The development of Kidderminster Town Station

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Kidderminster Goods Yard in September 1983 (Geograph)

This page gives a history of the creation of the SVRSevern Valley Railway’s Kidderminster Town Station on the site of the former BRBritish Rail or British Railways goods yard.

Before Opening day

Kidderminster Goods Yard in February 1984
Kidderminster Junction in February 1984. The wooden fencing marks the SVRSevern Valley Railway-BRBritish Rail or British Railways boundary.
May 1984, 2 months from opening

February 1984:

The SVRSevern Valley Railway applied for the Light Railway Order (LROLight Railway Order) necessary to operate over the last section of the line between Foley Park and Kidderminster. Even though they would now own the line, without an LROLight Railway Order they could not use it without a hired-in BRBritish Rail or British Railways driver. This made it more difficult and costly to move materials to Kidderminster from elsewhere on the line.
BRBritish Rail or British Railways allowed certain preparatory works to take place, including lifting the old sidings, points and stop blocks ready for construction of the new platforms. These materials were piled up for later sorting and re-use.

March 1984: The SVRSevern Valley Railway site was temporarily fenced off from the BRBritish Rail or British Railways lines, a BRBritish Rail or British Railways flagman standing duty on the main line while this work was carried out.

April 1984: BRBritish Rail or British Railways allowed temporary adjustments to the layout in advance of proposed engine movements. The existing SVRSevern Valley Railway line into the BRBritish Rail or British Railways down goods loop was slewed into the former second siding, allowing SVRSevern Valley Railway trains direct access to the goods yard. There were still three other connections to BRBritish Rail or British Railways at various points, only one of which would be retained.

May to July 1984:

Work began in earnest with BRBritish Rail or British Railways granting “walking permits” for workers on the site. The proposed opening date of 30 July gave just eleven weeks to complete the job. Construction of the platforms took place. Concrete sleepers were brought in by rail from Bewdley on 11 May using D1013 Western Ranger crewed by BRBritish Rail or British Railways men, and the section from the former second siding to the Hoo Road Bridge was relaid in the first week. All other trackwork between the new running line and BRBritish Rail or British Railways was recovered, including the two redundant connections. New drains were dug and new ballast laid, so that new tracks and points could be installed. New signalling equipment was also installed.
In the rush to achieve the planned opening dates, a number of mistakes were made. The materials lifted during the preparatory work in February were dumped on what became the new alignment of the line, and some time was lost moving them. An error in dimensions led to the platform height being several inches too short, so wooden sleepers were installed between the platforms not for authenticity but because they were shorter in depth than the concrete sleepers purchased for the job. Late in the day the platform road had to be slewed by 2” due to an out of date ex-LNWRLondon & North Western Railway gauge having been used when it was first laid.
Granting of the Light Railway Order late in the day finally allowed the SVRSevern Valley Railway to use the line in the last week of construction; tasks still to be completed at that stage included installation of the dock platform road, lifting packing and slewing the run-round loop and replacing the BR/SVR boundary trap points at Foley Park with plain track. However the line was passed fit by the Railway Inspectorate, and the opening day deadline was met.
Most of the work involved was carried out by the SVRSevern Valley Railway’s P.W.Permanent Way Department, and P.W.Permanent Way Loco drivers and firemen were given the honour of crewing the inaugural services.

Opening Day

4930 Hagley Hall with the opening day train (Wikimedia Commons)

The opening day was summarised thus in the first paragraph of the General Manger’s Notes, SVRSevern Valley Railway News Issue 73:

So we did it, didn’t we! 30th July saw the opening to the public of the Kidderminster Extension, and if ever there was a close run thing on the SVRSevern Valley Railway, this was it. When I tell you that the Light Railway Order did not become operational until 00.01 hours on Saturday morning, 21st July, and that the Line Inspection by Major P.M. Olver of the Railway Inspectorate did not take place until Tuesday Morning, 24th July, you can see how little margin was left for a last minute deferment of the public services. But all went well, Major Olver gave us a detailed inspection and we passed with flying colours, so enabling a further last minute effort to be made prior to the ‘Kidderminster Venturer’ leaving our new terminus slightly behind schedule at 12.30pm. “So ends the beginning”, and without the total support of our members and shareholders, we would not have been able to achieve the objective which was but a gleam in the eye of the group of local railway enthusiasts who held that famous first meeting in July, 1965 at the ‘Coopers Arms’ in Kidderminster. It was a shame that the originator of the SVRSevern Valley Railway, Keith Beddoes, was unable to be among the invited guests on opening day. The late Sir Gerald Nabarro was always totally firm in his opinion that our Railway would reach Kidderminster, and his dream as identified in the first public Prospectus which we issued in April, 1972 was to see a new station arising from the present one at Kidderminster bearing the legend once displayed at Hartlebury ‘CHANGE HERE FOR THE SEVERN VALLEY LINE’. I feel that we have achieved that objective which was eventually shared by just about every single member and shareholder of the SVRSevern Valley Railway and perhaps the most moving and heart-warming comments to be made on the day were from those of our long-standing members who said that this had been the happiest day on the Railway since we ran our first public service in May, 1970. Those words were part of a day which will live in the memory of those of us who were privileged to attend.

Two of the SVRSevern Valley Railway’s flagship locomotives took pride of place. 4930 Hagley Hall hauled the inaugural 12:30 ‘Kidderminster Venturer’ to Bridgnorth, appropriately consisting of 9 coaches of GWRGreat Western Railway stock referred to above. Twenty minutes later the inaugural service from Bridgorth ‘The Kidderminster Envoy’ arrived behind 45690 Leander to the sound of exploding detonators which had been placed on the line. British Railways ran a special DMUDiesel Multiple Unit service from Birmingham New St. carrying a large ‘Severn Valley Railway’ board.

After Opening Day

Early signalling arrangements at Kidderminster, with the ground frame visible to the left, adjacent to the bridge pillar (M. Gibbons)
How the scene has changed since February 1984 (Geograph)

After opening, the Railway was initially restricted to ‘one engine in steam’ on the Kidderminster extension. During the summer of 1984 facilities at Kidderminster were primitive; the booking office was a converted coach, catering and toilets were temporary structures and the gift shop was likely to blow away in a gale. But already the new station building was under way, funded by the 1983 share offer. Phase 1, the West wing now housing the gift shop, opened in time for the 1984 Santa Special services to run from Kidderminster. Phase 2, including the station front, was built the following summer. The first watering facilities were also commissioned during 1985.

Pointwork around the station was initially controlled by the 6-lever Kidderminster ground frame, released by the Bewdley South--Kidderminster staff. The current Kidderminster signal box was commissioned on 21 November 1987.

Platform 2 was brought into use on Sunday 25 November 1990, with 7819 Hinton Manor making the first operational entry into it.[1]

From time to time further additions were made to the station; these include a number of projects sponsored by the Friends of Kidderminster Town Station such as the Port Cochere style canopy at front of the building and the ornamental roof crestings. The pattern for these cast roof crestings were copied at the SVRSevern Valley Railway's pattern shop from fragments of originals recovered from Ross-on-Wye.

Phase 3, the building of the East wing, also known as The John Garth Building. This took place in February 2006 and was opened by HRH The Duke of Gloucester on 18 October 2006. It mainly houses ‘The Valley Suite’, the station’s licensed restaurant and buffet, and the multiple award-winning King and Castle Pub. The concourse roof was also installed at the same time. This development was funded by a £550,000 loan ('Loan 1' in the SVRSevern Valley Railway(H) accounts) drawn down in April 2006 and payable over 20 years. From 2008 the Company increased its monthly repayments, and the loan was paid off in 2020.[2](Pictures from Wikimedia Commons)

Future plans include a canopy along the platform length similar to that at Bewdley.

See also

  1. SVR News 108
  2. SVR(H) Financial Statements ending 5 January 2020 and 3 January 2021