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The Severn Valley Railway was in the transport business as a through route for 101 years, from 1862 until 1963. Today's Severn Valley Railway Company is principally in the leisure business and began operations in 1970 from Bridgnorth to Hampton Loade, extending services southwards to Bewdley in 1974, then to Kidderminster in 1984.
The Severn Valley line was built between 1858 and 1862, and linked Hartlebury,near Droitwich, with Shrewsbury, a distance of 40 miles. The important intermediate stations were Stourport-on-Severn, Bewdley, Arley, Highley, Hampton Loade, Bridgnorth, Coalport, Ironbridge, Buildwas, Cressage and Berrington. The original Severn Valley Railway, which borrowed locos and stock, was absorbed into the GWR in the 1870's, and in 1878 a link line was constructed from Bewdley to Kidderminster. This enabled trains to run direct from the West Midlands industrial area, although most Kidderminster to Bewdley trains continued through via the Wyre Forest line to Tenbury Wells or Woofferton. At Buildwas Junction. Severn Valley trains connected with services from Wellington to Much Wenlock and Craven Arms. The Severn Valley line - though providing an essential service for the development of the district - was never financially successful, and during Great Western days the pattern of services remained similar, with usually four passenger trains per day in each direction over the whole of the line, and a few more on the section south of Bridgnorth. Freight traffic, mostly of an agricultural nature, and coal traffic from the Highley area, were the principle sources of revenue. The advent of the motor lorry in the 1930's spelt disaster for freight, though the line was strategically useful in the Second World War.
After nationalisation in 1948, passenger traffic started to dwindle, largely as a result of the family motor car. Certain economies were effected in the British Railway's era, firstly with the introduction of single-unit diesel railcars, and later with diesel multiple units on some of the services, though certain steam-hauled trains survived to the end. The line was closed to through passenger and freight services under the 'Beeching Axe' in 1963 and the track north of Bridgnorth was dismantled. A few passenger services continued to link Bewdley with Kidderminster and Hartlebury, and coal traffic survived south of Alveley Colliery, though these activities were discontinued in 1969 and 1970 respectively. That might have spelt the end for the Severn Valley Railway, but for the arrival of the preservationists...
Severn Valley line preservation dates from 1965, when a group of railway enthusiasts formed the Severn Valley Railway Society at Kidderminster. Initial efforts succeeded in raising 25 per cent of £25,000 purchase price for the closed 5-mile section of the Severn Valley line from Bridgnorth to Alveley. By 1967, the first rolling stock, an engine and four coaches, had been received. The next three years were spent in restoring the line to operating condition, and obtaining the legal authority, a Light Railway Order, from the Department of Environment, gained only after experiencing considerable difficulties. The section from Bridgnorth to Hampton Loade was opened for public passenger services in May 1970 and the remainder of the purchase price was paid shortly afterwards.
Following the closure of Alveley Colliery in 1969, and cessation of Bewdley passenger services in 1970, a campaign was mounted to raise a further £110,000. £74,000 was spent on purchasing the railway from Alveley through Bewdley to Foley Park, near Kidderminster, where an end-on connection was made with British Railways. Spearheaded by the late Sir Gerald Nabarro MP, the fund raising was successful, and after a huge effort by the Severn Valley Railway's engineering volunteers, the line was reopened, at first to Highley in April 1974, and one month later to Bewdley.