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…

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.”


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

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.


On 8 March 1969, GWR Banana Van 82554 arrived from Worcester.

It was originally built as a Mink A goods van to diagram V12, lot 576 at Swindon in 1908, and converted to the Fruit B in 1925, which involved removal of vents, and installation of insulation and end-centre shuttered louvre. It has a capacity of 10 tons.

Fruit B banana vans were built to transport bananas – with insulated bodies and fitted with steam heating to allow bananas to be shipped green and ripen en-route.

In GWR telegraphic code, Mink was a covered goods van and Fruit is obvious. The extra letter identifies variations, so the Mink A was a 16ft ventilated van versus the Mink G being a 21ft ordinary van.

82554 ended working life at Worcester, and was restored for storage use at SVR Bewdley. Following a major overhaul by the Wagon Dept completed in 1994, it is mostly used at BH MPD for storage.


On 7 March 2007 GWR 4930 Hagley Hall completed its loan to the Swindon Works now designer shopping complex, to return to SVR to feature in the new Engine House visitor centre, stopping off on the way at its namesake Hagley Hall home of Lord and Lady Cobham.

Another Collett design, it was built in 1929 and started at Stafford Road depot, then Chester, Tyseley and Leamington. Following service in the south west it finished at Old Oak Common and Swindon, and withdrawn in 1963 with a working life of nearly 1.3m miles. By May 1964 4930 was at Barry, and SVRH bought it in June 1972.

After six years of restoration 4930 entered service in 1979, and hauled the reopening train to Kidderminster in 1984. Main line appearances included the GWR 150 celebrations in 1985 with 4930 and 7819 double heading

The failure of several boiler stays towards the end of its ticket caused withdrawal in 1986, and into store in BH Shed. Opportunity arose to be a static exhibit at Swindon in 1999.

Since 2013 the Friends group have fundraised furiously with impressive results, and ESMP staff and volunteers have been working on the overhaul and restoration – supported in large part by the SVRCT.

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.