39 Steps

21 March 1978, filming of a scene for The 39 Steps involved No 46443 dressed as Midland Railway 644 making an emergency stop on Victoria Bridge. The Rank Organisation film featured Robert Powell as Richard Hannay, Karen Dotrice as Alex and John Mills as Colonel Scudder.

The railway sequence was set in early 1914 and begins in the ticket office at London St Pancras Station. The action scenes used 46443 and five LMS carriages with ‘Midland’ stickers applied.

The scenes filmed on the SVR, which last around 5 minutes in total, include Hannay boarding the train (filmed on Bewdley island platform), a wide shot of the train passing the Spring Grove area, a distant shot passing Trimpley Reservoir, crossing Oldbury viaduct, a lineside shot west of Bewdley tunnel

After a cutaway to a short scene where his pursuers order all trains leaving St Pancras to be searched, the railway sequence continues with the train on Eardington bank, emerging from Arley Station Bridge having passed through the station at speed, passing Trimpley, passing through a station at speed, filmed from a footbridge over the line (Bewdley again).

Then police searching the train, the train approaching the bridge, where Hannay pulls the communication cord to bring it to an emergency stop, approaching Victoria Bridge, stopped on Victoria Bridge, the escape scene on the bridge, a parting shot of the train setting off through Eymore cutting, and Hannay climbing down from the bridge.

Some SVR volunteers were extras in the film and will have happy memories…

Looking back, part 1

On the spring equinox, we’re looking back. May 1970 saw public steam trains running from Bridgnorth to Hampton Loade.

1971 was the first full year of SVR operation.

1972 saw the new holding company floated so that shares could be sold to fund the purchase of the southern section of the line. The season began 4 March. Four days of running at Easter had 6,400 passengers making 13,000 journeys.

During 1973 lots of locos arrived – 4141, 5164, 7819, 4930, 78019, 7714, 75069, 42968.

1974 saw the Light Railway Transfer Order granted in March to extend the line from Hampton Loade to Bewdley. Easter weekend had services between Hampton Loade and Highley with the first passenger service at 9.30 from Bridgnorth with GWR Railcar 22, followed by No 600 Gordon at 12.45.

Then on 18 May the line opened from Highley to Arley and Bewdley. The first steam service from the new MPD at Bewdley was by No 5764, and No 43106 from Bridgnorth. Daily running during the summer season was extended to five weeks. In July, 46521 became the first Barry restoration to enter service.

Average mileages

18 March 1953, in a paper read at the Institution of Locomotive Engineers based on figures gathered through 1952, Mr R C Bond, BR Chief Locomotive Construction & Maintenance Officer, listed the average mileages run between general overhauls of pre-nationalisation classes.

The Stanier Black Fives with manganese steel axlebox liners topped the list at 97,291 miles. Next came the LNER A1 class with roller bearings on all axles at 93,363 miles. Then came four Great Western Railway classes – Halls, Counties, Castles and 28XX – all at around 87,000 miles.

The Journal of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers volume 51 published in 1961 reported in No 281 J F Harrison’s Presidential Address:

Includes an appreciation of the Gresley Pacifics: Harrison had been born in Settle, and following a very brief appreciation of Midland Railway locomotives he noted that A3 Pacifics had taken over working the major express trains over the Settle & Carlisle Line with photographs of them at Ais Gill, and on the Thames Clyde Express.

He noted that the Peppercorn A1 Pacifics “were intended to give a better performance than any previous Pacific, to be cheaper to maintain, and to run increased mileages per annum and between general repairs.

These five locomotives, Nos. 60153/60154/60155/60156/60157, have now been in service for exactly twelve years, during which they have run 4.8 million miles, one in fact having just completed 1,000,000 miles, or 228 miles for every calendar day since leaving Doncaster as a new engine.

The average miles between shopping of these engines is 120,000, and these figures compare with figures given by Mr. R.C. Bond in his Paper to this Institution in 1953 showing the best London & North Eastern mileages in those days as 93,363 with average annual mileages of 80,000.

The total miles run by the fifty engines, including the five roller bearing engines, since new, is approximately 48,000,000, an average of 202 miles per calendar day-figures which I know cannot be approached by any steam locomotive class in this country. I will refer to this figure later in my Address.

When one realises that these locomotives are better than the A4 Class, examples of which took part in the interchange trials in 1948, and which attained the best coal and water consumption figures per drawbar horsepower/hour, one realises that these latter locomotives were, and in fact still are, perhaps the finest steam locomotives in the world.

For some 105 years the Great Northern and London & North Eastern Railway had only four Locomotive Engineers, all of whom have a position in history, but I suggest none more so than Gresley who was honoured by a knighthood in 1936.

Surely there is a lesson to be learned from this continuance of a single policy for periods of up to twenty-five years each. This has been noticeable also on the Great Western Railway.

It is, therefore, with great pleasure that I pay this modest and brief tribute to the late Sir Herbert Nigel Gresley, who cannot be by-passed as the greatest Locomotive Engineer in this country in the 20th century if one judges these matters on the performance of the designer’s products over such a lengthy period of time.

It is surprising, however, to see that the British Transport Commission have only thought fit to preserve amongst their historic locomotives two examples of this great Engineer’s work, and then neither of the first two Pacifics he ever built.”

7325

On 16 March 2008 Collett Mogul 7325 was propelled into the newly-built Engine House as its first resident.

The opportunity to create such a building arose when the old Highley Colliery sidings and landsale yard went up for auction in 2001 and SVRH secured the land for £35,000.

It was originally conceived as a simple storage building to house out of ticket engines under cover. But by increasing the focus into education, essential grant funding was secured.

Inevitably with the geological factors, and the old mine and quarry workings, the ground stability was challenging, and hence costly. Construction began in 2006 and involved hillside grading, soil nailing stabilisation, old mine workings grouted, and a large retaining wall construction. 120 piles up to 15 metres deep were sunk and tied together by beams cast in reinforced concrete.

So 7325 and its fellow residents remain secure and weather proofed awaiting their time for overhaul – including GWR 4566, 5764, 7819, LMS 46443, 47383, 48773 and TPO 80300, Royal Coach 798.

Also on this day,

in 1972, a contract between the newly formed SVRH and the Guarantee Company set out the terms of asset transfers from the H to the G

in 1988, BR 4345 Tourist Standard Open arrived on the SVR from Carnforth

SVRH

Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) Ltd was incorporated on 15 March 1972 to finance the purchase of the southern section of the line through the public share issue and to be responsible for overall policy decisions affecting the whole railway.

It was then re-registered as a public limited company on 15 March 1982 as company law changed in 1981, requiring limited liability companies whose shares may be freely sold and traded to the public to include PLC as a part of the legal company name.

SVRH owns the infrastructure – lines and stations, plus three steam locos, four operational diesel locos, and some carriages (full list). SVRH employs the paid staff and operates the trains. SVRH is responsible for safety, and provides contract engineering services. SVRH operates our shops, pubs and refreshment rooms.

SVRH shareholders are entitled to attend the AGM, but as an unlisted company, shares are not quoted on any trading platform. Issued share capital exceeds £10,700,000. There is no dividend – shareholders receive benefits based on their holding, and this gets revised by the SVRH board of directors – most recently from 2022

The Severn Valley Railway Company Ltd (limited by guarantee) has the largest shareholding at over 1.8m. The Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust Ltd has some 25k shares, many donated by shareholders with small holdings to support its work.

Also on this day,

in 1964, the signal box at Buildwas was taken out of use by BR

in 2020, the public train service was terminated due to government restrictions brought about by the pandemic covid-19 … as it turned out for 139 days as services did not recommence until 1 August.

Steam on the main line

On 14 March 1981

the first public main line excursion from Bridgnorth – the 11 coach Severn Valley Crusader ran to Paddington, hauled to Bewdley by 7819 and 46521; two class 25s then took over

4930 took the Welsh Marches Express between Hereford and Newport

then in 1983,

BR 16267 Composite Corridor, arrived on SVR – built in 1963 at Derby, and the last Mk1 CK built – normally in the Crimson & Cream set, owned by SVRCT

and BR 4545 Tourist Standard Open arrived on SVR – built in 1956 at York – seats 64 at tables with three cross-vestibules to enable speedier loading

and in 1985, GWR 83831 Loco Coal Wagon arrived on SVR – built in 1931 at Swindon