Sunday, 27 December 2009

My 18th Birthday On The Severn Valley Railway...

Hi all! Well, today was my 18th Birthday and, it has to be said, I had a fabulous day! Every year, for my birthday, we travel on the Severn Valley Railway's fantastic Dining Train but, this year in particular was to be better than any other. The reason for this was that we had been booked aboard our own private carriage, in the form of the railway's beautifully restored "Shrewsbury Director Saloon". The railway let us have the coach at no extra charge as they had had a cancellation and they had a heavy 'waiting list' for the main dining train. Therefore, moving us to the private Saloon freed up two tables on the Dining train. This meant that our party of 8 had a whole carraige to ourselves, how wonderful! We started from home at around 10:15am for the hour or so drive, with me in the leading of the two vehicles, providing the directions for everyone. (I'm the only one in our family who knows the route to the SVR off by heart!). On arrival at the SVR we parked up before making our way to the train. The Dining Train was brought into Platform 2 at Kidderminster Station with the "Shrewsbury Saloon" at the station end of the rake. Boarding, we had our own private cook and waitress on hand to take our orders for the 4-course meal.
The locomotive in charge of our train was the recently restored 2-6-0 Ivatt Class 4 Mogul No43106, nicknamed the "Flying Pig". The "Shrewsbury Saloon" comprises of two seperate rooms. The first is a lounge with sofa's, a single chair and reception area. As it was the festive season, a Christmas tree also stood proudly in the lounge. I must say, the coach was beautifully furnished. The other main room is the Dining Room which comprises of a sofa, two viewing chairs (at the far end) and then a large Dining Table (capable of seating 10 people in total). The table was massive and we each sat about 2ft apart! (Lots of room!). Again, the room was beautifully furnished. We sat down ready for the 12:15pm departure time and in anticipation of our four-course meal. As we departed Kidderminster the views opened up straight away. The coach included all-round views across the splender of the Severn Valley, due to the massive amount of windows and the observation area's at each end. The coach also included a seperate Kitchen, Lavatory and Guard's compartment. With no corridor connection at either end, the coach is completely self-contained. Of course, the Saloon's were designed to run alone with a single locomotive, allowing Director's (or other top brasses!) to view their various routes in comfort & style.
The first course consisted of soup OR prawn cocktail. I had the home-made soup and I must say I could have eaten it all day long...it was fantastic! Approaching the third station, Arley, our main course was served: a full roast dinner (either Beef OR Pork) with all the trimmings. I must say, the amount of food we were given was enormous! Platters loaded with vegetables were simply laid down on the table-top and we were left to help ourselves...fantastic! Mind you, alot was wasted even though we all ate as much as we possibly could! Thirdly, we had three choices of Desert: I chose the Rubarb & Custard option! Once again, very, very nice! By 1:25pm we arrived at the line's terminus of Bridgnorth, 16 miles from Kidderminster. Here there would be an 85 minute gap before the return departure so we decided to take a brisk and scenic walk into Bridgnorth town and then back. After "walking off" some of our lunch we returned to the station where 43106 had ran round. My family returned to the Saloon for warmth whilst I walked around the site, trying to get more pictures of the Ivatt. Above, the "Flying Pig" (43106) is pictured with the "Shrewsbury Saloon" at Bridgnorth, awaiting the 2:50pm departure. Leaving Bridgnorth, the final course, Coffee & a Mince Pie, was served in the Lounge. Below, the Christmas tree is seen decorating the Lounge...
I then had to endure the usual "Birthday Cake" song! "Oh the embarrassment!". Meanwhile, the return run was just as scenic as the outward and the "Steam Heating" system easily managed to keep the beautiful Saloon warm even though it was freezing outside! Passing Bewdley, we passed 2-6-2 45XX Prairie No4566 (out of steam) and unique Stanier Mogul No42968 (warming fire inside)...
Once back at Kidderminster we collected our things, said our thank you's and our goodbyes and then clambered off the "Shrewsbury Saloon". It had been a fantastic run and, a truly fantastic day. Before we left, I did get a quick look on the footplate of the "Flying Pig". The fire is seen below...
The driver commented that 43106, though he wasn't used to the engine yet, was a very good runner and was, in his words, "perfect for the line with her small driving wheels". For a Class 4, the engine seemed sort of small in stature even though she was quite tall. However, if the performance she gave on the return run was anything to go by, she is a very powerful (and loud!) locomotive! I mentioned my times at Shackerstone on the B1 to the driver and he expressed his interest in the class but also noted the difficulty of getting used to the "letter box" style firehole door! Below, myself and 43106's driver chat away on the footplate...
Thanks for the oppotunity driver! It had been a great day and, with a final glimpse of 43106, we departed Kidderminster Station for home. I must thank my family and the Severn Valley Railway for giving me such a great experience on my 18th Birthday...its just a shame we can't do this every Sunday! Also thanks to everybody who sent me kind Birthday messages during the day, I really appreciate it. As ever, thanks for reading everybody! Good Evening...

3 comments:

peter1uk said...

Hi Sammy
Belated birthday greetings.Many Happy returns of the day.
Didn't realise it was your 18th until I read your report on the day.
I was 50 before I had lunch on the severn valley and a driving experience course eventually driving the Flying Scottman before she was out of ticket.
Regards
The Graduate

rocky ridge said...

Looks like a Grand Day out Sam...Excellent !!

Adrian

Sam Brandist said...

Thank you both. Yes it was a great day. Glad to see people are still reading the blog. Best Wishes, Sammy's World!