Monday 6 November 2023

Delays and Cancellations - and that's just me ....

Severn Valley Railway

By this time of the year I usually have a few winter trips arranged and one or two in the summer and autumn of next year, too. This time I only have one booking in the diary, a Great Rail Journeys escorted tour in Switzerland by way of celebrating my forthcoming 70th Birthday (although it will take place some months after the date, which is just as well in the circumstances). I write from a Thameslink train on my next adventure, for which I bought the tickets on departure, and we are planning a visit to the Birmingham Christmas Market but do not yet have a date. The vagueness in the planning is a result of some medical issues I am currently experiencing, but the way forward is now a little clearer and I hope that some plans will soon take shape. I have been a little cautious about announcing any group days out until I know my own availability and until the industrial relations in the rail industry become more stable, hopefully soon.

Meanwhile a recent road trip did include a day exploring the magnificent Severn Valley Railway, so I'll take the opportunity of my current train ride to bring the blog up to date with a description of the day on the SVR.

The Severn Valley Railway Adventure began with the Market Deeping Model Railway Club's annual summer lunch party at which a raffle was held and my ticket was drawn. One of our members had a couple of shareholders' First Class Freedom of the Line ticket vouchers left which he would be unable to use and had given them as a prize in the raffle, and they were still available when I went to claim my prize ... 

We were staying in a Premier Inn in former industrial premises in the centre of Kidderminster and walked across the town centre to Kidderminster station on the Severn Valley Railway on a sunny autumn morning, via breakfast at Caffè Nero. The idea was to catch the first SVR train of the day to the other end of the line at Bridgnorth and then wander back to Kidderminster on various trains, ending with the penultimate train of the day in order to allow some slack in case of a problem: with our car parked in Kidderminster we had to be back there in order to get home. At Kidderminster we went to the ticket office window of the Severn Valley Railway station with our Freedom of the Line vouchers which were converted into First Class tickets by the simple process of stamping them with the date. The first train of the day according to the timetable was at 10:00, but while I was having the tickets stamped an announcement was made that there would be an additional train at 09:40: experience had shown that he first train of the day was overcrowded so by adding an extra one twenty minutes earlier they were more easily able to cater for the crowds - a Good Sign. We boarded the train, composed of 1940s-50s maroon coaches hauled by a BR standard steam locomotive, the sort of train that would have been the latest technology when I was a toddler travelling with my parents! We sat in the buffet car (which was not serving: we'd have had to travel in the scheduled 10:00 train for that, but we'd just had breakfast so that was OK) and we almost had the space to ourselves.

At Bridgnorth I watched the locomotive run round the train for its (unscheduled extra) trip back to Kidderminster and then we walked into the town to explore. There we had coffee and visited the local museum. We had been to Bridgnorth before and did not need to see much, and had plenty of time for what we did do! Back at the station there was time to buy a pint and crisps before boarding our next train: the plan was to visit most of the stations on the line by travelling back and forth, also using most of the vintage trains that were in use that day. One of the great things about the Severn Valley Railway is that it has several complete rakes of coaches of more-or-less matching vintage and style, so it is not simply a steam locomotive with random coaches. We drank our beer and ate our crisps on this train, which took us to Arley, a two-platform country station on the river bank.

At Arley we had (just!) enough time for a country walk to see Victoria Bridge, an impressive cast-iron bridge which carries the Severn Valley Railway over the River Severn, which we remember seeing used as a Scottish bridge in the film The Thirty-Nine Steps.

Back at Arley station we caught the next train back to Highley, a delightful country station where for those who have more time there is an opportunity to visit the locomotives and other historic items on display nearby. Here there was a short shower of heavy rain for our visit, and the station is not blessed with a lot of shelter, but there was just enough for the crowds awaiting the next train, and the rain soon stopped. From there we took the train to Bewdley, where we had allowed ourselves a bit of time to explore. Being honest, arriving at 15:47 the exploration consisted almost entirely of selecting a place for tea and cake and consuming it (The Courtyard Bar - stunning cakes and friendly service, and on the Severn riverside). I could imagine that in summer this would be a glorious place to spend some time at the riverside bars and restaurants. We walked back to Bewdley station to await our last train of the day, back to Kidderminster.

It is a short ride from Bewdley (once the southern terminus of the Severn Valley Railway until the station at Kidderminster was built), past the West Midlands Safari Park with some of its exotic animals visible,  to the SVR terminus at Kidderminster. We had had a wonderful autumnal day out which had mostly felt like summer, if a little cool, and with just one short shower. The Severn Valley Railway was as busy as ever, with a decent service of interesting vintage trains and good service at its many refreshment facilities, and the Severn Valley countryside and the town and villages were wonderful to visit. I thoroughly recommend a visit to the Severn Valley Railway: by rail to Kidderminster it is an easy day trip from much of England and Wales, or makes an easy day excursion from Birmingham (trains from Moor Street or Snow Hill) as part of a longer break.

1 comment:

  1. We are also heading towards Birmingham, but it will probably take us another 4 to 5 days to get there