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entry 19 Jun 2006, 22:01
I paid my first visit to the Severn Valley Railway on a Sunday in 1977 with a group of enthusiasts getting a serious "fix of steam". The day before we had travelled on a Silver Jubilee railtour which had been steam hauled in four legs from Chester to Newport via Shrewsbury. The locomotives were "Sir Nigel Gresley", "Princess Elizabeth", "King George V" and "Clan Line". We stayed overnight in the Birmingham area and early the next morning set off for Bewdley which was then the southern terminus of the SVR. We had a great day and since that time all my visits to preserved steam lines have been measured against it.

A lot has changed in the thirty years since; less hair, more beard, poorer eyesight, and the SVR has not stood still either. The line has been extended south to Kidderminster and over the years the company has been overhauling the infrastructure there into a very impressive undertaking. Here is the view of the station buildings as you walk down the path from the pay & display car park.
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We had arrived at about 11:30 and found that there were two trains preparing for departure. The 11:45 consisted of LNER varnished teak stock and was headed by 8F 48773 travelling tender first. The 12:15 was the "Sundays Only" dining train (book by prior appointment). It consisted of GWR coaching stock and was coupled to "Bradley Manor". We chose to take the 11:45 and found seats in the First Open coach at the rear of the train. Whistles were exchanged by guard and driver and our train eased away from the station on the journey to Bridgenorth. The line passes through the industrial area of Kidderminster over a canal and off into the country side. It travels down an incline and into a tunnel. Once through the tunnel, the landscape changes to the rolling wooded hills and lush green fields that define the valley of the river Severn. You can view herds of Wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plains. Actually that's the safari park; I don't think they were Wildebeest and the herds were visitors in cars. The train soon crosses the Bewdley by pass and arrives in the station. It is here we realise just how long the train is as our coach is not actually at the platform.

There is now a short delay as we wait for the line ahead to be cleared by the incoming southbound train. Movement from the passengers on the platform opposite indicates it is coming and a quick look out of the door window shows
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A4 60009 "Union of South Africa" gliding slowly into the adjoining platform. This is how the front of an A4 looks. Any model which does not have that greyhound like thining snout just doesn't cut the mustard (1980's vintage Hornby A4s, I'm talking about you!).

Once we have received the token for the next block, our train continues the journey north. The line passes through woods for a while. The eerie "Whoooo" sound of the 8F's whistle is carried back to us as we approach ungated road crossings. Then the train slows for the 15mph speed restriction over the Victoria bridge which carries the line to the western bank of the river. This is one the "signature" features of the railway with its graceful arch, but you don't see that from the train.

At Arley we exchange tokens with a Class 2 2-6-0 which is on "SVR Footplate Experience" duty today. I would say ex-LMS except the builder's plate says Crewe 1950.
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This is probably the smallest loco in steam today.

Our journey continues along the line. We pause briefly at Highley which is the site of an ambitious new Lottery funded project to create an "Engine House" display centre. It is currently little beyond the site clearance stage but if the project is carried through to the same high standards visible elsewhere on the SVR it should be well worth a visit when it is completed. Hampton Loade follows Highley and we are passed by King Edward I travelling south, tender first. Our 8F attacks the bank to the summit at Eardington and then coasts down the line to arrive in Bridgenorth. Once again our coach is a little shy of the platform and we must move forward before we can make our exit.

Bridgenorth houses the line's MPD. Among the engnes on shed today are this pair
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For all fans of opening doors, the smokebox on the Prairie is ajar.

We don't just travel on trains on our days out, we like to walk and see the countryside. Bridgenorth is worth a visit in its own right. The station is connected to the "high town" by a recent high level foot bridge which removes the need to descend to the valley floor and then climb the far side. There is still a short climb to the centre of the town but it is a relatively gentle slope. The main street in Bridgenorth is a wide thoroughfare dominated by this building bearing the date 1652
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The lower part of the streetscape is difficult to see because of parked cars and the building lines are spoiled by shop signage but once you look above this level, an interesting variety of architecture is yours to behold. This central part of Bridgenorth sits on an old red sandstone block that has somehow been pushed upwards through the valley floor. These rocks are pre-Jurassic. Here is a view taken from the riverside.
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and I can't have a Blog about Bridgenorth without showing a bridge
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There are many more interesting buildings to see and there is a very popular fish and chip shop, or maybe there is just one shop selling takeaway hot food. Whichever it is, we saw a remarkable number of people working their way through portions of chips. We made our way back to the park at the southern end of the high town area and caught this shot of Bradley Manor hauling the day's other eager diners up the steep incline on their return journey to Kidderminster.
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We made our way back to the station to catch the next train south. The platform roads were empty but a fair number of people were thronging the station. The small shop was packed. Bridgenorth station is not large and it became clear why the SVR might be keen to develop Kidderminster - they have so much more room there. We walked to the end of platform One to await the arrival of our train. During the wait, the SVR Footplate experience backed out from the coaling and watering station and rejoined its solitary brake second coach. Watching the bracket signal guarding the entrance to the station soon showed that a train was due. Some faint whistles were carried on the breeze and not long afterwards King Edward 1 came into view across the bridge. Having been accustomed to the size of the class 2 in my viewfinder I was immediately impressed by the size of this four cylinder top link locomotive as it came into view
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Once the line was clear the class 2 headed south. The king uncoupled from the train and headed to the MPD for water and coal. The coaling plant at Bridgenorth is a long reach loader fitted with a bucket. The first scoop fell into what sounded like a very empty bunker. Duely replenished, the locomotive reversed out of the yard across the bridge and then returned to the front of our train. All these movements were under the control of the shorter calling on and shunting signals on the gantries. Like us, King Edward was a visitor to the SVR and a small band of photographers had gathered beyond the fence to mark the occasion, braving the light rain which was now falling steadily. The now slightly greasy rails might make the climb to the summit at Eardington a little more interesting. As I remember it, there was very little slip as the power was applied gently and we pulled away. There was a lot steam and smoke and apparently I had quite a dusting in my hair when I returned to my seat clutching the camcorder which had recorded our departure.
On the run back to Kidderminster we passed Bradley Manor running light engine at Hampton Loade; the carriage works is located in a very "grand" building in Kidderminster.
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At Bewdley we meet "Union of South Africa" which was travelling chimney first - the only locomotive to be turned at each end of the line, though where it did this, I didn't see.

The SVR is a "railway", not a "steam railway" and so is host to a variety of retired diesels a few of which can be seen here at Kidderminster
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Our train pulled into Kidderminster somewhat behind time. King Edward was detached from the coaches, reversed into the release road and headed swiftly back up the line alone. "Gladys" was left to haul the coaches to the carriage sidings for the night. For reference, this is the SVR's interpretation of "blood and custard".
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Every railway needs a "Gladys"!
My one regret is that the timings of my visit meant I did not ride in a train hauled by "Union of South Africa". I did hear the chime whistle on the occasions that we passed it in stations, but apart from some wheel slip, I didn't have the chance to listen to the three cylinder "Gresley Beat". The one thing that stands out from the day is the very individual sounds of the whistles. From the A4 chime, through the 8F's eerie "Whooo" to the King's shrill sound, they are truly distinctive. Whilst it can be hard to tell a a rapid two cylinder from a four without concentrating really hard, with the whistles there is no mistake. Therefore my prime consideration for model loco sound will now be the whistle, but I will need to learn a few first!
All in all, another grand day out which has renewed my belief that it is hard to beat the SVR for a railway experience.

19th June 2006

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post 6 Jul 2006, 19:35
Comment #1


DT
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Stunning photos.

I'm planning on going there sometime. Gary raves about it too.

Thanks for sharing them.

Doug


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