Connected, on and off the rails: a passion for steam

IMG_1835 - Copy

This year Shropshire’s Severn Valley Railway celebrates 50 years as a tourist attraction. That this 16-mile remnant of an 1862 main line railway is still up and running is due to the efforts of several generations of steam engine enthusiasts who lobbied, fund-raised, rescued and restored old rolling stock, and then threw the lot open to a willing public that now loves to spend its spare time watching and riding on steam trains. I mean who wouldn’t want to catch the Santa Special? If you’re up for it, I should tell you that advance booking opens on September 14th.

These photos were all taken back in the winter at Bridgnorth Station, our nearest market town, and the railway’s terminus. Graham was there on a mission – to look at rivets. I was just there to savour the steam. Aaaaah. Oh yes, and to take snaps. But perhaps I’d better explain about the rivets.


First a little back story. Rewind 153 years…

In 1862 a branch from the original Severn Valley line was built through Much Wenlock. Mainly it served the limestone quarries, but at Whitsuntide, the Great Western Railway put on special trains to bring thousands of spectators to see William Penny Brookes Wenlock Olympian Games. Conveniently, the station was right beside the Linden Field where the games were, and are still held every year.

And because it was Wenlock’s William Penny Brookes who inspired the notion of the modern Olympic Games, and because we are proud Wenlock residents, some time in 2011 Graham had the idea, as a de-stressing pursuit, and as his own celebration of our town’s connection to the 2012 Olympics, to make a gauge 1 model of the  ‘Olympic Special’.

This resulted in the creation of very pleasing passenger carriage, and a goods waggon that was the original practice piece for the enterprise. The superstructures of both were  made from scratch, following some 1860s plans that Graham had unearthed. I don’t remember where he found them. But then came the stumbling block – the locomotive itself.

For this, he would need equipment he did not own, and skills he did not think he possessed. Ever since he has been pondering on how to set about it, egged on by our good neighbour, Roger, who does have handy engineering skills. Part of the on-going pondering included first-hand experience of GWR engine rivets so that Graham could judge the scale of them. And who am I to throw cold water on a chap’s enthusiasm.

Besides, as a child, I spent a lot of time on steam trains, and more specifically waiting to catch one on Crewe Station. And anyone who knows their railway history will know that Crewe Station, built in 1837, is one of the world’s oldest stations, and that its junction was once a thing of railway wonder. So, all in all, I was glad to tag along on the boiler rivet hunt, and thereby have the chance sniff hot coal and engine oil, and look at rust on old locomotive hulks. Graham always claims I was born on the foot plate. And no. My father was not an engine driver.100_6822



Also it was good to watch the happy voyagers waiting to embark on The Royal Scot…





And finally that brings me to the work in progress. It’s sitting over the DVD/CD shelves in the kitchen, waiting for an 1860s vintage locomotive to take it away.  Passengers please take note. This train may not be leaving until the advent of the next Olympic Games. Graham says it’s good to have a deadline…


copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

Severn Valley Railway Go here to find out more about the SVR

#SVR #SevernValleyRailway #steamrailways



53 thoughts on “Connected, on and off the rails: a passion for steam

  1. Oh you know how to structure a piece of writing, and to be informative and funny, and to interweave autobiography – and of course to take great photos. I love the palette and angles of this lot. And an envious question: did you groom the DVDs for the photo shoot or are they always that neat and tidy?

  2. When I was four, my grandfather used to take me to the bridge over the LNER to watch the Flying Scotsman rush past, beneath us, en route for Newcastle and Edinburgh. Magical. Memories brought back to mind by your piece, Tish.

  3. Such a lovely post Tish and stunning captures. Love your DVD shelves. I see you have one of my favourite movies there as well – The Untouchables. 😆 Great job on the train as well. It’s really beautiful. 😀

  4. This was a super fun read, and the photos are smashing.Good for G. I barely managed Airfix planes.

    Quirky Railway fact.
    When I was writing Almost Dead in Suburbia my heroes had to pass through Chester Station and as I knew so little about it I hit Google and discovered that during the construction wooden owls were carved and placed above the platforms, supposedly to act as a deterrent to rats and mice.

    1. Oh what a hoot! (You fed me that line, didn’t you, Ark.) I think Graham surprised himself with the model making. He’d only done Airfix planes too – long long ago. What he would really like is train that you can sit on and go round the garden, which would be very difficult in our garden, not to say precarious given its different level. We’d have to have an inclined plane. Now that would involve some heavy pondering.

  5. Tish I too am a steamtrainphile! Having brought my children up in Bromsgrove, we would make regular trips to Kidderminster station to board the GWR with our picnic baskets – stopping at Arley or Highley usually and occasionally venturing all the way down to Bridgnorth. Now the grandchildren make this trip when visiting there and so the age of steam never dies – especially not with enthusiasts like Graham. Thank you for this memorabilia post – steam engines even look beautiful covered in rust – great shots!

  6. Graham has a very admirable pursuit – I look forward to pictures of the finished GWR engine (I spent a lot of time on Crewe station as an avid trainspotter – except when we were being chased off the platform by unsympathetic BR staff 😦 )

  7. I like trains, I took one across Canada this summer.

    By the way, you’ve been chosen as one of today’s nine blogs in That’s So Jacob’s Ninth Month Blog Challenge (! I challenge you to find nine blogs you find interesting and give them a comment to brighten their day…well, eight other blogs and mine 🙂 Copy this message in your comment and enjoy your new blog friends!

  8. Great interpretation of the challenge and brings back so many memories of steam trains. The putting down of the windows and getting covered in soot, especially when going through tunnels. Good luck to Graham and the search and build project along with Roger. It is good to have a man with a mission…

  9. the feature image looks like a picture of the past.
    in my home town in Germany about 30 years ago some railway enthusiasts restarted a railway branch with an old steam locomotive and old wagons. So your post brought memories of my home town. thanks.

  10. A riveting read! I must also add that it never ran out of steam. You have the good fortune to retain a bit of the old days there in Much Wenlock. Enjoyed the photos too.

    1. That’s a splendid gallery of locomotives in your post. But I’m most taken with the little wooden green carriage near the start. It seems very many of us have a passion for steam trains. In the UK there are many stretches of preserved lines, all run by volunteers. Happy New Year to you too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.