29th/30th September 2000
The Severn Valley Railway Diesel Gala

Two of the three days reviewed.

Must be that time of the year again - well, actually a week earlier than normal, but still time for the Severn Valley Railway diesel gala. Holding it a week earlier (rather than in conjunction with the Vintage Vehicle Day) "restored" this gala to a three day event - covering the Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

By design I was involved with two of the three days - Friday would see me as rostered signalman for Bridgnorth, then Saturday would be my day to get some travelling in.

An early start (to avoid the weekday traffic) got me to Bridgnorth with ample time to spare - time enough to get a full cooked breakfast in the buffet and a quick walk round the station to make sure everything (signalling wise) was "in order". During the walk round I took a minute to look over D449 and 37906 which were on the shed along with some of our "home grown" motive power.

First departure was at 10.20 but there was work to do before that as the coaching stock was split between the two sidings north of the station. Motive power was D1013 "Western Ranger" and the driver soon appeared to let me know he was ready to leave shed. I let D1013 off shed and down into the Carriage Siding - both to pick up two carriages and also take on some water (drivers request). The guard appeared soon after and the train was put together by way of a shunt into the other siding (Hollybush Road). With plenty of time to spare D1013 was sat in platform 1 ready to depart.

Time to "open" to Highley then "switch-in" Hampton Loade signalbox and we were ready to roll.

D1013 was away on time and then it was time to let D449 off shed onto its train - though a request to take on water also meant a run down to the carriage siding before the 50 was coupled onto its train.

First arrival had Class 27 D5410 and the NRM "chopper" D8000 in charge. They arrived into platform 1 leaving the road free for the 11.05 departure with D449 at the head. The driver for the 11.50 departure also turned up having ridden "on the cushions" from Kidderminster. His loco, 37906, was already ticking over waiting for him.

As soon as D449 was out of the way the 20/27 ran onto shed and 37906 made its way (noisily, as ever) onto the stock ready for departure.

The day carried on in this vain - a train in and one out every 45 minutes - until into the evening. Locos arriving/departing were;

D449, D821, D1013, D1023, D1524, D8000, D5410, 31108, 37906, 50007 & 56006

D431 was also out, but only between Kidderminster and Bewdley on piloting duties so I didn't see it.

Last arrival (D1524) was just after 7pm and I was free to go on my way. There was one final move northwards, D821 returning "light engine", but this was done using "released tokens" so no signalmen were required. Friday was an all diesel timetable, the remainder of the weekend was a mixed diesel/steam affair.

I was at Kidderminster in plenty of time on the Saturday and watched 37906 & 56006 being prepared for the days first departure - the 09.00 to Bridgnorth. A quick trip to the signalbox to say hello to a friend and then over to platform 1 for the first train. Got a seat in the second coach and was soon joined by a few other friends who were also travelling.

The grid and slug performed well leaving Kidderminster (passing just-arrived 57012 "Freightiner Envoy"). Mind you, the 56 was not heard above the thrash from slug6!!

At Bewdley we lost 56006 and 37906 became the sole motive power for the remainder of the journey to Bridgnorth. I doubt if any of the local residents got a lie-in on this morning as 37906 was as loud as we've come to expect!

At Bridgnorth some of us changed quickly onto the imminent departure with D8000 & 31108 in charge - the 31 being a required haulage for me :-)

Reasonable journey back to Kidderminster with a combination of both locos working, or one or other of them. I nipped off the stock to get some food and came back to find it standing room only - an indication of the popularity of the choice of locos for the 12.00 departure - double-headed Westerns!

D1013 "Western Ranger" and D1023 "Western Fuslier" looked good with a "Western Tribute" headboard (carried by the same pair on the final Western railtour on 26th February 1977). As I was only travelling to Arley I claimed a door window towards the rear of the train. A superb performance made this one of the weekends journeys to remember - and a pair of "whizzos" on the front looked rather impressive too, even from the rear of the train.

I was a bit reluctant to leave the train at Arley, especially as the service the other way was only Class 47 hauled! Mind you, D1524 was a required haulage, hence my decision. Took this to Kidderminster, D449 being added at Bewdley. Found a compartment in the rear coach and was joined by a friend.

Same stock again for the next departure so we kept ownership of the compartment (now in the leading coach of course), which soon filled with some other travelling companions. Haulage this time being provided by 31108 and 57012 - the latter being the third (and final) required haulage on offer for the weekend on the SVR. I expected this train to be busy but, perhaps surprisingly, it wasn't - maybe a lot of people had stuck with the Westerns instead?

Both locos powered and the change-over point on this occasion was Hampton Loade - onto D1013 & D1023 on their southbound run. Another entertaining run and it was hello again Kidderminster! Front coach compartment again sought out - just as D8000 and then D1524 were coupled up. The spoon was lost at Bewdley and we were then treated to what was (to me anyway) one of the weekends top performances - D8000 on load eight all the way to Bridgnorth. The thrash up Eardington was, quite simply, superb!

Return from Bridgnorth was behind green 50, 50007 "Sir Edward Elgar". Not such an exciting performance but then again we were in the rear coach as a quick change was to be made at Bewdley.....

....onto the "beerex" with 37906 & 56006 - all the way this time to Bridgnorth. In rapidly darkening conditions both locos thrashed their way northwards. Slug6 putting up a good sound and light display, mostly drowning out the grid!

After a long day I decided to head for home and achieved this via the 19.25 off Bridgnorth and a solo run with D1023 "Western Fusilier" to Kidderminster. A good run too. Somehow, though I can't really explain why, I find "after dark" runs somewhat nostalgic - a reminder perhaps of days gone by?

Gary Thornton.

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