Severn Valley Railway 16/07/13
My first train was hauled by GWR 'Large Prairie' No:5164 which looked really smart, a real credit to the line as I believe she's reaching the end of her boiler ticket. In the commendably clean MK1 coach I was able to get a compartment all to myself; a rare treat indeed! Being in the first carriage I could enjoy that glorious Great Western 'bark' all the way to Highley, where I visited Engine House.
Best place for 'em
I had visited this display of the railway's out of traffic locos shortly after it opened in 2007 and, happily, since then some of the exhibits have changed! Though not all. Whilst it would be nice to see all the locos in there running up and down the line, the fact is restoring them again is jolly expensive; in the mean time, hopefully while funds are raised to get them running again, the Engine House is the best place for them, protecting them from the elements and allowing the public to see them too. Its viewing gallery provided a good spot to see No:2857 pass through toward Kidderminster and this sleepy little station returned to its slumbers; a sharp contrast to gala days when the place is seething mass of people!
Not just the locomotives
The station was roused once again by the arrival of 'Erlestoke Manor', which took me to Bridgenorth in fine style. The SVR have a superb fleet of historic 'Big Four' carriages and I was able to ride in one of their fine LNER teak carriages. For me this is an important part of what makes the SVR really special as the vehicles you ride in are just as much, perhaps more, part of the experience than the locomotives. You see, once you're on the train, and if you obey the injunction NOT to stick your head out the window, most of the time you can't see the loco, so you could just as well be being pulled by 'Thomas the Tank' as 'Tornado'! That's why interesting (by which I mean non MK1) carriages are so important - they add a delicious extra layer to an already tasty cake because, as I found out on the Victorian Train Experience on the Talyllyn Railway, they add to the whole experience.
The SVR makes a super day out, whether on a normal running day or for a gala; the two experiences each offer a different side of this marvelous railway. The whole operation is very professional, the stations tidy, the engines smart and are often 'opened up' (to 25mph of course!) to keep the trains on time and the interesting carriages really added that special something to my day out.