Michael Draper

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Michael John Draper (1932-2022) was SVRSevern Valley Railway(H) Director until 8 March 1994, and SVR General Manager between 1976-1993, succeeding Hugh Mossop.

He began a career as an Accountant, spending time in the UK and South Africa.

At the SVRSevern Valley Railway

On an early visit to the SVRSevern Valley Railway, he was most impressed by what he saw, and soon was appointed to the Board of SVRSevern Valley Railway(H) as volunteer Finance Director on 1 January 1973 under the Chairmanship of Sir Gerald Nabarro.[1] He also became a Director of the Guarantee Company. While Finance Director, he published several articles in SVR News on Finance and Commercial activities.[2]

He became Acting General Manager following the resignation of Hugh Mossop in January 1976,[3] initially on a part-time basis for the rest of that year pending appointment of a new permanent General Manager.[4] He began the now familiar quarterly "General Manager's Notes" in SVRSevern Valley Railway News in summer of that year[5] and was duly appointed permanent General Manager in 1977.[6]

During his period of office the SVRSevern Valley Railway established itself as the self-proclaimed ‘Premier Steam Railway’. SVR Passenger numbers grew from 113,000 to 194,000, with the extension of the line from Bewdley to Kidderminster, with two successful share offers funding Kidderminster Town station and Bridgnorth Boiler Shop. Mr Draper travelled widely, speaking at meetings round the country, and was often featured in local Press and Railway magazines.

The national profile of the SVRSevern Valley Railway was enhanced with its major contribution to the newly-promoted ‘Steam on BRBritish Rail or British Railways’ programme, with up to 9 SVRSevern Valley Railway-based locomotives certified to operate on the national network.

He was a proponent of the need for heritage railways to be financially solvent, part of a leisure industry and expected to show a profit.[7] “The two essentials for a preservation business – Love It – Make a Profit”.[8]

Mr Draper is referred to for his repeated view there were too many heritage railways. In 1981 he said the ever growing steam movement was “sowing the seeds of its own destruction”.[9]. He also wrote in 1997 “Make no mistake, there will not be 150 [preserved] railways and steam centres in this country at the end of the next thirty years”.[10] Mr Draper’s predictions have not yet come to pass as, despite some failures, by 2023 The Heritage Railway Association represents 173 working railways and 24 museums and steam centres, many of which operate trains on selected day.[11]

Mr Draper was also a member of preservation groups with an SVR connection.

Departure from the SVRSevern Valley Railway

Mr Draper was sacked by the SVRSevern Valley Railway in 1993 for what was described as “financial irregularities.”[12] In the Annual Report for the year ended 31 December 1993 the SVRSevern Valley Railway(H) noted it was defending an unfair dismissal action brought by Mr Draper. The 1994 Share Prospectus noted proceedings had been issued against Mr Draper for recovery of approximately £16,000 and the 1994 Report noted a County Court claim by SVRSevern Valley Railway(H) against Mr Draper to “recover money owed to us” had been settled out-of-Court with a payment to the Railway of £21,000 “thus fully vindicating the action taken by the Board”.

He was succeeded by Alun Rees.

Other railway roles

He was also a Director of the Heritage Railways Association until 30 November 1994.

After his departure from the SVRSevern Valley Railway he spent a short time as General Manager of the Great Central Railway based at Loughborough.

See also

SVR General Managers


  1. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 26, 31
  2. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 35, 36, 37
  3. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 38
  4. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 39
  5. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 40
  6. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 43
  7. Burton, Anthony, A Steam Engine Pilgrimage, Pen and Sword, 2017
  8. Deayton Alistair and Quinn, Iain, Waverley Steam Navigation Company, Amberley Publishing Limited, July 2014
  9. Brown, Jonathan, The Railway Preservation Revolution: A History of Britain's Heritage Railways, Pen and Sword, June 2017, p. 266
  10. Carter, Ian, British railway enthusiasm, Oxford University Press, January 2017, p. 284.
  11. Heritage Railway Association website (Retrieved 30 January 2023)
  12. The Railway Magazine, November 2022


Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) PLC (company 01046274) on Companies House