Focus on Severn Lamb
With the loss of some of the UK’s biggest names in recent years, the recession has really hit the UK hard. It is difficult to find a reason to be cheerful, and it takes a lot to take chances, but then Severn Lamb is a company which isn’t afraid to go against the grain, it’s a company which leads, and because of this, it is in a strong position in the world wide leisure industry. With the help of Severn Lamb and a number of Theme Parks, we go behind the scenes of this successful company to see their rich history and see how they are able to supply some of the best people moving rides currently available.
Theme Parks have to transport people from one area to another, they need a system which fits in with their park, looks aesthetically pleasing, is economical to operate and has minimal down time. We have a company here in the UK which can meet these needs, a family run business who can boast prestigious customers such as Merlin Entertainments, Heritage GB, Universal Studios and even Disney.
Based in Warwickshire, Severn Lamb was established just after the Second World War. Peter Severn Lamb was managing his parent’s hotel, The Fold, in Stratford on Avon and, like most of us, had a hobby, and his hobby was model making. Learning the skills to build model locomotives and static steam engines he created a small workshop in a garage behind the hotel.
Peter started to advertise his skills as a model maker, testing the waters to see if he could make a career out of his passion. Things were slow to begin with, but did manage to obtain a handful of orders for locomotives.
He was building locomotives with a 3 ½ inch gauge until securing an order to build static precision models of industrial installations.
The Severn Lamb name was slowly starting to spread, and Peter wasn’t afraid to tackle anything, he started to make a name for himself by the fact that he would tackle anything, if you wanted a precision model, Severn Lamb was the contact you wanted.
As orders began to increase he took over additional garages at the rear of the Fold Hotel, and eventually employed his first two employees in 1954. It quickly became apparent that a purpose built facility would be needed and a new factory was built on Western Road, Stratford on Avon which they moved into in 1958.
This original factory no longer exists, long since demolished to make way for car dealerships and repair centres, but here the company started to really make strides forwards, gaining 36 orders from the Smithsonian after impressing with a model of a steam engine used to power New York’s Subway system.
During the 1960’s David Curwen (1914-2011) started to design larger gauge trains for Severn Lamb, enabling the company to build larger gauge locomotives and enter a larger market, the leisure industry, and it is here where T-Park’s interest is sparked.
Let’s just pause a little right here. Let me explain a little why we are writing an article about Severn Lamb and not the Intamin’s or Bolliger and Mabillards of the world. Miniature railways and transport systems have been an interest of ours for some years.
Ever since riding my first miniature locomotive at Cleethorpes, I knew I wanted to learn how the machines worked, I was impressed at the way the trains moved, snaking down the rails, they had something about them. Once I could link that to my true passion of Theme Parks, I knew I wanted to research this more.
A large theme park or resort needs a transport system, it is essential to get visitors from one place to another quickly and safely. If you take a look at some of the transport systems around, the Monorail at Alton Towers designed to take visitors from the car park to park entrance, the Walt Disney World Monorail system which ferries visitors between multiple parks and hotels and the smaller park railway which takes people from one area of the park to another, they all do a thankless task, people overlook them, for their favourite roller coaster, but take a moment just to appreciate this 10 minutes of peace where you can just sit and watch the theme park go by.
When talking with Severn Lamb , T-Park has discovered that the company is very proud to be British, saying that ‘Brand Britain still means something’.
It is in these discussions that it became apparent that Severn Lamb are responsible for more than simply locomotives, we were certainly surprised to see the sheer amount of background work they do for other operators .
The first few years producing the larger gauge trains saw customers such as Longleat and Drayton Manor. From these beginnings, Severn Lamb gained a healthy order book with new parks such as American Adventure.
In 1972 Severn Lamb exported its first locomotive, sending one to Bermuda, and the following years saw 90% of the companies output exported, and Severn Lamb were well and truly on the world stage.
In 1975, Peter Severn Lamb died, but his son, Michael became chairman and continued to steer the company forwards, which he did so successfully until 2008 when Patrick Severn Lamb took the reins. Sadly Michael died in February 2012.
In 1980 a fire destroyed the Severn Lamb factory, but with true British grit, they rebuilt and carried on where they left off and the trains just kept getting bigger and bigger, with many locomotives heading out of the UK, the company was aiming high, and hitting the right note every single time.
By the mid to late 1980’s, Severn Lamb’s offerings were vast; the company had come a long way in only 30 years. Many locomotives were in use around the UK and around the world, but the company kept true to its beginnings by offering a very unique experience with custom builds still being taken on. In 1989 Oakwood Theme Park in Pembrokshire ordered two locos for the new dark ride Nutty Jack ride, which are still operating today.
You know you are a major player in the Theme Park industry when Disney want to buy from you, and in the early 1990’s that’s exactly what happened. Between 1993 and 2004 Severn Lamb built seven locomotives and 24 coaches for Disney parks including Disneyland Resort Paris, Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida and the most famous of the Disney trains running around the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.
At the same time, the Tussauds Group who were building Port Aventura in Spain bought two of the largest locomotives ever to come out of the Severn Lamb factory.
Today Severn Lamb continue to be very successful with a product range including Light Urban Transport systems, Trains from 15″ to 4’8 gauge, Funiculars, Road Trains, Custom Period Vehicles, including work on some of the Disney Main Street vehicles, Boats and amphibious vehicles, Monorails, Safari Adventure Trucks, including one of the originals Rhino Rally USA at Busch Gardens Tampa where Severn Lamb teamed up with Vekoma and on top of all this they will take on and maintain other manufacturers vehicles.
Recently Severn-Lamb have produced some truly unique installations, including some you may be surprised about. Work for Disney have seen a lot of installations at Disneyland Resort Paris in the form of a fake breaking window for the Lights, Motors, Action! Stunt Show, a Singing in the Rain lamp post where visitors can pose for their photos, and the mechanism behind the sliding tanker at Catastrophe Canyon.
I think you will agree it is surprising and somewhat encouraging for British manufacturing to find such a company which has made such a success, one which is in demand and seemingly one where the sky is the limit!
Below is a list of just some of the items Severn Lamb has produced, I think it is safe to say, whether you are a hardened thrill seeker or family out for a relaxing day, you have ridden something which Severn Lamb has had a hand in.
- 1971 – 10 1/4 gauge Locomotive DDC SL 1971 worked at Drayton Manor until 2008
- 1976 – SL R9 1976 built for Lambton Pleasure Park, moved to Flamingo Land in 1986 and later to Oakwood in 1991 getting a refurbishment in 1998
- 1979 – 15″ gauge Rio Grande installed at Lightwater Valley, refurbished in 1987 and still going strong today
- 1988 – SL 76.3.88 15″ gauge delivered to American Adventure, now in operation at Twinlakes Park
- 1989 – SL 139/1.2.89 and SL 139 2.1.89 two locomotives and carriages installed Thorpe Park
- 1992 – SL 495.10.92 exhibited at IAAPA in Dallas, Texas before being delivered to Pleasure Island Cleethorpes, still in operation today
- 1993 – 36″ gauge locomotive for Disneyland Resort Paris
- 1993 – 18″ gauge chassis made by Ultra Technic bodied at Severn Lamb for Sundown Adventureland
- 1994 – Two 3ft gauge locomotive for Port Aventura, Spain
- 1995 – SL 663.12.95 supplied to LegoLand Windsor with custom Lego themed body
- 1999 – Three 36″ gauge locomotive for Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- 2003 – SL 2151-3-2003 supplied to Drayton Manor as Polperro Express
- 2004 – 36″ gauge locomotive for Disneyland Hong Kong
All this, and still having time for large other projects – we are watching Severn Lamb with interest, and with links to Merlin Entertainments, Chessington World of Adventures, Thorpe Park, LegoLand Windsor, Disneyland Resort Paris and other huge names in the entertainment industry I think that there are many exciting things to come out of the factory doors.
Other Products by Severn Lamb
Severn Lamb still boasts a large catalogue of products, and serves many industries. Other products in the Theme Park sector include the SL Mini Mover, an electric people mover with prices starting from £13,000, the Piaggio mobile vending and marketing station and the Adventure Truck launched in 2012 which is gaining much interest from parks around the world.
Severn Lamb also help parks and other installations around the world providing services including, servicing, maintenance, refurbishments, installations, condition surveys, repairs, project management and design work.
Away from the Theme Park sector, Severn Lamb provides many products including Light Urban Transport, Trackless Land Trains, Monorails, and Track, turntable and signal installations.
For more information about Severn Lamb please see their website at www.severn-lamb.com/