Phil's "last" SVR trip hailed a new beginning

Sunday, September 19, 1965, and a perfect day for "gricing" – that is, travelling on rare railway lines.

Back again – The Great Marquess, seen here at the Severn Valley Railway's Kidderminster station for a 40th anniversary steam gala in 2010.
Back again – The Great Marquess, seen here at the Severn Valley Railway's Kidderminster station for a 40th anniversary steam gala in 2010.

Phil Jones, then living in Cannock, grasped the opportunity to take one last trip on the southern part of the Severn Valley line. Or so he thought.

"With the closure of so many Midlands railways, I was keen to travel on as many lines as I could before closure and demolition.

"When I was doing these journeys I was unaware that some of these lines would be reborn years later," he said.

"When the Severn Valley closed in 1963 I thought I had missed the chance to do it. Then a Mr 'Cam' Campbell organised a one-off special and I thought it was a last chance to travel on the southern bit on the Severn Valley Railway."

In fact moves were already in hand by volunteers which would see the Severn Valley Railway south of Bridgnorth triumphantly revived.

Phil got in touch with us after reading our recent feature about the last SVR passenger trains, the last of all being the Fisherman's Sunday Special leaving Bridgnorth at 6.58pm on September 8, 1963, stopping at all stations en route to Birmingham.

Phil had missed out on riding on the SVR from Bewdley to Shrewsbury, but had managed to do Cannock to Rugeley, and Stafford to Shrewsbury, before services were finished.

The best he could do in ticking off the SVR from his list was getting a ticket on that special train run in September 1965, organised by the Stephenson Locomotive Society.

Phil, who lives these days in Wolverhampton, said: "The motive power was to be three locos recently passing into private ownership, and beautifully restored to their original liveries.

"The itinerary was to include the last chance to travel up the Severn Valley as far as the Alveley Colliery, and also the run up from Stourbridge to Wolverhampton Low Level.

"The first leg was a fast non-stop run from Snow Hill to Worcester, with the eight-coach train hauled by LNER 2-6-0 No 3442. 'The Great Marquess' was sporting its USA bell as it passed though the Black Country."

Back again – The Great Marquess, seen here at the Severn Valley Railway's Kidderminster station for a 40th anniversary steam gala in 2010. The loco has been renumbered.

Passengers were provided with a detailed itinerary, making it both a rail journey and a history lesson. Sadly his camera failed on the day, so he has no photographic mementoes.

"At Worcester, the Marquess was taken off for servicing, and replaced the other end with two GWR locos, numbers 1420 and 4555."

At Bewdley he witnessed efforts by the SVR revival volunteers to drum up interest in their dreams of reviving the line.

"The train was joined by a group handing out leaflets which was promoting the recently-formed preservation project, which was hoping to suspend the lifting of track at Bridgnorth station.

"Their ambition was to follow the example of the Bluebell line, and recreate a complete steam railway. I was a bit sceptical, as the Chasewater Group had been finding it difficult in generating interest in their plans for a lakeside railway."

The special travelled to Alveley Colliery sidings, where passengers could alight.

One of the locos at Alveley Colliery sidings on September 19, 1965. Picture: Flickr.

"Here the two locos were separated and serviced."

Then Bewdley, Kidderminster, Stourbridge Junction, Dudley, and Wolverhampton Low Level. A fast run back to Worcester, and ultimately Birmingham Snow Hill.

Phil recalls: "My first visit to Bridgnorth had been in May 1965, when I found the station abandoned. However the station bar was still open – I think – and the track was still intact, albeit very overgrown.

"Eighteen months later, in the spring of 1967, the Severn Valley Railway group had its first locomotive in steam.

"This year the date of Sunday, September 19, coincided with the SVR Autumn Steam Gala. Exactly 56 years on it was a chance to see how the line now has the reputation of being the premier line of steam railways in the UK."

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