Vintage Trains Limited has announced the granting of its passenger charter licence by the Office of Rail and Road. It is the UK’s first and only Train Operating Company to be owned by the public and charitably controlled.
The start of an exciting journey
On Friday 1st June 2018, the history of the Great Western Railway steam depot at Tyseley in Birmingham reached a significant milestone. The Vintage Trains Community Benefit Society share offer had raised over £850,000, enabling Vintage Trains Limited (VTL) to be launched. Securing its passenger operating licence means that VTL can now start running steam hauled, Pullman dining trains on the UK mainline rail network.
‘The successful share issue that has enabled our TOC status is the start of a very exciting journey to develop Tyseley into a global centre of excellence in the running and ongoing preservation of steam on the main line and in turn, maintain the heritage skills required to do so. And of course our very first engine returns from overhaul to lead the charge – 7029 Clun Castle.’ said Michael Whitehouse, Chairman of Vintage Trains Community Benefit Society
Tyseley to have a new Engine Shed
VTL’s business plan includes the renovation and upgrading to new regulatory standards of its operational fleet of carriages, the erection of a new engine shed to house the steam locomotive fleet, upgrading the engineering workshops at Tyseley and provide skills training and apprentice programmes.
To enable this additional work to be completed, the CBS share issue has been extended until 31st December 2018 with the target of raising an additional £2.2 million.
Highly skilled leadership team
Vintage Trains Limited is led two rail industry leaders with a proven track record – Adrian Shooter as chairman and Cath Bellamy as managing director.
Shooter joined British Rail in the 1970s and during the privatisation of British Rail, headed up the M40 Trains management buy-out consortium that would become today’s highly successful Chiltern Railways. He is currently chairman of Vivarail, designers and manufacturers of the ground-breaking Class 230 train running on a variety of eco-efficient power sources.
A former graduate trainee with British Rail, working with Shooter, Bellamy was MD of the Chiltern Railways franchise until 2007, went on to run open access operator Hull Trains and has more recently been supporting the DfT and major industry suppliers in several major transport related projects. As managing director, Bellamy is responsible for the day to day operation of Vintage Trains Limited.
She said, “I am absolutely delighted that we have now been awarded our licence, which represents a major achievement. Without fail, steam travel brings a smile to people’s faces and I really can’t wait to introduce it to new passengers of all ages and backgrounds throughout the country. But we also need to ensure it has a future for many years to come. Vintage Trains intends to lead the field in developing a pipeline of new and younger steam drivers, footplate crew and engineers, supporting training and apprenticeships and building on the award winning record of Tyseley Locomotive Works. Express Steam travel should be the pride of our industry. We intend to step up to the plate in playing our part and call on volunteers, investors and industry partners to help us in that goal.”
The preservation of ‘heritage’ engineering skills
A key focus at Tyseley is keeping skills alive, for the operation of heritage steam hauled passenger trains on the main line will not live beyond the current generation if there is no investment in maintenance skills. Training and apprenticeship programmes will be developed across a wide range of skills with a particular emphasis on the heritage engineering aspects of the locomotives and passenger carriages.
Integration within the West Midlands rail network
Vintage Trains is part of the integrated rail network and already has positive relationships with the Train Operating Companies that serve the West Midlands region. VTL is actively investigating ways of integrating its services and ticketing with the wider network.
I Mech E Engineering Heritage Award
Tyseley Locomotive Works has been presented with its prestigious Engineering Heritage Award by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
Mr Tony Roche, the President of the Institution, said: “2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Tyseley Depot opening its doors to the public for the first time with its incredible display of steam locomotives, so I am delighted to present this award in such a significant year for the Locomotive Works. This plaque recognises both the importance of the engineering and the educational aspect of the steam railway depot, which gives visitors a taste of the thrill of seeing a live steam locomotive.”
Tyseley Locomotive Works is the 121st recipient of the award. Previous winners of Engineering Heritage Awards include Alan Turing’s Bombe at Bletchley Park, the E-Type Jaguar and Concorde supersonic airliner. Some early locomotives that have been recognised by the Institution include Trevithick’s Penydarren Locomotive (1804), which became the first steam engine to run successfully on rails, and Locomotive N°1 (1854), the oldest surviving steam locomotive in Australia which was built by Robert Stephenson & Co.
Tyseley – a brief history
Vintage Trains Limited, occupies part of the former Great Western Railway Tyseley Depot. Constructed in 1908, the depot was located at Tyseley as a result of expanding operations in the West Midlands, particularly the opening of the North Warwickshire line as a new main line from Birmingham to Bristol. By the mid-1950s the depot was home to over 100 steam engines running Birmingham area local passenger and freight services as well as a servicing operation for engines from further afield. Today it is home to an extensive collection of preserved steam engines, from small industrial locomotives to express Great Western Railway ‘Castles’ and ‘Halls’, a variety of visiting locos under overhaul or restoration and even large ex-mainline diesel engines.
Following its acquisition direct from BR service of GWR Castle Class No.7029 Clun Castle in January 1966, the locomotive needed a base close to its central West Midlands supporters’ base. Space was available at Tyseley, on the site of the former GWR depot, so a trust, 7029 Clun Castle Ltd, was formed to ensure that the locomotive could be stabled at the depot.
In October 1968, 7029 Clun Castle Ltd purchased LMS Jubilee Class No.5593 “Kolhapur”. With further locomotives and railway artefacts available as a result of the Beeching Axe, the supporters established themselves as a registered educational charity, to preserve and demonstrate the steam locomotives. Following negotiations they acquired a long-term lease on a large part of the Tyseley site and established the collection which still owns the locomotives and artefacts today.
They cleared buildings and repaired the dilapidated tracks, and two water columns were repaired to allow steam locomotives to stay at the site. In November 1966 Clun Castle was stripped and restored. In 1968 the old coaling stage was converted into a two-road shed with an inspection pit to hold both acquired locomotives. In the same year, Tyseley held its first ‘Open Day’ following the end of steam on BR and its official outright ban from the UK network. It subsequently ran some of the first steam charters that broke the ban in 1971.
In 1999 the group achieved its long-held objective of running a regular steam train service on the national main line railway network: the Shakespeare Express between Birmingham Snow Hill and Stratford-upon-Avon. At this point the trust felt that the term museum was inappropriate for its new status, and henceforth it became Vintage Trains.
Vintage Trains has developed into a professional locomotive overhaul and maintenance site, with significant numbers of other preserved railways and other private operators showing increasing demand for the engineering excellence that it delivers across the heritage railway spectrum and beyond.
The Vintage Trains Limited locomotive and carriage fleet
The Vintage Trains mainline locomotive fleet currently comprises three GWR Castle class locomotives; 7029 Clun Castle, the Tyseley flagship fresh from overhaul; 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, rebuilt from the scrapyard condition and itself approaching light overhaul and 5080 Defiant, waiting patiently in the wings for a complete rebuild, due to start soon. These three locomotives will perform the VTL backbone of express steam on the mainline supported by 4930 Rood Ashton Hall and three ex GWR pannier tank engines, 7752, 7760 and 9600. Privately owned locomotives, 4936 Kinlet Hall and mighty pacific 71000 Duke of Gloucester (both in the process of overhaul) will also soon join the roster, their owners having agreed to base their locomotives at Tyseley.
VTL also owns a fleet of heritage carriage stock, in fact a full train including dining facilities, all maintained within a strict health and safety regime for running at today’s mainline speeds on the national network. This fleet will be upgraded with funding from the extended share issue. Many will have seen the restoration of Pullman car Eagle on Channel 4’s ‘Great Rail Restorations’ with Peter Snow, shown in June and July this year. Eagle will form the centre piece of VTL’s passenger fleet.