SEVERN Valley Railway's 'Operation Christmas' is launching in Kidderminster next weekend, marking the return of the sell-out Santa Steam Special service.

More than 35,000 people are expected to visit the historic railway this December, when the Carol Train, the Christmas Cracker Express and the ever-popular Christmas Eve Santa Sleigh Express steam into town to get passengers in the festive spirit for the 23rd year running.

Staff and volunteers at Severn Valley are working tirelessly to prepare for the first Santa Steam Special service, which will take rail users on a thrilling seven-mile journey to see Santa in his Arley grotto on Saturday, December 1.

Throughout the month, the railway team will be running 100 train services, roasting half a tonne of chestnuts and putting up 23km of fairy lights at Kidderminster, Arley and Bewdley stations.

Overseeing the preparations over the last 10 months is Diane Malyon, otherwise known as Mrs Christmas by her railway colleagues.

She told The Shuttle: "Our busiest time of year, Christmas at the SVR is a huge logistical operation, involving teams from all across the railway, who do everything from roasting chestnuts to looking after buggies.

"Though hundreds of man-hours are clocked up by our volunteers each Christmas, they all do it because they love it.

"This year, Christmas Eve at the SVR will be extra-special, with our Santa Sleigh Express services running all day, and I am sure that, as the sun sets and the last service of the day steams out of Kidderminster, hauling carriages full of smiling faces, we’ll know that all the hard work has been worth it.”

Severn Valley was forced to cancel a Santa Special service last year, after heavy snowfall left Wyre Forest's stations under 10 inches of snow and Arley Station without power.

Diane added: "We have extra teams on standby this year, with plenty of de-icer to keep the points working along the line, lots of salt and grit and local volunteers on-hand to stay overnight and clear platforms if needed – so we are well-prepared."

Tickets are already selling fast for this year's special services, but there are still seats left for December 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16 and 22.

Prices start from £15 per person and include a steam train ride to meet Santa, a gift for each fare-paying child and a return journey to Kidderminster, with the option to stop-off and explore Bewdley on the way.

Visitors are encouraged to book well in advance before services sell out. For more information or to book, visit or call 01562 757900.