SEVERN Valley Railway’s new and highly-anticipated Kidderminster diesel depot has earned the railway one of the most prestigious heritage rail industry awards.

Judges for the Heritage Railway Association were unanimous in awarding the top prize in the modern traction category to the SVR for its ‘major contribution to modern traction preservation’ following the official opening on the 1000m2 diesel locomotive maintenance depot in May last year.

The depot features two inspection pits, lifting jacks and a ten-tonne overhead travelling crane to preserve the railway’s 20 diesel locomotives, all of which are than 50-years-old, with three even older than the railway’s newest steam locomotives.

The facility, which can house up to eight locomotives at any one time, allows volunteers, who had previously had to carry out maintenance of SVR’s diesel stock in all weathers to work under cover for the first time.

Nick Ralls, the SVR’s general manager, said: “We are delighted that our £800,000 investment in creating the best-equipped diesel maintenance facility in the UK heritage railway movement has been recognised by the industry.

“Although we are best known for our steam trains, our diesel units are fundamental to the railway’s fleet, operating around 10 per cent of the line’s passenger services and we are proud owners of a particularly notable collection of diesels.

“Public interest in heritage diesel trains is growing to such an extent that our annual diesel gala attendance figures were more than 50 per cent higher in 2016 than in previous years, testament to the fact that diesel locomotives are as much part of Britain’s industrial heritage as the steam locomotives they replaced.

“This award is the icing on the cake for the team behind the diesel depot who have worked for nearly 20 years to make this happen.

“From Jonathan Dunster, chairman of the SVR diesel committee and all the resident diesel groups who have worked so hard to help fundraise, to the very many financial contributors and not least the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust which continues to raise funds in support of this, and many other on-going railway projects.”

Paul Bickerdyke, editor of Rail Express, added: “I am very pleased to see the SVR win as it is thoroughly deserved.

“The Kidderminster depot is a top-class facility – one that would be the envy of many a main line operator.”

Representatives from the SVR will officially receive the award at the Heritage Railway Association’s annual dinner on February 11.