‘Operation Christmas’ in full steam as the SVR prepares for a magical festive season

Hundreds of volunteers, kilometres of fairy lights and half a tonne of chestnuts – festive preparations are well underway at the Severn Valley Railway ahead of the imminent arrival of its much-anticipated Christmas 2017 services.

Richard Cresswell, Peter Smith and Sid Andrews get ready for the Santa specials on the Severn Valley Railway
Richard Cresswell, Peter Smith and Sid Andrews get ready for the Santa specials on the Severn Valley Railway

More than 30,000 people are expected to visit the Railway during December, to enjoy its Santa Steam Specials, Santa Heralds, Christmas Cracker Expresses and Carol Trains services – and this year the Railway is due to be extra busy with the addition of its brand new, premium Santa Sleigh Express service.

The operation to ensure everything is ready in time for Saturday, December 2nd, when this year’s very first Santa Steam Special steams in to take families on an exciting journey to meet Santa in his grotto, is now well underway.

This is no mean feat for the Railway, with more than 100 train services to run throughout the month, half a tonne of chestnuts to roast, 23km of fairy lights to put up across Kidderminster, Arley and Bewdley stations, locomotives to prepare and Santa’s grotto to build, to name just some of the festive work that goes on behind the scenes.

Since the start of October, dedicated teams of volunteers have worked throughout every weekend, decorating the stations and ensuring each one of the 20,000 LED fairy light bulbs are in place and twinkling. Though preparations are now at their busiest, planning for this year’s Christmas events started way back in February, when monthly meetings began.

At the helm of the extensive operation is Diane Malyon from Bridgnorth, known as ‘Mrs Christmas’ by her Railway colleagues, having organised Christmas at the SVR since 1995.

“I actually first got involved with Christmas planning back in 1982 when ordered all the chestnuts, but this year will be the 22nd SVR Christmas I have organised,” she explained.

“It is a huge logistical operation, with volunteers from across the railway, from permanent way engineers and signalmen to drivers and ticket inspectors getting involved with everything from decorating stations to looking after buggies and chatting to people as they wait to see Santa – we even have teams to brief Santa’s elves on exactly the kind of gifts we would like for our passengers.

“Hundreds of man hours are clocked-up by our volunteers each Christmas, but they all do it because they love it and there is nothing like seeing all our passengers enjoying a magical experience – the best feeling is joining Santa to wave-off the very last Santa Steam Special service just as it gets dark on Christmas Eve and all the lights are twinkling – then you know that all of the hard work has absolutely been worth it.”

Tickets are selling fast for the Santa Steam Specials, but people can still book – if they hurry- for the services, which run on December 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 10th, 16th, 17th, 23rd and 24th.

Visitors can climb on board their cosy steam train carriage for a thrilling journey through the scenic Severn Valley, to meet Santa and his team of elves in his special grotto at Arley Station. After meeting the big man himself, each fare-paying child will receive a present.

There is then time to soak up the festive atmosphere of Arley Station, enjoy seasonal music and indulge in traditional treats before boarding the train for the return trip to Kidderminster. Fares start from £14.50 per person for services on the 2nd and 3rd December.

Tickets are also selling fast for the Santa Herald services, from December 19th -22nd, when Santa will visit everyone on the train, handing out presents and posing for photos during the journey to Highley.