by Peter Nicholson

Severn Valley Railway opens UK’s largest and best-equipped heritage railway diesel facility

Published: 6th June 2016

Kidderminster diesel depot officially opened to wide acclaim

The Severn Valley Railway, running 16 miles between Kidderminster, Worcestershire and Bridgnorth, Shropshire, is one of UK’s leading heritage railways. It has an extensive fleet of steam and heritage diesel locomotives as well as passenger and goods stock.

Maintenance facilities

While the steam locos and carriages have long had covered workshop and maintenance accommodation, all work on the diesels has had to be undertaken in the open air.

Now, after many years planning and fund-raising by the diesel loco-owning groups, a fully equipped maintenance shed has been opened at Kidderminster. The three-road shed provides 1,000sq m where up to four large locos can be worked on at the same time.

Construction started in January 2015, undertaken by contractors C21 Construction Ltd of Ludlow as a design-and-build project. The main structure was completed by November. Much of the fitting out including track laying has been undertaken by the SVR permanent way team and volunteers from the diesel groups.

The shed is equipped with two inspection pits, lifting jacks and a 10-tonne overhead travelling crane making it the best-equipped diesel facility on any UK heritage railway.

Funding and finishing

In addition to the finance raised by the diesel groups and their supporters, the Seven Valley Railway Charitable Trust made a major contribution, as did other organisations. Fundraising continues as staff amenities and office facilities are yet to be installed. The total cost of the project is said to be in the region of £800,000.

Grand opening

The official opening of the facility took place on Friday, May 20 when Sir Peter Hendy CBE, chairman of Network Rail, unveiled a commemorative plaque in the shed, in front of an invited audience.

As the audience applauded, to the sound of rock music, one of the roller shutter doors opened and through the smoke from dry ice, Class 50 No. 50035 Ark Royal made a dramatic entrance to the shed.

Modern loco naming

A further event took place in the depot during the opening ceremony when GB Railfreight’s recently delivered low-emissions Class 66/7 No. 66763 was formally named Severn Valley Railway by SVR Holdings vice president Phil Swallow and GBRf managing director John Smith.

Highly successful event

The shed was open to the public over the weekend, during the last day of the SVR’s three-day spring diesel festival, and follow-on mixed traction event on Sunday, May 22.

The four days of diesel operations attracted more than 4,000 visitors, an increase in excess of 1,500 over the previous year’s event. That had been held in what had become the railway’s traditional October slot for its annual diesel gala.

This year’s diesel event hosted more than a dozen visiting locos, both from heritage railways and main line operators, including brand-new Class 68 No. 68025 Superb from DRS. This regrettably had a maker’s plate removed during the visit but after an appeal was returned in the post to the SVR main office.

Visiting the depot

The shed and yard are clearly visible from trains using Kidderminster SVR station, but being an operational workshop the diesel depot will not normally be available for visits by members of the public. The opening weekend was a rare opportunity for enthusiasts to see inside, but it is hoped that on occasions it will be open for visits. The only other time scheduled this year is during the SVR’s annual ‘Peep Behind the Scenes’ event on July16.

Another diesel festival is expected to take place in May 2017, but not on quite such a large scale, with fewer visiting locos.

Go by rail

Kidderminster is served by frequent London Midland services running between Birmingham and Worcester and a few Chiltern Railway services and it is a one minute walk from the main line station to the SVR station, a much grander affair!

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