Published 27th August 2012
Bridgnorth - The Severn Valley Railway (SVR) is one of the best known preserved railways in Britain running for 16 miles between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth. It suffered from some unfortunate locomotive failures earlier this year and had to hire in several engines to keep the service running. From mid August, the situation turned gold with three engines returned to service!
Southern Railway ‘Battle of Britain’ class No. 34053 Sir Keith Park has returned to service after a 47 year layoff! It is owned by Southern Locomotives Limited who restored the engine after they took delivery of it in December 2000. This massive task was carried out at their base in Herston, (Swanage) base before moving to the SVR on a long term hire.
The engine was built at Brighton in 1947 and took its name from the Air Chief Marshal at the time. It was modernised in 1958 before being withdrawn from service in October 1965. It remained silent until first moved under its own power on July 13 at Bridgnorth.
After the usual final adjustments, the engine was lit up on August 21 ready for testing on the following day in top and tail mode on scheduled services. These were deemed successful and on August 23 the decision was taken to allow it to head the 1300hrs train from Kidderminster as the train engine. This followed it being turned to ‘head north’ and was its first revenue earning train in 47 years.
The engine was again turned at Kidderminster the following day to face south as is normal at the SVR and booked to enter regular traffic over the Bank Holiday.
Like several hundred other locomotives in the mid 1960s, No. 34053 was sold for scrap to Woodhams Scrapyard in Barry at South Wales. The ‘sold’ message was always painted on the locomotive and is still to be seen on 34053’s slide bars today, after nearly 50 years!
There were two more engines back in service in August, the on loan from Didcot, GWR 28XX 2-8-0 heavy freight class No. 2857 and GWR Pannier Tank, 0-6-0PT No. 1501. This had been out of traffic for several years undergoing overhaul at Bridgnorth.
The 2-8-0 had started work in March at the SVR but developed some problems so the decision was made to lift the boiler and rectify all the issues. The engine returned to service in August and has worked without problems ever since.
Under utmost secrecy, the smokebox of GWR ‘Manor’ Class, No. 7812 Erlestoke Manor was painted gold to celebrate the Olympics on August 23. This was a temporary alteration to the normal black livery and poster paint was used. The engine carried the Olympic Torch on the SVR on May 24th.
The SVR has been linked to the national network but this has not been able to accommodate many passenger trains as the signalling was not to the stringent standards required today. This has been rectified over the August Bank Holiday weekend and now literally opens the way for charter trains to run onto and from the railway without restriction.
The SVR hosts many impressive events and for enthusiasts, the Autumn Gala is a ‘must’. This year it runs on September 21/22/23 and several visiting engines will boost the ‘home’ fleet. These are Southern ‘Mogul’ ‘U’ Class No. 31806, LNWR ‘Coal’ Tank No. 7799, LSWR ‘T9’ No. 30120.
Trains will run 24 hours a day for the three days and a huge book fair will take place in the Highley ‘Engine House’.
The SVR’s diesel gala makes a comeback this year on October 4/5/6 when all trains will be diesel hauled.