Severn Valley Railway Timeline 1965-1969

Significant events in the history of the Severn Valley Railway in preservation between 1965 and 1969 are set out below.

Contents

1965

June 1965

On Friday 25 June 1965, the 'Kidderminster Shuttle' reported that BR had withdrawn the 8.30am 'Cathedrals Express' service from Kidderminster to London. Keith Beddoes, a local railway enthusiast, discussed this with a group of colleagues at work. The subject changed to the attempts to reopen part of the Bluebell line, and Beddoes suggested that the same could be done here.[1]
Letters were written to the local press over that weekend, and on Monday they responded, suggesting a meeting. This took place at the house of Tony Tuite, a colleague of Beddoes, on the evening of Tuesday 29 June. Those present decided to organise a public meeting and arrangements to advertise this were put in hand[1].

July 1965

The Coopers Arms (Geograph)
The formation of the Severn Valley Railway in preservation officially began on 6 July 1965. The public meeting proposed by Keith Beddoes took place at the Coopers Arms in Kidderminster, attended by around 50 people.
Three possible locations were considered for the potential preserved railway, and the meeting spent some time discussing the merits of these. It was not considered feasible to use a section of the Tenbury Branch between Bewdley and Cleobury Mortimer as BR were still using Bewdley station at that time and could not grant access. The Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway was also deemed unsuitable because of its remoteness and the relatively light axle load limits of the light railway. The Severn Valley Railway between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade was therefore chosen.
Those present agreed to form the Severn Valley Railway Society (“the Society”). A committee of 8 was appointed, and the initial membership subscription was proposed as £1, but eventually set at 1 guinea (£1+1shilling) at the suggestion of John Garth, in order to increase funds.[2]
On Sunday 11 July the Society inspected the track from Hampton Loade to Bridgnorth, noting that all the signals and most of the railway installations along the route had been removed.[3] While holding up the old station name board at Bridgnorth to take a photograph, they were challenged “What the hell do you think you are doing?” by a man with a shotgun. This turned out to be George Thorpe (also known as ‘Elias’) who had continued to operate the station refreshment room after the station itself had shut. Once the Society explained their idea, they were quickly made welcome!
On Sunday 25 July, the Society made a second visit to inspect the line between Hampton Loade and Bridgnorth. They discovered that since their first visit, BR had resumed the removal of track from Bridgnorth Station towards Kidderminster. The Society authorised John Garth to send a telegram to British Rail asking them to stop taking up the line. This was sent on Monday 26th, and at 5pm on 28 July BR agreed to a stay of execution while negotiations took place[3].

August 1965

Early SVRS poster
The Society’s initial goal was to operate services over the 4½ miles between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade. However the Society would also need to take on the track between Hampton Loade and Milepost 144½ near Alveley in order to maintain a connection to the main line via the section beyond, which BR was still using for colliery traffic from Alveley Colliery.
The Society met with BR on 4 August. BR proved unwilling to lease the line to the SVR, and suggested a provisional price of £45,000 for the outright purchase of line between Bridgnorth and Milepost 144½ at Alveley Colliery. At the same meeting BR granted the Society access to the Bridgnorth Station site in exchange for a nominal rent of £5 per month.[4].
A public meeting took place at Kidderminster on 9 August, attended by between 70-100 people. The majority of those attending supported the plans, although some felt the provisional price of £45,000 was too high. Dissent was mainly from representatives of other Midlands preservation societies.[3][4]
Another public meeting took place at Bridgnorth on 31 August, attended by between 50-80 people. The proposals were generally well received[3][4].

September 1965

The SLS special at Bewdley (David Cooke)
Early SVRS poster
On 19 September 1965 the Stephenson Locomotive Society visited Alveley with a special train from Bewdley, hauled by GWR locomotives 4555 and 1420. This helped publicise the preservation scheme.[3]
The first working party took place at Bridgnorth station on Sunday 26 September.[3] Regular Sunday afternoon de-weeding of the track and painting of the buildings continued throughout the 1960s as the station was gradually restored to working condition.

October 1965

Having obtained a professional valuation of the station buildings, the Society posted a tender to BR Estates on 21 October offering £25,000 for the line from Bridgnorth to milepost 144½. On 26 October four members of the Society, led by John Garth, met with BR to discuss this[2][3].

November 1965

The first edition of SVR News was produced, edited by Paul Wyers.

1966

Milepost 144½, the old boundary

February 1966

On 1 February 1966 the Society met with BR, who agreed to the £25,000 offer for purchase of the line and buildings, subject to contract and subject to a light Railway Order (LRO) being granted by the Ministry of Transport[4].
On 22 February 1966 BR’s District Engineer and his assistants travelled from Bewdley to Bridgnorth to inspect the line. BR Standard Class 4 76039 from Oxley Shed hauled the Engineers’ saloon.

May 1966

The rest of 1966 was taken up with raising the deposit of 10% for the purchase of the railway. Bridgnorth Station saw regular ‘open weekends’, the first being an exhibition of railway relics in connection with Bridgnorth Arts Festival, over the 29-31 May Bank Holiday weekend. This event included a steam roller operating in the road outside the station[5].

July 1966

The second Open Weekend on 9-10 July marked the first anniversary of the preservation society. The event featured a number of road traction engines in the station yard. A 5in gauge miniature railway was set up on Platform 2 with 50 yards of track, on which a train hauled by a ‘Hall’ and ‘Pannier’ gave rides to children. Almost 1,000 visitors paid the 1/6d admission fee[5].

September 1966

The third Open Weekend on 24-25 September was the last without steam traction. A fairground including roundabouts, swings and dodgem card was set up behind platform 2. 1,500 visitors attended, raising £200 for the funds[5].

Society membership grew to around 300 in the first year.


1967

Recruitment poster to help reopen the railway
The first train arrives at Bridgnorth on 25 March 1967 (Sellick Collection)

February 1967

Open Day poster
The Society paid the 10% deposit of £2,500 to BR in February 1967 (the balance of the purchase price was paid shortly after the official opening in May 1970). Once the deposit had been paid, BR allowed rolling stock to be moved in.

March 1967

On 25 March the first locomotive and 4 GWR coaches arrived at Bridgnorth, including GWR 6562 which is still at the SVR. GWR 0-6-0 No 3205 had made the journey in steam from the BR shed at Stourbridge Junction, where it had been re-assembled after being hauled ‘dead’ from the West Country.
Although it was not officially a ‘steam weekend’, the arrival saw several thousand visitors over the three days, with 3205 and two coaches giving rides as far as Oldbury Viaduct. The event featured on ITV's 'Midlands Today, giving the railway a publicity boost.

April 1967

On 22 April, Ivatt 2MT No 46443 became the second locomotive to arrive on the SVR. BR gave permission for the move from Newton Heath (Manchester) to Bridgnorth via Crewe, Stafford, Bescot, Dudley, Stourbridge and Kidderminster to be made in steam.

May 1967

A small 'open day' took place on 6-7 May. Ivatt 46443 was steamed although no rides were given.
GWR Railcar 22 arrived on 13th May.
During 1966 the Society had ascertained that operating authority from the Ministry of Transport would be required before the Railway could be bought from BR. BR would need to apply for a Railway Order to downgrade the line from “secondary railway” to “light railway” status. Once this was granted, a new Company would need to apply for a Light Railway Order (LRO) to transfer responsibility for the line; the Society itself not being able to apply for legal reasons. Severn Valley Railway Company Limited, the 'Guarantee Company' (being a Private Company Limited by Guarantee), was incorporated on 24 May 1967 in order to make the application for the LRO at the appropriate time. However the company remained essentially dormant for the next 2 years, with the Society continuing to conduct the negotiations with BR.
Following a further payment of £2,000, BR granted access to the Bridgnorth goods shed and outbuildings.

June 1967

On 1 June, exchange of contracts for the purchase took place between BR and the Severn Valley Railway Company.
Another 'Open Weekend' took place on 24-25 June. The event featured traction engines, a miniature railway and other attractions as before, although there were no engine movements. Despite poor weather, around 2,000 people attended and £225 of funds were raised.

September 1967

BR gave permission for 3205 to travel in steam to Taplow Station goods yard for a GWS open day on 16 September. The return working, which also brought Ocean Liner Saloon 9113 to the SVR, was one of the last steam movements on BR’s Western Region, which was by then fully 'dieselised'[6].

October 1967

The first full 'Steam Weekend' took place on 14-15 October. 3205 and 46443 worked a four coach formation with the last train of the evening being double headed with five coaches. Operations at the time were under the direction of Mr W Gillett, the Chief Operating Inspector of BR’s Birmingham Division, and he allowed a full service to Hampton Loade to be run. The Railway had not yet received the Light Railway Order allowing rides to be given to the general public. However SVR members could travel, so the Railway did a brisk trade in ‘Day Member’ tickets, while full membership of the Severn Valley Railway Society also benefited, passing the 1,000 mark by the end of the year.
Manning Wardle contractors engine no 2047 (later named Warwickshire) arrived on 22 October.

November 1967

ex-Port Talbot Railway 0-6-0 No 813 arrived on 25 November.


During 1967 the Civil Engineering Department constructed a 30ft long locomotive inspection pit at Bridgnorth. A water tower was purchased from Dudley and erected at Eardington, the only source of suitably soft water on the line.

1968

Bridgnorth yard, September 1968 (Wikimedia Commons)

February 1968

On 1 February, BR published their application for the first Light Railway Order. Objections were received from Shropshire County Council on the grounds that it would prejudice the proposed construction of the Bridgnorth By-pass (an estimated £60,000 increase on the original estimate of £1m was quoted) and from Highley Regional District Council that it would prevent road improvements on a narrow bridge in the Eardington area[7].

March 1968

On 31 March the SVR provided a special train to convey a party of BR officers along the line, to facilitate the smooth transfer of the branch from BR to the SVR. 3205 was the locomotive used, with John Hill the driver[8].

April 1968

The galas continued with the tacit approval of BR. The Easter Steam Gala on 13-15 April featured No 3205. Large crowds resulted in long waiting times, hindered by the lack of a run round loop and sufficient coaches. Admission fees were 3/6d for adults and 2/- for members and children, with around £600 in funds raised[5].

May 1968

LMS 3F Jinty 0-6-0 No 47383 arrived on 26 May.

July 1968

Ex-Hams Hall Power Station Peckett 0-4-0ST No 1738 arrived on 13 July.

August - September 1968

Ivatt 4MT Mogul 43106 arrived on 2 August.
The Autumn Gala on 31 August and 1-2 September saw 10,000 visitors to Bridgnorth, with 43106 and 46443 making alternate trips to Hampton Loade and back.[9] The capacity issues of the Easter Gala were resolved, and over £1,000 was raised on that Bank Holiday alone. However BR, which was still the LRO holder, became concerned at safety at such sizeable events.
On 7 September, work began to dismantle the signal box at Pensnett which over the following months would be dismantled and reassembled at Bridgnorth[10].

October 1968

Negotiations with Shropshire County Council and the other dissenting parties proved fruitless, and a Public Enquiry became necessary to consider the proposed Scheme for the Railway. This was held on 1-2 October 1968 at County Hall in Shrewsbury. BR gave backing for the Railway, and many other witnesses were called. The plans put forward for the bypass and evidence on road usage appeared to those present to be hastily put together.
On the afternoon of second day of the Enquiry, a special train consisting of 3205 and three coaches took the Inspector and all parties from Bridgnorth to Bewdley to view the Scheme at first hand. The Minister of Transport’s decision would be based on the Inspector’s report.

1969

The Easter 1969 line-up (David Cooke)
Whitsun Steam Gala poster
Steam Gala poster

January 1969

LMS Stanier 8F No 48773 (LMS 8233) arrived in steam on 4 January.
During January BR announced that they proposed to end passenger services between Hartlebury, Bewdley and Kidderminster from 7 April 1969 (the closure actually took place in January 1970). The SVR had already announced an intention to purchase the section from Alveley to Bewdley following this closure, and were in contact with BR[10].
Alveley Colliery closed at the end of January 1969, following which BR officially closed the adjacent section of the line from Alveley to Bewdley. Technically the area north of Bewdley was a closed siding under BR control and therefore subject to the recently imposed BR steam ban. Early in 1969, BR banned steam operations by the SVR, a blow which made the SVR members all the more determined to re-open the line.

April 1969

The 'Easter steam gala' on Sunday 6 April saw Bridgnorth's four tender locos lined up in the yard (see photo)[11].

June 1969

The result of the Public Enquiry was a recommendation by the Inspector that the first LRO should be granted. However in June 1969 the Minister of Transport rejected the recommendation, citing the potential extra cost to public funds of the Bridgnorth By-pass Bridge if the Railway went ahead (the objections relating to the Eardington road bridges were not sustained). The Minister invited the parties to meet and resolve the issue.
Around this time, the Society rented the former goods-shed and yard at Bewdley (then still an active BR station). This space would be used for restoration of locomotives and rolling stock, 4566 and 1501 being among the earliest residents.

July 1969

Ex Manchester Ship Canal and ICI Hunslet 0-6-0T 686 The Lady Armaghdale arrived on 14 July.

September 1969

A 9-vehicle convoy left Bridgnorth by rail to visit Birmingham Railway Museum at Tyseley for a special event. The convoy consisted of BR Brush Type 4 No. 1858, GWR BTK 5787, 46443, 3205, Railcar 22, Royal Saloon 9001, GWR BCK 7285, GWR BCK 6562 and a BR brake van[12].

October 1969

In order to make progress, it became necessary for the SVR to agree formally that they would either fund the By-pass Bridge or end the line south of the By-pass when and if it was built. Given that assurance, the County Council withdrew its objections and the Minister accordingly found in favour of the Scheme. On 9 October an Evening Mail headline reported "Green light for S.V.R. to run trains from Bridgnorth"[13].

December 1969

On 6 December 1969 the Severn Valley Railway Society was merged into The Guarantee Company, with the latter now being considered the proper entity to take the Scheme forward. The AGM coincided with the announcement that the first LRO had been granted, allowing BR to work the line from Bridgnorth to Alveley as a Light Railway, although of course they had no wish to do so. However the granting of that order meant The Guarantee Company could now apply for the second LRO to transfer ownership to the SVR.

See also

References

Past editions of Severn Valley Railway News. Also early history taken from:

Severn Valley Railway Guide 1972/3, DN Cooke and DC Williams.
SVR News 151 “The fortieth anniversary, Wednesday 6 July 2005”, text of a speech by Christopher George.
Severn Valley Railway Steam, Sir Gerald Nabarro, M.P. (1971).
Heritage Railway Magazine article
  1. 1.01.1 Magner (1997), pp 60-64, "Personal memories of Mr Keith Beddoes"
  2. 2.02.1 SVR News 191, “Fifty Years Ago" (Christopher George)
  3. 3.03.13.23.33.43.53.6 Magner (1997) pp. 43-46.
  4. 4.04.14.24.3 SVR News 189/190, “The Early Days of the Severn Valley Railway”, A.G. Cleaver
  5. 5.05.15.25.3 SVR News 11 article 'Open Weekends'
  6. Magner p. 50.
  7. SVR News 13, “Severn Valley Railway Progress” (R.H Dunn)
  8. Magner (1997) p. 51.
  9. Mitchell and Smith (2007 fig. 74.
  10. 10.010.1 SVR News 11
  11. SVR News 13
  12. SVR News 14
  13. Magner