A glimpse of the future for rural rail?
Revolution VLR
© Geoff’s Rail Diaries 2021
Geoff’s Rail Diaries
24 March 2022
After a close inspection and much explanation, we’re on board again to retrace our journey. We’re ready for more refreshments, and further explanation of the aims, hopes, possibilities and technicalities of ‘Very Light Rail’. It feels as though we’ve been here a matter of minutes, but two hours have passed on this fine sunny afternoon, and we must leave, filled with optimism about the possibilities for our minor railways and possible reopenings (there are two or three within Shropshire - who knows where this may lead?). Our sincere thanks go to Eversholt Rail and Revolution VLR for giving us this opportunity to glimpse what may be a new start for light rail. Links: Revolution VLR official website Shropshire Railway Society Shropshire has an involvement in railway history which goes back to 1605: it is known that a primitive wooden railway was used that year to take coal from a local pit down to the Severn, perhaps a couple of miles from where we are today. Almost 200 years later, in 1802, a locomotive was built at Coalbrookdale (maybe a mile away) to the design of Richard Trevithick. Did it ever work successfully? - his 1804 loco which ran on the Penydarren tramway is generally accepted as the world’s first railway locomotive. However, around 30 years ago, apprentices at GKN in Hadley built a working replica of the 1802 machine. It was demonstrated in the mid-1990s on plateway rails laid between the metal of the very same oil siding (see below - yes, that’s the same bridge in the background) and now resides at Blists Hill.
A Shropshire Railway Society visit with a difference: “Our mission is to help to facilitate the cost effective growth of the UK railway system, particularly through the use of line extensions and re-openings” - so say Revolution VLR, who have developed a prototype ‘Very Light Rail’ vehicle to test the concept, allying lightweight construction methods and materials with hybrid diesel-electric propulsion (and the possibility of battery-only with a suitable recharging system) … … and they’ve brought the vehicle to the site of the former Ironbridge power station in Shropshire (just down the road from the Rail Diaries head office). The power station has gone, its demolition more-or-less complete. All that remains on the site is the 400 kV switchgear house (which remains in use) - and the railway tracks which used to deliver the power station’s fuel. Our visit begins at the purpose-built demonstration facility, beside the former oil siding. After refreshments and a brief introduction to the project, we’re ready to go - the vehicle (I’m not sure what to call it - ‘railcar’ seems inadequate) arrives at the platform and we’re boarding, for a very smooth and quiet ride in the spacious, airy carriage to the storage and maintenance depot. Its location is very close to the site of the coal discharge facility - which in turn was built on the site of the former Buildwas Junction station. That station vanished when the power station was built, almost immediately after the Severn Valley line closed in 1963.
Arrival Boarding Spacious and airy Driver's eye At the depot A new beginning? Revolution VLR 1802... (May 1996)