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HRH Duke of Gloucester gives royal seal to SVR's 150th anniversary

(10th May 2012)

THE 150th ANNIVERSARY of the Severn Valley Railway is to receive Royal recognition, with the official visit to the Kidderminster - Bridgnorth steam heritage line by HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG, DCVO, on a day of special commemoration next Monday, May 14th.

Renowned for his special interest in railway preservation, the Duke will tour an exhibition at Kidderminster Railway Museum documenting the life and times of the SVR since the first public trains on February 1st 1862, inspect one of the railway’s most recently-restored historic carriages, make the short journey to Bewdley behind the country’s oldest working steam locomotive, and unveil a commemorative plaque, recording the Sesquicentenary (150th anniversary) of the line.

The Royal visit comes just five days ahead of the SVR’s public celebration of the 150th anniversary at a special weekend event entitled ‘1862: A Victorian Experience’ (Saturday/Sunday May 19th & 20th) at which another ‘Royal’ visitor - Queen Victoria – will also tour the line in her own train. The part of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch is being portrayed by celebrated Queen Victoria re-enactor Sylvia Strange, from Onibury, Shropshire.

Patron of the Severn Valley Railway since 1998, His Royal Highness last visited the line three years ago, but this will be his fourth official visit since 2006, when he formally opened the railway’s then-new £650,000 Kidderminster Town station extension. He returned to the line in October 2007 to observe the £3.8 million rebuilding programme following the devastating summer flooding of the railway, and in April 2009, he imaugurated the new £5 million Engine House Visitor Centre at Highley.

The Duke will travel by train from his London (Kensington Palace) home to Worcester (Shrub Hill) station on Monday morning, and be greeted by Deputy Lieutenant of the county Mrs.Angela Brinton.

He is due to arrive at the SVR’s Kidderminster Town terminus at midday, when he will be welcomed back to the railway by SVR (Holdings) Co. Chairman Nick Paul CBE, who will present fellow directors including SVR Railway Co. Chairman David Williams, General Manager Nick Ralls, and Kidderminster Station Master Geoff Smith.

Kidderminster Railway Museum Curator David Postle will accompany the railway’s Royal guest around the SVR 150 exhibition documenting the line’s milestone developments since 1862, and then SVR Rolling Stock Trust Chairman Hugh McQuade will show the Duke the craftsman-restored 1936 LNER ‘Kitchen Composite’ coach No.7960, which recently returned to passenger service after  a 21-year restoration.

Britain’s oldest working steam locomotive – the 1863-built Furness Railway engine No. 20 – specially ‘imported’ by the SVR for the upcoming ‘Victorian Experience’ weekend (May 19th & 20th), will then work a special train taking the Duke, civic dignitaries and railway officers on the short three-mile journey to the SVR’s administrative HQ at Bewdley station, where he will unveil a plaque marking the 150th anniversary of the first train on the SVR line, from Hartlebury Junction (near Worcester) to Shrewsbury on February 1st 1862.