STORIES FROM THE EARLY DAYS
WELCOME TO THE FALLING SANDS VIADUCT
ORAL HISTORY PAGE
As part of the Falling Sands Viaduct restoration project, we have been busy collecting stories from original founders and volunteers and of the Severn Valley Railway. In time, these fascinating recordings will be archived in full at the Engine House. Alternatively, you can listen to some extracts of the recordings on this page.
Our oral history collection is growing fast, and we are finding new ways to share some of the wonderful stories with you. Why not try out our pilot podcast? We hope this will be the first in a series of podcasts on the early days of the Severn Valley Railway. Please share some of your own memories in the comments below!
Bridgnorth on Sunday 7th May 1967. Loco 3205 had been 'with us' six weeks, and 46443 two weeks. The volunteers in the picture (from left to right): Bob Pitman, Alan Eatwell, Jim McNally, Richard Willcox, Jim Maxwell, Geoff Such, Barry Hill, John Hill and Gerry Carter. Photo credit; David C. Williams
OUR FIRST ORAL HISTORY PODCAST!
We've been trying to think up ways to share the fascinating stories we've been recording with the early SVR volunteers and have decided to create a podcast. Click on the play button below to be taken back to 1965 and introduced to some amazing people who simply weren't prepared to sit by and watch the railways they loved being closed and dismantled.
Sound effects and music courtesy of: https://www.zapsplat.com
'We had a meeting in a chap's house and we invited the press' Keith Beddoes
You'll hear from Keith Beddoes, responsible for organising the first meeting of the 'Severn Valley Railway Society', as it was known then, and from Columb Howell, who attended the meeting in the Cooper's Arms and is still volunteering 55 years later. You'll discover how a small but dedicated group of volunteers formed work parties, and cleared the line between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade. Among the volunteers were Steve Poole, David Williams and John Hill, all still involved in the SVR today. And you'll hear about the first SVR fundraising events and open day at Bridgnorth Station, which despite the rain, was a resounding success.
'It could have fallen flat but it didn't.' John Hill
We would love to hear what you think of our first podcast, put together with the help of our oral history trainer, Julia Letts. If you like what you hear, and enjoy listening to our recordings in this way, let us know and we'll get started on episode 2!
An early working party at Bridgnorth. Photograph courtesy: Keith Beddoes
COLLECTING THE INTERVIEWS
The first challenge was finding volunteers who were interested in learning how to record oral history interviews. Although it sounds fairly simple, there's actually a lot to take on board. For example, there's the skill of getting someone to relax, talk freely and remember things in detail from more than 50 years ago! You also need to know how to get a good quality recording using a small digital recorder and have a clear idea of all the ethical and legal considerations when recording people's personal memories for the public domain.
We found six fantastic volunteers who came along to several training courses with Julia Letts from the Oral History Society. The group were also given a fascinating talk on the railway's early days by SVR archivist Peter Darkin. The volunteers then did some practice interviews, before venturing out to record with some of the founding members of the Severn Valley Railway.
The next stage was to listen back to each recording and summarise its content. This is an essential part of the process: we obviously needed to know what people are talking about and where in the recording they mention certain things. As the collection grew, themes began to emerge, and we started to get a bigger picture of what happened in the early days of the railway. These recordings are personal and precious, and it was a privilege to make them.
The trolley in action between Bridgnorth and Hampton Loade. Photograph courtesy: Keith Beddoes
CHARLIE'S ORAL HISTORY STORY
One of our oral history volunteers, Charlie, shares her experience of learning how to interview someone for an oral history recording, the challenges and perks of conducting oral histories.
I loved the idea of doing oral history interviews and jumped at the chance to be part of this project. I thought it would be easy, how hard is it to interview and chat to someone? However, when I came to oral history training last October, I was surprised to see how much you had to know and think about during the interview. We learnt a lot from Julia about the techniques used to make the interviewee relax and the types of questions we should ask. It was actually really scary doing a practice interview on my mum!
I had the privilege of interviewing Paul Fathers, one of the first volunteers on the Severn Valley Railway. I started the process in December by introducing myself to Paul over the phone and found out a little bit about Paul's volunteering experience on the SVR. Before the interview, I went away and did some research to think of some questions to ask him. On the day of the interview I was incredibly nervous. After meeting Paul, we set up the equipment and just as we started the recording, the doorbell rang!
It was a fascinating experience listening to Paul's memories and his wealth of knowledge. Although we were very tired by the end of the interview as it was over 2 hours long. I had a wonderful time doing my first oral history interview and can't wait to do another one soon!
A work party on the line to Bridgnorth, 1965. Photograph courtesy: Keith Beddoes
HOW YOU CAN HELP!
Do you have any photos from the early days of the Severn Valley Railway that you are happy to share with us?
We know there were lots taken but we don't have very many in our archive. Please have a look through your old albums. We are particularly in photos of the early working parties, fundraising events, open days and volunteers at work. It doesn't matter how mundane your snaps are, they could be very interesting to our archivists!
When possible, we plan to continue recording oral history interviews. If you are interested in joining the volunteer group or want to suggest someone that we should interview, please get in touch by emailing Laura.Hines@svrtrust.org.uk