• Rail Passenger Charter Licence issued by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR)
  • Vintage Trains Limited formed to operate express steam trains on the UK rail network
  • First ever Train Operating Company to be owned by the public and charitably controlled
  • Public share issue raises over £850,000 – extended with a target of £3 million
  • Led by two rail industry leaders with a proven track record – Adrian Shooter and Cath Bellamy
  • Supports the retention and teaching of heritage engineering skills with associated apprenticeships
  • Engineering Heritage Award presented by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

18/09/2018 – Tyseley, Birmingham

Vintage Trains Limited today announced the granting of its passenger charter licence by the Office of Rail and Road, becoming becomes the first ever 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, offering both young and old the never forgotten experience of riding behind an express steam locomotive at speed.

‘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.

Extended CBS share issue

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 facilities at the 47 year-old Tyseley engineering workshops and to provide the skills training and apprentice programmes that will help deliver the enjoyment of steam for years and generations to come.

To enable this additional work programme to be completed, the successful CBS share issue has been extended until 31st December 2018 with the target of raising an additional £2.2 million through the public and corporate purchase of shares to develop VTL’s operating base.  Michael Whitehouse is confident of the demand for steam operations, adding: ‘The romance of steam hauled travel is in high demand from the public and we know that businesses are looking for innovative opportunities for corporate hospitality so we believe that a managed and above all, accessible programme to appealing destinations in Pullman comfort will have wide appeal’.

Highly skilled leadership team

Vintage Trains Limited is led two rail industry stalwarts 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 element

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 the skills required to maintain it. Over decades Tyseley has collected a variety of machine tools large and small that enable its venerable steam and carriage fleet to be overhauled and maintained in the way that they were built. Unlike modern digitally controlled machines, programmed by computer, these machine tools must be operated by keen eye and deft hand. Old-fashioned as this might seem, the demand for these base engineering skills is growing. To house this equipment and importantly, train and grow the young people that will use it, VTL will build a new machine shop and create an apprentice training programme.

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.

The Vintage Trains locomotive and carriage fleet

The Vintage Trains mainline locomotive fleet 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 backbone of VTL 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. As a national TV star, Eagle will form the centre piece of VTL’s passenger fleet.