From tanks to trains – new general manager at Severn Valley Railway
Severn Valley Railway has started its jubilee year with a new general manager at the helm.
Helen Smith, the first woman to hold the role, has taken over from Nick Ralls, who left to join the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust as chief executive.
Helen, who brings with her a wealth of experience within the visitor attraction sector, last held a post as deputy director at the Tank Museum at Bovington in Dorset.
A £30 million Heritage Fund project, the Tank Museum has more than 300 vehicles and a £4.6 million tank rebuild and restoration workshop with an active apprenticeship scheme.
Previously, she has held roles as general manager at The Fusilier Museum in Bury and operations director at the Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham.
Helen joins the railway in a landmark year, as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of its official opening in preservation. She said she intends to make it a memorable one for the railway and the thousands of visitors it is set to welcome on board.
She said: "The Severn Valley Railway is an incredibly important attraction for the region and I am thoroughly looking forward to building on the great work that has already been achieved by the team here.
"Taking on the role in this very special year for the railway has even more resonance for me and I can’t wait to lead it into a very bright future, ensuring that it is a fabulous place to work, visit and volunteer."
Severn Valley Railway board chairman, Nick Paul, said: "I am delighted that Helen has agreed to join us. The decision to appoint her was a unanimous one involving the boards of both the Holdings and Guarantee Company.
"We are confident that she will build on the strong foundations laid by her predecessor Nick Ralls, and lead us forward on our journey."
Yorkshire-born and bred, Helen relocated to the area from Dorset before Christmas to enable her to experience the railway during the festive season – its busiest time of year.
Her first full year as general manager is set to be a busy one, as the railway prepares to mark 50 years since its first passenger services.
Saturday, May 23, 1970, saw the official opening of the railway in preservation, with the first public trains running between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade.
A weekend of jubilee celebrations is planned for May 23 to 25.
The railway is currently closed for its annual maintenance programme and will reopen in February half term.