is delayed, we should be able to complete it without impacting upon the Railway’s operation.”  

As with phase 1 of the project, this work is being funded through a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF). This funding was secured back in 2019 and is restricted to repairs and activities relating to the Falling Sands Viaduct.  

If you have any queries about the project, please contact the project delivery manager Laura Hines on laura.hines@svrtrust.org.uk, or visit the project’s dedicated website www.fallingsandsviaduct.org.uk 

 

Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

Visitor survey indicates strong appetite for SVR to reopen 

Almost 4,700 people have completed an online survey, designed to find out their attitudes to the Railway reopening, and what their concerns are about returning. The results will help to formulate the plans that will be put in place for the target reopening date of 1st August.  Here’s a snapshot of some of the results, which give encouragement and meaningful guidance to the team making plans for the SVR’s return: 

  • More than 80% of respondents would return, based on us putting safety measures in place 

  • 73% of people have social distancing as a key concern 

  • Overcrowding is a massive concern and is in the top two concerns 

  • 92 % of people would be happy with an open carriage if social distancing is in place 

  • 91 % of people would be happy with toilets on trains being shut 

  • 75% of people would be happy to take litter with them rather than leave it in the carriage 

  • 84% of respondents want easily accessible hand sanitizer 

  • 79% of people’s booking patterns won’t change 

  • 28% of people said that COVID-19 would affect their booking decision 

A separate survey, specifically targeted at working members and staff is in development and will be released in due course

Face coverings at the SVR 

Following last week’s Government announcement that face coverings will be compulsory on public transport from 15th June, there is the chance this will extend to the SVR, although it is far from clear how this will be managed.  

 

General manager Helen Smith is talking to other heritage railway general managers about the situation, and has pointed out that there are still eight weeks until the SVR’s proposed reopening date, and a great deal could change. 

Diesel group volunteer Dave Redbourne created these as a spur of the moment idea. They have proved very popular. Credit: Pixelshack

 

50 years of steam at the SVR 

Saturday 23rd May 1970 saw the Severn Valley Railway run its first public trains between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade.  Sadly, our planned 50th anniversary celebrations are amongst those events that were unable to take place because of the pandemic. 

 

Instead, you can see on the SVR website a wonderful virtual exhibition, including classic photos and press cuttings courtesy of Midland News Association, Kidderminster Shuttle and Bridgnorth Journal.

 

This has been researched and curated by Tony Bending, one of the directors of the Severn Valley Railway Company Limited.

 

We hope you enjoy it!  

 

Remedial work needed for landslips 

Landslips that occurred at two locations on the line have been subject to investigations and monitoring since the heavy rainfall that occurred in February. It’s now become clearer what needs to be done to remedy the issues, as infrastructure manager Chris Bond explains: 

“At Sterns, by monitoring specially constructed bore holes we’ve found that the movement is slowing down, probably helped by the prolonged dry spell. We’re asking adjacent landowners for access on the west side of the line to carry out some mitigation works. These will consist of a comprehensive drainage network to collect rainwater and transport it to the river in an efficient manner before it can get down to the slip planes and exacerbate the problem. We hope to carry out this work during the summer, and it won’t affect the operation of trains across Sterns. 

“Meanwhile, at Alveley Woods David Symonds Associates are finalising the drawings for the remedial scheme for the land slip here. It is proposed to carry out these works in two phases. 

“Subject to agreement from the adjacent landowner, we’ll install a small drainage scheme to remove ponded water on the west side of the formation within the woods. In the same way as the proposed scheme at Sterns, this will reduce the amount of water reaching the slip plane and take a degree of pressure off our embankment.  

“The second phase will be more disruptive and include a mixture of soil nailing (the same technique used at County Boundary) and partial removal of the existing ash embankment material. This will be replaced with layers of imported stone alternating with a plastic geomesh material, in a technique known as reinforced earth. This work is likely to take place during the next available closed period in 2021. 

“Before any passenger trains run over either of the two locations, the permanent way department will have to correct the track geometry due to the movement that has taken place over the lockdown period. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the work planned will ease the problems we have been having with the track formation at Sterns and Alveley Woods.” 

 
Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

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SVR light show to honour NHS 

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SVR improver fitter machinist Alan Brookes arranged a spectacular light show at Kidderminster station during the first week of May to honour the NHS.  

In his spare time, Alan is involved with the events lighting company Betalite, which staged the event. It was streamed live on the SVR’s official Facebook and Instagram pages.   

Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

SVR groups rally to help Fight Back Fund

As the SVR’s Fight Back Fund continues to grow, several groups on the SVR have publicly stated their contribution to the appeal and we want to recognise their support and to thank them. These include:  

  • The 82045 Steam Locomotive Trust

  • Barry Railway Carriage Trust  

  • Hampton Loade Station Fund  

 

In addition, certain groups have funded contract work to be carried out in the SVR workshops during the COVID-19 restrictions, bringing in much-need revenue for the Railway. These include:  

  • The 4150 Fund, boiler work at Bridgnorth 

  • Great Western (SVR) Association, carriage work at Kidderminster 

 

We’re aware that other groups have supported the Railway during this difficult time, and we would be delighted to include your group’s name in the July edition of Express Points – please email us.  

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Clearly, not all groups are empowered or able to contribute directly to the appeal, but the support they and their members give to the SVR is hugely appreciated. 

 

Hundreds flock to adopt an engine 

As part of its bid to raise money for the Fight Back Fund, the Railway launched a range of Adopt an Engine packages last month, which are proving very popular with supporters.  

More than 350 packages have already been sold at svrshop.co.uk and through postal applications, with all proceeds boosting the Fight Back Fund.  Starting at £30, the packages will make ideal gifts for Father’s Day on 21st June. 

There are both steam and diesel locomotives on offer; GWR 4930 Hagley Hall and LMS Ivatt Class 4 43106 'The Flying Pig' are proving the most sought after, especially by customers buying a gift for someone. 

One customer, who purchased a Platinum GWR 4930 'Hagley Hall' package commented, “A wonderful birthday gift and fantastic value for everything you receive!” 

Buyers of Platinum packages for either SR 34027 Taw Valley or Class 50 50033 'Glorious' will be entered in the official VIP Experience draw. This takes place live on Facebook on Friday 19th June.  

If you haven’t yet done so, it’s easy to Adopt an Engine at svrshop.co.uk

Put a smile on his face for Father’s Day 

With Father’s Day approaching on 21st June, the SVR has put together some gift bundles that will impress all kinds of dad and grandad. 

Each includes a stylish ‘baker boy’ flat cap and your choice of card. There’s something to suit those with a sweet tooth, those who want to be stylish, and those who love real ale. 

Alongside the packages, the SVR has sourced some limited edition Alan Reade artworks of stations across the line, and there are mugs, cushions and much more on offer.  

Discover the full collection at svrshop.co.uk  

Important: please order Father’s Day gifts by Sunday 14th June to guarantee delivery. 

 

Severn Valley Diesels online shop - lockdown edition!

Faced with the cancellation of the diesel gala in May, the SVR’s diesel groups have added some lockdown edition merchandise to the SVR Diesels online shop. This includes t-shirts wittily showing the visiting locomotives wearing face masks, and gala merchandise emblazoned with ‘cancelled’. Older hands have pointed out the latter are reminiscent of the cancelled steam gala shirts from the 2000 boiler crisis! 

 
The diesel fleet is hugely important to the SVR’s operation, as Matt Robinson’s articles this month show. We are fortunate to have volunteers dedicated to looking after this fleet, and this shop raises funds to allow the SVR to continue to provide those facilities. Dave Redbourne commented: 


“We completely understand that these are uncertain times for many people but, if you can, please do consider purchasing a few items to help our appeal. We will be adding new items to the range all the time, so please browse the online shop.” 

 
 

In memoria

Roy Bullock We are very sad to announce the passing of Roy Bullock, a volunteer with us for 40 years. His duties included, amongst others, guarding, ticket inspecting and latterly station staff at Arley. An obituary will be issued shortly as will the date of the funeral but in the interim our thoughts are with wife Sue at this very sad time. Barry Moreton, volunteer liaison officer 

 

Sue Mort We are very sad to announce the loss of Sue Mort, who passed away as a result of respiratory failure on 22nd May at the Princess Royal Hospital, Telford, aged 75 years. Sue will be remembered by many of our earlier volunteers and employees.  

Sue was born in Aston, Birmingham, on 8th May 1945. She eventually moved to Bridgnorth, where for about six years in the mid-1980s she worked in Bridgnorth Buffet. For those that can remember back that far, Sue was the instigator and founder member of that group of young ladies collectively known as the ‘buffet belles’, and during that time not only did she feed our visitors and volunteers, but she handed out good natured ‘stick’ to, and partied socially with our volunteers. She also completed at least one pump trolley run between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster.  

Following her time in the buffet she worked in the office for a number of years as secretary to Ray Tranter. The Railway had many happy memories for Sue, and she often reflected on those times and the many friends she had made over the years. After her retirement she enjoyed family visits with her many grandchildren and great grandchildren.  

Our thoughts are with her family at this sad time. The funeral will be held at Bridgnorth Cemetery on Tuesday 16th June at 1pm and is restricted to family members only. The funeral procession will pass the Severn Valley Railway in Hollybush Road on the way to the cemetery. Tony Bending, director, SVR Company Limited  

Frank Walker It is with great sadness that we have to inform you that Frank Walker unexpectedly passed away on Thursday 14th May at the age of 47. Many will know Frank from Bridgnorth Motive Power Department and his involvement with the 4150 Fund. 

Frank’s love of the Railway started from a young age when he and his brother Ian would often visit with their dad and grandad. When Frank and Ian got older, they would attend galas and other events on the SVR - just the two of them. Frank started as an SVR volunteer in the 1990s, working as a loco cleaner and helping generally on the MPD, from where he worked his way up to passed cleaner, and took on other commitments for various events held on the SVR; Santa events, JCB driver, Bridgnorth loco cleaner manager to name a few. Frank was also an active member of the 4150 Fund and could often be found helping Fred Cotterill and Rob Nash with electrical works at Bridgnorth. Frank was seen regularly in the Railwayman’s Arms and made many friends whilst he was there. 

Frank was able to give his spare time to the Railway alongside caring for his parents & nan. When they passed away Frank started a new job at local Bridgnorth restaurant and pub The Down Inn which then took up his evenings and so was not able to frequent the Railwayman’s as often. 

Away from the Railway, Frank was a volunteer in the Mind Charity Shop in Bridgnorth, an active member of Worfield Church and a long-standing member of the Bridgnorth Male Voice Choir. 

Frank is one of five siblings; he has three brothers and a sister. A gentle giant, brother and uncle, he will be greatly missed. Barry Moreton, volunteer liaison officer 

Severn Valley Railway at home 

The SVR might be closed but we have plenty of fun things to keep youngsters (and the young-at-heart!)  busy from the comfort of your own home. 

You can download colouring sheets, wordsearches and ‘make your own train trumps’ cards from the SVR website at https://www.svr.co.uk/svrathome.aspx.

We hope you enjoy them.

 

Keeping alive the memory of three ships 

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The penultimate week of May was one where all of us on the SVR found ourselves looking happily to the past and the public debut of operation in 1970. But in the diesel depot at Kidderminster, this time also has sad associations. It commemorates events during times of war both before and after 1970. Diesel volunteer Jonathan Wilcox remembers three of our own. 

 

Many of the SVR-based diesel locomotives are named after naval vessels – both Merchant and Royal Navy – and these associations are taken very seriously indeed. By coincidence, three of these vessels met their fates in the penultimate week of May. 

 

The Diesel Traction Group’s ‘Warship’ diesel-hydraulic D821 Greyhound is named after the destroyer HMS Greyhound, sunk by German aircraft during the Battle of Crete, on 22nd May 1941. Six officers and 74 sailors perished. 

 

By far the most significant loss commemorated amongst the diesel fleet locos is that of HMS Hood. 50031 has carried the name of the one-time flagship of the Royal Navy since 1978, and its important naval connection has been strengthened on several occasions in the loco’s history, most recently in 2016 at a rededication ceremony at Kidderminster. The loco’s owners, the Class 50 Alliance, actively maintain and honour the naval links of all six locos in their care. HMS Hood was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck on 24th May 1941 in the Battle of Denmark Strait, with the loss of 1,415 of the 1,418 men on board. This prompted the famous order from Churchill that saw the Bismarck chased all the way to France, where it was finally incapacitated and sunk by Swordfish torpedo bombers from HMS Ark Royal (in loco 50035, we have one of those on the SVR too!) Worcestershire is also home to another important part of Hood history, with one of the few Commonwealth War graves to carry the ship’s name, that of Wireman Gilbert Moseley who was invalided home before the ship’s demise. His grave is to be found in St Augustine’s churchyard in Droitwich Spa, not far from the SVR. 

 

Long-term visitor 40106 Atlantic Conveyor gained its name in the preservation era, in the best tradition of some of its classmates which carried the names of Cunard Line vessels from the first half of the 20th century. One of the key events of the 1982 Falklands War was the sinking by an Argentinian Exocet missile of the requisitioned Cunard ro-ro container ship SS Atlantic Conveyor on 25th May, with the loss of 12 of her 149 crew. 40106’s owner at the time, Gerald Boden, bestowed the name upon the loco in 1984 in memory of those lost, and its current owners, the Class 40 Preservation Society, continue to recognise this link as an important tribute to those who lost their lives. 

 

Next time you see one of our diesel locos, give a moment to see if it carries the name of a ship, and have a think about the stories and loss of life that lie behind it. 

Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

No tumbleweed round here! 

The Railway may have been shut down since mid-March, but behind-the-scenes, work has carried on dealing with a host of things needing attention. Operations manager Matt Robinson has been close to all the work and reports now on what’s been happening.  We think you’ll be as impressed as we were with the sheer amount of largely unseen work that’s taken place. Over to Matt… 

 

I was in Highley signal box on Monday, 23rd March in the middle of a job moving a drilling rig to site at Sterns, when the call came. Who was still undertaking essential work, and who could immediately take advantage of the government’s furlough scheme? That marked the start of a very strange time for us all and was the moment the Covid-19 pandemic became 'real' for me. Whilst over 95% of the SVR's staff have at some point been on furlough, I and a handful of others have not been. There has been a whole host of practical work undertaken, this is the story of some of it, all carried out whilst observing social distancing when this became a Government guideline.   

 

As the images in April’s Express Points showed, the drilling rig had commenced work a week earlier, on 16th March. The main permanent way gang were busy at Falling Sands and a splinter group of Dai Phillips and Roger Phelps, Dave Evans and myself had been formed to deal with the drilling rig logistics. This had all been delivered to Alveley Woods site without incident.  

 

By the following week boring at Sterns was required, and the rig moved there on the 23rd. We unloaded the machine on the non-river side of the track before instructions reached us that the boreholes were required on the opposite side. A fair round up is we completed this ‘sometime later’!  

 

A couple of weeks later we were back at Sterns collecting up the drilling rig and returning it to Eardington for offloading and removal from site.  We had got to know the operatives of the machine quite well having worked closely with them over the previous few weeks, as the setup had to be moved slightly every couple of days. The 'tidy up' then commenced from this job with the wagons to put away and that was the end of this little 'project'. 

 

Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

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Vegetation management 

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Matt continues:

The next major shutdown job was weed killing. The main operation started in April with a day’s setup, two days' work and half a day 'put away'. Lack of traffic saw the opportunity to treat sidings that cannot normally be touched, and a productive afternoon at Bewdley assisted by Kidderminster C&W staff saw every road treated. Our contractor for the weedkilling operation is Brent Cleeton of Bridgnorth permanent way team, who does this professionally.  

 

The weed killer train works by having six IBC cubes (large plastic containers with a pallet style bottom used for the storage of liquids and chemicals) in a Rudd wagon, 5 with plain water and one mixing cube. Two petrol pumps are used, one to apply the spray, and one to transfer water to the mixing cube. Depending on what mix is required chemicals are added as and when needed. A spray bar below the wagon applies the formula to the track, whilst two side mounted nozzles cover the cess area. Finally, there is a hand-operated lance that catches anything the attached equipment does not. For the application to work the weeds need to be actively growing, and it needs to be dry for around four hours after spraying. Brent looked after the equipment in the wagon along with a mixing assistant and a driver on the loco.  Dave Evans and I did a day about on the job and I must say I really enjoyed travelling in the wagon, especially as I had done the risk assessment for it! 

Having assisted us at Bewdley, Nigel Hanson phoned a couple of weeks later to say Kidderminster was getting rather 'hairy'. Initially it was going to be missed out due to the break in the line at Falling Sands, but a site visit showed that we needed to rethink that! After some van movements we spent a day spraying all platforms, engine lines, 'Main', 'Loop', 'Exchange' and Carriage works yard, as well as all TMD roads. It was nice to go on the Ruston for a change, it had been a while.  

 

In amongst this excitement, Dave had been flailing line side vegetation. Whilst it is not flail season, keeping vegetation down around crossing and signal sighting is essential safety work. Care is taken to avoiding hedges and trees and to check the vegetation nearby to avoid nesting birds.  
 

Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

Stock movements during the lockdown

More from Matt Robinson:

 

After the drilling rig moves on 23rd May, we collected a wagon load of sleepers from Bewdley to be used to protect the car park at Bridgnorth during the shutdown. With Sterns under investigation, decisions were made on moving locos to ensure we have flexibility for the restart, whenever that would be. 2857 was 'in steam' and the return consist south was led by the GWR 2-8-0 conveying the saloon from the paint shop and the driving school coach, with the Class 33 on the rear! The 24th saw further movements, 75069 and 43106 headed north, with 813 and 7714 together and finally 6960 moving south.  

 

Other tasks ranged from delivering some defective road railer equipment to Bridgnorth boiler shop for welding repair, to emptying the buffet and dining vehicles of food and liquor at Bewdley and moving them to safe storage. The Kidderminster based GBRf Class 50s made a few visits on and off the railway doing stock moves and we provided staff for the signal box.  

 

For the last bit of stock news, it’s back to Kidderminster around a week ago. Many of you will no doubt remember (December Express Points) the railway storing 8 Mk3 vehicles, formally operated by Caledonian Sleepers, for their new owner, Locomotive Services, based in Crewe. We’ve expanded our assistance by stabling a further 9 HST trailers, which brings in some revenue. These were delivered on 28th May by 47593 and 47805. They also took away one sleeper coach for further use. The initial shunt on arrival was easy to complete, however the second part of the shunt took much longer, and the services of the Class 50 Alliance’s No 50035 were called upon. The reason was the need to attach a sleeper (to act as an air braked adapter carriage) at each end of the HST trailers as they have fixed buckeye couplings and no buffers. The vehicles are now stored at Kidderminster until further notice.  
 

Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

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Other operations

And finally, Matt concludes his account of operations department work this month:

 

Our fuel point is at Kidderminster, but the machinery is mostly at Highley! With all this work taking place, the road railers and Class 33 required fuelling. Thanks to the ingenuity of Graham Phillips, a cube of 1,000 litres moved to Highley by trailer, which proved the system worked. Volunteer Keith Hall kindly lent a twin axle, Ifor Williams, and the Railway’s van moved another 4,000 litres in two loads. This should be sufficient to compete the track relay, ballast loading and movement of any infrastructure trains. We are grateful to Tony Middleton and James Gregory of the Fifty Fund who lent the equipment and pumps.  The image shows fuel being pumped into 33108 at Highley (Matt Robinson)

I have spent time home working on the computer, caretaking for Chris Bond’s role while he was on furlough. One that crossed over onto operating was a telegraph pole being sighted as nearly falling over at Bewdley behind the PWay hut. Keith Brown assisted arranging the repair for me, but a visit was required to move the 'Hall' off the Rock siding (the locomotive stabling siding where steam engines at Bewdley depot are stored overnight, prepared and disposed before and after service). Our contractor was concerned should this fragile pole fall and hit the loco: anyway, we moved the loco, and the pole didn't fall over!  

 

This job joined forces with a visit to Arley to start up the Parry People Mover, still stored there having been caught in lockdown. The owners were concerned about it ending up with flat batteries, so we stopped by to run the car up. All was OK!

I hope you have found my account interesting, and you’ve got an insight into some of the things that have happened during the 'lockdown' period. The SVR has not totally stopped. It’s been a weird experience, operating occasionally and sporadically without seeing the normal hustle and bustle of the railway. The work has been useful, and has stopped nature taking over, literally.  

I'd also like to thank Dave Evans, Nigel Hanson, Colin Astbury and Alan Brookes from the SVR's full time staff, without whose assistance the above would not have been possible.  

 

Built by SVR Bridgnorth: an update from MPD 

Volunteer shed master Martin White reports on a job well done, and the challenges of volunteering under very different circumstances: 

 

Last month I wrote that steam tests were underway on the second Isle of Man boiler we’ve built at Bridgnorth. In early May, the testing and official examination and approval were successfully completed and the boiler was subsequently cleaned up and painted, including the words ‘Built by Severn Valley Railway Bridgnorth’, proudly displayed on the boiler barrel. On 15th May the boiler was collected by road transport for movement to its owners on the Isle of Man and we raised the final invoices to the customer for some very welcome revenue. 

 

For the moment this concludes the ‘rush’ of completed boilers - and two in consecutive months isn’t bad going! The third and fourth boilers are underway, but these are at the point in their build cycle where a lot of work needs to be completed to trigger the next stage payments. Therefore, we’re putting this work on hold for the moment while the MPD and loco engineering get to grips with the impact of the coronavirus situation, and how we’re going to get our volunteers and paid staff back to work. 

 

We are as keen as anyone to get people back on site. A huge amount of work is taking place behind the scenes to enable staff to return, to prepare for reopening. The reappearance of staff will be a phased return, to ensure that we put effective systems and processes in place to meet Government guidelines. We need to meet requirements for social distancing and avoid the risk of the virus spreading. All staff and volunteers will need to complete some basic COVID-19 awareness training before, or at the point of, their return to duty.  

 

Social distancing, and in particular the avoidance of any overcrowding, will mean that staff will need to adhere to some restrictions on accessing the site. We will determine what the maximum number of people is that we can have on site in the workshops, and MPD yard at any one time, and we will put into place controls using rosters, rotas and availability of personnel. This will apply for all engineering and MPD activities, whether that be footplate work or shed work, rostered staff or casual attendees. For the foreseeable future nobody will be able to just turn up to volunteer unannounced and without prior approval. Further details will be made available as soon as possible. 

 

These restrictions may appear to be draconian. But unfortunately, this is the world we are living in at the moment. Please remember these controls are only being put in place in order to ensure that the SVR is doing as much as possible to protect the safety of  staff, visitors and the people that they subsequently come into contact with. I hope you understand that having a rigidly controlled opportunity to volunteer is better than no opportunity at all.  

 

It will be wonderful to see you, in what I hope is the not-too-distant future! 


Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

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New head of department appointed 

Jim Seaton has taken up the role of head of department for traincrew (TTIs & FE hosts.) 

A lifelong railway enthusiast and SVR volunteer since 2007, Jim had progressed to the traincrew joint roster clerk and assistant inspector by 2010,  as well as training new TTIs. Since then he’s been the department’s training inspector, administrator, website contributor and deputy traincrew manager. Operations manager Matt Robinson welcomed Jim to his new role: 

“With more than 500 TTI turns under his belt over the last 13 years, Jim has all the experience needed to make a great successor to Leigh Weston who has stepped down from the role. In his professional career Jim has worked for the Post Office and British Telecom until he took early retirement in 2007 to start his ‘second career’ on the SVR.  

Jim himself is looking forward to his new responsibilities: “I'm proud and privileged to be chosen. I strongly believe that TTIs and FE Hosts have a key role in ensuring our passengers have an excellent time on the Railway, and that they consequently want to return, and to tell their friends and family about "The Premier Line". I've worked under three heads of section/department in my time, and all have been inspiring and dedicated people who I've counted as good friends; if I can live up to their examples, I'll be a happy man.” 

You might be interested to know that since lockdown began, Jim has been posting a photo a day on his Twitter account @34020Seaton to raise awareness of the SVR and encourage donations to the Fight Back Fund.  

 

If you’re not on Twitter, send your email address to jim.seaton@svrlive.com and he’ll include you in his daily circulation.   

See the whole album of photos so far. This example is Richard Hill’s view of KE1 in what he described as ‘cow pat green’ in a letter to Steam Railway! 

 

Over the fence

Not an item on Japanese cinema and the work of Nobuhiro Yamashita*, but on ‘goings-on’ on the mainline at Kidderminster. 

  

While the SVR has been short of trains in recent months (Matt Robinson’s exploits notwithstanding!) there’s been a newcomer ‘over the fence’. From 19th May those out on essential business or daily exercise were treated to the surprising sight of former London Underground trains running through Kidderminster!  

 

The star of the show is Class 230 ‘D-train’ No 230006 which is operating mileage accumulation test runs between Stourbridge Junction and manufacturer Vivarail’s base at Long Marston. SVR stalwart Paul Sharpe captured this video on 19th May. 230006 is the first of five 3 car diesel-battery hybrid units for Transport for Wales, planned to run on the Wrexham to Bidston, Conwy Valley and Chester to Crewe lines. 

For the technically minded, the ‘D-Trains’ are converted from D78 Underground stock, originally manufactured from 1980 by Metro-Cammell in Birmingham and converted by Vivarail. The conversion re-uses the D78's aluminium bodyshells and bogies but with new interiors, motors and traction control. A diesel-electric version has been in operation since 2019 between Bedford and Bletchley and a battery electric demonstrator has also been produced. A third rail electric version is to operate mainline trains in the Isle of Wight.  

*for non-aficionados of Japanese cinema Ôbâ fensu (original title) was released in 2016 as Over the Fence (IMDb link). I’ll get my coat - Patrick

 

New sustainable lighting for Kidderminster car park

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Thanks to the hard work, contacts and personal generosity of an SVR volunteer, Kidderminster car park is being re-equipped with state-of the-art sustainable lighting. 

 

The project started last December and was made possible by infrastructure volunteer, Nick Yarwood, who used his industry contracts to secure free-of-cost materials and labour from two local companies. Nick also recruited Gary Winton as a new volunteer to help with this and other projects. Gary recently retired from the electricity supply industry and happened to be looking for a new interest.  

 

The project nearly stalled because of the freeze on spending brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. However, Nick stepped in to sponsor the ducting which he and Gary installed before volunteers were restricted in working. They also repositioned most of the concrete sleepers so that there’s the right amount of space for two lines of cars to park towards the far end – previously a problem during busy weekends. At the same time, they set them nearly flush with the surface so they can’t move or get in the way. 

 

Two local companies were keen to get involved with the project, as Nick Yarwood explained: 

 

“Local highway lighting contractor Prysmian, based in Wilden Lane, Kidderminster, is very kindly sponsoring some new columns, cabling and fitting new LED lanterns. The LED lanterns are being sponsored by TRT Lighting of Redditch. This company manufactures thousands of them for the highways industry. If you live in Worcestershire and the road has recently been re-lit, it’ll be some of theirs, since they supply to Prysmian.  

 

“TRT have just launched a new product, the Aspect Warm White Lantern, and were seeking somewhere to demonstrate it – fortuitously, our car park fitted the bill! As the lantern’s name suggests, it has a softer colour than is usual. It also uses much less energy so that the electricity cost for the car park will be halved, and with a minimum life expectancy of 100,000 hours, we won’t need to change the bulbs every few years.” 

 

All the lanterns should be fitted during the second week of June ready for testing. 

 

A couple of important tasks are needed to complete the job, and Nick is appealing to readers for assistance: 

 

“The surface is still uneven, so we’re seeking the services of a road roller to flatten it out. Plus, the parking bays will need marking out. Do you own or have access to a sports field line marker? It would be perfect for the job and the lining should last reasonably well with occasional re-tracing.” 

 

To help with either of these requests, please get in touch with infrastructure manager Chris Bond by email: chris.bond@svrlive.com 

Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

New cylinder blocks for 7802 Bradley Manor 

Amid the disruption and uncertainty of lockdown, there’s good news for Bradley Manor. Machining work on the newly cast, replacement cylinder blocks has proceeded through May. This follows heat treating to de-stress the new castings, saving considerable time compared to traditional means of curing large castings.    

 

Adrian Hassell of the Erlestoke Manor Fund (EMF) told Express Points: 

 

“As seen in the accompanying photos, the blocks are now being machined at Roach Precision Engineering Ltd of Brierley Hill, with delivery expected in July. This follows a familiar path to recent similar work by this company undertaken for 4930 Hagley Hall, 3850, 4561 and now 7802 Bradley Manor. 4709 is next in the queue.”  

To get to this stage has been a real team effort and the EMF has acknowledged the following: 

  • Kevin Dare: original drawings promptly located and forwarded by GWS Didcot. 

  • Elliot Powick: 3-D modelling to facilitate modern pattern making. 

  • Andrew Timmins: the patterns were by Premier Patterns, castings by Shakespeare Foundry and heat treatment by Thermofax. 

  • Aviva: funding the work as insurers. 

  • Tyseley Locomotive Works: dismantling of 7802. 

 

This is to be followed by fitting and reassembly at Tyseley, which announced it is moving towards a phased restarted of engineering work, adhering to COVID-19 measures. 

 

Comings and goings at Carriage & Wagon 

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‘From our own correspondent’ in carriage & wagon – Angela Walker reports on plenty of activity over the last month: 

In early May, some members of the C&W Kidderminster skeleton team went to Bewdley to help the permanent way team with weed killing. This involved a lot of shunting to enable the whole site to be treated. Whilst the team were there, they also shunted out 4593, a BR MK1 tourist second open. You may know her better for serving as a temporary seating area for the Bewdley Buffet! She’s ready to be shunted back to Kidderminster to have some much-needed attention.  

Supervisor Gary Parsons and train repairer Matt Walford continued work on 7960.  In addition to a light flatting down and two coats of varnish, she had her roof painted as it was flaking in patches and a new spark hood has been fitted at one end.  

Gary and Matt have made further progress on with LNER Gresley teak 24506.  In addition to the roof being painted and the deeper level of flatting due to old peeling varnish, one coat of varnish was applied. Bodywork team leader Colin Astbury added the sign writing finishing touches of gold leaf to the letters and numbers, then the job was finished with a final coat of varnish. Whilst 24506 was in the paintshop, Gary and Matt took the opportunity to fit a battery isolator toggle switch inside the guard’s area.  This easier-to-access switch allows remote isolation of the batteries on the brake van and the rest of the set if coupled up electrically, thus increasing the life of the batteries.  

In mid-May, 24506 was shunted out with help from Nigel and mechanical improver Alan Brookes, and 24506 was placed back in the LNER teak set. In came 7284 GWR Corridor Composite. Worked has progressed well, seeing the removal (via the roof) of one of the water tanks which will be replaced at a later date as it has leaks. A galvanised sheet has been cut and fitted to cover the hole in the roof. Doors are having work with one skin being replaced and other welding repairs. Sections under the windows have been cut out and new pieces welded in. The dynamo and regulator have been taken off for servicing, the regulator was found to have a few faults which have now been rectified and should charge better.  

Work continues on the brake rigging of Hawksworth Brake Third 2242 owned by the Great Western (SVR) Association. The team are boring out worn holes and machining new bushes to fit. The first bogie is completed, and the second bogie is part of the way there. The GW(SVR)A Committee agreed to bring forward the mechanical works which helps the SVR to meet some of the costs of the full time carriage staff over the next few weeks. The Association need to fund the estimated cost of £15,000, details are on their website

The team took advantage of good weather to fit ratchet straps to the carriage works poly tunnel. These are securing the poly sheets which were not happy flapping around in the very windy weather we have had.  And finally, the carriage works brake gangwayed carriage has had sealant applied to the gutters which were letting in water and is now watertight again.  


Click on the photos for full screen, uncropped images, descriptions and photo credits.

 

'Warwickshire' appeal launched  

A 'Warwickshire' appeal has launched to raise £50,000 to complete the restoration of 0-6-0ST MW2047 in time for its centenary in 2026. 

 

An SVR resident since 1967, the loco first steamed in preservation the following year. It was a popular, if lightly used, engine until boiler problems lead to its withdrawal from service in 1977.  

 

£50,000 has been spent and a similar sum already raised. This should be sufficient to pay the deposit and first stage payments for the new boiler, which is to be assembled under contract by ESMP in the SVR’s Bridgnorth boiler shop. This new appeal, if successful, should give sufficient funds for the remaining work that is necessary to return the locomotive to traffic. 

Built in 1926, its importance is underlined by it being the last locomotive to be built by Manning Wardle before the Company closed. It spent its working life at Rugby Portland Cement Co Ltd’s New Bilton works, near Rugby.  

 

The Warwickshire Industrial Locomotive Trust’s appeal leaflet gives details of how you can contribute. The Trust is a charity and so donations attract Gift Aid, increasing their value by 25% for UK taxpayers.  

 

One mystery solved, another presents itself 

Last month Bewdley’s assistant stationmaster Dai Phillips asked for information about a ‘mystery’ cupboard in a photograph of the platform, dating from the 1960s.  He reports back that Paul Marshall and Steve Bradbury came up with the answer that the cupboard was used to house a telephone and batteries before the present telecoms were installed. 


Now Dai’s got another puzzler – does anyone know why all the flags were flying in this photograph sent via Brian Dunkley and Jim Seaton of the TTI department? Brian thinks this was taken in 1979 or 1980 and it shows a visiting DMU in “Woomptie” livery.  But what was the special occasion?

 

Answers by email please to dai.phillips@svrlive.com  

 

Severn Valley Railway News – summer edition 

SVR members will be waiting with bated breath for the summer edition of the SVR’s flagship magazine, which is scheduled to appear towards the end of June. 

 

David Williams, magazine editor and SVR director, told Express Points: “The board of Severn Valley Railway Company Limited has sanctioned a short delay in issuing the summer edition. This will allow us to include an update with the latest on COVID-19 restrictions and the operation of the railway, understanding of course that things can change very quickly. We are sure members will understand our reasoning.” 

 

In May’s Express Points we also highlighted a distribution problem with the spring edition, which affected delivery for some people. David added, “Replacement magazines have been sent and thank you to all those that responded. Fortunately, the issue wasn’t as widespread as first seemed possible. If anyone still has not received the spring issue, originally posted in March, please complete the feedback form on SVRLive and include your name and address in the message box. Thank you.” 

 

V2 12 June 2020 (email address fixed)

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