Flashback to 2001: Volunteers keep wheels turning at Severn Valley Railway

Thanks to the goodwill of its dedicated band of volunteers, the Severn Valley Railway was stoking up its Mince Pie Specials throughout the festive season.

Severn Valley Railway volunteers Doris Gunning and Pearl Parker
Severn Valley Railway volunteers Doris Gunning and Pearl Parker

Unpaid hands were working right through to run the attraction's full programme of its popular post-Christmas Mince Pie specials between Boxing Day and New Year's Day in 2001.

At least 47 staff were manning the Kidderminster to Bridgnorth heritage line, ranging from volunteer drivers to booking office clerks.

Two locomotive firemen also turned up at the engine sheds at Bewdley and Bridgnorth on Christmas Day to 'light-up' the locomotives for Boxing Day.

The railway's marketing manager John Leach said: "Volunteers have kept the wheels turning at the Severn Valley Railway for more than 30 years and while it's certainly less fashionable these days for people to freely give up their time and work unpaid, we're very very fortunate to have an amazingly loyal hard core of members who will believe that keeping steam running on the SVR is a worthy cause."

Passengers hoping on board one of the special trains were able to tuck into the mince pies and there were certainly plenty for everyone.

In fact, it was estimated that there were enough build four Nelson's Columns. The team was due to give away around 8,500 mine pies during the event and stacked on top of each other they would make a tower 708ft high.

SVR apprentices Adam Stobbart and James Pearson

The attraction's catering manager Elise Guest said: "I have calculated we will be handing out 236 yards of mince pies in eight days, which is more than 1,000 mince pies each day.

"We do have a lot of them and I just hope enough passengers turn up to eat them."

It wasn't the only railway to be offering passengers festive treats as a winter wonderland greeted visitors to the Llangollen Railway for the start of its mince pie special runs.

After the success of its Santa specials, the heritage steam railway is running trains at 11am, 1pm and 3pm every day , until January 1.

Passengers were served mince pies as they enjoyed the scenery from Llangollen to Carrog.

Railway spokesman Frank Spence told the Star that with Christmas over, the mince pie specials provided a good excuse to get out and about into the Welsh countryside.

“Many of our passengers only see the Dee Valley from the train during the main tourist season, but it is equally attractive in winter when the lack of foliage opens up the scenery," he added.

But for some people, Boxing Day was all about the sales as thousands of shoppers descended on the region's stores to grab a bargain.

Hundreds queued before dawn outside the Merry Hill shopping centre in Brierley Hill to be the first through the doors.

And in Shropshire, store bosses reported some of their best sales figures for years as thousands flooded retail parks and shopping centres.

In Telford Town Centre people lined up in their cars around the car park desperately searching for a space.

Boxing Day also saw traditional hunt meetings taking place across Shropshire and bordering counties and attended by hundreds of supporters passed off relatively peacefully despite protests from campaigners against fox hunting.

The Wheatland Hunt leaving from Morville Hall on Boxing Day 2001

Between 600 and 700 people lined the streets in Morville to support the Wheatland Hunt and Powys’ Tanatside Hunt met outside The Royal Oak Hotel in Welshpool on Boxing Day.

But they were not on horseback this year because organisers did not want to risk injuring the animals in the snow. Members had refreshments in the hotel before leaving.

Hundreds of anti-blood sport demonstrators lined the streets of Newport to protest as the Albrighton Hunt appeared in the town following the lifting of foot and mouth restrictions.

They held banners reading “Total Hunts Ban”, “Hunting Is Cruel” and “Born To Be Free Not Hunted” as the hunt assembled outside the Royal Victoria pub.

Around 30 huntsmen on horseback and packs of dogs were followed by hundreds of enthusiasts in the first meeting of the Albrighton Hunt and Newport Carriage Driving Association since foot and mouth hit Shropshire.

Protest organiser Mrs June Guest, of the League Against Cruel Sports, said the protest had been peaceful, and Telford police said there had been no complaints of any trouble.

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