Published: 29th June 2015
The runners and riders close on the finishing line and right there at the wining post is an Iron Horse. A 48-ton Iron Horse by Collett out of the Great Western’s Swindon works, born in 1929 and presently out to grass at Severn Valley Railway.
The scene at Worcester Racecourse on June 24 may have seemed bizarre, but maybe not a total surprise given that the jump racing event was a charity day organised by the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust aimed at generating vital funds to help maintain and preserve the railway.
“We did get some very strange looks from rather surprised motorists and passers-by,” admitted Chair of the event organising committee, Phil Dutton, as he reflected on the 15-mile move of out-of-ticket ex-GWR Pannier No. 5764 from Kidderminster station to the Racecourse via Worcester city centre. “But it has all been worth it. The locomotive looked terrific alongside the track – the perfect combination of both metal and animal horsepower, side-by-side.”
The 0-6-0PT was purchased by the SVR Pannier Tank Fund in 1971. A regular SVR performer during the last 45 years, it is presently in the queue for a heavy overhaul, likely to carry a £500,000 price tag. It was moved to the race course by heavy haulage firm Allely’s, who generously agreed to offer their services free of charge. Tickets for the SVR Raceday cost £8.00 - with £3.00 from every ticket sold being donated to the SVR Charitable Trust.
One of Britain’s top heritage railways, the SVR celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust was launched in 2012 to raise funds to assist in the preservation and operation of the historic 16-line between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth. Projects supported by the SVR Charitable Trust from money raised include the Heritage Skills Training Academy, set up to ensure traditional skills needed to maintain and preserve the SVR’s infrastructure and rolling stock are not lost.
“We are this year celebrating our 50th birthday, which is certainly a tremendous milestone, however, it also means that many of the founders and volunteers that have helped us over the years are getting older – the average volunteer age is now 67,” explained Phil Dutton. “As our volunteers retire, we lose not only their time and support, but their heritage skills and knowledge, so we need to ensure these skills are passed on to future generations and not lost forever.”
The HSTA now has eight apprentices studying at NVQ Level 3, each spending two days at Telford College and the remainder of their time being mentored by SVR staff and volunteers. It costs £35,000 to fund each apprentice over the four year apprenticeship.
Last month, another SVR Charitable Trust project came to glorious fruition when LNER Kitchen Composite carriage No. 7960 emerged from the SVR’s Kidderminster paint shop ready to carry its first dining passengers since 1962.
A former workhorse on the Aberdeen to Edinburgh route, the carriage was withdrawn from passenger use around 1959-1960 and converted into a dormitory coach for a painting gang in Scotland.
It arrived at the SVR in a derelict state in 1980 after purchase by an SVR member. Five years later, with no progress made, it was bought by another SVR member, Phil James. He worked on restoring it for 18 years until his sad death. He had completed the passenger accommodation, running gear and body exterior, but not commenced work on the pantry and kitchen.
Phil James’ widow Louise donated the coach to the then SVR Rolling Stock Trust, which subsequently became the SVR Charitable Trust. For the last three years SVRCT has raised funds which enabled Kidderminster-based volunteers to finish the pantry (largely in LNER style) and kitchen to modern gas safety regulations.
No. 7960’s first use on completion of its restoration was for an evening charter to celebrate the birthday John Leftwich, Chairman of the SVR Charitable Trust Development Board, who, along with his wife Tricia, donated money towards the restoration works. In thanking everyone who had contributed to transforming the vehicle from dereliction, John Leftwich confirmed, “it will provide a valuable asset to the SVR and help us to reach our ambition of hosting one of the most desirable dining train combinations on the UK heritage railway network.”
Other projects on SVRCT’s agenda include funding restoration of GWR 4-6-0 No. 4930 Hagley Hall, LNER 1934-built Tourist Third Open No. 52255 and an LMS ‘stove R’ six-wheeled brake vehicle.
For further information about the Registered Charity (Number 1092723) contact SVR Charitable Trust, Number One, Comberton Place, Kidderminster, DY10 1QR, call 01562 757900 or visit http://www.svrtrust.org.uk.