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GWR Locomotive 7802 "Bradley Manor" with a train at Arley station


The Severn Valley Railway is a heritage railway in Shropshiremarker and Worcestershire, England. The line runs along the Severn Valleymarker from Bridgnorthmarker to Kidderminstermarker, following the course of the River Severn for much of its route. Train services are hauled predominantly by steam locomotives; however diesel traction is also sometimes used.

The railway is one of the most popular heritage railways in the country. It hosts numerous special events throughout the year, including both steam and diesel galas.

Due to extensive damage to infrastructure during bad storms and heavy rainfall in June 2007, the railway was closed between Bewdley and Bridgnorth, and services did not resume until 21 March 2008.

Operations

SVR trains usually operate over the whole line length calling at most stations. The "halts" (Northwood Halt and Country Park Halt) are request stops. Passengers may only use these halts during daylight hours. Trains include the Severn Valley Limited and the Severn Valley Venturer which are the principal dining car trains (normally on Sundays).

Many special gala days are held, often with visiting engines and rolling stock from other heritage lines, these and other attractions have seen visitor numbers exceed 250,000 per year.

A diesel multiple unit is used to run a Scenic Evening Land Cruise fish and chip special train run on Saturday evenings from May to August, leaving Kidderminster at around 7pm and returning at 10pm after one hour in Bridgnorth.

The SVR's rail connection to the National Rail network at Kidderminster permits occasional through charter trains to operate from many parts of the country to Bridgnorth. A recent example of these visitors was that of the VSOE Northern Belle in 2006. A direct train to Londonmarker from Bridgnorthmarker on August 15th 2009 was to be run by Chiltern Railways leaving Bridgnorth at 0745 and arriving at London Marylebonemarker at 1159.[20886][20887] Some trackwork revisions are planned at Kidderminster to improve ingress of future incoming excursions.

The railway operated two revenue earning freight trains in May 2007 which carried 6-metre long pipes from Kidderminster to the Severn Trent plant at Trimpley. Carriage by road of such long pipes would have been difficult because of the narrow roads in the immediate area of Trimpley.

Signalling

The entire railway is one of the most comprehensively signalled heritage railways. The whole railway is signalled using GW style lower quadrant signals.

All sections between Bridgnorth and Bewdley North operate using the Tyer's Electric Train Token.

The Engineer's siding at Eardington is controlled by a ground frame. No intermediate token instrument is provided as the ground frame is released by use of the long section token (Bridgnorth – Highley).

Between Bewdley North and Bewdley South the double track section through platforms 1 & 2 is signalled with absolute block. The single track through platform 3 is signalled with direction lever. The line furthest from the main station buildings, known as the Rock siding, is a double-ended siding.

The single line section between Bewdley South and Kidderminster is signalled using acceptance lever.

Most of the signal boxes on the line bear original GWR name plates, with the sole exception being at Bridgnorth which has a replica. The SVR Kidderminster's name plate was recovered from another signal box that formerly stood on the up end of the down platform at Kidderminster station (Network Rail). The lever frame from the same signal box was reused at Arley, which has an LNWR signal box after the original was demolished. The replica name plate at Bridgnorth is made of fibre glass, although it is not known if it was moulded from the original or even if the original still exists.

History

The Severn Valley Railway was used as transport route for 101 years, from 1862 until 1963. The Severn Valley line was built between 1858 and 1862, and linked Hartleburymarker, near Droitwich Spamarker, with Shrewsburymarker, a distance of . Important stations on the line were Stourport-on-Severnmarker, , , , , , Coalportmarker, , Buildwasmarker, Cressagemarker and Berrington. The original Severn Valley Railway was absorbed into the Great Western Railway in the 1870s, and in 1878 a link line was constructed from Bewdley to Kidderminster. This meant trains could run direct from the Black Countrymarker to areas of Shropshire. Most Kidderminster to Bewdley trains continued through the Wyre Forest line (dismantled in the 1960s and now a popular walking route) to Tenbury Wellsmarker or Wooffertonmarker. At Buildwas Junction (now the site of Ironbridge Power Stationmarker near what is now Telfordmarker) Severn Valley trains connected with services from Wellingtonmarker to Much Wenlockmarker and Craven Armsmarker.

Prior to preservation, the Severn Valley line was never financially successful. Freight traffic, mostly agricultural, and coal traffic from the collieries of Alveleymarker and Highleymarker were the principal sources of revenue. The line was strategically useful in the Second World War as a by-pass around the West Midlands.

After nationalisation in 1948, passenger traffic started to dwindle. The line was closed to through passenger and freight services in 1963 and the track north of Bridgnorth was dismantled. Whilst it is generally believed that the line was closed under the "Beeching Axe" of the 1960s, the Severn Valley Line was, in fact, already scheduled for closure prior to the release of Beeching's 1962 report. After 1963, coal traffic survived south of Alveley until 1969, while a sparse passenger service continued to link Bewdley with Kidderminster and Hartlebury, until this too ceased in January 1970. A very small section of the original Severn Valley line continues to carry coal traffic to Ironbridge Power Stationmarker.

For much of its working life it was operated by the Great Western Railway and subsequently the Western Region of British Railways. Today the Severn Valley Railway operates as a heritage railway. Services began in 1970 from Bridgnorth to Hampton Loademarker, extending to Bewdleymarker in 1974 and Kidderminster in 1984.

Major infrastructure damage – summer 2007

During violent thunderstorms on the evening of 19 June 2007 the railway suffered major damage, much more extensive than any in its history. The line was damaged between Bridgnorthmarker Outer Home signal and Northwood Haltmarker, where the line suffered from numerous landslides with many sections of the line suspended in mid-air.( BBC photo) Many cuttings were filled with debris. At the Up Starter signal and the embankment that it used to stand on were washed away. At Hamptonmarker, the access road to the railway station – and indeed the only road to the village – was also washed away. ( BBC photo).

A dozen other heritage railways pledged to help the stricken SVR, including Mid Hants Railway, Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railwaymarker, West Somerset Railway, Avon Valley Railwaymarker, Dean Forest Railwaymarker, Great Central Railway, North Yorkshire Moors Railway and Bluebell Railwaymarker.

It was announced on 22 June 2007 that an emergency appeal would be started on 25 June to raise funds for the repair bill. The railway's insurers agreed to pay out £500,000 and Advantage West Midlands provided a grant of £750,000, whilst the European Regional Development Fund may also be able to grant aid up to £750,000 as funding towards the repairs. Of this £1.5m total, £250,000 is thought to be for development at Highley Station, with £1.25m available for the railway's repair. The total cost of the damage has now been revised upwards to £2.5 million as a result of further damage and a massive potential slip in the Northwood Lane area following more rain and flooding in late July.

These events damaged the summer tourist custom to the railway, the towns served, and the area as a whole. A spokesman announced on 22 June that the line was expected to reopen between Bewdley and Arley by the end of July and the section between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade to be up and running by the end of August; however it became apparent in early July 2007 that these reopenings would be delayed by as much as a month, later extended to up to three months. It was also said later that the crucial link between Hampton Loade and Arley, including Highley station and the new Engine House museum, would probably not open until as late as Spring 2008.

The Bridgnorth to Hampton Loade section eventually re-opened on 9 February 2008 for the school half-term. The first passenger train to Hampton Loade since 19 June 2007 departed on time at 10.30, comprising of 5 LMS coaches hauled by 45xx Class no. 4566. The train featured the headboard carried by the first reopening train from Bridgnorth to Hampton Loade in 1970. Although other drainage work enhancements remain to be completed the line between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth reopened fully to the public on Good Friday, 21 March 2008.

Stations

  • The only station building with any form of listing.
  • Eardington Haltmarker, originally just Eardington (Closed in 1981, used only for storage, a few volunteers have campaigned for re-opening in recent years)
  • Hampton Loademarker
  • Country Park Haltmarker (request stop) replaced Alveley Halt
  • Alveley Halt (never re-opened by SVR after BR closure, due to it serving a now closed mine, and the opening of the new Country Park Haltmarker)
  • (request stop)


Arley railway station and GWR signal
With the exception of the two request halts (Country Park and Northwood) all intermediate stations have the ability to pass trains on the single line. However, Highley's passing loop has sidings leading off it with points not controlled from the signal box, meaning trains carrying fare-paying passengers may not use this loop. However, it is frequently used for works trains, demonstration goods trains and empty stock workings. Despite this, the Severn Valley Railway offers, possibly, the most intensive service on any single line heritage railway.A short section of multiple track exists between Bewdley South and Bewdley North signal boxes.

Kidderminster Town station is not an original station. It was created by the SVR based upon the original GWR station at Ross-on-Wye (1892). Various projects have been carried out by volunteers and contractors to add to the general GWR ambience. Major projects include the port cochère to the front of the station, the ornamental crestings on the two towers and the canopy over the concourse which was completed in 2006, along with the final, east, wing of the station.

There are plans to extend the main station building at Bridgnorth to provide new catering, shop and toilet facilities. This is a relatively difficult project due to the need to remain sympathetic to the Grade II listed original, being sufficiently unobtrusive and making the most of an extremely cramped site.

The main locomotive works are located at Bridgnorth. It is not normally open to the public because of health and safety regulations but conducted tours and open days are arranged from time to time. Major features of the locomotive works include the boiler shop equipped with overhead crane, Noble and Lunn wheel lathe and ex-LT lifting jacks. Works to enclose the southern end of Bridgnorth locomotive shed with roller shutter doors, improve natural illumination and waterproof the building more effectively were completed in early 2009. This forms the first of a number of phases to generally improve the Bridgnorth site both for staff and for visitors. Further plans include the installation of a wheel-drop.

Although carriage repair and restoration is carried out at a number of locations on the railway, the main carriage works is located in the former goods shed at Kidderminster. This building, lying adjacent to the main national railway line, is known as the North Star Carriage Works thus perpetuating a typical GWR name. As well as having a machine shop and fabrication equipment to carry out a full range of body and bogie repairs the carriage works boasts equipment recovered from former BR works to calibrate and adjust dynamo voltage regulators and to thoroughly overhaul and test vacuum brake equipment, a facility that is almost extinct elsewhere. In common with the locomotive works it is not normally open to the public due to health and safety legislation.

Former stations





Former stations, most of which were closed with the Severn Valley line as a whole in 1963, after 101 years in use.

Between Hartlebury and Bewdley:

  • Stourportmarker (1862 – 3 January 1970)
  • Burlish Halt, towards the north of Stourport at Burlish Crossing


Between Kidderminster and Bewdley:



North of Bridgnorth:



Extensions to the railway

Northwards

The plan to expand North had been mooted by groups within the SVR in the mid 1970s and more recently. The first plan was dismissed as impossible by the then board of the SVR. However recent successes by others in obtaining large sums of money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund etc. have caused this extreme view to moderate. Telford Steam Railway have recently announced aspirations to operate into the Severn Gorge, leading a group to suggest extending the SVR northwards.

The SVR have been offered first refusal by BRB (Residuary) Ltd on the all-important tunnel under Bridgnorth as the first essential part of the plan. If the Telford Steam Railway was to expand and cross the river Severn via the Albert Edward Bridgemarker and operate to the original site of Buildwas Junction stationmarker, they would operate over a very short part of the former Severn Valley Line. The possible closure of Ironbridge Power Station will further add to the debate because this covers the site of Buildwas Junction station. However, there are several obstacles to overcome, not least of which is that all of the land north of Bridgnorth tunnel is in private ownership. The Holybush Road was widened and raised after closure, impeding access to the southern portal of Bridgnorth tunnel. The group currently promoting such an extension has identified a viable technical solution to this and other difficulties.

Bridgnorth tunnel was relined in two separate places during operation and was a source of some trouble over the years, but the most recent regularly scheduled inspection by Network Rail has found it to be in general good order. Both portals are currently blocked off and the southern end has been encroached onto by the garden of the house located adjacent to the former bridge abutment. The northern suburbs of Bridgnorth low town block the trackbed around 100 yards north of the tunnel, with 22 houses and a new road on the original alignment. The proponents have identified solutions that would avoid much of the existing housing. The next section to the north is covered by a low quality golf course that regularly suffers flooding in the winter. There are no sizable populations in the valley above Bridgnorth before Coalport.

Beyond this point the area is at present geologically less stable. This instability is in the course of being corrected with a circa £100M project co-ordinated by Telford & Wrekin District Council, repairs intended to safeguard the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritagemarker site for the next 100 years. At present a road occupies the route of the railway formation for a distance at Jackfield built to replace the original road damaged as a result of the 1954 land instability. For all these reasons, reopening is not being actively pursued by the SVR itself, particularly since the effects of the 2007 floods damage will take time to recover from. The promoters recognise that investment for any extension will need to come from outside sources since the SVR feels any funds it has are required for improvements to existing visitor and staff facilities in order to achieve the standards expected nowadays. Any concern that this debate may prove to be divisive amongst the SVR's membership has not yet materialised, as all but a small minority have dismissed the idea as unfeasable.

Westwards

The former Tenbury Line trackbed is substantially intact as far as Newnham Bridge station before it is hemmed in by modern development. However several underbridges are missing, including the famous Dowles Viaduct over the river Severn, a span over the Bewdley to Bridnorth road and a brick span at Cleobury. Added to this are the same problems relating to land ownership, realignments of roads at former bridge sites and probable lack of custom at the Newnham Bridge end.

Southwards

Between Burlish and Stourport station, the alignment of the former Bewdley to Hartlebury section has been obliterated by housing and is lost forever. However, from the Hartlebury direction the trackbed is intact as a bridleway from Mitton (the eastern throat of the original station), with only a span over the A449 Worcester to Kidderminster main road missing. The abutments are intact. Almost all of the trackbed is in Council ownership and they have recently expressed an interest in reopening as a commuter line. The goal of this proposal is unclear.

A suggestion has been made by a few SVR members to reinstate the track from Bewdley to Burlish (thus reinstating Bewdley's status as a junction station) as a precursor to an extension northwards.

Other operational extensions

The General Manager, Nick Ralls has confirmed that Chiltern Railways have approached the Severn Valley Railway with a view to extending a number of its peak-time Marylebonemarker to services to Bewdleymarker to alleviate road congestion in the Kidderminster/Stourport/Bewdley area. This has raised questions regarding car parking limitations near Bewdley station. Should this go ahead the distinction between a heritage railway and a contemporary railway operation would be further blurred.

The Engine House

A museum, known as The Engine House, has been built on land adjacent to the station at Highley. This is to be used to provide undercover accommodation for locomotives whose boiler certificates have expired and to provide an education/interpretation centre. Although it was due to be open mid/late 2007, the planned opening dates were affected by the flood damage at Highley station with rail access to the site finally being installed in March 2008. The exhibits were shunted into the building on 14 and 16 March 2008, allowing the museum to open in conjunction with the full line reopening. From the beginning of November 2008 access was not possible by rail as passenger trains did not stop at Highley station whilst footings and parts of a new footbridge were built. The SVR has since reopened Highley station pending the lift of the top portion of the new footbridge which was completed during October 2009.

Since opening the Engine House has been criticised by some railway preservation enthusiasts, who believe it despoils the historical atmosphere of the station although it is not directly adjacent to it.

Although the Engine House was due to be formally opened by Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester on 28 April 2009 he was unable to attend due to illness. Algernon Heber-Percy, Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire deputised in the Prince's absence. It was formally opening by Prince Richard during a rescheduled visit on 21st October in 2009.

Rolling stock

The railway can call on a large fleet to operate its services. Only a small core of vehicles actually belong to the railway company, the remainder being owned by associated groups, such as the Great Western (Severn Valley Railway) Association, and individuals. The SVR is also the base of the DMU (diesel multiple unit) West Midland Group. Locomotives and stock from the railway do not now often operate excursions on the National Rail network, but they have in the past been seen from Mallaigmarker to Plymouthmarker.

Locomotives

GWR Pannier Tank 7714 at Bridgnorth during the Spring Steam Gala 2009
GWR 7812 Erlestoke Manor departing Bridgnorth during the Spring Steam Gala 2009

Steam locomotives

Operational steam locomotives




Steam locomotives under overhaul, restoration or construction
    • GWR 2-8-0 28xx Class no. 2857 (Boiler work very well advanced, tender in paint shop, locomotive placed on LT jacks - August 2009)
    • GWR 2-6-2T 5101 Class no. 4150 (Well under way at Bewdley - August 2009)
    • GWR 0-6-2T 66xx Class no. 6634 (Overhaul under way - November 2009)
    • SR 4-6-2 West Country Class no. 34027 Taw Valleymarker (Boiler at Pridhams, (the Bulleid boiler at Bridgnorth is that from Sidmouth 34010), overhaul of chassis progressing very slowly)
    • BR standard class 4 4-6-0 (Class 4MT) no. 75069 (Dismantling commenced during June 2009, boiler removed, on-hold - November 2009 )
    • BR standard class 3 tank replica (2-6-2T Class 3MT) no. 82045 (Component parts being gathered. Recent activities have seen the two frame plates to be joined by frame stretchers. (Conventional wisdom considers a locomotive to exist once the frames are joined in this manner.) The buffer beam brackets have also been attached to the frames supporting the buffer planks.)
    • Catch me who can replica 2-2-0 Richard Trevithick locomotive of 1808. (Able to turn wheels under steam when set on blocks, but not yet ready to run on rails, work continues steadily - November 2009)


Steam locomotives on static display


Steam locomotives currently in storage
    • GWR 0-6-0PT 15xx Class no. 1501 (at Bridgnorth, overhaul due to start soon - November 2009)
    • Port Talbot Railway 0-6-0ST no. 813 (at Bridgnorth, overhaul due to start in 2010)
    • Manchester Ship Canal Hunslet 0-6-0T no.686 The Lady Armaghdale (at Bridgnorth, out of service, lately running as "Thomas the Tank Engine")


Steam locomotives currently elsewhere
    • GWR 4-6-0 78xx "Manor" Class no. 7819 Hinton Manor (cosmetic restoration complete; this has been exchanged for Hagley Hall at Swindon)
    • LMS 4–6–0 Class 5MT Black Five no. 45110 – BR black (Boiler certificate extended until 31 August 2008) This locomotive occasionally carries the post-preservation name R.A.F Biggin Hill. On static display at Barrow Hill Engine Shedmarker for under cover storage; due to stay for at least two years.)


Diesel locomotives

    • BR 0-6-0 Class 08 nos. D3022, D3201, D3586 and D3937 (in service)
    • BR 0-6-0 Class 11 no. 12099 (in service)
    • BR Bo-Bo Class 20 no. D8188 (in service)
    • BR Bo-Bo Class 20 no. 20 *** (in service)
    • BR Bo-Bo Class 27 no. D5410 (awaiting restoration)
    • BR B-B Class 35 no. D7029 (undergoing restoration)
    • BR Co-Co Class 37 no. 37906 (put back into service after repair a problem causing coolant loss)
    • BR Bo-Bo Class 42 no. D821 Greyhound (currently being repaired)
    • BR C-C Class 52 no. D1013 Western Ranger (in service)
    • BR C-C Class 52 no. D1062 Western Courier (in service)
    • BR Bo-Bo Class 73 no. E6005 (awaiting repairs)
    • BR Bo-Bo Class 73 no. 73006 (in service)


Diesel multiple units

    • BR Class 108 units 51941+59250+52064 and 51935+56208 (One of these vehicles was severely damaged by fire. Power car declared a write off and was quickly dispatched to Midland Railway - Butterleymarker for component recovery. Cut up October 2008 and was replaced by 53933 from Peak Rail)


Carriages

As an early entrant to the heritage railway movement the SVR was able to amass a collection of steam era carriages which, together with excellent covered accommodation and works facilities, are the envy of many latecomers.

To complement its large collection of GWR coaches the SVR boasts the movement's largest collection of Period 3 LMS coaches and a full rake of LNER teak vehicles of the Gresley/Thompson era. Normally the carriages are made up as a BR (Carmine and Cream) set, a BR (Maroon) set, a full LNER set, an LMS set and two GWR sets, one of which makes up the restaurant train. The non-restaurant GWR set is usually only used on the intensive timetable and at special events. The LMS set is frequently used, being based at Bridgnorth and forming the first up train of the day. (It was because of this that when the line was severed by storm damage the stock was marooned at Bridgnorth.)

The collection of operational carriages is constantly growing. Near future entrants to the fleet will include LMS RFO 7511 and LNER Kitchen Composite 7960. These two vehicles are nearing completion of restoration from near derelict condition. Others, awaiting restoration, include 1910-built Churchward third 2426 which has been in use as staff accommodation since arrival on the SVR, first at Bridgnorth and then, for the most recent several years, at Hampton Loade.

Goods stock

The railway can also muster convincing demonstration goods trains as well as works trains from its wagon fleet, the restoration base being at Bewdley goods shed.

The railway in television and films

The 1978 film version of The Thirty-Nine Steps was partly filmed on the railway – specifically, the scenes where Hannay (Robert Powell) hangs from Victoria Bridge. The scene is supposed to be set in Scotland, and the landscape is very out of place for that area.

Portions of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution were filmed on the railway.

The BBC TV children's series God's Wonderful Railway (1980) was filmed on the SVR.

The Bridgnorth station was used in 1981 as part of a sketch for the TV comedy Not the Nine O'Clock News. In the sketch, Mel Smith's character observes a steam train passing by without stopping and refers to it as an "old chuffer", forming part of a sequence of puns around the protagonist's wife.

In 1984, scenes for the BBC TV series The District Nurse were filmed at Bewdleymarker station.

The SVR featured in the BBC TV's 1987 adaptation of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novel 4.50 From Paddington. Scenes were shot in and around Bewdleymarker station.

Scenes featuring LMS 4MT no. 43106 were included in the 1987 TV serial Knights of God.

The railway was used for the 1990s sitcom Oh, Doctor Beeching!, featuring Paul Shane, Su Pollard and Jeffrey Holland. The exterior shots for the series were filmed in Arley stationmarker, where a false row of cottages was temporarily erected in the goods yard.

The ITV family drama Goodnight Mister Tom had its station sequences filmed in early spring at Arley stationmarker – for which trains ran through without stopping for two weeks.

In the 2005 film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe GWR Manor no. 7802 Bradley Manor appeared as the train that brought the Pevensies to the nearest station to the Professor's house.

The railway has also featured in several television advertisements.

References

  1. Severn Valley Railway
  2. BBC NEWS | England | Hereford/Worcs | Flash floods hit homes and roads
  3. Picture of first train Bridgnorth - Hampton Loade, February 2008
  4. Unlocking Stourport's Past - Stourport Station
  5. Highley Station Site


External links



Station sites


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