Services resume after winter works at GWSR

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway has welcomed back travellers over its 14-mile Cotswold line between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway.

Bridge 8 (B4632 between Toddington and Broadway) supported from underneath while repair work is undertaken, February 2022. John Balderstone

Today’s reopening for the 2022 season was a week later than originally planned, as a number of significant winter engineering works were being completed.

Trains will be running every weekend and most weekdays until the end of October with the Santa Special season beginning at the end of November.  The railway is also planning a wide range of events – however, it has decided to cancel the popular War in the Cotswolds, scheduled for April 23-24, given the crisis in Ukraine. The line is one of several that has made this decision.

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Richard Johnson, the voluntary chairman of GWSR Plc, said in an announcement to volunteers: “The event was intended to be a joyful weekend and that conflicts deeply with what we now see happening. To continue would send completely the wrong message to our potential visitors and the wider public. For the same reason, we have also decided that the schools’ Evacuation Days should be suspended.”

The first trains of the year are to the steam purple timetable, with the first departure from Cheltenham Racecourse to Broadway at 10.00 and the first departure from Broadway at 11.15.  The first trains from Toddington are to Cheltenham at 10.15 and to Broadway 10.38.  The blue timetable (same train times) operates on Sunday, offering a combination of steam and diesel-railcar operation.

Significant engineering works completed include:

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  • Permanent repair by contractors of a cutting slip at Winchcombe which involved the use of a 200-tonne crane and installation of steel piles, following the collapse of the cutting over the winter of 2019/20. This brought part of the back gardens of new properties down towards the track. Temporary repair prevented further erosion but the permanent repair has just been completed.
  • Contract repair of Bridge 8, which carries the B4632 Broadway Road over the railway near Stanton. This steel bridge has suffered long-term corrosion following damage caused to the waterproof membrane beneath the road service, believed to have been caused when water and/or gas mains were laid more than 50 years ago. The repair cost was partly met by an appeal launched in November by the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Trust which raised £200,000 towards the cost of the work in less than four weeks.
  • Extension of the canopy at Broadway station to provide an airy, covered area between the station building and the new footbridge. The design closely follows the design of a similar structure that formed part of the original station building which was demolished in 1963. This work has been carried out entirely by volunteers to an impressively high standard.
  • Installing new pointwork at both Toddington and Cheltenham Racecourse stations.
  • Ballasting and tamping of the entire line following the pointwork repairs and maintenance of the track elsewhere, to ensure a safe and smooth ride for trains over the year ahead.
  • Demolition of the former Toddington garden centre ahead of construction of a new visitor centre and providing improved facilities and parking at Toddington station in due course.
  • Improving drainage including 73 structures that carries water under (or over) the railway from the Cotswolds to the rivers Avon and Severn, timed to avoid bird-nesting season. 

During the winter break, the fleet of steam and heritage diesel locomotives based at Toddington engineering works have undergone maintenance and repair, while all of the line’s coaches have been inspected and repaired at Winchcombe carriage works as necessary. One fully-restored coach has been adapted to provide additional accommodation for disabled visitors while another has been repainted.

Mr Johnson added: “It is astonishing how much has been achieved since Christmas to enable the railway to reopen for the 2022 season. I think that in terms of engineering work to the running line and stations, this has been one of our busiest-ever winters. Not only has it involved some serious civil engineering and bridge works as well as ensuring that our track meets the highest possible standards for the safe operation of our trains; but maintenance of our stations, signalling and gardens, too.

“Our railway depends on about 900 volunteers.  They don’t just put their feet up during the winter break – they muscle in and devote a huge amount of effort to ensure that the railway is in the best possible shape for re-opening. It is an enormous tribute to them and to those pioneers who started the long process of restoring this wonderful railway that we have the line we love and enjoy today!”

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