THE general manager of the Severn Valley Railway is leaving the company after 12 years.

Nick Ralls is stepping down later this year to join the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust as chief executive.

Among his many achievements as general manager, Nick played an important role in bringing the Flying Scotsman to the SVR in 2016 and also oversaw a major restoration project following the floods of 2007.

SVR chairman Nick Paul said: "I would like to express my personal thanks and thanks from my fellow board directors for all the good work that Nick has done to develop our railway over the years, putting it into the strong position that it enjoys today.

“Nick joined us almost 12 years ago, when the railway was reeling from extensive damage and widespread landslips caused by the torrential floods of summer 2007.

"He did a tremendous job in overseeing the huge rebuilding and restoration operation that enabled the SVR to re-open early the following year.

"Our success in overcoming the storm damage attracted a number of awards, including the Heart of England tourist board’s Best Tourism Experience of the Year.

“During Nick’s tenure as general manager, the SVR has gone from strength to strength. We’ve opened The Engine House Visitor Centre at Highley, a state-of-the-art diesel maintenance depot at Kidderminster, and have greatly enhanced our visitor facilities at Bridgnorth with a refreshment room in authentic GWR period style along with much improved parking provision.

"Recognising the need to future-proof our skills base, we established our pioneering Heritage Skills Training Academy to develop and nurture young heritage engineering talent."

He added: "The role at Ironbridge Gorge Museums is a significant opportunity for Nick to return to the museum sector which he left to join us more than a decade ago.

"We wish him all the very best for his future there.”

Although Nick is leaving paid employment at the railway, he intends to carry on his volunteering role as a guard.

"The SVR has been a large part of my life for 12 wonderful years," he said. "You cannot help but love the place, the people and the atmosphere.

"I have enjoyed working with all staff and in particular the volunteers who provide the magic of the SVR.

"I’ve been part of this very special place for a long time and I hope my successor will enjoy it as much as I have.”

Severn Valley Railway will soon begin the process to recruit a replacement general manager.