The Severn Valley Railway under GWR/BR ownership

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The Severn Valley Railway opened in 1862, linking Shrewsbury in the North, via Bridgnorth, to Hartlebury in the South. The present day SVRSevern Valley Railway operates over the section from Bridgnorth to a point south of Bewdley station where the Stourport Branch, the original route of the Severn Valley Railway, can be seen curving away to the right towards Stourport and Hartlebury as you travel towards Kidderminster. From there, the present day SVRSevern Valley Railway continues to Kidderminster via the Loop Line opened in 1878. This page sets out a history of the Severn Valley Railway, including the Loop, from planning to closure.

Before construction: 1845-1858

Article from Herapath's Journal in 1852 announcing the formation of the Severn Valley Railway Company

Unsuccessful proposals

Main article: Unsuccessful proposals for railways in the Severn Valley

Proposals for a railway connecting Worcester to the Ironbridge Gorge via Bewdley and Bridgnorth were made in 1845 by the grandly named Oxford and Worcester Extension & Chester Junction Railway. The line was planned as an extension to the proposed Oxford Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway ("OW&WOxford Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway") and would have been built to the GWRGreat Western Railway's broad gauge. The plans were rejected by Parliament and by November 1846 the company had been voluntarily wound up.[1]

Proposals for the Worcester, Shrewsbury and Crewe Union Railway were advertised in April 1845. The 67 mile route was described as "Forming a junction at Stourport with the London, Worcester and South Staffordshire Railway,[note 1] the proposed railway will pass up the valley of the Severn and through or in the immediate neighbourhood of Bewdley, Kidderminster, Bridgnorth, Much Wenlock, Madeley, Ironbridge, Coalbrookdale to Shrewsbury, and thence near Market Drayton, Audlem, and Nantwich, will terminate at Crewe, by a junction with the Manchester and Birmingham, and Grand Junction Railways."[2]

Plans for a railway between Shrewsbury and Worcester via the Severn Valley were also drawn up by the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company between 1845 and 1846, although these too never came to fruition.

In 1852, during the early stages of the formation of the Severn Valley Railway Company which would eventually build the railway, Thomas Whitmore sponsored a rival proposal, the Shrewsbury, Ironbridge and Bridgnorth Railway. A Bill to construct the railway was introduced to Parliament in February 1853 but was thrown out in June of that year.[3]

Before the building of a railway, road services were available for goods or passengers from Bridgnorth to nearby railway stations. An 1849 poster advertises a service by Richard Beeston, by arrangement with the Grand Junction Railway Company, for carrying goods to Wolverhampton. An 1856 advert in the Bridgnorth Journal offers a GWRGreat Western Railway service for 'passengers and parcels &c.' to Shifnal.

The Severn Valley Railway Company

Main article: The Severn Valley Railway Company (19th Century)

In 1849 plans again emerged for a line following this route, linking the still incomplete Oxford Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway (‘OW&WOxford Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway’) at a point south of Hartlebury to the Shrewsbury & Birmingham Railway’s projected branch at Madeley in Shropshire. The proposed Severn Valley Railway would provide a more direct route between the railway junction towns of Shrewsbury and Worcester than the alternative route via Hartlebury, Kidderminster, Stourbridge, Wolverhampton and Wellington, and would also provide railway access to the coalfields of Highley and Alveley.

The Severn Valley Railway Company ("SVRC") was formed to build the railway. The first Engineer was Robert Nicholson, an associate of Robert Stephenson, who carried out the survey of the proposed route. Although nominally an independent company, the SVRC was closely associated with the OW&WOxford Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway. The Chairman and two other directors of the SVRC were on the Board of the OW&WOxford Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway, while OW&WOxford Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway Engineer John Fowler would succeed Nicholson as Engineer of the SVRC in 1855.

Originally the proposal was for a line from south of Hartlebury to Coalbrookdale, but public meetings in October 1852 confirmed the opinion that the line should continue to Shrewsbury. The first Severn Valley Railway Bill passed through Parliament and received Royal Assent in August 1853. This authorised the SVRC to raise £600,000 in shares and borrow up to £200,000 in addition.

The original estimate for construction of the line was £600,000, being £110,000 for land plus £490,000 for works[4] and it quickly became obvious that economies would be needed, including shortening the line to join the Shrewsbury & Hereford Railway south of Shrewsbury and making other deviations to the route. A second Severn Valley Railway Bill authorising share capital of £480,000 and borrowing of £160,000 received Royal Assent in July 1855.

Further economies were again found to be necessary, including leaving the OW&WOxford Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway line north of Hartlebury rather than south of it, and tunneling under Bridgnorth High Town rather than crossing the River Severn via an expensive bridge. This third proposal received Royal Assent in July 1856.

Continued difficulties in raising the finance meant that by 1857 an Abandonment Bill had been put before Parliament. However, following a proposal by contractors Peto, Brassey and Betts to accept part payment of £240,000 shares in SVRC for building the entire line, the Abandonment Bill was withdrawn and a final proposal put before Parliament. This included laying out the route for double track lines but only installing single track with passing places (John Fowler had fought hard to achieve this compromise; the Board had proposed laying out the entire route for single track working only).

By the time the fourth and final proposal incorporating these changes received Royal Assent in July 1858, the SVRC had reached agreement with the OW&WOxford Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway that the latter would run and maintain the new line for a period of 5 years following completion.

Construction: 1858-1861

Main article: Construction of the Severn Valley Railway

When the contractors Peto, Brassey and Betts began construction, a completion date of October 1860 was announced. However during construction a number of unstable areas of ground were discovered, while landslips also took place on completed areas of the line, the most significant north of Highley resulted in a change to the line’s route. Contemporary newspaper reports also suggest wet weather and tunnel collapses in 1860 contributed to the delay. The foundation stone for Victoria Bridge at Arley was laid on 24 November 1859 by Henry Orlando Bridgeman.

During 1860, while construction of the line was still in progress, the Severn Valley Railway changed hands twice in two days. On 14 June 1860 an act of Parliament confirmed a 999 year lease of the Company to the OW&WOxford Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway who agreed to run the line. On 16 June 1860 another Act authorised a three-way amalgamation of the OW&WOxford Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway with the Newport, Abergavenny & Hereford Railway and the Worcester & Hereford Railway to form the West Midlands Railway. This company was formed on 1 July 1860.

In February 1861, positioning of the four cast iron ribs of Victoria Bridge began. While work on the bridge was still in progress, the first steam working on the line took place between Stourport and Bewdley on 5 May 1861, watched by large crowds which had gathered for the occasion. Victoria Bridge was completed 5 days later. Station buildings were completed and signalling equipment installed in autumn of 1861.

Contemporary newspaper reports gave details of some of the many accidents which took place during construction between 1859 and 1861.

A first inspection of the line was carried out in December 1861 by Col. Yolland of the Board of Trade’s Railway Inspectorate. His report, dated 30 December 1861, listed a number of matters to be addressed before he could recommend opening, including installation of a turntable at Hartlebury, adjustment to the layout at Buildwas station and re-positioning of signals. A second inspection was carried out on 15 January 1862; two days later two trains ran over the still incomplete railway calling at stations to deliver apparatus for working it. On 23 January Colonel Yolland's report recommended that the Board of Trade should approve the opening of the railway.[5]

Map of the Route and Nearby Railways

The Severn Valley Railway and other nearby railways
The map above is extracted from RailmapOnline.Com. The Severn Valley Railway and its links to nearby railways mentioned in the text are highlighted.

Principal stations on the Severn Valley Railway and their distances from Shrewsbury were as follows:

Kidderminster, reached via The Loop, was 38¾ miles from Shrewsbury.

West Midlands Railway: 1862-1872

The first full length working of the Severn Valley Railway was a special train of 22 carriages which left Worcester Shrub Hill at 11:30am on Friday 31 January 1862. This reached Shrewsbury at 2pm, after stopping at every station to be greeted by cheering crowds. The return journey was made with three more carriages and an additional engine.

Public services began on Saturday 1 February 1862, initially with just three return workings per day. The journey from Hartlebury to Shrewsbury stopping at all stations took around 2 hours 10 minutes. Initially there were only five stations at which trains could be crossed; Stourport, Bewdley, Bridgnorth, Ironbridge and Broseley and Buildwas.[note 2] A number of the other stations would be provided with passing loops at later dates.

In July 1862 another act of Parliament was passed giving the Great Western Railway (‘GWRGreat Western Railway’) the right to buy the Severn Valley Railway Company before the end of 1871. However in August 1863 the GWRGreat Western Railway took over the West Midlands Railway, thus assuming the latter’s running powers over the Severn Valley Railway. The Severn Valley Railway was fully amalgamated into the GWRGreat Western Railway on 1 July 1872, by exchange of Preference Shares in the former for Consolidated Stock in the latter. From that point on, the Severn Valley Railway would be one of many of the GWRGreat Western Railway’s branch lines.

In 1863 the Worcester Journal published two articles describing the Severn Valley Railway from Hartlebury to Shrewsbury as part of a series entitled "Excursions by Railway".

Great Western Railway: 1872-1947

Beginning in 1860, a number of schemes were proposed for a railway connecting Wolverhampton and Bridgnorth, to provide a direct route without the diversion south via Kidderminster. These included the proposal for a 'Light Railway', the Wolverhampton and Bridgnorth Light Railway, in 1897. However none of these railways were ever built. The GWRGreat Western Railway itself also proposed a similar connection in 1905, although this too was never completed.

In 1878 the GWRGreat Western Railway opened ‘The Loop’ linking Bewdley to Kidderminster, over which the present day Severn Valley Railway continues. ‘The Loop’ nearly didn’t happen; construction was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1868 which also included the nearby Stourbridge Town branch (part of which is still in use today). The GWRGreat Western Railway then sought leave to abandon ‘The Loop’ and build a line linking Bewdley to Stourbridge via Wolverley, Cookley and Kinver instead. Only when Parliament rejected this proposal did ‘The Loop’ go ahead. A more detailed history of the Loop's construction is given here.

Most Kidderminster to Bewdley trains left the Severn Valley Railway at the Tenbury Branch and took the Wyre Forest Line (dismantled in the 1960s and now a popular walking route) to Tenbury Wells and Woofferton. This traffic effectively crossed the Severn Valley Railway, rather than following it for any distance.

The opening of the loop line in 1878 saw the introduction of the first signal boxes on the line at Bewdley. Installation of other signal boxes on the line continued through the 1880s, in conjunction with the installation of additional passing loops at Arley, Hampton Loade, Coalport, Cressage and Berrington.

The Severn Valley line was used for both passenger and freight traffic. However it remained single track throughout its life, and as a consequence rarely saw significant use as a through connecting route apart from brief spells during the two World Wars when it was used to bypass the congested lines of the West Midlands. Indeed it is likely that most passengers only traveled on part of the line during their journey.

The line was rarely at the forefront of railway technology, although 1905 saw the use of brand new steam railcars between Bewdley, Kidderminster and Stourport. A year earlier the GWRGreat Western Railway also introduced a steam omnibus service between Bridgnorth and Wolverhampton.

The peak period of use of the line was between 1880 and 1920. After that time passenger and freight traffic began to decline, although this was mitigated within the section used by the present day SVRSevern Valley Railway by the opening of the West Midlands Sugar Co (later British Sugar Corporation) factory at Foley Park, Kidderminster in 1925 and Alveley Colliery at Highley beginning coal delivery by rail in 1939. A number of halts such as Northwood Halt, Jackfield Halt and Cound Halt were introduced in the 1930s in a bid to attract more local custom.

During the Second World War the line saw an increase in traffic, with service personnel travelling to military bases in the area and additional wartime freight. The line served as an alternative diversionary route, and a variety of non-GWRGreat Western Railway locomotives saw service.[6] The Ministry of Food opened an emergency food storage depot near Stourport in 1941,[6] with a rail siding accessed by the Brindley Street Ground Frame. Kidderminster and Stourport saw many ambulance trains, the US Army having a hospital at Stourport.[7] The railway also served the US camp at Burlish Top and RAF Bridgnorth situated at nearby Stanmore.

British Railways: 1948-1982

Hampton Loade in 1951, with a typical branch line service (Geograph)
GWRGreat Western Railway Panniers 9624 and 4665 prepare to depart Bridgnorth with the last BRBritish Rail or British Railways train on 8 September 1963 (Sellick Collection)
1958 poster adverting diesel railcar services to Kidderminster and Bewdley
BRBritish Rail or British Railways's Public Notice of closure

Ownership of the Severn Valley Line passed to British Railways (BRBritish Rail or British Railways) upon nationalisation in 1948, when it became part of the British Railways Western Region “BRBritish Rail or British Railways(W)". The 1950s saw steam replaced on some services by GWR Diesel Railcars and BRBritish Rail or British Railways Diesel Multiple Units (DMU).

On 1 January 1963, control of the Severn Valley Branch passed from BRBritish Rail or British Railways's Western Region to their London Midland Region.[8] The latter Region appears on the August 1963 closure notice below.


After the War, traffic numbers continued to decline and the BRBritish Rail or British Railways began a programme of closures. Many of these pre-dated the British Transport Commission ('BTC') report "The Reshaping of British Railways" ('The Beeching Report' as it came to be known), which was published on 27 March 1963.

On the lines connecting with the Severn Valley branch, passenger services between Woofferton and Tenbury Wells were withdrawn on 31 July 1961.[9] The following year, passenger services between Much Wenlock and Wellington via Buildwas ended on 23 July 1962,[10] while services between Tenbury Wells and Bewdley were withdrawn on 1 August 1962.[9]

On the Severn Valley Branch itself, preparations for closure began in autumn 1961. BTC officials carried out traffic surveys of passenger numbers between 16-22 October 1961, following which BRBritish Rail or British Railways(W) announced in January 1962 that the Severn Valley Branch was under review, that passenger services were 'suspected of being unremunerative' and that economies were being investigated. This threat of closure was discussed by Bridgnorth Council in February 1962.[11]

BRBritish Rail or British Railways(W) announced in June 1962 that passenger services would be completely withdrawn between Shrewsbury and Bewdley (and also reduced south of Bewdley). Statistics gathered in September 1962 by officials working on the Beeching Report would undoubtedly have reinforced BRBritish Rail or British Railways's argument for the ending of passenger services.[12]

Under the 1962 Transport Act, the Transport Users Consultative Committee ('TUCCTransport Users Consultative Committee') could only consider the hardship suffered by passengers if their services were terminated. Following consultation with Bridgnorth Council and others at a public meeting on 8 November 1962, the TUCCTransport Users Consultative Committee announced on 20 November that it had submitted a report to the Minister of Transport confirming that closure would cause hardship to users in Bridgnorth and Highley and definite hardship to those in the Linley, Hampton Loade and Northwood areas. On 24 November, just four days later, the go-ahead for the construction of Ironbridge B power station on the site of Buildwas station was announced, even though the closure of the Severn Valley Branch was not formally confirmed.[13] While the TUCCTransport Users Consultative Committee's appeal was still being considered, the Beeching Report was published on 27 March 1963, including the Severn Valley Branch whose closure was already in progress. The BTC saw no grounds to agree to the TUCCTransport Users Consultative Committee's appeal, and on 2 August 1963 the Transport Minister Ernest Marples approved the closure for passenger services with effect from 9 September.[14] Thus the closure of the line was ultimately the responsibility of BRBritish Rail or British Railways rather than a direct result of the 'Beeching Axe'.

When the end of passenger services north of Bewdley was formally announced following the Minister's decision, assurances were given that freight services would continue throughout the line. However even before the passenger services had ended, plans for the new Ironbridge power station were published by the CEGB showing cooling towers on the track bed at Buildwas.[14]

On Sunday 8 September the final 6.58pm Bridgnorth to Birmingham Snow Hill train, normally a diesel railcar service, was hauled by ex-GWRGreat Western Railway pannier tanks 9624 and 4665 carrying a ‘Special Last Train’ headboard. It was followed by the last passenger service north of Bewdley, the 8.30pm Hampton Loade to Snow Hill formed of a three car diesel set.[14]

Passenger services between Shrewsbury and Bewdley ceased on 9 September 1963 as announced. Four days later on 13 September, BRBritish Rail or British Railways posted advance notices of their proposal to end through freight services. Appeals against the proposal proved fruitless, and the last through freight train ran on 30 November 1963.[14]

From December 1963:

North of Buildwas Junction, the line from Sutton Bridge Junction was kept open for the movement of boilers and other equipment to the new power station. This took place on Saturday 22 April 1966, after which the section to Berrington was closed and the track lifted. The section north of Berrington continued in use for the testing of Rolls Royce Sentinel diesel shunting engines until January 1968. From that time only a short spur of the old line remained open to serve the Shrewsbury Abbey sidings oil depot until that closed to rail traffic on 18 July 1988.[14]
South of Alveley Colliery, the line southwards through Bewdley remained in use for moving coal to Stourport Power Station until the Colliery closed, with the last coal lifted on 31 January 1969. For a short period following closure of the line from 6 February a class 25 diesel loco was rostered to take an 8T91 Thursday afternoons only light engine move from Kidderminster to Highley to carry the wage packets of the signalman and the shunter who were still stationed there, despite traffic having finished. A third man, a lengths man, was also stationed there but he had to travel on a platelayers trolley each week to Bewdley to collect his wages.[15]
The line between Buildwas and Alveley Colliery Sidings was abandoned by BRBritish Rail or British Railways. In 1964 they began to lift the track from Buildwas southwards for re-use in the enlargement of Bescot yard near Walsall. Fortunately sufficient material had been reclaimed by the time the north end of Bridgnorth Station was reached, so the workforce was redeployed to work on the Stourbridge Junction to Smethwick line.[16]

BRBritish Rail or British Railways ceased passenger services from Bewdley to Hartlebury on 6 January 1970, ending their use of the original Severn Valley Line. Services from Bewdley to Kidderminster over 'The Loop' ended at the same time, although British Sugar Corporation freight traffic between Foley Park and Kidderminster continued until 1982.

When the SVRSevern Valley Railway opened services to Bewdley in 1974, they had also acquired the line as far as Foley Park. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the SVRSevern Valley Railway, with BRBritish Rail or British Railways’s co-operation, were able to stage outgoing main line rail tours (and play host to incoming ones) via the remaining BRBritish Rail or British Railways section of 'The Loop' between Foley Park and Kidderminster. On some weekends in summer, BRBritish Rail or British Railways also operated a few DMUDiesel Multiple Unit special services from their Kidderminster station to the SVRSevern Valley Railway at Bewdley.

Locomotives used

Main article: Locomotives used on the Severn Valley Branch in commercial service

In the early days the West Midlands Railway used a number of locomotives inherited from the three constituent companies. 2-4-0 locomotives were generally used for passenger traffic up to World War 1, supplemented by 0-4-2s and 0-6-0s used on goods trains. Steam railmotors were also introduced in 1905.

The early 1920s saw the introduction of auto coaches (also known as auto cars or auto trailers), while the end of the 1920s saw new 45xx class small prairies on the line. These 2-6-2 tanks became the main source of motive power until the 1950s for both passenger and freight workings, supplemented by 0-6-0 pannier tanks, although during World War 2 51xx class large prairies, ex Cambrian Railways 0-6-0s and even LNERLondon & North Eastern Railway J25 0-6-0s found their way to the Severn Valley Railway for freight services, while some passenger services were hauled by ageing GWRGreat Western Railway ‘Duke’ and ‘Bulldog’ 4-4-0s.

GWRGreat Western Railway Diesel Railcars such as Railcar 22 were introduced in 1936 on passenger services between Kidderminster, Hartlebury and Stourport, and after World War 2 they were occasionally on services travelling the whole length of the line.

After nationalisation, the line at first continued to use predominantly ex-GWRGreat Western Railway locomotives. However the 1960s saw an increase in ex-LMSLondon Midland & Scottish Railway and BRBritish Rail or British Railways Standard locomotives, and the replacement of ex-GWRGreat Western Railway railcars by BRBritish Rail or British Railways railcar single and multiple units. These locomotives saw out the remaining years of the line until closure as a through route in 1963, although fittingly the last BRBritish Rail or British Railways passenger train into Bridgnorth from the south on 8 September 1963 was hauled by ex-GWRGreat Western Railway pannier tanks numbers 9624 and 4665.

Locomotive Gallery

This gallery illustrates some of the variety that could be seen on the line in the BRBritish Rail or British Railways era.

Timetables and services

Passenger services

Main article: Timetables in commercial service

At opening on 1 February 1862 there were three trains per day between Shrewsbury and Worcester over the Severn Valley Line, with a fourth which ran from Bridgnorth to Shrewsbury and back. This quickly became four through trains per day, while a single train on Sundays was also added to the timetable running to Shrewsbury in the morning and returning in the late afternoon. This pattern continued largely unchanged throughout the rest of the century. Following the opening of the Kidderminster Loop in 1878, trains from the Tenbury Branch ran to Kidderminster but passengers from Shrewsbury to Kidderminster still had to change at Bewdley.

By the beginning of the 20th Century a fifth though service in each direction had started. In 1905 the GWRGreat Western Railway introduced local services at the south end of the line. These would operate throughout the day around the triangle formed by Kidderminster, Bewdley and Hartlebury, occasionally going to Highley (providing a service for miners working there) and as far as Bridgnorth.[17]. Sometimes nicknamed 'The Bewdley Banjo',[18] the service was mainly provided by steam railmotors until around 1918, by auto-coaches until the early 1940s, and thereafter by diesel railcars.

With the introduction of the local service, some Shrewsbury departures began to divert to Kidderminster instead of Worcester. Around the same time, other Shrewsbury departures began to terminate at Hartlebury or Bewdley, to connect to local services.[17]

The Sunday service north of Bridgnorth had ended by 1910. The traffic statistics suggest passenger numbers at most stations peaked in the 1920s before starting to fall again. The GWRGreat Western Railway added a number of halts in the 1930s in an attempt to bring more local custom to the Branch, and there were there were still five trains per day to and from Shrewsbury in 1938. The first thirty years of the 20th Century could therefore perhaps be considered the heyday of the Branch.

World War 2 saw the service reduced back to four trains per day with no Sunday service. Although Sunday services south of Bridgnorth were re-introduced in the late 1940s, the weekday service remained more or less unchanged, apart from briefly becoming even worse in the late 1950s, through to closure in 1963.

Goods services

Main article: Goods traffic on the SVR

By their nature, most goods services were operated as required. However one scheduled goods service per day would normally work from Shrewsbury to Kidderminster. Pre-World War II this was usually operated by a GWRGreat Western RailwayDeanWilliam Dean, Chief Locomotive Engineer of the Great Western Railway 1877-1902 Goods’, superseded post-War by its natural replacement, the Collett 2251 0-6-0 goods (during the War an LNERLondon & North Eastern Railway J25 0-6-0 was often used). Another daily goods service also worked from Kidderminster over the Tenbury Branch. A Station Truck, sometimes referred to as a Pick-UpIn reference to the direction of travel means towards the major terminus (i.e. towards Kidderminster on the present day SVR) Wagon, was a goods wagon attached to cater for small consignments that were individually insufficient to form a full wagon load.

Other goods traffic involved sugar beet trains from Kidderminster to Foley Park. The processing season ran from mid-September to mid-January, during which time up to four complete trains per day would arrive at Kidderminster. Shunting of these loads from Kidderminster yard to the Foley Park factory required a shunting engine to be available 24 hours per day[19].

Coal trains from Alveley required use of a tender engine. Post-War these were usually operated by a GWRGreat Western Railway 4300 class 2-6-0.

Traffic statistics

Main article: Traffic statistics in commercial service

The GWRGreat Western Railway collected annual traffic statistics for their stations. These were collated and recorded in books covering periods of six years. The picture shows an example of the data collected for Bewdley for the years 1935 to 1940.

The data collected for each station included the numbers of tickets issued and the associated passenger revenue. "Coaching receipts" included revenue from parcels traffic (the number of parcels were not recorded for some years in the early 1940s). The tonnages of freight handled were also recorded, although from 1940 onwards the GWRGreat Western Railway ceased to record the revenue associated with that freight.

The linked article sets out the traffic statistics recorded by the GWRGreat Western Railway and BRBritish Rail or British Railways for stations on the Severn Valley Railway in selected years between 1903 and 1952. Hartlebury and Shrewsbury are not shown, as their reported totals would include only a small portion of traffic relating to the Severn Valley Branch. Buildwas is included for completeness, although a portion of traffic originating there would relate to the Wellington and Much Wenlock branches.

At stations along the branch during the heydays of the 1920s, freight traffic accounted for around 80% of the revenue. By the time the recording of the freight revenue ended in the late 1930s, the freight total had reached almost 90%.

Information up to 1938 was included in Nabarro (1971); information after that date has been obtained from the original records for the GWRGreat Western Railway Worcester Division held in the National Archives. The book for the period 1947-1952 confirms that the process continued into the BRBritish Rail or British Railways era.


In the early days of railways, working arrangements were primitive and accidents commonplace, though thankfully often minor. LTC Rolt in his book 'Red For Danger' refers to the Board of Trade's struggle to make railway companies implement the fundamental principles of 'Lock, Block and Brake', the interlocking of signals and points, absolute block working, and the fitting of continuous brakes.

Some of the accidents on the Severn Valley Line were as follows:

  • On 20 January 1862, just a few days before the railway's opening, a train hit the gates of a level crossing near Buildwas. "Owing to some inadvertence, the gates were not attended to, and consequently the engine dashed through, scattering the fragments of the gates right and left, with terrific force."[20]
  • On 13 February 1862, a similar mishap occurred near Broseley when, despite the driver sounding his whistle, the gatekeeper "was observed in deep conversation with another man" and failed to open both gates in time, resulting in one of the gates being "shattered to atoms".[21]
  • On 2 January 1864, two wagons and the guard's van of a luggage train derailed while it was being shunted clear of a following passenger train. The passenger train stopped safely, but was delayed by over two hours.[22]
  • On 20 February 1864, a Severn Valley goods train broke down within a mile of leaving Hartlebury for Kidderminster. Despite this happening three quarters of an hour before the 9:33pm express train from Worcester was due, the Hartlebury signalman was not alerted and the express train collided with the rear of the goods train.[23]
  • On 10 October 1865, a goods train leaving Kidderminster for London at 8pm ran into a number of wagons which had earlier run away from Kidderminster and were obstructing, undetected, the main line near Hoobrook Viaduct.[24]
  • On December 16 1865, late in the evening, a goods train arrived at Bewdley with the brake van having been left behind at Cleobury Mortimer due to a broken coupling, the driver being unaware of this loss until braking assistance was required at the junction with the SVRSevern Valley Railway at Dowles. The driver set off back to Cleobury to collect the brake van, only to find that another coupling had broken and three wagons had been left near the junction, which he then collided with in the dark.[25]
  • On 8 November 1866, a goods train from Buildwas ran through signals approaching Bewdley and collided with a standing goods train. The driver was fined for running too fast and the guard for failing to apply brakes when signalled to do so, the latter being cited as the main cause of the accident. Most locomotives of that time had either hand brakes on the tender only, or in the case of some tank engines, no brakes at all, train braking being primarily the responsibility of the guard acting on signals from the driver. Continuous brakes began to be introduced in the mid 1870s.[26].
  • On 7 May 1867 a train derailed about 1½ miles beyond Highley station. The whole of the train, which consisted of engine and tender, four carriages, and one "break-van", left the rails and the engine and one of the carriages fell over. The primary cause was a track defect, with secondary causes being inadequate maintenance and hot weather. Seven injuries occurred. The report was written by Col. W. Yolland and published on 5 June 1867 by Board of Trade.[27]
  • On 20 June 1867, GWRGreat Western Railway 2-4-0 No 189 (ex OW&WOxford Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway) left the rails while departing Bridgnorth Station south-bound. The accident was attributed to the locomotive not having been properly balanced when leaving Worcester Works.[28][29]
  • In March 1869 a horse drawn timber waggon became stuck while crossing the line near Hampton Loade. The waggon driver unhitched his horses and the driver and stoker of the train jumped clear before the collision and there were no injuries.[30]
  • On 16 June 1869 staff error lead to a collision with plant at Bewdley. There were no casualties and no formal accident investigation took place.[31]
  • On 7 May 1870 a collision occurred at Bridgnorth when a porter set points incorrectly. The points were not interlocked with the signals[26].
  • On 10 January 1871 a "distance[sic] signal had not answered to the lever", causing a luggage train to run into some passenger carriages being shunted by horse from a siding at Kidderminster.[32]
  • On 7 August 1880 "On Saturday a passenger train leaving Bridgnorth about 7.40 ran off the line between Hampton Lode and Highley, on the Severn Valley Railway, owing to a cow having strayed on to the line, which has a sharp curve at the spot. The passengers were severely shaken, and the traffic blocked for several hours."[33]
  • On 10 October 1888 the 6.30pm Stourbridge Goods from Tenbury ran into a passenger train from Shrewsbury at the north end of Bewdley Station. The passenger train had passed the home signal at danger and moved into the path of the goods. The report was published on 26 November 1888.[28][34]
  • On 6 January 1891 the driver of a goods train approaching Kidderminster from Bewdley mistook the signal for the main line as being the one for the Loop Line and collided with a passenger train approaching Kidderminster from Hartlebury.[35]
  • On 29 November 1898 a passenger train from Hartlebury was derailed at Arley after running through down home signal at danger just as the signalman was changing the points for the loop. The circumstances of the accident suggest that locking bars had not been installed at the time to prevent points being changed under a train.[26]
  • On 2 September 1916, Bernard Brady, a private in the Royal Defence Corps, was knocked down and killed by a train while walking to his post at the Elan Valley Aqueduct[36]
  • On 13 January 1928, 4575 class small prairie No 5508 was derailed north of Bridgnorth Tunnel while traveling at 45-50mph when rotten sleepers gave way. Nobody was injured in the accident[26].
  • In December 1940, a member of a gang working on a slip at Sterns was struck and killed by a train while walking along the line to work from his home at Highley early in the morning.[37]
  • On 28 August 1964 another car was struck by an empty goods train on the same crossing, the primary cause being road vehicle driver error. It resulted in fatalities to two of the passengers.[39][41]

Other incidents

  • On 18 June 1855, Frederick Powell, a labourer, was digging out a culvert between the two main lines at Kidderminster when he was struck by a coal train. He was knocked into the trench, but not seriously injured.[42]
  • In May 1861 an engine cleaner named Samuel Pugh was working in a pit underneath a locomotive at Bridgnorth.[note 3] The driver who was also in the pit asked the fireman to move the locomotive. He initially failed to do so but as Pugh attempted to climb out of the pit between the wheels, the locomotive moved, "almost literally cutting the poor fellow in two". He was taken to the Infirmary where both his legs were amputated.[43]
  • On 19 November 1863, James Priddy of Worcester, the guard of a goods train from London, was crushed between two trains while shunting at Kidderminster.[44]
  • On 22 January 1866, Isiah Band, a labourer employed with another man to empty a coal wagon at Bewdley Station was crushed between two wagons and died at home the following day.[45]
  • On 7 August 1868 the 'stoker' of a train approaching Bewdley from Hartlebury was attempting to grease a piston while the train was in motion when he slipped and seriously injured his foot, "the toes being completely cut off".[46]
  • On 7 January 1869, Richard Newman, a platelayer, was struck and killed by a DownIn reference to the direction of travel means away from the major terminus (i.e. towards Bridgnorth on the present day SVR) train approaching Kidderminster as he walked home from work.[47]
  • On 27 April 1876, George Bradley, a cattle drover from Worcester, attempted to alight from the guard's van of a goods train approaching Bewdley Station. Witnesses at the inquest stated that, mistaking the bridge parapet for the platform, he stepped off too soon. He fell to the highway below and died in Kidderminster Infirmary the following morning. One newspaper reported that he stepped off while the train was still moving, however, the guard stated at the inquest that the train was stationary and that he had cautioned Bradley not to get out.[48][49][50]
  • In August 1877, a man named Edwards was sweeping the platform when he stepped in front of a luggage train. Fortunately, he fell between the rails and despite the locomotive and about eight wagons running over him, he suffered only minor bruising.[51]
  • On 30 November 1880, George Newman, a yardman at Kidderminster, was knocked down by a luggage train while he was oiling points resulting in his left leg being amputated.[52]
  • On 27 November 1896, James Worral, a painter, was working on the new platform at Kidderminster when he was "drawn by the engine between the train and the metals and frightfully injured".[53]
  • On 14 October 1901, John Hughes, a goods guard, was killed at Kidderminster. The returns of Accidents and Casualties as reported to the Board of Trade by the several railway companies in the United Kingdom during the three months ending 31 December 1901 show a goods train was being propelled into a siding when the guards van was derailed at hand points. The van turned over whilst Hughes was attempting to jump clear and he was crushed beneath it. Hughes was held to blame for the accident as he failed in his duty to ensure the points were properly set. For future safety, the Board of Trade said the GWRGreat Western Railway should consider replacing the point lever with one being properly weighted to allow the point to always fall into a safe position. A coroners’ court jury’s verdict was accidental death, with the jury censuring the GWRGreat Western Railway and its servants. The trades union, Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (now RMT), retained Wilcocks Taylor solicitor and obtained substantial compensation of £271.16.0. The solicitor’s fee amounted to £5.4.10.[54]
  • In October 1902, Lewis Turner, a 56 year old engine driver at Highley Colliery, was travelling as a passenger when he overslept and missed his station. Upon being woken, he tried to leave the train while it was still moving and fell under the wheels and was killed.[55]
  • On 17 April 1911, William Jones "while endeavouring to enter a train before it drew up, was flung under the train and killed" at Kidderminster.[56]
  • At 2.32 pm on 3 November 1911, gas fitter D. Cartwright was injured whilst about the track at Kidderminster when he was struck by a rail motor as he stood up with his back to vehicle. He suffered cuts, lacerations and injuries to his collarbone, face and side. The whistle sounded twice and platelayer Andrews, five yards away, shouted to him, without effect. The cause was that no look-out had been posted, recently appointed leading fitter Griffiths was unaware of this responsibility under Rule 273 (f)[57].
  • On 7 January 1931, Fireman William Clayton "...was coupling an engine to coaches. He requested [Driver] Lloyd to "Ease up" and lifted the engine shackle over the draw-bar hook. The engine recoiled due to the braked coaches and Clayton's head was caught between the shackle and the closed gangway" at Bewdley resulting in cuts to his head and face.[58]
  • On 15 April 1939, Police Constable A. R. Rudge was killed by being crushed between the buffers of two wagons at Kidderminster goods yard.[59]

See also


The Severn Valley Railway Souvenir Guide, available from Gift Shops on the SVRSevern Valley Railway.
Severn Valley Railway, A View from the Past. MA Vanns.(2013)
Severn Valley Steam,. Sir Gerald Nabarro M.P. (1971)
The Tenbury & Bewdley Railway, Keith Beddoes and William H Smith (1995)
The Severn Valley Railway, John Marshall (1989)
Past editions of Severn Valley News.

  1. Vanns (1998) pp. 7,9.
  2. Herapath’s Journal and Railway Magazine, 26 April, 1845. Also Morning Chronicle, 18 April 1845
  3. Marshall (1989) p. 24.
  4. Handbook to the Severn Valley Railway, by J. Randall 1863
  5. Marshall (1989) pp. 48-49.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Vanns (2017) p. 43.
  7. Turley (2005)pp. 87-95.
  8. Smith (1968) p. 25.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Beddoes & Smith (1995) p. 190.
  10. Marshall (1989) p. 162.
  11. Magner (1997) pp. 24-25.
  12. Vanns (1998/2013) p. 93.
  13. Magner (1997) pp. 26-28.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 Magner (1997) pp. 32-35.
  15. Maggs (2009)
  16. Marshall (1989) p. 165.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Rail Centres: Shrewsbury, Richard K. Morriss (1986) p35
  18. Turley (2005), p35
  19. Turley (2005), p72.
  20. Shrewsbury Chronicle on The British Newspaper Archive
  21. Shrewsbury Chronicle on The British Newspaper Archive
  22. Worcestershire Chronicle Wednesday 6 January 1864 on the British Newspaper Archive
  23. Birmingham Daily Post Tuesday 23 February 1864 on the British Newspaper Archive
  24. Bridgnorth Journal and South Shropshire Advertiser Saturday 14 October 1865 on the British Newspaper Archive
  25. Worcester Journal - Saturday 23 December 1865 on The British Newspaper Archive
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 Marshall (1989)
  27. Railways Archive report (Retrieved 8 November 2019)
  28. 28.0 28.1 Beddoes & Smith (1995)
  29. Railways Archive accident summary (Retrieved 8 November 2019)
  30. Wellington Journal Saturday 27 March 1869 on the British Newspaper Archive
  31. Railways Archive accident summary (Retrieved 8 November 2019)
  32. Hastings and St Leonards Observer Saturday 14 January 1871 on the British Newspaper Archive
  33. The Cardiff Times on the National Library of Wales archive
  34. Railways Archive accident report (Retrieved 8 November 2019)
  35. Birmingham Daily Post Thursday 8 January 1891 on the British Newspaper Archive
  36. Birmingham Daily Post on The British Newspaper Archive
  37. Bridgnorth Journal, December 14 1940
  38. Turley (2005) p. 81.
  39. 39.0 39.1 Nabarro (1971) p. 53.
  40. Judge (2008) p. 227.
  41. Railways Archive accident summary (Retrieved 8 November 2019)
  42. Morning Post - Tuesday 26 June 1855 on the British Newspaper Archive
  43. Western Daily Press, 14 May 1861, via the British Newspaper Archive
  44. Hereford Journal - Saturday 21 November 1863 on the British Newspaper Archive
  45. Worcester Journal on The British Newspaper Archive
  46. Worcester Journal on The British Newspaper Archive
  47. Worcestershire Chronicle Wednesday 13 January 1869 on the British Newspaper Archive
  48. Worcester Journal on The British Newspaper Archive
  49. Tenbury Wells Advertiser Tuesday 6 June 1876 on the British Newspaper Archive
  50. Worcester Journal - Saturday 08 April 1876 on the British Newspaper Archive
  51. Worcestershire Chronicle Saturday 25 August 1877 on the British Newspaper Archive
  52. Morpeth Herald Saturday 4 December 1880 on the British Newspaper Archive
  53. Worcestershire Chronicle Saturday 28 November 1896 on the British Newspaper Archive
  54. MSS.127/AS/7/3 Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, Record of accidents, inquests, Board of Trade enquiries, and legal cases, p. 12, Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick via the Railway Work, Life & Death project (Retrieved 8 August 2021)
  55. Wellington Journal on The British Newspaper Archive
  56. Aberdeen Press and Journal Wednesday 19 April 1911 on the British Newspaper Archive
  57. ‘Railway Accidents. Summary of Accidents and Casualties reported to the Board of Trade by the several railway companies in the United Kingdom during the three months ending 31 March 1911’, 31 March 1911, Appendix B pp. 33-34, Cd. 5808 via the Railway Work, Life & Death project (Retrieved 8 August 2021)
  58. ‘Railway Work, Life & Death’ project, run by the University of Portsmouth, National Railway Museum and Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick
  59. Birmingham Mail - Saturday 15 April 1939 on the British Newspaper Archive


  1. An unsuccessful rival proposal to the OWWOxford Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway, supported by the London and Birmingham Railway Company.
  2. JB Mayers was Station Master at Stourport from around 1867. While there "he received instructions from late WS Tanner to prepare a signalling scheme to allow crossing places on the Severn Valley line to be varied (previously they were fixed in the working timetable with long waits ensuing). From 1875 he spent 20 years as Station Master at Kidderminster" (GWRGreat Western Railway Magazine June 1906).
  3. The railway did not open until 1862, therefore this was presumably a Contractors' locomotive.


Rail Map Online Map of railway lines around Bewdley, showing 'The Loop' (highlighted), the original Severn Valley line continuing to Hartlebury, and the Wyre Forest Line to Tenbury.
Handbook to the Severn Valley Railway, by J. Randall 1863 book published as an illustrated eBook by