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IN PICTURES: Full steam ahead as Severn Valley reopens

After more than 120 days sitting idle a historic railway burst into life, welcoming passengers for its first outing since lockdown began in March.

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The Severn Valley Railway is now back open to the public

While the facemasks and queuing might have been different, the unmistakeable excitement and anticipation was definitely there as the Severn Valley Railway got back to business.

More than 200 people turned out for the first post-lockdown train, departing at 10.45am on Saturday from the heritage railway's Bridgnorth Station.

With staff running through a host of procedures designed to keep the customers safe, the first glance may have looked a little unusual – the platform staff in plastic visors and the passengers all wearing their own face coverings – but the captivating magic of the steam-powered locomotive and its historic setting soon drew the attention.

Queues for the Severn Valley Railway in Bridgnorth
Fireman Joshua Harvey and driver Tony Bending at The Severn Valley Railway

One of the many measures taken to make the attraction safe is by operating carriages which have sealed compartments – so each group has their own space and does not mix with other passengers.

While the changes have meant a reduction from around 300-400 passengers down to 200, it means the charity can get going again.

Chris Garside, 59, and his son Ben, 26, had travelled down from Preston for the reopening, on what was their first trip out since lockdown began.

Chris said he wanted to see organisations like the Severn Valley Railway get back on their feet post lockdown, and said it was down to everyone to do their bit to support them.

Chris and Ben Garside from Preston at the Severn Valley Railway
Iain and Ann Shorthouse from Wombourne at the Severn Valley Railway

Speaking from their own compartment on the train Chris said: "We normally go to the steam gala but it is not happening this year so we took the opportunity to come down and help the railway get back on its feet. Everyone needs to do their bit."

Chris was also full of praise for the way the charity had adapted so it can reopen.

He said: "We are very impressed. I think the approach they have taken, the e-mail we got before explained the social distancing and how it works, the provision of hand sanitiser in private compartments is really good. What the railway has done is a benchmark."

Anne and Ron Leary were another couple there for the first day back in business.

Anne Leary, Ron Leary and Pat Jenks from Shrewsbury at the Severn Valley Railway

The Shrewsbury couple were joined by their friend Pat Jenks, who had bought the tickets as a belated 75th birthday present for Ron.

Pat, 85 said that she had travelled on the line 74 years ago when she went to Bridgnorth Grammar School.

Pat said they had been perfectly comfortable heading to the railway for a day out because of the way the train had been set up with private compartments.

She said: "None of us are paranoid about the virus but we are being careful."

David Brass, 47, from Stafford, was there with his son Barney, 16.

David and Barney Brass from Stafford at the Severn Valley Railway

Barney is a volunteer at the railway and the family has a strong connection to organisation with David's father, Peter Brass' ashes scattered at the site.

David said they had missed it while it had not been open.

He said: "With it being closed down it has been strange because it is something we are used to doing."

He said they felt confident in the measures organised by the charity to get the trains running again.

The Severn Valley Railway is now back open to the public

He said: "They have it so well organised here that we are in the same compartment for the day. I think it will work really well and we feel comfortable and confident to do it."

For 23-year-old Joshua Harvey, from Bridgnorth, it was a great day as the railway volunteer climbed back in the engine for his role as a 'locomotive fireman', ensuring the engine is ready to power the train.

He said: "It is what I love doing and I would not miss being here today for the world."

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