Published: 16th June 2015
The Severn Valley Railway is one of the biggest preserved UK railways in every sense running for 16 miles between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth. It boosts the economy along the route as many passengers and visitors stay for a few nights in the rural villages and towns such as Bewdley.
The line as the name suggests, follows the River Severn and offers some spectacular views of it from the train and crosses it on the spectacular Victoria Bridge. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the then volunteers re-opening the line and the anniversary was marked by the Orient Express visiting in May.
The SVR has a large steam fleet based at its two depots, Bridgnorth the main one in the north and Bewdley 12 miles away while the diesel fleet is based at Kidderminster where there is a main line connection onto the national network. The SVR’s Kidderminster station is about 100 yards away from the main line station which is served by frequent trains running between London Marylebone, Birmingham and Worcester.
Until maybe a decade ago it was possible to have a look round the engine shed at Bridgnorth but the railway has become so busy as well as adding facilities such as a wheel-drop and boiler shop which meant that it became out of bounds for most.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary, on July 18 it will be possible to look behind the scenes at the railway with access to signalboxes, workshops and yards which is normally not allowed to the public. Volunteers and staff will be on hand to act as guides and to inform visitors what they are seeing and how they can help run the railway.
This will be especially relevant in the many ongoing restoration and new-build projects along the line and the redevelopment of Bridgnorth underway. The wheeldrop will be in use to show visitors what it does and how it works but for many, perhaps the chance to travel on the remaining stubs of the two branchlines radiating from Bewdley will be the main attraction.
The remaining sections of the Bewdley to Tenbury line running north of Bewdley and the former Stourport line, on the Kidderminster side of Bewdley, normally not used for passenger trains will be hosting a shuttle service. In fact, this line may hold a fascinating future recreating the past but rail.co.uk will reveal all in a few months when more is known but could this branch be relaid soon?
Much of the volunteer restoration work and day-to-day maintenance takes place away from public view but on July 18, much of this will be opened up for visitors to see. For example, at Bewdley visitors will find the restoration site for GWR ‘Large Prairie’ Tank locomotive No. 4150 which has not steamed for over half a century. Volunteers hope to rectify this in the next couple of years.
The SVR’s anniversary is being marked with fabulous visitor competition and the railway is staging a one-off competition to offer six people and their guest the chance to enjoy an exclusive, behind-the-scenes, VIP experience. From 6th July (the 50th anniversary), several special golden tickets will be issued randomly at Kidderminster & Bridgnorth booking offices and at the SVR ticket counter at Comberton Place, Kidderminster.
The Engine House at Highley contains the SVR’s reserve collection which will is open on operating days with up to eight full size steam locomotives as well as a magnificent royal carriage used by the late King George VI. There are many other railway vehicles and artefacts, all with a story to tell such as The Great Train Robbery 50 years on and an exhibition area to see how the Severn Valley Railway really works.
The SVR also makes use of its 50 year old Diesel Multiple Unit on evening land-cruises on some Saturday evenings making a leisurely journey from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth and back. These run on June 20 and on July 11/25th plus all Saturdays in August and September 5th & 12th.
The train leaves Kidderminster at 7pm and takes a leisurely run in the evening light to Bridgnorth and a fish and chip supper can be eaten on the train (additional charge applies) for which a special evening fare applies.
The Severn Valley Railway operates daily until October, its well worth a day out as a minimum in their anniversary year!