The four capping stones carved by the SVR’s stonemason Philip Chatfield were lifted into place on the Bewdley end of Falling Sands Viaduct on the 19th November. This is the culmination of weeks of exacting work for Philip, who carved the stones by hand from reclaimed red sandstone blocks, to match the existing stones at the Kidderminster end (see November's Express Points). The replacement stones weigh ¾ of a tonne each and have been bedded on lime mortar. Civil engineer for the project Jonathan Symonds spoke to Express Points:
“The new copings were lifted into place on the new pilasters (rectangular columns - Ed) at the western end of Falling Sands Viaduct, built to replace those taken down by British Rail back in the 1970s. The stone has pedigree having originated from the River Irwell Viaduct in Manchester.”
Mystery remains around why these stones were missing in the first place, when the Kidderminster-end stonework remained intact. According to Jonathan, in the 1970s a programme of repairs to replace the parapet started but the project stalled half way across; the capping stones and pilasters being removed but never replaced.
In addition to the capping stones, decorative brick corbelling is being added to the viaduct, although appearances can be deceptive. Despite looking exactly like brick, the corbelling is in fact made of glass reinforced plastic, or GRP. This material was chosen partly because its low density makes it easier to handle at height using rope access, partly for its low cost, but also because it simplified the project. Jonathan explains:
“It would have been impossible to use brick without demolishing and rebuilding the complete parapet, which would have been a mammoth task. GRP is now commonly used on heritage projects to reinstate intricate details in brick and stone which would be very costly to do in the original materials.”
In order that the GRP replacement corbelling matched the original, a template was made from the authentic brickwork to make a mould from which the individual pieces could then formed using GRP.
The planned completion date for this project is the 14th December, with seasonal train services uninterrupted by remaining tasks. This work is part of the £1.25 million Falling Sands project, funded by the SVR Charitable Trust thanks to generous donations and a substantial grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Covid-19 continues to impact the Railway’s income, and as part of the ongoing Fight Back Fund, the SVR Charitable Trust is launching a £10,000 Christmas appeal.
When you sign up to Amazon Smile, you can buy exactly the same products, at exactly the same prices – and at no extra cost to you, 0.5% of the net purchase price will go directly to the SVR Charitable Trust.
All you need to do is sign up at smile.amazon.co.uk, select “Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust” and shop away!
Remember to access your Amazon account via smile.amazon.co.uk each time you buy.
For more information about Amazon Smile go to https://smile.amazon.co.uk/about
As you may already know, the SVR’s ticket revenue cannot cover the cost of training the next generation of heritage engineers, and right now the need is greater than ever. With reduced trains and passenger numbers, the Railway’s income has taken a significant hit. Yet it is vital we keep heritage engineering skills alive in order to restore and maintain our rolling stock for the years to come.
If you are travelling with us in the near future, look for the donation envelope that you’ll find in your compartment and please, pop whatever you can spare inside to help train our engineers of the future.
Thank you so much, as always, for your support.
Photo: TTI Alan Timbrell with a cash donation envelope
Whilst the Railway has been busy welcoming our visitors and ensuring they have a safe and enjoyable day, the SVR Charitable Trust have been heads down, working in the background to raise more funds, to keep us ‘on track’.
We were delighted to be able to work with SVR (Holdings) Plc and the SVR Company Limited to raise £900,000 for our Fight Back Fund. In addition to the income raised for the Fight Back Fund this year, we have given just under £780,000 to support other projects, including the much awaited GWR 9581 wheelchair accessible buffet car, GWR 9615 kitchen first diner, the Hawksworth 2242 brake van and the revarnishing of our much-loved set of Gresley carriages. With regards to locomotives, ‘Hagley Hall’ 4930 remains a priority for the Trust, and we, along with the Friends of Hagley Hall, very much look forward to this flagship loco being back in steam in 2022.
The apprentices continue to be funded in total by the Charitable Trust, and we were able to give urgent funding to ensure work at Sterns was completed in time for the 1st August reopening. I am also delighted to share that all this support has been achieved whilst still protecting our Future Fund investment.
As you will imagine, with the levels of funding we have invested to help keep the Railway operational, we now need to start building up our funds again.
The fundraising environment, as you will appreciate, is getting much harder; we knew it would. People gave generously to our Fight Back Fund, and other causes dear to them. Many grant makers who would normally support the Railway, diverted their funding to support charities providing front line services for the pandemic, and we know income from grant makers will reduce over the coming months, as the economy worsens and investments are hit. However, as a fundraising team, it is difficult to dampen our spirits. A key factor for this optimism is due to the tremendous love and affection our supporters have for the Severn Valley Railway and the generosity we receive from you, at the times we ask for your help.
We are currently working on launching a regular giving appeal, to which we hope as many people as possible will give £10 per month. This will enable us to plan for essential restoration in the future. Additionally, if things get tougher over the coming months and income from operational activities is further reduced, we can use these funds for emergency support.
With the three companies working strategically together, the sum is now much greater than the parts, and this was evidenced in the £250,000 the Charitable Trust was able to secure from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for an emergency recovery grant for SVRH. In addition, we wait, with everything crossed, to hear the outcome of our application for a £1 million grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund, again for SVRH but submitted by the Charitable Trust team, who possess the fundraising expertise.
Heritage Apprenticeship Scheme.
We give £100,000 per year to pay for the scheme and the extended costs of delivering the programme. Although it will not be possible to recruit new apprentices this year due to the Covid-19 situation, we continue to seek grants and donations to fund the existing apprentices.
We have installed a tap and donate machine as you leave Kidderminster concourse, and we hope, after our visitors have had a thoroughly enjoyable day, they show their appreciation by donating on their way out.
An area we are extremely keen to support is our Access for All projects. We are submitting grant applications for two key projects:- These have been detailed below.
Bewdley Station wheelchair access to island platforms 2 & 3.
The only access route for wheelchair users to the island platforms 2 & 3 at Bewdley Station is via a barrow crossing accessed through the Goods yard. However, the yard has an ash/aggregate surface which does not drain well and has suffered from degradation, now creating an uneven surface with potholes and puddles.
We have consequently made applications to several grant makers (other charitable trusts) to fund improvements / replacements to the existing rail crossing and signage and the creation of a new solid/ level pathway.
The new path will be approx. 1.5m wide and will run from the gates protecting the rail crossing to the yard gates adjoining the car park. This will be done using donated / repurposed specialist heavy duty rubber rail crossing panels and edge beams (kindly donated by LCI Rail of Tewkesbury). There will also be a branch off to service the existing disabled toilets. The panels will be set flush into the existing ash surface so that the path is suitable for wheelchair access, but can also withstand the safe passage of HGV’s that need to traverse the yard from time to time.
The SVR also aim to remove the water tower at the base of the platform ramp as it is causing an obstruction and puddles on the access route. This water tower is not an original feature, but was a later addition, installed during the preservation era, that is no longer essential to operations. This will be relocated to Highley Station.
Bridgnorth Station – wheelchair accessible WC.
We have and continue to submit applications to grant makers to create a wheelchair access WC within the original male
WC block on the station platform, as the original male WC’s have been re-located to a new refreshment building, but the Disabled WC is currently in a temporary portable facility, which is not only unsatisfactory for our visitors who use a wheelchair, but also adversely affects the visual amenity and aesthetics of the listed buildings. As part of these applications, we are also seeking funds to help us carry out some repairs to the main station buildings e.g. Re-bedding a number of slipped roofing and the ridge tiles, relining the existing gutters, Spot repointing the stone parapet walls in lime mortar to ensure water tightness of roof, replacement of rotten casement windows with bespoke crafted replacements to copy originals, intermediate repairs to the platform canopy glazing and dagger boards due to deterioration.
As the Railway reopened to the public following its lockdown closure, the Charitable Trust announced funding for two very different projects at the SVR, totalling £132,000.
The largest of these is a vital £120,000 project to repair the damage caused by a landslip at Sterns, between Highley and Bridgnorth. The project is already well underway, to stabilise the land by installing drainage to direct water away from the railway. Rainwater was ‘lubricating’ a slip plane on adjacent land below the railway. If no action had been taken there would have been the likelihood that the SVR would have to cease passenger trains between Highley and Bridgnorth, once winter weather returns. Stabilisation of the area will maintain the required safety and permit full line journeys to be maintained.
Announcing the funding, the Trust’s director of development Shelagh Paterson said, “We are delighted to be able to fund these two projects, thanks to the generosity of our donors. The repairs at Sterns will ensure the continued safe operation of the Railway, and the completion of 2242 will extend the accessibility of services to all members of the community.”
The Severn Valley Railway’s application for emergency COVID-19 funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund has been successful! Our application for emergency funding was approved and the Railway has now received a payment for £250,000, the maximum amount available under this scheme.
General manager Helen Smith welcomed the announcement:
“This emergency funding will help us survive in the immediate future as we prepare to launch our reopening services in August. While we’ve been in lockdown closure, we haven’t been able to generate any passenger revenue. In a worst-case scenario we would face a loss of up to £6 million this year.
“This new National Lottery funding, together with our own fundraising, which has now reached a total of £800,000 in the Fight Back Fund, the CBILS loan of £1.5 million and the fact that we’ll soon reopen to the public, all mean the future is looking more positive. We will use this funding to pay staff, as they return from furlough. We will also invest in new IT so that more staff can work remotely."
“These measures will ensure we can start to generate some much-needed passenger revenue to offset the potential losses we are facing. I am extremely grateful to the SVR Charitable Trust, who were instrumental in preparing our application to The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and who have played a leading role in our Fight Back Fund appeal.”
Phase 2 of the Falling Sands Viaduct restoration project started on 18th May, earlier than originally scheduled. The contractor CAN took control of the site and skilled workers suspended on ropes began to rake out damaged mortar and prep the bridge arch by arch, for the much-needed repairs. All the work took place with strict social distancing and safety measures, in line with Government guidelines.
However, the good weather which had enabled phase 2 to start early also led to some unexpected visitors taking up residence under one of the arches.
On 29th May, the onsite team spotted some bats! These are a protected species and in accordance with Natural England regulations if one is sighted on a construction site, all works must cease until an inspection is delivered.
The SVR’s infrastructure manager Chris Bond said:
“On 3rd June the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust confirmed ‘bat activity’, which means that by law at least two more surveys must be delivered (at least 10 days apart) to understand to what extent the site is affected. At the end of this month we will receive guidance on whether the works can progress or have to be delayed until the requisite licence from Natural England can be obtained.
Importantly, we don’t believe that the presence of bats on the underside of the structure will prevent us from running trains at any point.
“The good news is that the original plan was for the repairs to the brickwork to take place whilst trains were operational. Therefore, even if this phase of restoration is delayed, we should be able to complete it without impacting upon the Railway’s operation.”
As with phase 1 of the project, this work is being funded through a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF). This funding was secured back in 2019 and is restricted to repairs and activities relating to the Falling Sands Viaduct.
If you have any queries about the project, please contact the project delivery manager Laura Hines on firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the project’s dedicated website www.fallingsandsviaduct.org.uk
Our fundraising campaign continues to be a resounding success with thousands of people donating and buying shares to help save the Railway. The total raised so far is an amazing £745,000!
Speaking on behalf of all three member companies of the SVR family, general manager Helen Smith said:
“I would like to take this opportunity to say a personal thank you to everyone who has donated - your support is hugely appreciated. I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and dedication of everyone involved with the SVR since I joined towards the end of last year.
"We are all surrounded by stories of loss at the moment. It is important to remember that this time will pass and things will get better as we discover together the new ‘normal life’.”
Photo of 2857: Keith Wilkinson
Nick Paul CBE, chairman of SVR (Holdings) plc and trustee of the SVR Charitable Trust writes:
It was with a heavy heart that I have to announce the recent death of one of the SVR’s most loyal supporters, John Leftwich, who passed away in hospital following a short illness. John was a dear personal friend and an equally great friend to the Railway, and his loss will be felt deeply by many people.
John was integral in extending the remit of the SVR Charitable Trust in 2012, indeed without his guidance and considerable financial support, it simply would not have got off the ground. He brought tremendous business acumen to his role as fundraising director on the board of trustees, gained from a stellar career that culminated in his position as corporate vice president of Microsoft, responsible for marketing across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
To say John loved heritage rail would be something of an understatement. It’s a passion we both shared. When he told me, years ago, how excited he was to have received a Hornby 00 train set for Christmas, I knew I could ‘hook’ him into the SVR cause. I arranged a behind-the-scenes tour, and the rest, as they say, was history.
John threw himself into planning and driving the re-launch of the Trust, with his characteristically passionate approach. He brought in an array of high value supporters, ‘the great and the good’, along with leading business figures. In the early days, when we were trying to get the Charitable Trust off the ground, and facing all kinds of challenges, I’d had a sleepless night and emailed John around 5am to share my worries about the cash flow. “Let’s meet for coffee,” he said, and set to work drawing up a plan to provide financial help, and to recruit Shelagh to work directly for the Trust so that things were put on a truly professional setting.
John had unrivalled energy, connections and personality, and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude. We’ve lost one of our own, and our deepest condolences go to his wife Louise and his family.
Shelagh Paterson, SVR Charitable Trust director of development added
Since I joined the Charitable Trust, John was always a wonderful advisor, mentor and friend. He really was a giant of a character, and a huge presence in any room. He was amazingly down-to-earth, and had the knack of making people feel valued and at ease. His ideas and passion got our Future Fund investment in place, attracting donations from far and wide, and he helped us shape the Charitable Trust to become what it is today – a major part of the Railway – with a track record of raising £5million. He leaves a huge gap in his wake, and all the staff and volunteers in the Trust will miss him very much.
Everything at the Falling Sands site is going very well. Infrastructure volunteer Nick Yarwood* has been a daily visitor:
“First to go was ballast that was set aside for reuse at the sides of the new track across the viaduct to suppress vegetation. Then the spent bottom ballast that proved to be useful later for access routes on site. As each layer a third of a metre thick was peeled away and stockpiled nearby, where the sugar beet sidings had been, the colours of fill were revealed. Initially ash and stone gave way to red, yellow and orange sands and rock sand, often in distinct patches where they must have been tipped during construction.
"As the excavations progressed, various artefacts emerged. A navvy’s shovel, rusted and with no handle - it long having decayed – and with the pointed end worn flat from digging the abrasive soils. Perhaps the handle had broken and it was cast aside in disgrace. There was also a ceramic jar, broken, and embedded in a very large blob of pitch. Maybe that had contained some lunch or was used for drinking out of. Both gave a window into the past, 122 years ago.
“Nearly 2,000 tonnes of stockpiled fill have been dumpered back into place and compacted. On top of that is the ballast. On the south side concrete toughs have been laid for signal cables, with recovered ballast along each side. At the time of writing it’s ready for the track and cabling.
“The project has progressed ahead of programme due in part to an exceptionally mild winter. The greatest risk was prolonged freezing or snowfall interfering with concreting and waterproofing. Waterproofing needed seven days to complete and was also vulnerable to rain. With good programming and a week of calm dry weather, it all went to plan.”
The SVR's consulting engineer, Jonathan Symonds, added, "As of 29th February, troughing is being installed across the viaduct and the ballast restraint posts are being put in position."
The plan is that the full line from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth will be reopened for 4th April. Phase two of the project will begin in the summer, with contractors using rope access on the outside walls and under the arches of the viaduct to replace damaged brickwork and repoint the mortar.
The £1.3 million project, which includes an associated programme of exhibitions and events, has been made possible thanks to generous donations from SVR supporters, and a £925,000 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The Falling Sands Viaduct website is at https://www.fallingsandsviaduct.org.uk/.
Photos: Nick Yarwood
*Nick’s comments are taken from a much longer article, which appears in the latest edition of SVR News. This quarterly publication is sent to the SVR’s 12,500 members.
The Heritage Railway Association has awarded a
runners up prize to the SVR Charitable Trust and the expert team that restored
LMS 2886 brake van, which is affectionately known as the ‘Stove R’. The
painstaking restoration has been carried out since 2009, almost entirely by a
small group of volunteers. 2886 is a rare example of its type, one of only two
to have survived. An astounding 20,000 volunteer hours have gone into
transforming this vehicle into the pristine condition it now enjoys.
Now, the ‘Stove R’ is set to take on a very special role at the Railway, as a unique mobile exhibition venue.
From the 4th April, the 2886 brake wagon
(affectionately called ‘the Stove R’) will be transformed into a traveling
exhibition space, where visitors can see, hear and smell the Falling Sands
Viaduct story, and learn about the people who designed, built and used the
railway from the 1870s to the 1950s.
The Charitable Trust’s Shelagh Paterson paid
tribute to the restoration team:
“Hats off to #TeamSVR once again for the thoroughly
professional work they’ve undertaken to bring this rare vehicle back into
service. We are delighted that their dedication and expertise have been
recognised in this way by the Heritage Railway Association.”
Photos: Ronan O’Brien
If so, you could support the SVR Charitable Trust, and it won’t cost you an extra penny!
You’ll be directed to a new page, where you can use the ‘pick your own charitable organization’ tab, enter Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust Limited, and click Search.
When you’ve found us – just carry on shopping! 0.5% of your payment will come to our charity.
Remember, always begin on smile.amazon.co.uk for this to work.
If 10,000 SVR supporters made a £20 spend on smile.amazon.co.uk, we’d raise £1,000!
You can also set up Amazon Smile on your mobile Amazon app, using the menu function.
contractors Walsh completed the pour of concrete (see our accompanying video)
on top of Falling Sands Viaduct’s seven arches, then added a waterproof layer
of Leoseal on top of this. Work has gone extremely well so far, and the job is
currently running a little ahead of schedule. The project’s civil engineer
Jonathan Symonds told us more about what’s taken place during the past few
“After the track and fill material were removed, our contractors had exposed the curved tops of the arches, and found them all to be in good condition. Walsh had to work around the medium pressure gas main, which they propped up on chocks and strapped up. They dug around the pipe by hand, and removed another redundant pipe.
“Once all the
sandy fill material was removed from the viaduct, you could see the original
19th century pitch had cracked in places and was clearly contributing to the
water ingress. The original iron drainage pipes were also revealed. These were
in good condition, and have been repaired by putting glass reinforced plastic
liners inside the pipes and sealing with a polymer sealant.
Walsh will move
on to replace the fill material before the track is re-laid and the signalling
re-instated. It’s planned that the line between Kidderminster and Bewdley will
be re-opened for April 4th.
During January BBC Midlands Today filmed work giving us some excellent publicity. Click on the other image to watch this.
Students from Kidderminster College Brickwork course braved
a rainy day to visit the Falling Sands Viaduct site. Jonathan Symonds, the
civil engineer for the project and infrastructure volunteer Nick Yarwood talked
them through the urgent need for the project and the works that have taken
place so far. They also discussed the navvies who built the bridge and the kind
of life that bricklayers would have had in the 1870s, compared to today. Laura
Hines, activity and interpretation manager ended the visit with an overview of
upcoming events and exhibitions SVR have planned to share some of this history.
The group will return in the early summer to see the second phase of the project, when brick workers will be using rope access on the outside of the structure to repoint the spandrels and piers.
looking for volunteer voice actors - both male and female, of all ages - to record up to two minutes of dialogue in a professional recording studio. We'll use the recordings to bring characters to life in our forthcoming exhibitions linked to the Falling
Sands Viaduct restoration project.
example, we need a girl with a Black Country accent to play evacuee Joan, and a man with a soft Edinburgh accent to play Edward Wilson, the man who designed the viaduct. For a full list of characters and details of how you can create and send an audition
recording, please go to our dedicated website
fallingsandsviaduct.org.uk You'll need to hurry though! We need your audition recording by 27th January at the latest.
As work starts on our £1.3 million restoration of Falling Sands Viaduct, we’re looking forward to another fantastic year of helping to preserve the SVR. Thanks to our donors’ generosity in 2019, we’ve been able to help make a difference at the SVR in all these ways:
Falling Sands Viaduct - essential restoration work has started on the structure, and the associated activities programme is well underway
Hagley Hall – the overhaul of the SVR’s flagship loco continues apace, for a planned return to steam later this year
Apprentice training - supporting future heritage engineers in our pioneering Heritage Skills Training Academy
Future Fund - £100,000 more invested in 2019 to safeguard the SVR. Balance now almost £1.5m
GWR 9581 – an ongoing restoration project to create a wheelchair-friendly buffet car
Bewdley station building – masonry improvements to preserve its heritage appearance
Kidderminster yard – track improvements to one of the Railway’s heaviest traffic areas
Anderson shelter and outdoor classroom - for school groups at The Engine House, Highley
Diesel depot – a range of equipment and improvements, including external LED lighting, an auto hook for moving the huge jacks within the building and a pipe threading machine
Journey through time – an exhibition at The Engine House charting the development of railways in Britain and the history of the SVR
GWR 9615 - The long-awaited, back-to-the-floor restoration of a kitchen diner first
Hinton Manor – transporting 7819 back home to the SVR to become our ‘wedding loco’
Commemorative garden – for reflection and remembering loved ones at The Engine House, Highley.
Work is now
underway in earnest on the restoration of Falling Sands Viaduct. The last
few days of our Festive Season services ran between Bewdley and Bridgnorth
only, as the line was closed between Kidderminster and Bewdley to allow the
works to commence on the viaduct.
On the last two days of 2019, the paid permanent way team was supplemented by more than a dozen volunteers to carry out the task of lifting the track from above the viaduct. Volunteer p/way administrator Keith Brown was one of working party, and he said:
“After a few initial problems, we got off to a great start with the job, and by the end of the first day we’d lifted more than half the track. We completed the task the following day. The sun was out – and that’s not something we often see when we’re starting on winter permanent way work! It was a thoroughly productive couple of days, and very satisfying to be kicking off this important restoration project. Thanks to everyone who turned out to help.”
The appointed contractors for the project, Walsh Construction, have now started to remove ballast from the structure of the viaduct.
This major project is being funded by a £925,000 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, along with almost £400,000 of donations from individuals, community organisation, companies and other grant-making bodies. You can find more information and updates on the project at www.fallingsandsviaduct.org.uk
The Charitable Trust’s recently restored LMS 2866 brake van has won a place on the shortlist for a prestigious award. It’s under consideration for the Heritage Railway Association’s Morgan award, which has come as welcome news to all those who’ve worked tirelessly for many years to complete the overhaul of this unusual vehicle. It’s also known as the ‘Stove R’ and is one of only two still in existence. Around 20,000 volunteer hours have gone into its restoration, which has been largely supported by grass roots fundraising and a small grant. The painting elements were led by SVR apprentice Ronan O’Brien, who has developed his skills considerably on this project, using traditional coach painting, lining and signwriting techniques.
Look out for the Stove R later this year, when it makes its debut on the Railway as a mobile exhibition vehicle, funded as part of our Falling Sands Viaduct-related activities.