For Christmas 2013 Frank and I received a wonderful experience gift from my sister and brother-in-law. We were given the freedom of the line on the Severn Valley Railway and a dining voucher for two. I’ve always wanted to travel on the Orient Express but this seemed more within our reach! The Severn Valley Railway is a full-size standard-gauge railway line running regular, mainly steam-hauled, passenger trains between Kidderminster in Worcestershire and Bridgnorth in Shropshire, a distance of about sixteen miles.
The journey is full of interest, as the route follows closely the meandering course of the River Severn for most of the way on its journey between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth. One highlight of the trip is the crossing of the River Severn by means of the Victoria Bridge – a massive 200-foot single span, high above the water which, incidentally, features in the film ‘The Thirty-nine Steps’ with Robert Powell in the leading role. Trains have been a source of inspiration for writers for as long as they exist. The most famous being Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.
There being few roads in the Severn Valley, some of the views are only visible from the Railway. The scenery is varied and largely unspoiled, punctuated by the quaint ‘olde worlde’ charm of country stations, each one giving ready access to local villages and riverside walks.
A remarkable feature of the Railway not readily appreciated by visitors is that it is very largely run by unpaid volunteers, with a paid staff of around 70 people responsible for administration and commercial activities, plus regular track and rolling stock maintenance. Throughout the year, volunteers appear on the Railway to perform many tasks, including repairing and repainting stations, reconstruction of viaducts and bridges, and rebuilding locomotives and rolling stock not to mention the operation of the trains.
On the dining car we enjoyed a Jacques Tati type holiday atmosphere with jovial serving staff and passengers all enjoying a carefree day. The carriage aahhed in unison at the sight of a baby elephant gamboling in the safari park, not something you expect to see in the Worcestershire countryside!