We are very pleased with our recently-completed run of speartop fencing along the side of the path from the car park to the station. The previous fence was standard modern security fencing and gave our entrance something of the feel of an alleyway through a back-street industrial estate - hardly a fitting first impression of a premier tourist attraction that is the Severn Valley Railway! Compare this with the magnificent entrance off the car park into the Black Country Museum, for example.
Ok, perhaps I'm overstating the impact of sixty feet of wrought iron fence, but we certainly have had plenty of positive comments. The point is that if the 'Friends' had not tackled the job, the cost of getting the work done commercially would have been prohibitive and the eyesore palisade fence would have remained indefinitely. This is, perhaps, the best illustration of what the 'Friends' are able to achieve. We have been asked to help with about ten panels for the Bridgnorth project, which will save a considerable sum against the cost of having replicas made so will take a few weeks off from Kidderminster projects to help.
I have been reading 'Rail' magazine with some interest just lately. It seems that in almost every issue there is a new plan for an improvement somewhere on the system. A new flyover to reduce congestion, or maybe re–doubling or reopening a station long closed. However, all this is to do with rapidly increasing passenger figures and not freight. Freight is in an awful situation. The big block trains and merry–go–round trains so favoured by the Evil Doctor (at the expense of everything else) have been hit hard and permanently by the move away from coal.
Loosing our coal production was one thing, power stations still needed coal and it came via the ports instead of direct from a mine, but now with coal fired power stations dropping like ninepins, freight has fallen to the levels of 1984 – during the miners strike.
Claire Perry, the rail minister, has put forward the idea of carrying 'goods' on passenger trains or into the big town stations at night when few passenger trains are about. But how could that work? How can you do the handling and delivery, working from off a passenger platform?
It puts me in mind of the eighties when B.R. ran the Red Star service. In those days you would take your package to the nearest Red Star station and it would be sent by passenger train(s) to the customer's nearest Red Star station, then you had to contact him with details so that he could drive over and pick up the package. I used to have to organise pick–ups for some of my orders at work and the whole arrangement was clumsy and inconvenient. Since then many smaller stations have become un-staffed and could not operate such a service. Only the main stations could operate the service - even more inconvenient with fewer local access points.
For larger consignments you need a wagon, but wagonload freight disappeared ages ago and the sidings were torn up and built over. There is no real prospect of reintroducing this kind of service, so I wonder what the solution could be...
It is ironic that the railways were built primarily to carry freight and did so very well, but nowadays when far more goods are travelling around the country, it seems our railways have lost out.
The latest (and ongoing) project is to further enhance the W.H.Smith's Kiosk. To this end we have installed a wooden frame on the roof to the style used in the 1930's. This is being fitted with period newspaper advertisement panels which are copies of originals and rather laboriously sign written at home by me. The mouldings for the frame were produced by Bob and me using some of our recently acquired woodworking equipment.
In the past W.H.Smith made use of every possible part of their kiosks for advertising or the display of their wares. Not only was the counter loaded with books, magazines and papers but they were in racks all round the display area. Hanging from clips above the counter were more magazines. The roof supported advertising panels (which we are currently fitting) and even above those more advertising could be suspended from the concourse roof girders! Our kiosk started out as a plain green box - not at all how they used to look. We intend to remedy this.
We are most grateful to Paul Bowler and his family who have generously donated the cost of this latest project in memory of Chris. It certainly promises to be a colourful and eye-catching addition to the building. At the back of the Uffculme Building we have installed a ladder rack. Previously several ladders were in a heap on the floor in the tent which wasted space and was a nuisance. Now they can be securely chained in a safe place. Several other small jobs have been completed. Another poster board has gone up on the concourse, a double size one this time, and a poster board with the magic letters G.W.R. has been restored ready to go back on the gents screen. This board had rotted in parts because of damage causing rain to soak into the exposed wood. It is annoying to note that carelessness has caused damage to most of the poster boards on the platform end screens due to being struck by GPO trolleys. A moments carelessness creates hours of repair work. The weight of a trolley being pulled at 4 miles per hour is equivalent to a sledge hammer blow. In an attempt to prevent further damage the Wednesday Gang have installed flower tubs between each of the poster boards.
Recently restored is a G.W.R ramp, similar to a barrel ramp, used as an aid for loading items into a guards van. When we began the project the ramp was complete but a side rail was broken in two rendering it useless. Our woodworking team cut out a curved tapered side rail from reclaimed pitch pine and reassembled the ramp. A coat of paint and appropriate lettering finished the job. It now lives in the bicycle shed.
About a year ago we made 16 panels of speartop fencing and it is now erected at the boundary with the road at the bottom of the drive at Bewdley. A wooden gate will close off the vehicle access to the drive and the speartop pedestrian gate can be locked for security when the station is closed.