Severn Valley Railway Timeline 1965-1969
Significant events in the history of the Severn Valley Railway in preservation between 1965 and 1969 are set out below.
- On Friday 25 June 1965, the 'Kidderminster Shuttle' reported that BRBritish Rail or British Railways had withdrawn the 8.30am 'Cathedrals Express' service from Kidderminster to London. Keith Beddoes, a local railway enthusiast, discussed this with a group of colleagues at work. The subject changed to the attempts to reopen part of the Bluebell line, and Beddoes suggested that the same could be done here.
- Letters were written to the local press over that weekend, and on Monday they responded, suggesting a meeting. This took place at the house of Tony Tuite, a colleague of Beddoes, on the evening of Tuesday 29 June. Those present decided to organise a public meeting and arrangements to advertise this were put in hand.
- The formation of the Severn Valley Railway in preservation officially began on 6 July 1965. The public meeting proposed by Keith Beddoes took place at the Coopers Arms in Kidderminster, attended by around 50 people.
- Three possible locations were considered for the potential preserved railway, and the meeting spent some time discussing the merits of these. It was not considered feasible to use a section of the Tenbury Branch between Bewdley and Cleobury Mortimer as BRBritish Rail or British Railways were still using Bewdley station at that time and could not grant access. The Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway was also deemed unsuitable because of its remoteness and the relatively light axle load limits of the light railway. The Severn Valley Railway between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade was therefore chosen.
- On Sunday 11 July the Society inspected the track from Hampton Loade to Bridgnorth, noting that all the signals and most of the railway installations along the route had been removed. While holding up the old station name board at Bridgnorth to take a photograph, they were challenged “What the hell do you think you are doing?” by a man with a shotgun. This turned out to be George Thorpe (also known as ‘Elias’) who had continued to operate the station refreshment room after the station itself had shut. Once the Society explained their idea, they were quickly made welcome!
- On Sunday 25 July, the Society made a second visit to inspect the line between Hampton Loade and Bridgnorth. They discovered that since their first visit, BRBritish Rail or British Railways had resumed the removal of track from Bridgnorth Station towards Kidderminster. The Society authorised John Garth to send a telegram to British Rail asking them to stop taking up the line. This was sent on Monday 26th, and at 5pm on 28 July BRBritish Rail or British Railways agreed to a stay of execution while negotiations took place.
- The Society’s initial goal was to operate services over the 4½ miles between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade. However the Society would also need to take on the track between Hampton Loade and Milepost 144½ near Alveley in order to maintain a connection to the main line via the section beyond, which BRBritish Rail or British Railways was still using for colliery traffic from Alveley Colliery.
- The Society met with BRBritish Rail or British Railways on 4 August. BRBritish Rail or British Railways proved unwilling to lease the line to the SVRSevern Valley Railway, and suggested a provisional price of £45,000 for the outright purchase of line between Bridgnorth and Milepost 144½ at Alveley Colliery. At the same meeting BRBritish Rail or British Railways granted the Society access to the Bridgnorth Station site in exchange for a nominal rent of £5 per month..
- A public meeting took place at Kidderminster on 9 August, attended by between 70-100 people. The majority of those attending supported the plans, although some felt the provisional price of £45,000 was too high. Dissent was mainly from representatives of other Midlands preservation societies.
- Another public meeting took place at Bridgnorth on 31 August, attended by between 50-80 people. The proposals were generally well received.
- On 19 September 1965 the Stephenson Locomotive Society visited Alveley with a special train from Bewdley, hauled by GWRGreat Western Railway locomotives 4555 and 1420. This helped publicise the preservation scheme.
- The first working party took place at Bridgnorth station on Sunday 26 September. Regular Sunday afternoon de-weeding of the track and painting of the buildings continued throughout the 1960s as the station was gradually restored to working condition.
- Having obtained a professional valuation of the station buildings, the Society posted a tender to BRBritish Rail or British Railways Estates on 21 October offering £25,000 for the line from Bridgnorth to milepost 144½. On 26 October four members of the Society, led by John Garth, met with BRBritish Rail or British Railways to discuss this.
- The first edition of SVR News was produced, edited by Paul Wyers.
- On 1 February 1966 the Society met with BRBritish Rail or British Railways, who agreed to the £25,000 offer for purchase of the line and buildings, subject to contract and subject to a light Railway Order (LROLight Railway Order) being granted by the Ministry of Transport.
- On 22 February 1966 BRBritish Rail or British Railways’s District Engineer and his assistants travelled from Bewdley to Bridgnorth to inspect the line. BRBritish Rail or British Railways Standard Class 4 76039 from Oxley Shed hauled the Engineers’ saloon.
- The rest of 1966 was taken up with raising the deposit of 10% for the purchase of the railway. Bridgnorth Station saw regular ‘open weekends’, the first being an exhibition of railway relics in connection with Bridgnorth Arts Festival, over the 29-31 May Bank Holiday weekend. This event included a steam roller operating in the road outside the station.
- The second Open Weekend on 9-10 July marked the first anniversary of the preservation society. The event featured a number of road traction engines in the station yard. A 5in gauge miniature railway was set up on Platform 2 with 50 yards of track, on which a train hauled by a ‘Hall’ and ‘Pannier’ gave rides to children. Almost 1,000 visitors paid the 1/6d admission fee.
- The third Open Weekend on 24-25 September was the last without steam traction. A fairground including roundabouts, swings and dodgem card was set up behind platform 2. 1,500 visitors attended, raising £200 for the funds.
Society membership grew to around 300 in the first year.
- The Society paid the 10% deposit of £2,500 to BRBritish Rail or British Railways in February 1967 (the balance of the purchase price was paid shortly after the official opening in May 1970). Once the deposit had been paid, BRBritish Rail or British Railways allowed rolling stock to be moved in.
- On 25 March the first locomotive and 4 GWRGreat Western Railway coaches arrived at Bridgnorth, including GWR 6562 which is still at the SVRSevern Valley Railway. GWR 0-6-0 No 3205 had made the journey in steam from the BRBritish Rail or British Railways shed at Stourbridge Junction, where it had been re-assembled after being hauled ‘dead’ from the West Country.
- Although it was not officially a ‘steam weekend’, the arrival saw several thousand visitors over the three days, with 3205 and two coaches giving rides as far as Oldbury Viaduct. The event featured on ITV's 'Midlands Today, giving the railway a publicity boost.
- On 22 April, Ivatt 2MT No 46443 became the second locomotive to arrive on the SVRSevern Valley Railway. BRBritish Rail or British Railways gave permission for the move from Newton Heath (Manchester) to Bridgnorth via Crewe, Stafford, Bescot, Dudley, Stourbridge and Kidderminster to be made in steam.
- A small 'open day' took place on 6-7 May. IvattHenry George Ivatt, Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway 1946-1948. CME of BR (London Midland Region) 1948-1951 46443 was steamed although no rides were given.
- GWRGreat Western Railway Railcar 22 arrived on 13th May.
- During 1966 the Society had ascertained that operating authority from the Ministry of Transport would be required before the Railway could be bought from BRBritish Rail or British Railways. BRBritish Rail or British Railways would need to apply for a Railway Order to downgrade the line from “secondary railway” to “light railway” status. Once this was granted, a new Company would need to apply for a Light Railway Order (LROLight Railway Order) to transfer responsibility for the line; the Society itself not being able to apply for legal reasons. Severn Valley Railway Company Limited, the 'Guarantee Company' (being a Private Company Limited by Guarantee), was incorporated on 24 May 1967 in order to make the application for the LROLight Railway Order at the appropriate time. However the company remained essentially dormant for the next 2 years, with the Society continuing to conduct the negotiations with BRBritish Rail or British Railways.
- Following a further payment of £2,000, BRBritish Rail or British Railways granted access to the Bridgnorth goods shed and outbuildings.
- On 1 June, exchange of contracts for the purchase took place between BRBritish Rail or British Railways and the Severn Valley Railway Company.
- Another 'Open Weekend' took place on 24-25 June. The event featured traction engines, a miniature railway and other attractions as before, although there were no engine movements. Despite poor weather, around 2,000 people attended and £225 of funds were raised.
- BRBritish Rail or British Railways gave permission for 3205 to travel in steam to Taplow Station goods yard for a GWSGreat Western Society open day on 16 September. The return working, which also brought Ocean Liner Saloon 9113 to the SVRSevern Valley Railway, was one of the last steam movements on BRBritish Rail or British Railways’s Western Region, which was by then fully 'dieselised'.
- The first full 'Steam Weekend' took place on 14-15 October. 3205 and 46443 worked a four coach formation with the last train of the evening being double headed with five coaches. Operations at the time were under the direction of Mr W Gillett, the Chief Operating Inspector of BRBritish Rail or British Railways’s Birmingham Division, and he allowed a full service to Hampton Loade to be run. The Railway had not yet received the Light Railway Order allowing rides to be given to the general public. However SVRSevern Valley Railway members could travel, so the Railway did a brisk trade in ‘Day Member’ tickets, while full membership of the Severn Valley Railway Society also benefited, passing the 1,000 mark by the end of the year.
- Manning Wardle contractors engine no 2047 (later named Warwickshire) arrived on 22 October.
- ex-Port Talbot Railway 0-6-0 No 813 arrived on 25 November.
During 1967 the Civil Engineering Department constructed a 30ft long locomotive inspection pit at Bridgnorth. A water tower was purchased from Dudley and erected at Eardington, the only source of suitably soft water on the line.
The first locomotive to arrive, ex-GWRGreat Western Railway 3205, approaches Bridgnorth on 25 March 1967 (Sellick Collection)
A large crowd greets 3205 on arrival Bridgnorth on 25 March 1967 (Sellick Collection)
- On 1 February, BRBritish Rail or British Railways published their application for the first Light Railway Order. Objections were received from Shropshire County Council on the grounds that it would prejudice the proposed construction of the Bridgnorth By-pass (an estimated £60,000 increase on the original estimate of £1m was quoted) and from Highley Regional District Council that it would prevent road improvements on a narrow bridge in the Eardington area.
- On 31 March the SVRSevern Valley Railway provided a special train to convey a party of BRBritish Rail or British Railways officers along the line, to facilitate the smooth transfer of the branch from BRBritish Rail or British Railways to the SVRSevern Valley Railway. 3205 was the locomotive used, with John Hill the driver.
- The galas continued with the tacit approval of BRBritish Rail or British Railways. The Easter Steam Gala on 13-15 April featured No 3205. Large crowds resulted in long waiting times, hindered by the lack of a run round loop and sufficient coaches. Admission fees were 3/6d for adults and 2/- for members and children, with around £600 in funds raised.
- LMS 3F Jinty 0-6-0 No 47383 arrived on 26 May.
- Ex-Hams Hall Power Station Peckett 0-4-0ST No 1738 arrived on 13 July.
August - September 1968
- Ivatt 4MT Mogul 43106 arrived on 2 August.
- The Autumn Gala on 31 August and 1-2 September saw 10,000 visitors to Bridgnorth, with 43106 and 46443 making alternate trips to Hampton Loade and back. The capacity issues of the Easter Gala were resolved, and over £1,000 was raised on that Bank Holiday alone. However BRBritish Rail or British Railways, which was still the LROLight Railway Order holder, became concerned at safety at such sizeable events.
- On 7 September, work began to dismantle the signal box at Pensnett which over the following months would be dismantled and reassembled at Bridgnorth.
- In addition to the "Members' day ticket" type operations, a number of private parties were also carried on the SVRSevern Valley Railway prior to opening. The 'Gilt Edge Carpet Special' with 46443 on 21 September 1968 was one such.
- Negotiations with Shropshire County Council and the other dissenting parties proved fruitless, and a Public Enquiry became necessary to consider the proposed Scheme for the Railway. This was held on 1-2 October 1968 at County Hall in Shrewsbury. BRBritish Rail or British Railways gave backing for the Railway, and many other witnesses were called. The plans put forward for the bypass and evidence on road usage appeared to those present to be hastily put together.
- On the afternoon of second day of the Enquiry, a special train consisting of 3205 and three coaches took the Inspector and all parties from Bridgnorth to Bewdley to view the Scheme at first hand. The Minister of Transport’s decision would be based on the Inspector’s report.
- LMS Stanier 8F No 48773 (LMSLondon Midland & Scottish Railway 8233) arrived in steam on 4 January.
- During January BRBritish Rail or British Railways announced that they proposed to end passenger services between Hartlebury, Bewdley and Kidderminster from 7 April 1969 (the closure actually took place in January 1970). The SVRSevern Valley Railway had already announced an intention to purchase the section from Alveley to Bewdley following this closure, and were in contact with BRBritish Rail or British Railways.
- Alveley Colliery closed at the end of January 1969, following which BRBritish Rail or British Railways officially closed the adjacent section of the line from Alveley to Bewdley. Technically the area north of Bewdley was a closed siding under BRBritish Rail or British Railways control and therefore subject to the recently imposed BRBritish Rail or British Railways steam ban. Early in 1969, BRBritish Rail or British Railways banned steam operations by the SVRSevern Valley Railway, a blow which made the SVRSevern Valley Railway members all the more determined to re-open the line.
- The 'Easter steam gala' on Sunday 6 April saw Bridgnorth's four tender locos lined up in the yard (see photo). Members' trains were not allowed following BRBritish Rail or British Railways's ban, although 3205 was in steam and travelled light engine to Eardington to take water.
- The result of the Public Enquiry was a recommendation by the Inspector that the first LROLight Railway Order should be granted. However in June 1969 the Minister of Transport rejected the recommendation, citing the potential extra cost to public funds of the Bridgnorth By-pass Bridge if the Railway went ahead (the objections relating to the Eardington road bridges were not sustained). The Minister invited the parties to meet and resolve the issue.
- Around this time, the Society rented the former goods-shed and yard at Bewdley (then still an active BRBritish Rail or British Railways station). This space would be used for restoration of locomotives and rolling stock, 4566 and 1501 being among the earliest residents.
- Ex Manchester Ship Canal and ICI Hunslet 0-6-0T 686 The Lady Armaghdale arrived on 14 July.
- A 9-vehicle convoy left Bridgnorth by rail to visit Birmingham Railway Museum at Tyseley for a special event. The convoy consisted of BRBritish Rail or British Railways Brush Type 4The British Railways classification for diesel locomotives of 2000 bhp to 2999 bhp No. 1858, GWR BTK 5787, 46443, 3205, Railcar 22, Royal Saloon 9001, GWR BCK 7285, GWR BCK 6562 and a BRBritish Rail or British Railways brake van. It won the cup for best exhibit.October 1969
- In order to make progress, it became necessary for the SVRSevern Valley Railway to agree formally that they would either fund the By-pass Bridge or end the line south of the By-pass when and if it was built. Given that assurance, the County Council withdrew its objections and the Minister accordingly found in favour of the Scheme. On 9 October an Evening Mail headline reported "Green light for S.V.R. to run trains from Bridgnorth".
- On 6 December 1969 the Severn Valley Railway Society was merged into The Guarantee Company, with the latter now being considered the proper entity to take the Scheme forward. The AGM coincided with the announcement that the first LROLight Railway Order had been granted, allowing BRBritish Rail or British Railways to work the line from Bridgnorth to Alveley as a Light Railway, although of course they had no wish to do so. However the granting of that order meant The Guarantee Company could now apply for the second LROLight Railway Order to transfer ownership to the SVRSevern Valley Railway.
Past editions of Severn Valley Railway News. Also early history taken from:
- Severn Valley Railway Guide 1972/3, DN Cooke and DC Williams.
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 151 “The fortieth anniversary, Wednesday 6 July 2005”, text of a speech by Christopher George.
- Severn Valley Railway Steam, Sir Gerald Nabarro, M.P. (1971).
- Heritage Railway Magazine article
- Magner (1997), pp 60-64, "Personal memories of Mr Keith Beddoes"
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 191, “Fifty Years Ago" (Christopher George)
- Magner (1997) pp. 43-46.
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 189/190, “The Early Days of the Severn Valley Railway”, A.G. Cleaver
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 11 article 'Open Weekends'
- Magner p. 50.
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 13, “Severn Valley Railway Progress” (R.H Dunn)
- Magner (1997) p. 51.
- Mitchell and Smith (2007 fig. 74.
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 11
- Williams (1974) p. 61.
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 13
- Williams (1974) p. 51.
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 14
- SVRSevern Valley Railway News 210