Spring Steam Gala ‘surpasses expectations’ at the Severn Valley Railway

Great weather, a great line up of locos and plenty of hard work and organisation all combined to make the Severn Valley Railway’s Spring Steam Gala one of its most successful enthusiast events ever.

Helen Smith, the SVR’s managing director said: What a great start to our 2022 season this was!

“The event surpassed all our expectations, and the sheer number of visitors was extremely gratifying, not to mention the hundreds of very positive comments we received in person and online.

“Over the four days, we attracted around 7,500 visitors, which represents higher numbers than ever before. Just to set this in context, pre-pandemic our visitor numbers peaked at around 4,500 for what was usually a three-day spring event.

“Also, we saw a marked change to how people chose to buy their tickets, with a large proportion of purchases being pre-booked online. This is good news for us, as it meant we had much better advance notice of how many people were coming.”

The Gala brought a welcome boost to the railway’s finances with buoyant secondary spend on catering and retail adding to the high ticket volume. The railway’s catering outlets were extremely busy, and on one day, the managing director herself even put in a shift at the Bridgnorth Refreshment Room! Income was also boosted by pre-sales of the Hornby limited-edition 00 gauge model of No. 70 ‘Elizabeth II’. The SVR caused a stir when it repainted 34027 ‘Taw Valley’ in a striking purple livery and renamed and renumbered it in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The Hornby model launched on the first day of the Gala, and the SVR sold out its allocation of models within hours. On the first day of the Gala, a small ceremony took place at Kidderminster station, to relaunch 4498 ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’, following its recent £1 million overhaul. The locomotive went on to run all four days of the event. A few challenges presented themselves during the course of the Gala. There were a number of lineside fires, some of which required attendance by the Fire Service, and on one occasion there was a 70-minute delay to services as a result. On the Saturday, SVR-based locomotive GWR 813 failed, with the fracture of the large casting that supports the rear axle springing under the cab floor, extending beneath the coal bunker. This is believed to be the original 122-year-old component. This is likely to be a significant repair, which will take its owners, the GWR 813 Preservation Fund, considerable time and money to rectify. Sadly, the loco will now miss the South Devon Railway 150 celebration, and several months of steamings at the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway. The guest loco line up proved extremely popular, with 4498 ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’ appearing in wartime black livery throughout the event, and 2999 ‘Lady of Legend’ returning to the SVR following its debut at last year’s Spring event. Also attracting plenty of interest was the S15 No 506, visiting from the Mid-Hants Railway. Both 4498 and 506 left the railway shortly after the Gala, but ‘Lady of Legend’ is staying on to play a key role in the SVR’s Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. It will haul services alongside the much-talked about, purple-liveried No. 70 ‘Elizabeth II’. This four-day event takes place between 2nd and 5th June.


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