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.”

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


9 March 1956 saw GWR diesel railcar W10W catch fire in the station. Passengers alighted safely, and the driver moved the railcar alongside the water column in an effort to save it.

The GWR AEC diesel railcar was a Collett design built in Swindon, introduced in 1933 and used occasionally on the whole line after WW2. 38 were built between 1933 and 1942. Generally successful apart from several which caught fire and burnt out.

Four examples remain in preservation including No 22 built in 1940 to a later design, now at Didcot. In its later days it worked around Worcester and frequently ventured onto the Severn Valley line. Withdrawn from service in 1962, No 22 worked on the SVR before going to Didcot in 1978.

Example of a railcar [Sellick collection]

Also on this day

in 1861 a navvy was injured in the cutting south of Victoria Bridge when a 20pound clod of earth fell on him from a height of some 30feet. He was taken to the doctor in Bewdley by fishing boat.

in 1985 D3022 hauled a passenger service for the first time, to replace 4930 which had failed.

GWR 4786

On 6 March 1926 GWR 4786 Full Third was completed at Swindon, one of 279 such carriages built between 1925 and 1929.

4786 is a Collett designed Bow-Ended 57ft full third coach, built to seat 64 passengers in eight compartments, with a side corridor and a toilet cubicle at each end. Having worked main line long distance services, and then cross country, it was withdrawn in 1960 and modified for S&T use at Shrewsbury. SVRH bought it in 1986 from the Coleham Depot.

Now owned by GW(SVR)A it is being returned to the fully lined GW livery to join the 1920s GW set.

Compressed air

On 5 March 1872, George Westinghouse patented a safer compressed air brake system, having made numerous alterations to improve his earlier invention designed in 1869.

His new version involved a triple valve, and each carriage having its own air cylinder. Air pressure is maintained in the reservoirs and train pipe at all times when the brake isn’t applied.

On our railway, LMR 600 Gordon and 34027 Taw Valley are equipped to work with air-braked rolling stock.

Learn more about the Westinghouse air-brake

Also on this day,

in 1884 the GWR authorised the construction of Stourport interchange basin

in 1983 the line south of Bridgnorth reopened for passenger services after completion of the bypass bridge

Forth Bridge

On this day in 1890 the Forth Bridge was opened by the Duke of Rothesay (the future King Edward VII), to carry the Edinburgh-Aberdeen line across the Firth of Forth.

Like our own Victoria Bridge back in 1861, it was designed by Sir John Fowler and has a total length of 8,094 feet, with the double rail track elevated 150 feet above the water level at high tide.

Victoria Bridge is a 200 feet span and at the time was the largest iron span in the country.

To a cantilever design and the first major structure in Britain to be constructed of steel, the Forth Bridge has two main spans of 1700 feet, two side spans of 680 feet, and 15 approach spans of 168 feet.

1887, cantilever towers being built

Construction started in 1882 and at its opening it had the longest single cantilever bridge span (1709 feet) in the world. It remains the world’s second longest span, to Canada’s Quebec Bridge.

Our own Vicky Bridge is in good company 🙂


On 2 March 1985 75069 had its first main line outing in preservation. Having been built in BR’s Swindon Works in 1955, it was appropriate that the Red Dragon tour’s route was Newport, Swindon and Gloucester.

75069 is a BR Standard 4MT 4-6-0, designed by Robert Riddles. As a Standard 4MT its use was mixed traffic on secondary routes, and was one of the final batch allocated to BR Southern Region, but after just 11 years in service it was withdrawn in September 1966. Its tender carries 4,250 gallons of water, and some 7 tons of coal.

Also on 2 March, in 1974 Highley signal box was brought back into use, with the commissioning of the token equipment according to the Electric Train Token regulations.

Jackfield Halt

March 1 1954 saw the reopening of Jackfield Halt platform and shelter in its new location.

The halt had originally opened on 3 December 1934, midway between Coalport and Ironbridge. Unfortunately the site was on unstable ground – made worse by the clay mining history of the area.

Problems with subsidence arose over the years, culminating in a major landslide in spring 1952. The line and halt slumped 25 feet towards the river and many houses were also destroyed.

The halt platform and shelter were rebuilt a quarter mile to a position east of the sidings, but needed a 5 mph restriction and regular realignment and re-ballasting.

Also on this day in 1856, a meeting of interested parties was held at Bridgnorth in an attempt to attract new shareholders.


Feb 28 1973 saw the first stage of the Light Railway Order for the southern end of the line come into effect.

The Order granted BR the power to operate as a Light Railway (under the Light Railways Act 1896). The Order was then transferred to SVR in 1974.

It covered the existing boundary at Alveley to a point 247 yards east of the Stourport Road Bridge. Power was also granted to operate over the Stourport Branch from Bewdley to a point 302 yards south of the southern portal of Mount Pleasant Tunnel.

Previously on this day,

In 1872 the GWR Board approved the provision of a single needle telegraph instrument at Eardington – presumably to control traffic in the loop siding

In 1894 the GWR proposed to make Coalport a crossing station, with a second platform and additional sidings.