Express & Star

Workers lay first bricks for Severn Valley Railway's development in Bridgnorth - with PICTURES

Railway workers from the past and present steamed in to lay the first bricks for the Severn Valley Railway’s biggest ever development in Bridgnorth.

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Former railway workers Barry Cook, left and Keith Beddows are joined by Site Manager Darren Cadet as they lay the first bricks for the new building at Bridgnorth Severn Valley Railway Station

A milestone has now been reached in the SVR’s conservation and redevelopment of Bridgnorth Station as foundations are nearing completion and construction above ground can now begin.

A share offer campaign to raise the target £2.5 million to deliver the extensive set of improvements to the historic station site has recently topped the £1 million mark, though the railway needs to raise a further £1.5 million before the end of October.

The official brick-laying ceremony marks the culmination of months of ground preparation works and foundation construction, and heralds the start of a new phase of above-ground works, beginning with the creation of a refreshment room built in the style of a typical Great Western Railway building of the early 20th century.

Workers from the past who took part in the ceremony include Keith Beddoes, the man who called the first meeting of anyone interested in saving the line, and was influential in its early years of development.

He is credited with being the original founding member of the SVR.

Mr Beddoes, aged 78, said: “The first meeting was the high point because we got outside after and were all talking.

“We didn’t know each other but there was this excitement, we knew something was going to happen.”

Columb Howell was another original SVR pioneer who attended the first meeting, and has been a volunteer on the railway ever since that date in 1965, rising through the ranks to become senior driver.

The 74-year-old said: “This is about preserving something from the past. It’s so necessary to keep it because it’s marvellous to see young people coming up on the footplate.”

Another worker at the ceremony was Phil Coutanche, a former British Railways engineer who was instrumental in ‘saving’ the Severn Valley line as he persuaded BR managers to take the SVR society’s plea to save the track seriously.

He subsequently became a volunteer on the current SVR and was a signalman for many years. Also included was Alan George who worked at Bridgnorth station as a delivery driver when goods, particularly animal feedstuffs, was sent by rail and distributed from the station, Chris Jennerson who started as a goods porter at Bridgnorth then went on to be a delivery driver and John Hill, a Tyseley fireman, who was the first man to work a steam engine to Bridgnorth after the line had closed.

Mr Jennerson, aged 78, said: “I can remember a lot of the names of the people I used to work with. The railway is busier now than it has ever been, it’s nostalgic.

He said that another man who lay bricks at the event, Mike Corbett, aged 76, was his instructor when he first started.

Also included in the ceremony were the SVR’s chairman Nick Paul and chief executive Nick Ralls, and two current teenage volunteers, Will Pedersen and Leo Roberts.

Mr Paul said: “It was a fabulous day, it’s great to see folk that were involved 50 years ago. There are folk who dismantled the railway, then helped to put it back together in 1970.”

Other planned improvements which are to take place include careful alterations to the 1862 grade II listed station building to reinstate the original booking hall and waiting room and to expand the Railwayman’s Arms.

This will be followed by the installation of an engine turntable at the popular railway line.