Sunday, 20 November 2016

Sunday Lunch On The "Severn Valley Limited"...

Hi all. To my mind there isn't a much more pleasant experience than fine dining on a steam hauled train. Today we had our annual outing to the Severn Valley Railway for a trip on board its ever popular "Severn Valley Limited" Dining Train. We've done the SVR diner a few times now and have always enjoyed its charm. After a spirited run along the M42 and the M5 to reach Kidderminster, we arrived in time to watch the Great Western 2-8-0 No2857 depart with the 12:30pm train to Bridgnorth...
Walking down towards the station from the car park, the dining stock was spotted being steam heated by 43106: the 1951 Darlington Mogul. Known as the 'Flying Pig', 43106 would take us to Bridgnorth along the picturesque Severn Valley...
"The 'Flying Pig' Heats The Dining Stock"
Once at the station building our tickets were checked by the 'Diner Check In' and we were soon trotting up the damp platform to reach our Great Western coach. Departure was not too far away, planned for 12:50pm...
We were shown aboard Great Western 9653: a Collett Restaurant Third built in 1925. Many dining trains around the country use BR stock or the Pullman stock and so it is always refreshing on the SVR to ride in authentic Great Western coaches. Our table was at the trailing end of 9653 and was set for the three course Sunday Lunch...
"Table For Two Set for Lunch"
I just love the atmosphere of the dining trains, call me old fashioned if you will. Having got settled in our seats we ordered drinks whilst the platform staff scurried about busily in the rain. The 'Flying Pig' was building up vacuum ready for departure and the first course was just around the corner. Maisie was impressed with my chats about Great Western coaching stock over a glass of red...
We had barely departed Kidderminster when the very enjoyable first course was served. I could have eaten it twice or three times! My compliments to the chef...
We had a steady run out of Kidderminster, up through Foley Tunnel and down towards the Safari Park. I was quite bemused by some of the nearby diners who were aghast at the sight of the elephants over the fence. The best statement came from over the way - "that's got to be some kind of wildlife reserve". I was amused by that one. There can't be many farmers in Worcestershire who keep a small herd of African Elephants in the top field just in case! Anyway, pulling gently into Bewdley, 43106 made a pathing stop just shy of the platform in order to wait for the next returning train from Bridgnorth. Sure enough, the Manor Class No7812 rolled past the window just as the main course was served. No small portions on the "Severn Valley Limited"...
The main course was enjoyed whilst the 'Flying Pig' meandered gently along the damp Severn Valley, throwing white steam over her shoulder into the crisp Winter air. She seemed to take the train in her stride and only uttered the occasional hooter across the landscape. I felt quite beached after the sumptuous main course - it was great. The gentle rocking of the train over the track was almost enough to lull you to sleep. Arrival in Bridgnorth came at around 2:20pm. We alighted from the train to watch the loco swap and have a look in the gift shop. Leaving the warmth of 9653, the cold air hit you like a brick! The large Hawksworth Pannier No1501 was just slinking gently away from the shed as 2857 prepared to depart for Kidderminster with the Gresley Teaks...
"Great Western Engines at Bridgnorth"
The admiring rabble slowly filtered over the footbridge and down the steps onto Platform 1. 2857 was now on her way, leaving her voice echoing behind. 43106 meanwhile sat calmly at the now rear of the dining train. She would soon be removed and taken to the shed for what I assume would be disposal on this Winter timetable...
After a look in the gift shop and the purchase of some SVR highlighters, we watched 1501 be coupled on to the waiting stock. Only 10 of these powerful Pannier's were built. Designed by Hawksworth and constructed in 1949, the 1500 Class employed 17.5" cylinders and 4ft 7.5" wheels. They were the only GW Pannier Tanks designed with outside cylinders and this gave them a very different look to the much more common 5700 Class for example. Their short wheelbase and Red Route availability restricted their use and they were often confined to ECS workings into London Paddington. Withdrawn in 1961, 1501 and two other 1500s were saved by the NCB for use at Coventry Colliery. All three were bought by the SVR in 1970 upon their withdrawal from Coal Board service. 1502 and 1509 were later scrapped after donating parts towards the restoration of 1501. 1501 is now the sole survivor of the 1500 Class and is a handsome machine...
"The Last Remaining GWR 1500 Class - 1501, Built 1949"
Having admired 1501, we wandered back over the footbridge to Platform 2 in readiness for our 3pm departure. The loco yard outside the shed was alive with engines, including the two huge Bulleid pacifics. The A1 "Tornado" was spotted just inside the door...
Back on the train, 1501 was doing a fine job of keeping the steam heat going. Dessert was served just as we pulled out of Bridgnorth...
1501 sounded cold as we pulled away, duff at the chimney and wet. There were fits of enthusiasm from the cylinder drains in an effort to clear the steam circuit, expelling large amounts of condensate into the air. With the weight on the move, the Pannier began to accelerate and was soon up to line speed. The run back was most pleasant, with the big tank just behind 9653 and us at what was now the first table. We could hear all of her efforts and it was lovely. One thing I will say about this engine though is, as is probably to be expected, when shut-off she gives the train a good thump. The short wheelbase probably provides a nice waddle and those large cylinders strapped to the outside of the frames can't help. Regardless, this is a lovely machine and, these days, a unique survivor. After a pleasant run through the fading light to reach Kidderminster, without forgetting our Coffee, we arrived back at around 4:20pm. 1501 could then enjoy a well earned break as many well filled diners alighted after a lovely afternoon out...
The attractive station at Kidderminster Town was already festively decorated in preparation for the "Santa Special"s that start next weekend...
Wandering back towards the car we watched a dimly lit 2857 depart with a Great Western set. The Great Western engine with the Great Western coaches looked lovely. 1501 meanwhile trotted off up to the water column and enjoyed a drink as we set off for home. That was another very enjoyable day on the Severn Valley Railway and of course the "Severn Valley Limited" Dining Train. I will always recommend this service and no doubt we shall travel on it again sometime in the not too distant future. Finally, everyone's favourite late starter 'Eddie The Late' will be proud to know that the infamous "Three Course Challenge" proved no trouble for these seasoned eaters! Can't beat a steam hauled diner! Cheers all, Sam...

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