Express & Star

Severn Valley Railway renovations near completion on time and in budget

A £150,000 upgrade on the Severn Valley Railway is approaching completion, on time and in budget, just as full line services of the heritage railway returns next month.

Rails being installed using a rail mounted crane

The Severn Valley Railway (SVR) has been running a limited service since it reopened on March 4 due to infrastructure works. It is set to return to its full service on April 1 first during its popular Open House weekend.

Now the work that SVR says will "future-proof" Bridgnorth Locomotive Yard, where all its steam engines are serviced, maintained and stored, is nearing completion.

The leading to Brigdnorth Locomotive Yard

The improvements began on January 4 after the heritage railway finished its Christmas services, and has involved replacing the 100-year-old tracks leading up to the yard as well as fixing new points.

Phase 1 of the upgrade, which was budgeted to cost £150,000, is due to be completed both on time and within budget, which project manager for the work, Nick Yarwood, puts down to his team of volunteers and skilled engineers.

"It's actually a combination of our four skilled permanent team supplemented with more than a dozen volunteers from up and down the railway who give their time," said Mr Yarwood, a former civil engineer who is himself a volunteer at SVR.

Volunteers and engineers on site in Bridgnorth

He added that much of the work has been to replace the original rails leading into the yard that were nearly a century old.

"The track in the yard is accessed from a single set of points off the main approach to Bridgnorth and then it spreads out into five tracks," he said. "The track was laid in the 70s by volunteers that had lifted it from one of our collier sidings, and it was second-hand when it was put in there originally so some of it is a hundred years old and is just worn out."

He explained that some of the tracks measure more than 60 feet (around 18 metres) and weigh more than a tonne, but there is also more intricate work being carried out to install the points that allow the trains to change tracks.

Rails being installed using a rail mounted crane

"The rails, ballast and sleepers have to be moved around with special rail-mounted cranes," he said. "Point work involves a double set that we call a crossover that was made for us from a South Wales supplier. They come on a truck as a kit of parts like a Lego or Meccano set, all numbered up, and our people reassemble them on site.

"We also have to connect the point rods. These connect the points to the levers in the signal box, and we have also had to replace the track circuitry which is a vital element, as it tells the signalman where the train is on the line."

He added the team were finalising this "time-consuming, detailed and specialist" work on the points so it is ready when full line running returns to the SVR on April 1.

Project manager Nick Yarwood

“The huge amount of work that has been done is a massive tribute to the staff and many volunteers that have made Phase 1 of the project a great success," said Mr Yarwood.

The renovation follows an appeal in 2022 to raise funds to bring the rail yard up to modern standards. Around £500,000 is needed to complete both phases with Phase 2, replacing the track inside the yard itself, scheduled to begin in the winter of 2024.