Severn Valley Railway runs TV celebrity engine No.5164 on half-term trains
23rd October 2012
THE SEVERN Valley Railway was back on national telly for the second time in six days on Sunday (October 21st) - as the launch pad for ‘How Britain Worked’, a new Channel 4 documentary series highlighting craftsman skills of the Industrial Revolution, many of which are still practised on the Kidderminster - Bridgnorth steam heritage line today.
Presented by TT motorcycle racer Guy Martin whose distinctive ‘northern’ drawl and style of delivery has, at the age of 30, earned him a cult following and the attribute ‘the new Fred Dibnah’, the first of six episodes saw Martin getting stuck in to a variety of roles on the railway, including helping to overhaul Great Western Railway ‘Prairie’ tank No.5164 at Bridgnorth, and relaying track at Arley.
Screened just five days after cameras from BBC 1’s ‘Breakfast’ programme turned the focus on the Railway’s new £3 million share issue, its plans to revamp Bridgnorth station and create a new Heritage Engineering Academy, the programme has given the SVR a further publicity shot-in-the-arm in a week when it is running a busy schedule of half-term holiday trains, and family-friendly ‘Ghost Trains’ on the Halloween theme.
Taking full advantage of the new-found celebrity of engine No.5164, the Railway has promised to run the 1930-built locomotive ‘as frequently as possible’ on its half-term trains over the next seven days.
The first ‘Ghost Train’ runs tomorrow night (Wednesday October 24th), and also on Friday (October 26th), Saturday (October 27th) and on Halloween itself, next Wednesday, October 31st. (Important note: Some education authorities in the Midlands have set the half-term holiday for week commencing Monday October 29th; the SVR will not be operating trains during that week).
Camera crews from the production company North One Television visited the Severn Valley Railway on several occasional between February and August this year to record footage for the documentary, hiring in a helicopter to capture some stunning aerial views of 5164 at large, and showing how the railway and River Severn intertwine.
Sequences show Guy Martin at the regulator (described as a ‘throttle!), as the engine makes its first ‘running-in’ trip after a five-month restoration, across the landmark Victoria Bridge at Arley, itself an 1861-built icon of the Industrial Revolution which, when built, was the largest cast-iron span in the world.
Elsewhere in the 48-minute production, the colourful Lincolnshire lorry mechanic – a ‘dead ringer’ soundalike of Lancashire steeplejack Fred Dibnah who presented many similar insights into Britain’s ‘Industrial Revolution before his death from cancer in 2004 – is seen inside the firebox of No.5164 ‘checking for broken stays’, remaking a white-metal coupling rod bearing, digging ballast during track renewals – and cooking bacon and eggs ‘on the shovel’ – a traditional steam engineman’s practice still perpetuated on the SVR.
His activities bring him into close contact with a number of SVR full-time staff, including Bridgnorth Boiler Shop Foreman Duncan Ballard, Bridgnorth Works Manager Ian Walker, fitter Will Marsh, and 17-year-old Bridgnorth engineering apprentice Mark Drinkwater.
Said SVR General Manager Nick Ralls: “All publicity is good, especially at a time when we’re bidding to raise £3 million in a new Share Appeal to fund the next round of infrastructure works on the railway.
“But ‘How Britain Worked’ also gives a very useful educational insight into how we are still using many of the traditional engineering methods and practices of the late 1800s, to keep the wheels of steam turning today.
“I’m sure, for example, that even steam enthusiasts who know a thing or two about locomotives, will be fascinated to see exactly how white metal bearings are made and machined in our workshops”.
In the second episode of the series this Sunday (8pm), Guy is seen helping to renovate a Yorkshire saw mill powered by the world's oldest surviving water turbine.
In other episodes he helps restore a Victorian fishing trawler, designs his own giant fountain and rockery at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, helps renovate the first-ever coal mine steam pumping engine, and braves sub-zero temperatures underwater to help preserve the submerged metalwork supporting Llandudno Pier.
Episode one of ‘How Britain Worked’ can be seen again online, via the ‘4-on-demand (4oD) player, at ttp://www.channel4.com/programmes/how-britain-worked