Volcanic action and non-stop steam at flagship Severn Valley Railway gala

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A feast for steam enthusiasts of all ages is on the cards as the Severn Valley Railway prepares for its 2019 Autumn Steam Gala.

Celebrating its 70th birthday this year, City of Wells is known for its dramatic chimney eruptions when working hard, earning it the nickname ‘Volcano’
Celebrating its 70th birthday this year, City of Wells is known for its dramatic chimney eruptions when working hard, earning it the nickname ‘Volcano’

Running from Thursday 19 – Sunday 22 September, the Railway’s flagship gala promises an action-packed four days of steam in action, with its famed all-night running and array of visiting locomotives working a busy schedule of services alongside the SVR’s resident engines.

This year, all three of the visiting locomotives will be making their first ever appearance at the SVR.  The only surviving example of its kind, Southern Railway Q Class No. 30541 is among the star line-up. Built as No. 541 in 1939, it worked from West Sussex, Bournemouth and Guildford until 1964 when it was withdrawn and sent to Woodham Brothers scrapyard in Barry. It remained there for almost a decade – however, unlike the other locomotives in its class, it was rescued from the cutter’s torch by preservationists who bought it for £3,250 in 1973. Following its most recent overhaul, completed in 2015, it has carried the number 30541.

Visitors can watch out for some volcanic action when Southern Railway ‘West Country’ No. 34092 City of Wells takes to the tracks. Celebrating its 70th birthday this year, City of Wells is known for its dramatic chimney eruptions when working hard, earning it the nickname ‘Volcano’. Built in 1949, it worked services to the Kent Coast before moving to Salisbury in the early 60s. Following its withdrawal in 1964 it languished at Woodham Brothers’ scrapyard until being saved by a group from Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in 1971.  After ten years in service, it underwent a major overhaul which resulted in 25 years off the rails, before steaming again in 2014. It is now owned by the East Lancashire Light Railway Co.

Completing the visiting trio is British Railways Standard 4 No. 76017. The 1953-built locomotive worked between Southampton and Bournemouth. It escaped serious damage during an incident in September 1954 when, while working the goods train from Banbury to Eastleigh, the driver lost control, 76017 ran through the catch point and down an embankment. Luckily no one was hurt and the engine was rescued by cranes.

All-three locomotives will be in full-steam throughout the Gala alongside the SVR’s homefleet, including the return to steam of recently-overhauled BR Standard 4 No. 75069, joining its visiting counterpart No. 76017 along the line for the event.

Visitors can enjoy a walk-on breakfast train at Bridgnorth and Kidderminster on the Saturday and Sunday mornings, a Guild of Railway Artists exhibition at Kidderminster Railway Museum, overnight running on Friday and Saturday, goods trains, and a miniature railway display at The Engine House.

The SVR’s artist in residence, Rob Rowland will be at Bridgnorth Station’s platform 2 waiting room and Eardington Halt will be open for visits from 9am-6pm and will be decorated to represent different decades from the 1900s through to the 1960s throughout each day of the event.

The SVR’s events co-ordinator, Lewis Maddox, said: “Visitors to this year’s Gala can see three fantastic locomotives, including the only one left of its kind in existence, making their very first appearance on our tracks. They may even be able to experience the dramatic ‘volcanic’ displays from City of Wells as it steams along the line.

“We’ve got a jam-packed timetable of steam train services all along the line, not to mention our famed all-night running on Friday and Saturday. With art exhibitions, breakfast trains and miniature railway displays, there really is something to see and do for all ages.”

Tickets are now on sale via the Severn Valley Railway website.

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