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Chronology

article by: Ian Crowder
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This page contains a chronology of key dates from the earliest history of the route between Honeybourne and Cheltenham, to the present day. The line had stations or halts at one time or another at Weston-sub-Edge, Willersey Halt, Broadway, Laverton Halt, Toddington, Hayles Abbey Halt, Winchcombe, Gretton Halt, Gotherington, Bishop's Cleeve, Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham High Street Halt, Cheltenham Spa St. James and Cheltenham Malvern Road.

 

Building the Line

1899 - The Great Western Railway obtains an Act of Parliament permitting construction of a double-track railway between Honeybourne and Cheltenham and doubling of the single-track route from Stratford-upon-Avon to Honeybourne, creating a through route from the Midlands to the South West to compete with the Midland route which survives today.

1902 - Work began on construction of the Honeybourne-Cheltenham line in November.

1903 - Stanway viaduct collapse. Read more here.

1904 - The line opened from Honeybourne to Broadway on 1st August, and to Toddington on 1st December.

1905 - Line extended to Winchcombe (1st February) and Bishops Cleeve (1st June). Laverton Halt opened 14th August.

1906 - Final section to Cheltenham opened to the connection with the line to the original Cheltenham station (later St. James) at Cheltenham Malvern Road East Junction (1st August). The route continued towards Gloucester on the existing GWR line alongside the Midland main line. At this stage, Prestbury Park racecourse was being laid out and Racecourse station was not opened.

From 1906 - Line opened with nine or ten stopping passenger services each way between Cheltenham and Honeybourne on weekdays.

1908 - Cheltenham Malvern Road station opened and the original Cheltenham station was renamed Cheltenham St. James (30th March). Cheltenham High Street Halt opened 1st October.

1910 - First through trains introduced between Wolverhampton and the West Country, which became a lasting feature of timetables. Other destinations included Cardiff, Birmingham, various West Country towns and, for a short time, even Norwich.

1912 - Cheltenham Race Course station opened, seeing both equine and passenger traffic for the first Cheltenham Gold Cup that year. For more information click here.

1917 - Cheltenham High Street and Malvern Road stations closed as a wartime economy measure. High Street never reopened; Malvern Road was reopened in 1919.

1928 - Hayles Abbey Halt (note the spelling of Hayles with a 'y') opened on 24th September to coincide with the opening of a new museum at the abbey.

1930's - Up to 12 summer Saturday expresses used the line in each direction as well as local passenger and freight traffic.

1941 - Gotherington closed to goods traffic and reduced to 'Halt' status on 1st January.

1948 - Great Western Railway was absorbed by British Railways on nationalisation.

1949 - Gotherington signal box closed.

1950 - Weston-sub-Edge station closed to goods traffic (25th September) and signal box closed (8th October).

1952 - The Wolverhampton-Penzance express was named 'The Cornishman'. The line was heavily used throughout the 1950's, including much summer holiday traffic to the West Country.

Declining years

1955 - Gotherington station closed (13th June).

1960 - Local passenger services between Cheltenham and Honeybourne ended on 7th March with closure of intermediate stations north of Cheltenham Racecourse. Broadway signal box closed (10th October).

1962 - Last 'Cornishman' express ran over the route on 7th September; this and other express trains were re-routed via the Birmingham - Gloucester line.

1963 - Bishops Cleeve closed to goods traffic (1st July). Last steam-hauled race train ran, hauled by 'Castle' class locomotive Clun Castle (14th March).

1964 - Cheltenham Racecourse signal box closed (9th February). Goods traffic withdrawn from Broadway (1st June) and Winchcombe (2nd November).

1965 - Signal boxes closed at Winchcombe (24th February) and Bishops Cleeve (11th July). Most through freight traffic was re-routed from 8th November. Last steam-hauled trains ran over the line.

1966 - Cheltenham St James and Malvern Road stations and all remaining stations north of Honeybourne Junction closed (3rd January).

1967 - Toddington was the last station yard to remain open for goods traffic (it was important for fruit traffic from the Vale of Evesham), closing on 2nd January.

1968 - Last timetable through passenger train, Leamington Spa to Gloucester, ceased from 23rd march. Cheltenham Racecourse station, which had remained open for race trains, was officially closed on 25th March, but was reopened in 1971 for occasional race traffic until 1976.

1969 - Through passenger trains ceased using the northern (Stratford - Honeybourne) section with withdrawal of the Stratford - Worcester service on 5th May.

1970's - Line used only as a diversionary route; much of the infrastructure, including stations, demolished.

1976 - Last visit by a race train to Cheltenham Gold Cup , 14th March, hauled by a Brush Type 4 (Class 47) diesel. Freight traffic came to an abrupt end with derailment of a Toton to Severn Tunnel Junction coal train at Winchcombe, close to the B4632 bridge, causing considerable damage to the track. The line never reopened. It was officially closed on 1st November. 

1979 - From July, the track was lifted. 

Revival

1976 - Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Society formed at public meeting at Willersey Village Hall on 18th August with aim to persuade BR to retain line.

1977 - Society became Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Trust on 28th October, seeking to preserve the line.

1981 - A lease was taken out on part of Toddington yard. On 30th May, the first items of rolling stock arrived for restoration. Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway Plc was formed in August. Track laying began.

1983 - The Department of Transport granted a 'Light Railway Order' - permitting the Company to relay the line between Broadway and Cheltenham.

1984 - Purchase of 15 miles of track bed, associated land and remaining buildings completed on 24th February. Line reopened on 22nd April by Rt. Hon Nicholas Ridley, MP and public services commenced over 700 yards of track.

Restoration of public services

From 1984 - Volunteers have, since 1984, steadily restored the line, building signal boxes, station buildings and replacing lost signalling and other infrastructure, working south from Toddington towards Cheltenham Race Course.

1985 - 2,000 yards of track laid to Didbrook.

1986 - Trains run as far as Hayles Abbey, approx 1.5 miles.

1987 - Line reaches Winchcombe - first steam train for 28 years arriving on 8th March. Winchcombe station officially opened by John Slatter, Chairman of Winchcombe Council. Re-construction of the former Monmouth Troy station building started at Winchcombe. The former Hall Green, Birmingham, signalbox had been re-built at Wichcombe and became operational (there were no buildings remaining at Winchcombe, except for the Weigh Bridge and the goods shed which is now the base for restoration of carriages and wagons). Track laid through Greet Tunnel (693 yards long).

1990 - Line reopened as far as Gretton (4.25 miles from Toddington).

1994 - Line reopened as far as Far Stanley (5 miles)

1997 - Line reopened as far as Gotherington (6.5 miles).

1998 - Track was laid in Cheltenham Racecourse station and a Press Launch inaugurated by Laurence Robertson MP to promote the share issue.

1999 - Railtrack express an interest in using the route as a possible diversionary route because of increasing congestion on the former Midland line between Gloucester and Birmingham. Station canopy at Winchcombe completed. Work starts on relaying track on the southern extension.

2000 - On 28th December, the track was laid as far as Cheltenham Racecourse, an '03' class diesel shunter pulling the first works train in to the station, 10 miles from Toddington. However, at this stage the line needed to be ballasted and finished and was not operational. The Cheltenham extension incorporates a section of continuously welded rail through Woodmancote, to minimise disturbance for local residents from passing trains.

2001 - On 20th February, a press day was held to celebrate completion of the track laying an to promote the effort and funding required to complete work on the reinstated line, before passenger trains can run again. Hunslet 0-6-0ST shunting locomotive 'King George' becomes the first steam locomotive to travel to the Racecourse for over 30 years. Good progress made towards completion of the trackwork. Major ballasting exercise carried out during December.

2002 - Work started towards building a new platform building at Cheltenham Racecourse. During April/May, Balfour Beatty Rail Plant Limited send a tamping machine to the line as part of a training programme for their technical staff, finishing the Cheltenham extension to the highest possible standards of safety. Final ballasting also completed as part of this programme - in all, some 8,000 tonnes of stone ballast has been used on the three-mile extension. Deal signed with Racing Tours Limited to run special race trains to Cheltenham Racecourse from the Cheltenham Festival in March 2003. On 17th November, first rake of passenger coaches reaches Cheltenham Racecourse station since 1971, launching 2003 race trains. First track laid northwards from Toddington towards Broadway, to a point just short of Stanway viaduct (currently used for stock storage).

2003 - Racing Tours Limited, in conjunction with the GWR, run race trains for the 2003 Cheltenham Gold Cup - allowing race goers to once again travel 'by rail to the races'. HRH The Princess Royal opens Cheltenham Racecourse station on 7th April. First public trains run on 12th April, using visiting Schools class locomotive Cheltenham. GWR wins Ian Allan Independent Railway of the Year Award, and the Heritage Railway Association's Annual Award. Believed to be the first time both awards have been won by the same railway for the same year. New website launched: www.gwsr.com.

2004 - GWR's season ends on 1st January having carried nearly 46,000 passengers - a 25% increase on the previous year. During January and February, nearly one mile of track replaced between Toddington and Winchcombe.

2005 - Track laying northwards towards Broadway commences, and track is laid across the Stanway Viaduct. In November, an engineering train becomes the first train to cross the viaduct since 1979.

2006 - The GWR celebrates the Centenary of opening throughout from Stratford to Cheltenham, in 1906. This year was also the 25th anniversary of the formation of Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway Plc and the effort to restore the line. (see 1906 and 1981 in this chronology).  The first steam locomotive to cross Stanway Viaduct in preservation is 0-4-2T no. 1450 with an autotrailer (a combination known locally as the Coffee Pot), on loan from the Dean Forest Railway for the railway's highly successful Centenary Festival. The railway ran a special day for people who recalled the 'Coffee Pot' service that once ran from Cheltenham to Honeybourne. The Broadway extension reaches Stanton Lane bridge, over a mile north of Toddington.  Exminster signal box acquired for eventual use at Broadway. 67,327 train tickets sold - a record year for the GWR.

2007 -  £100,000 project starts on major improvement of the locomotive servicing facilities at Toddington. Signalling at Cheltenham Racecourse commissioned; structural work on Gotherington signal box also completed.
July: Flooding which affected much of Gloucestershire causes suspension of services for the first time since the GWR started services. Six operating days were lost.
National Railway Museum's iconic locomotive 'Green Arrow' visits for Cotswold Festival of Steam.
150th anniversary of the Great Western's most famous Chief Mechanical Engineer, G J Churchward
Railway's passenger numbers exceeds 70,000 for the first time

2008 - David Shepherd's 'Wildlife & Steam' talk and art show raises 19,000 for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. Landslip near Cheltenham Racecourse closes line south of Gotherington. Repairs extend through to February 2009, costing £300,000. Phase 2 of £100,000 Toddington redevelopment: new inspection pits used for first time.

2009 - 25th anniversary of the commencement of services over just 700 yards of track on April 22nd. New bridge built over Laverton Road, between Toddington and Broadway.  Railway carries its 1,000,000th passenger in April and a record 74,000 passengers during the year. Share capital in GWSR Plc exceeds £1m

2010 - Serious embankment collapse at Gotherington severs railway, closing line south of Gotherington to Cheltenham Racecourse. Short extension north of Toddington, over Stanway Viaduct, passed for passenger carrying. Pete Waterman appointed President of GWSR Plc and launches £1m emergency appeal to repair embankment collapse. Contracts placed for the repair of the embankment. Two locomotives restored at Toddington return to steam, ex-Turkish State Railways 8F no. 8276 and 1905-built GWR 2-8-0 no. 2807. Work starts on building a new platform at the site of Broadway station. Several Santa Specials cancelled following severe weather, resulting in £50,000-£60,000 lost revenue

2011 - Second serious embankment failure, this time at Chicken Curve just north of Winchcombe station, severs the railway between Winchcombe and Toddington. Railway decides to continue running on a divided line, with steam and diesel trains operating from Winchcombe and a diesel railcar operating from Toddington. Gotherington embankment repairs completed. Emergency appeal extended for repair of Chicken Curve. Diesel railcar crosses Stanway Viaduct and heads northwards to Laverton to become the first passenger train for 40 years over the first part of the Broadway extension north of the viaduct. Several other heritage railways raise funds for Chicken Curve embankment repairs, including Great Central Railway, Severn Valley Railway, North Norfolk Railway, Talyllyn Railway, miniature Echills Wood railway and the East Lancashire Railway. The appeal passes £600,000. Gotherington Signal Box opened to pass trains for the first time

2012 - Work starts on repair of the collapsed railway embankment at the Chicken Curve. Celebration of Cheltenham Racecourse station's centenary with a cake-cutting and bunting. New two-track diesel shed built at Toddington. GWR's Emergency Appeal reaches its £1m target. Repair of Chicken Curve embankment collapse completed and the first train makes a round trip over the newly re-connected line. GWR wins Heritage Railway Association Peter Manisty Award for Outstanding Contribution to Railway Preservation in recognition of "its grim determination in dealing with its double slip disaster…" and is 'highly commended' in the 'Modern Railways' magazine Restoration Awards for its presentation of Winchcombe Station.

2013

The television series Father Brown, based on the GK Chesterton (1874-1936) short stories and with Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway as the venue for some of the storylines, is aired on BBC 1.

Major refurbishment the Flag & Whistle tearooms at Toddington station completed.

Self-guided heritage trail with accompanying free leaflet is opened at Toddington.

Lord Dear and Timothy West consent to becoming Patrons of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Development Foundation Campaign.

The Headmaster, staff and pupils from Cheltenham College meet 79-year-old Southern Railway 'Schools' class steam locomotive no. 925 Cheltenham at Cheltenham Racecourse Station.

Broadcast of ITV series, 'Rory Bremner's Great British Views' featuring the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway.

'The Cornishman', the Railway's in-house magazine, wins prestigious Heritage Railway Association 2012 Publications and Media award for the best Magazine.

Construction starts of a new Platform 2 at Cheltenham Racecourse Station.

The 'Bridges to Broadway' Share Offer is launched at Broadway station, holding out the promise that work will soon start on the final two miles from Laverton to Broadway.

2014

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway wins a Silver Award in the 'Tourism Experience of the Year' category of the Cotswold Tourism Awards.

The first coach enters the brand new Carriage & Wagon paint shop at Winchcombe.

Railway awarded a coveted TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, an accolade based on the number of favourable reviews posted on TripAdvisor by visitors.

The main contract is placed for refurbishment of the five bridges between Laverton and Broadway following news that the Bridges to Broadway share issue has passed the £400,000 mark.

HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall accept honorary life membership of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Trust. The line is the closest heritage railway to their Highgrove, Gloucestershire home.

The railway wins Silver in the 'Tourism Experience of the Year' category of the 2013 Awards organised by Cotswold Tourism, which is part of 'VisitEngland' and run in conjunction with Cotswold Life magazine.

Elegant Excursions - the luxury dining train that has operated on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway for nearly two decades - served its last diners.  Unfortunately the train could not pay its way any longer.  The rolling stock was sold and sadly, the coaches left the railway.

Refurbishment of Broadway Bridge across the B4632 Station Road/Evesham Road finishes, enabling the road to be reopened a few days ahead of schedule.

The 'Bridges to Broadway' share issue closed on 31 October, and total income passed the £500,000 target by over £65,000.

Scenes for an episode of Doctor Who on BBC 1 are shot at the railway, with the TARDIS being 'hit' by our railcar in the Greet Tunnel.

80 lengths of 113lb flat bottom rail in 60ft lengths are purchased from Tata Steel's Scunthorpe rolling mill to enable just under half-a mile of new track to be laid. This will enable track laying to begin from Laverton northwards and take the line as far as Little Buckland bridge.

Filming for the BBC TV series 'Father Brown' starring Mark Williams as the eponymous crime-solving Roman Catholic priest takes place at the railway.

2015

The railway wins Bronze in the 'Large Visitor Attraction of the Year' category of the 2014 Awards organised by Cotswold Tourism, which is part of 'VisitEngland' and run in conjunction with Cotswold Life magazine.

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway's 900 volunteers are recognised with the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service for 2015.

Construction of the recreated Broadway Station continues, and the Broadway Signal Box building is fast approaching completion with two attractive ventilators forming its crowning glory on the completed roof ridge.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester, President of the Heritage Railway Association, opens the Bill Ellesmere Paintshop  at the Carriage & Wagon Department's facilities at Winchcombe. It has been built thanks to a very generous bequest from late volunteer Bill Ellesmere.

Rebuilt Southern Region merchant navy class pacific steam locomotive 35006 Peninsular & Oriental SN Co moves under its own power for the first time in 51 years following restoration at Toddington.