Severn Valley Railway Celebrates 150th Anniversary

Wednesday 1st February 2012 is the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Severn Valley line between Worcester and Shrewsbury on February 1st 1862. It was built between 1858 and 1862, and linked Hartlebury, near Droitwich Spa, with Shrewsbury, a distance of 40 miles (64 km). Important stations on the line were Stourport-on-Severn, Bewdley, Arley, Highley, Hampton Loade, Bridgnorth, Coalport, Ironbridge and Broseley, Buildwas, Cressage and Berrington.

The original Severn Valley Railway was absorbed into the Great Western Railway in the 1870s, and in 1878 a link line was constructed from Bewdley to Kidderminster. This meant trains could run direct from the Black Country to areas of Shropshire. Most Kidderminster to Bewdley trains continued through the Wyre Forest line (dismantled in the 1960s and now a popular walking route) to Tenbury Wells or Woofferton. At Buildwas Junction (now the site of Ironbridge Power Station near what is now Telford) Severn Valley trains connected with services from Wellington to Much Wenlock and Craven Arms.

Prior to preservation, the Severn Valley line was also used for Freight traffic, mostly agricultural and coal traffic from the collieries of Alveley and Highley which were the principal sources of revenue. The line was also strategically useful in the Second World War as a by-pass around the West Midlands.

Unfortunately though it was never financially successful. After nationalisation in 1948, passenger traffic started to dwindle until The line was closed to through passenger and freight services in 1963 and the track north of Bridgnorth was dismantled. Whilst it is generally believed that the line was closed under the “Beeching Axe” of the 1960s, the Severn Valley Line was, in fact, already scheduled for closure prior to the release of Beeching’s 1962 report. After 1963, coal traffic survived south of Alveley until 1969, while a sparse passenger service continued to link Bewdley with Kidderminster and Hartlebury, until this too ceased in January 1970.

Luckily In the 1960’s A group of far-sighted & dedicated Railway Personell saw what was happening and got together  to try and preserve the railway as a Heritage Line. and now a sixteen mile stretch between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster runs a regular and very popular service following the course of the River Severn for much of its route, The Railway also Hosts many Popular events during the year such as Spring Steam Galas, Diesel Gala’s, World War II Weekend, Classic Car Shows, Autumn Steam Galas, Sant Specials and also plays host to many visiting Locomotives such as LNER A4 Pacific “Sir Nigel Gresley”, A1 60163 Tornado, GWR 6024 King Edward I, LMS 6201 Princess Elizabeth and A4 Pacific “Bittern” and BR Standard class 70013 Oliver Cromwell.

In addition to the popular Railway Line the Severn Valley Railway also has a number of other Facilities

Locomotive works   The main locomotive works are located at Bridgnorth. It is not normally open to the public because of health and safety regulations but conducted tours and open days are arranged from time to time. Major features of the locomotive works include the boiler shop equipped with overhead crane, Noble and Lunn wheel lathe, ex-LT lifting jacks and a Wheeldrop recovered from Leicestershire, installed in 2010. Works to enclose the southern end of Bridgnorth locomotive shed with roller shutter doors, improve natural illumination and waterproof the building more effectively were completed in early 2009. This forms the first of a number of phases to improve the Bridgnorth site both for staff and for visitors.

Carriage works   Although carriage repair and restoration is carried out at a number of locations on the railway, the main carriage works is located in the former goods shed at Kidderminster. This building, lying adjacent to the main national railway line, is known as the North Star Carriage Works thus perpetuating a typical GWR name. As well as having a machine shop and fabrication equipment to carry out a full range of body and bogie repairs the carriage works boasts equipment recovered from former BR works to calibrate and adjust dynamo voltage regulators and to thoroughly overhaul and test vacuum brake equipment, a facility that is almost extinct elsewhere. In common with the locomotive works it is not normally open to the public due to health and safety legislation

The Engine House

The Engine House, is built on land adjacent to the station at Highley and provides covered accommodation for locomotives currently out of service, displays of other rolling stock, and an education/interpretation centre. Although it was due to be open mid/late 2007, the planned opening dates were affected by the flood damage at Highley station with rail access to the site finally being installed in March 2008. The first exhibits arrived by rail on 14 and 16 March 2008, allowing the museum to open in conjunction with the full line reopening. In late 2008 access was not possible by rail as passenger trains did not stop at Highley station whilst footings and parts of a new footbridge were built. Highley station reopened in 2009 and the new footbridge was completed during October 2009 and The Engine House was formally opened by the Duke of Gloucester on 21 October 2009.