Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Severn Valley Railway...

Hi all. Today myself and everyone's favourite "I missed my alarm" enthusiast 'Eddie the Late' spent the day at the wonderful Severn Valley Railway. The last few days has seen the late arrival of summer and the rising temperatures were coupled with a sky of cloudless blue. Ed had initially planned to come down from Norfolk to volunteer at the Statfold open day but in an act of extraordinary lateness had booked his hotel a week late so had to come down anyway. This story has created much hilarity to all except Ed himself! So, with little else to do, we decided to have a trip up and down the valley. Running for 16 miles between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth, the SVR is probably my favourite preserved line. I met Ed at just before 9am and he immediately insisted on a McDonalds breakfast. Being the kind and caring soul that I am I couldn't refuse his request and we soon found ourselves at the drive through...
Stomachs replenished, we had a quick sprint down the M42 towards Kidderminster. Our planned departure was the 10:15am trip to Bridgnorth which was rostered to No7802 "Bradley Manor". Tickets purchased, we wandered up the platform towards the loco, admiring the immaculate rake of Midland coaches. One thing the SVR should be admired for is its coaching stock as they have a great variety of pre-nationalisation rolling stock from the GWR, LNER and the LMS...
"Bradley Manor" was shining at the head of the train. Over the way, recently overhauled Pannier Tank No7714 was overflowing with water on the column. The tank engine was no doubt glad of a cool down on this warm day! "Bradley Manor" was built under the GWR at Swindon in 1938. Thirty of this popular class of 4-6-0s were built, with the final batch arriving under BR in 1950. 7802 was withdrawn in 1965 and was rescued from Barry Scrapyard for preservation on the SVR in 1979 by the Erlestoke Manor Fund. They are an ideal engine for this sort of work...
"1938-Built GWR Manor Class 7802 'Bradley Manor' At Kidderminster"
To our surprise, the 10:15am train which we thought would be pretty quiet was in fact full! The Manor got the weight moving easily before ticking through the picturesque Severn Valley. We had planned to alight from the train at Highley for our usual visit to the popular 'Engine House'. Having passed sister Manor 7812 at Arley, 7802 barked towards our drop-off point. Once we'd hopped off, the Manor awaited the "Right Away" to depart upgrade towards Hampton Loade...
The 'Engine House' hosts out of ticket engines from the SVR's collection. They are polished up and shining, awaiting their turn in the overhaul queue in covered storage. I think this building is a fabulous idea. The engines aren't rotting in a siding somewhere under tarpaulins, they're on display and continuing to be enjoyed by masses of visitors. Its also a great opportunity for visitors to get up close to these slumbering machines. "Gordon" in particular: the Riddles 2-10-0: is a massive beast...
"Freight Engines At Rest. The 8F 48773 Alongside 'Gordon', No600"
Eddie declared that it was now "brew time" and so we headed upstairs to the café. Sitting outside was the only choice in this weather and the peace across the valley was soon shattered by an approaching Bulleid. The Battle of Britain pacific "Sir Keith Park" was departing Highley towards Arley...
The three-cylinder beat echoed all around as 34053 chugged past...
Our plan was to pick up the 11:44am departure to Bridgnorth and so we had a slow wander back across towards the station. The topic of conversation was the usual - all things steam. No7714 was hauling a 6-coach train and is seen arriving at Highley...
Surprisingly, despite the strong passenger numbers, we actually managed to find a seat. The plucky Pannier then departed towards Bridgnorth. Arriving at the terminus, we alighted from the Mk1 stock and trotted across the footbridge. Another Bulleid - "Taw Valley" - was waiting to depart for Kidderminster. The crew that had manned 7802 this morning had been transferred to the pacific and were preparing for the off. Up close, the Bulleid's are big beasts...
In the sunshine, "Taw Valley" awaited the Guard's signal. The fire was burning brightly in the box as the trainee driver prepared to take her away in front of a no doubt unwelcome audience - nothing worse than being watched...
Soon enough the green flag was waved and 34027 whistled up prior to departure. The stiff regulator was tugged from its resting place and you could hear the steam whistling down to the cylinders. Nothing. It was then I noticed that the die-blocks weren't positioned for starting, particularly when considering the gradient, curve and train weight. Sure enough, "Taw Valley" refused to budge. The 'main driver' came across and attempted movement but she wouldn't go. In the end he resorted to shutting off, opening the drains and attempted to move the now solid reverser. As the pressure dropped, he could change the position and roll the engine back a touch before assuming full forward (75%) and heading off. In his haste the engine caused a slip, much to the cheers of the onlookers who were gripped to the spectacle. As 34027 chugged triumphantly away, the joy drastically reduced as a cloud of smuts like I've never seen rained down upon us. I think its fair to say our shirts were ruined and Ed even had to resort to washing his hair in the gents! Serves us right for judging. This called for a pint at the platform-based "Railwaymans Arms"...
After our refreshing pint we had a look on the bridge to see the goings on in the yard. 7802 had gone on shed for a break whilst 7714 was being coaled. The yard here is always a hive of activity and the number of engines in the SVR fleet never ceases to amaze me. 2857 and the 'Flying Pig' were also spotted...
7714 has her bunker topped up by the JCB...
After coaling and watering, the Pannier was returned to her rightful place at the head of the train. The 1:05pm departure would comprise the Mk1 stock once again. A crew member is seen here bringing the lamp to the front. He then reattached the vacuum bag which is left off during light engine working on engines with the combi-brake to prevent the pump picking up vacuum whilst operating with the steam brake...
"Erlestoke Manor" soon rolled in from Kidderminster. She was working "Foot Ex" courses and her arrival cleared the section for 7714 to depart. 7714 was built for the GWR by Kerr Stuart in 1930...
The plucky Pannier made a fine run to Hampton Loade, providing an audible chorus to excite the ears. "Sir Keith Park" passed us there...
The rest of the run back was most pleasant, with the 0-6-0 ticking through the Severn Valley without a care. I love Pannier tanks and a BR black one is always welcome. They are definitely a go anywhere, do anything machine - as I found the other week watching 9600! After Bewdley, we spotted the elephants out and about in the safari park. You don't see these from many preserved railways I'm sure...
Arriving triumphantly back at Kidderminster, 7714 was uncoupled quickly before a brisk run-round. Her next departure wasn't far away but for us it was time for a final cuppa' before the journey homeward. I did try and snap the pannier a final time but the hot sun was just at the wrong angle so I gave in with that one. Well, after a most enjoyable day at the brilliant SVR it was time for home. Cheers Ed for another good laugh, Sam...

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