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.
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
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We’re barely into September and already autumn is here in Shropshire. It must be so, because the little horses are back on Windmill Hill. They will spend the next few months grazing off the dying summer grasses and wild flowers. They look very windswept, but the punk-mane-effect is mainly down to thickets of cleavers (goose grass) seeds in their top knots.
Looking across the hill there’s hardly a sign of the June-July flowering – all those buttery clouds of Lady’s Bedstraw quite gone. Not a trace of the orchids either. Only the dark and brittle seed heads of knapweed that always strike a note of dreariness. The weather doesn’t help either. For weeks it has been rain between showers.
Nor was I encouraged by the BBC radio science programme I heard yesterday. I caught it in the midst of recompiling a glut of runner beans into chutney (beans at least like rain). The guest climate experts were soon informing us that the El Nino effect they promised us all in 2014 did not come to much. In fact, they opined, (and they sounded quite definite about it too) we still have it very much to look forward to – the worst El Nino effect hitherto experienced, they said. For some reason the Pacific Ocean keeps heating up. And this means disrupted weather patterns worldwide, and for Europe, an even wetter winter than usual.
MORE RAIN? I wish we in Shropshire could email some of it to those lands whose dramatically changing climates mean that they now receive little or none. Mongolia is one place suffering massive desertification. Likewise, the countries of Africa’s Sahel that border the Sahara. In both regions, and many others besides, human actions, poverty and climate shift combine in a vicious downward spiral that results in increasing degradation of land and water sources. This, apart from war, is one of the main drivers of human migration. It’s all connected, despite what the climate change naysayers may wish to believe.
All of which is to tell myself to count my blessings. I am free to wander where I like without fear of being terrorized by extremists. I have all the food I need and more. I enjoy every comfort. I have the luxury to meander along Shropshire byways, talking to little horses, musing on the meaning life, the universe and everything, while across the globe desperate others risk all to find somewhere they can live a decent life with their families. Some people, we hear, do not want to share their land with refugees. It is assumed that they will be nothing but a drain on resources. Yet who knows what gifts in talent and skills these homeless souls might be bringing us? Also, not sharing may cost us more than we could ever imagine. In some societies the truest measure of civilisation is the gift of hospitality. Perhaps we need to think about this with a little more application. At least, I know I do.
copyright 2015 Tish Farrell