There are three ages in any preservation project:
- Firstly, tidying up the site, and making it safe so that you can let in the visitors.
- Secondly, restoring it to its former glory (if that is appropriate).
- And thirdly, the on-going business of running the thing.
The Severn Valley Railway is definitely in this third phase. Beautifully restored to within an inch of its life, there is now not much left to do other than keeping it going. Check the Severn Valley Railwayʼs website for opening times etc.
And there is a potential problem for all heritage railways and similar sites. The sort of people that want to rescue and preserve things are not, generally, interested in the day to day running. An increasingly elderly group of volunteers is left wondering where their successors are going to come from.
Perhaps it is time to start thinking the unthinkable and moving to a largely paid work-force model. After all it works for the Paignton and Dartmouth Railway.
The preservation of a railway (or anything else for that matter) is a project, and as any good project manager will tell you, all projects must have an end. The end must surely be leaving the railway in a state were it can survive economically for future generations to enjoy.
Like most heritage railways, there is an overall speed limit of 25mph. When youʼre in the train, this does not seem to matter, as the line is so twisty, it is unlikely that trains ever got much faster than this even in GWR days.
That said, the engine that pulled our train, 34045 Ottery St Mary (which the sort of rail enthusiast who needs to get out more insists is really 34027 Taw Valley), must have been champing at the bit, and longing to be out on the mainline.