William "Bill" Gillett, BEM was the SVRSevern Valley Railway’s first General Manager in the era of the Severn Valley Railway Society.
Bill Gillett began his railway career as a signal box lad and progressed to become the Chief Operating Inspector of BRBritish Rail or British Railways Birmingham Division. He was one of very few senior BRBritish Rail or British Railways managers willing to be seen as openly supportive of a steam preservation scheme in the BRBritish Rail or British Railways ‘anti-steam pro-modern traction’ era,, and was on the footplate of 3205 with drivers Cyril Williams and John Hill when it travelled from Stourbridge to Bridgnorth on 25 March 1967 to become the SVRSevern Valley Railway's first loco. On arrival he was quickly enrolled as a member and suitably refreshed at The Railwayman's Arms.
The workings of the first 'steam gala' on 14 October 1967 were under his direction, and he also accepted personal responsibility for other steam gala weekends and private trains run 'on the nod' in the 1960s.
He was appointed to the position of volunteer SVRSevern Valley Railway General Manager in September 1968 and the following month he spoke on behalf of the SVRSevern Valley Railway at the Public Enquiry into the granting of a Light Railway Order to the Society. The report of the Society’s AGM in December 1968 noted that "Mr. W. Gillett, General Manager to the Society, continues as an ex-officio member of the Committee."
Following the formation of the Severn Valley Railway Company, Bill Gillett was appointed Operating Director as well as continuing in the role of General Manager. During 1971, under Sir Gerald Nabarro’s chairmanship, he was succeeded as General Manager by Hugh Mossop, although remaining as Operating Director and assuming the role of 'Superintendent of the Line'. He resigned from both positions in early 1972, his role as Line Superintendent being assumed by Arnold Becker.
Bill Gillett was among the guests at a celebration evening at Castle Hall in Bridgnorth on 5 July 1975 held to mark the 10th anniversary of the Society and at the 21st Anniversary celebrations in 1986. He died on 22 April 1991.
- Obituary, SVRSevern Valley Railway News 99
- Don Wilcox, SVRSevern Valley Railway News 120
- Magner (1997) p. 49.
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 17, “The Early Days of the Severn Valley Part III, A.G. Cleaver
- Magner (1997) p. 50
- Magner (1997) "Memories of Christopher George", p. 70.
- Magner (1997) p. 52.
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 151
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 16
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 21
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 23
- Magner (1997) p. 58.
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 81