Flashback to September 1963 when the last train left Bridgnorth - or so people thought

Had it not been for the commitment and enthusiasm of a group of volunteers, Sunday, September 8, 1963, would have marked just another closure of just another line.

The Fisherman's Sunday Special leaves Bridgnorth for the last time, Sunday, September 8, 1963.
The Fisherman's Sunday Special leaves Bridgnorth for the last time, Sunday, September 8, 1963.

The last passenger train pulled out of Bridgnorth station at 6.58pm, and then, so far as the Severn Valley Railway went, that would be that.

It was the Fisherman's Sunday Special stopping at all stations en route to Birmingham. To mark the special occasion the railway authorities replaced the usual diesel engine with two rather more picturesque steam Collett locomotives.

And of course trainspotters were out with their cameras.

It was a sad weekend, a final goodbye it seemed to the Severn Valley line. The previous evening saw the last train to run from Bridgnorth to Shrewsbury, leaving at 7.27pm. The normal two-coach train was extended to four, and the platforms were crowded with wellwishers saying their last goodbyes on a line which had opened in February 1862.

On board were about a dozen "real" travellers and 150 enthusiasts from all over the country.

At the sharp end was 2-6-2 tank locomotive 41207. The crew was driver Hugh Bell, fireman Michael Dorricott, and guard Jack Madeley, all from Shrewsbury.

Journey's end. The last passenger train ever to run from Bridgnorth to Shrewsbury, pictured at Shrewsbury railway station on September 7, 1963. Picture: Keith Beddoes.

One of those on board that Saturday evening was journalist and steam enthusiast the late Russell Mulford.

His 5s 9d had bought him the last single ticket to be issued for the trip.

In his write-up published in the Express & Star of Monday, September 9, 1963, he reported on the historic final journey.

"7.39pm arr. Linley Halt. I made it five adults and three children there to greet us. One of the youngsters was in her dressing gown – no doubt allowed to stay up a little later to watch the last of the passenger puffers go by.

"7.45pm arr. Coalport. A dozen people here, perhaps, as we made the briefest of stops. Waves and smiles all round

"7.48pm arr. Jackfield. We had moved slowly over the famous 'slip' area, allowing some good natured exchanges between the travellers and the groups at the railside.

"7.53pm arr. Ironbridge. Here we were greeted by the biggest crowd of the trip. There were at least 60 people on the platform. A Press photographer was taking pictures.

"He walked to the end of the train and brought the guard up to the front to pose with the engine crew and station staff. The train was held up for several minutes, but who cared? This was the last one anyway.

"Eventually we were off – past cheerful 'sunshine' posters inviting us to go to Littlehampton and other resorts by rail!

Keith Beddoes, who dreamt of reviving the SVR, at Bridgnorth station in 1970 as the dream began to come true.

"8.03pm arr. Buildwas. Here the bangs of more detonators greeted our arrival and departure. They were answered by some of the longest and most musical notes I have ever heard from an engine whistle.

"8.10pm arr. Cressage. A dozen or so villagers were on the platform and here, more than anywhere on the trip, I had the feeling that they and the station staff felt deeply about the passing of passenger traffic. There were long exchanges and longer handshakes.

"8.16pm arr. Cound Halt. No one got on or off the train that I could see. Nor was there anyone on the platform. 'They don’t care here, obviously,' growled a Mancunian on my left.

"8.22pm arr. Berrington. Here it seemed that all the youngsters of the village had been organised to give us a 'royal' cheer. Then came the bangs from a dozen detonators – sounding louder as darkness fell."

At journey's end in Shrewsbury the crew, wrote Russell, were besieged by autograph hunters.

“'Well that’s it then,' said 35-year-old Mr Bell, wiping his hands on a piece of cotton waste with the air of a man responsible for a job well done."

The Severn Valley Railway is today a top regional attraction

That wasn't it by a long chalk. While the line north of Bridgnorth was dismantled, rail enthusiast Keith Beddoes started the process which ended in triumph with the revival of the Severn Valley Railway, which is today one of the region’s top attractions running steam trains between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster.

Keith was working at a factory in Stourport Road, Kidderminster, in 1965 and fumed at the railway closures. In Sussex enthusiasts had successfully reopened the Bluebell Line, and Keith wondered if it might be possible to do something similar locally.

On July 6, 1965, about 50 people attended a public meeting at The Cooper’s Arms, Kidderminster, and the Severn Valley Railway Society was founded.

It was the start of the reborn SVR. But that, as they say, is another story...

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