Though it was originally built for utilitarian purposes, the Severn Valley Railway has grown to become a much-loved tourist attraction over the years. From history and engineering enthusiasts to families simply looking for a fun getaway, visitors come in droves to this full-size standard-gauge railway line. Passengers get a unique glimpse into the railroad’s steam-powered past during their sixteen-mile journeys from Kidderminster in Worcestershire to Bridgnorth in Shropshire.
Today, the popular heritage line is maintained via the joint efforts of paid staff and volunteers. Dozens of exciting and educational experiences are on hand for visitors each year, ranging from weddings and afternoon teas to seasonal events and PAW Patrol meet-and-greet sessions. Without a doubt, there’s never a dull moment on the line. Each experience offers a certain level of insight into the Severn Valley Railway’s diverse history.
The Legend Begins
Construction on the Severn Valley Railway began in 1858 with the ultimate purpose of its forty-mile expanse being to connect Hartlebury to Shrewsbury. By 1862, the line was complete, running through Stourport-on-Severn, Hampton Loade, Bridgnorth, Ironbridge and Berrington to name a few points of interest along the route.
For just over a century, the SVR carted passengers and freight to various destinations along its course. Like others of its kind, it promoted economic advancements and helped broaden people’s horizons. For all those destinations on its roster, the SVR was an essential element.
An Abrupt Halt
In 1963, just a year after celebrating the line’s one hundredth anniversary, it was officially closed to passengers as a result of the National Rail Rationalisation Programme. Plenty of people protested but to no avail; of course, the public wasn’t willing to stand by a let a vital piece of history fall by the wayside.
Reviving a Piece of History
In July of 1965, roughly 50 people came together with the hopes of purchasing a portion of the original Severn Valley circuit running south from Bridgnorth to Alveley Colliery Sidings. This gathering at Coopers Arms in Kidderminster marked the founding of the Severn Valley Railway Society. Though these dedicated preservationists did succeed in their mission, further extension didn’t take shape until 1973 when Highley, Arley and Bewdley were added back into the mix.
Famed Sir Gerald Nabarro played a key role in fostering the Severn Valley Railway Society’s efforts to bring back this stint of history. He helped raise money to procure the final stretch of the line’s former route, which was opened the following year. Though he made his fair share of enemies amongst volunteer workers, the project gained considerable steam under his management.
A Bump in the Road
After almost a decade of relatively smooth reconstruction and revamping efforts, the Severn Valley Railway faced an unexpected turn of events. Plans for a much-needed bypass road for the town of Bridgnorth had been underway for quite some time, but a certain problem arose. Since the powers that be weren’t willing to circumvent the railway, this bypass would’ve taken Bridgnorth Station out of the overall picture. Fortunately, the situation was resolved, and progress continued.
An Exciting New Addition
Worcestershire’s Wyre Forest District had long been an essential point in the Railway’s route with Kidderminster being central to the line’s success. In 1982, the final pieces of the restoration puzzle fell into place with the Severn Valley Railway Society’s purchase of the stretch of line running to Kidderminster Junction and the land once known as the Kidderminster Goods Yard.
Kidderminster Station’s grand opening took place on July 30, 1984. Modelled after a former station at Ross-on-Wye, this venue now hosts a long list of seasonal extravaganzas and exciting events. It also serves as SVR’s southern terminus.
Another Hurdle Arises
June 19, 2007 once again brought about turmoil for the Railway. Sudden and short-lived driving rains caught the Severn Valley off-guard. Ensuing damage brought operations to a halt, impacting more than 45 areas along the line. Time and extensive remediation eventually got the line up and running again.
Today, members of the communities along the Severn Valley Railway’s route are integral components in its upkeep as well as the numerous events arranged each year for all to enjoy. Keeping its tracks and rolling stock in working order is an ongoing process.
Millions of passengers have ridden the rails over the years, and future generations are guaranteed to enjoy all the SVR has to offer, just like those current and past. What the future holds in store remains to be seen, but the Railway is sure to continue its tradition of entertaining the masses and preserving a valuable piece of history.