Forty eight years ago today on 23 May 1970 The Severn Valley Railway line reopened as a heritage line . The Severn Valley line Railway was originally 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 and Arley within Worcestershire, and Highley, Hampton Loade, Bridgnorth, Coalport, Ironbridge and Broseley, Buildwas, Cressage and Berrington in Shropshire. Although the railway was built by the original Severn Valley Railway Company, it was operated from opening on 1 February 1862 by the West Midland Railway which was absorbed into the Great Western Railway on 1 August 1863. In 1878 the GWR opened a link line between Bewdley and 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 forming part of National Cycle Route 45) 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 never financially successful. Freight traffic, mostly agricultural, and coal traffic from the collieries of Alveley and Highley were the principal sources of revenue. The line was strategically useful in the Second World War as an alternative diversionary route around the West Midlands. After nationalisation in 1948, passenger traffic started to dwindle. Whilst it is generally believed that the line was closed under the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, the Severn Valley Line was, already scheduled for closure prior to the publication of Beeching’s report ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’ on 27 March 1963. British Railways had announced in January 1962 that the Severn Valley line was under review, and the B.T.C. published closure proposal notices on 1 October 1962 in advance of a meeting of the West Midlands Transport Users Consultative Committee which took place at Bridgnorth Town Hall on 8 November 1962? Objections to the proposed closure were unsuccessful and the line was closed to through passenger services on 9 September 1963 and to through freight services on 30 November 1963. Following closure, the track north of Bridgnorth was dismantled. 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. Freight traffic between the British Sugar Corporation’s Foley Park factory and Kidderminster continued until 1982. A very small section of the original Severn Valley line continued to carry coal traffic to Ironbridge Power Station until its closure in November 2015. For much of its working life the Severn Valley line was operated by the Great Western Railway and subsequently the Western Region of British Railways.
The Severn Valley Railway Society was formed in July 1965 by a group of members who wished to preserve a section of the line which had closed in 1963. To achieve this, the Severn Valley Railway Company was incorporated in May 1967. Even at that early date, the objective of the company was to ‘preserve, retain and restore the standard-gauge railway extending from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster via Bewdley’. The SVR initially acquired 5½ miles of the line between Bridgnorth and Alveley Colliery from BR at a cost of £25,000. In May 23 1970 a Light Railway Order was granted allowing services to begin between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade. And the Severn Valley Railway began operating as a heritage railway. The end of coal trains from the colliery in 1973 then allowed SVR to acquire a further 8½ miles of the line as far as Foley Park, the purchase price of £74,000 being raised by the floatation of a public company initially under the chairmanship of Sir Gerald Nabarro and Services were extended to Bewdley in May 1974.
Following the end of freight traffic from BSC at Foley Park in 1982, the SVR purchased the final section of the line to Kidderminster at a cost of £75,000. The SVR also rented the former Comberton Hill goods yard at Kidderminster from BR, on which a new station would be built. This was achieved in time for services to Kidderminster to begin on 30 July 1984. Major developments on the SVR since 1984 have included the commissioning of a newly constructed signal box at Kidderminster in 1987, the opening of a new boiler shop at Bridgnorth in 1990, the opening of a new carriage shed at Kidderminster in 2003, the completion of the east wing and canopy of Kidderminster Station in 2006, and the opening of the Engine House Museum at Highley in 2008. 2010 marked the Severn Valley railway’s 40th anniversary since opening in 1970 and the 175th anniversary of the formation of the Great Western Railway. 2015 marked the 50th anniversary since the birth of the Severn Valley Railway on 6 July 1965. Special events were staged during both years to mark these anniversaries.