‘Coffee Pot’ Returns for GWR’s Centenary
19 April 2006
The ‘Coffee Pot’ is returning to the GWR this year – to mark the centenary of the line that once ran from Stratford via Honeybourne to Cheltenham.
2006 is also the 25th anniversary of the company formed by volunteers in 1981 to restore the line, after it was closed by British Railways in 1979.
To mark this double celebration, the GWR, which has so far reopened 10 miles of the line between Toddington and Cheltenham Race Course, is organising a Centenary Festival from 27th May to 4th June. Several locomotives are visiting for the occasion, including the type of push-pull ‘autotrain’ that worked local services for nearly half a century.
And the GWR’s event organisers are looking for people who remember the ‘Coffee Pot’ – which was the nickname for this much-loved service that used to run between Cheltenham St. James, Cheltenham Malvern Road and Honeybourne between 1906 and 1960, when the service was withdrawn.
Explains GWR spokesman Ian Crowder, “In 1906, the local train service was a steam railcar which had a boiler that looked a bit like a coffee pot – and we think that’s how the service earned this odd name. It stopped at Bishop’s Cleeve, Gotherington, Gretton, Winchcombe, Hailes Abbey, Toddington, Laverton, Broadway, Willersey, Weston-sub-Edge and Honeybourne. It was a lifeline for these villages.
“But the railcars weren’t very successful and they quickly gave way to a tank engine that pushed or pulled one or two special coaches. The driver could work the engine from a driving compartment at the front when the engine was pushing, although of course the fireman stayed on the engine.
“The push-pull train worked the line for over 40 years,” Mr. Crowder added.
Anyone who can remember the local Honeybourne train service should write to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway with his or her memories. And in exchange, the railway will give a free trip down ‘memory line’ with a ride on the Coffee Pot once more.
The ‘Coffee Pot’ is in fact, Great Western 14xx class ‘auto-tank’ no. 1450 and the coach is known as an ‘auto-trailer’. Both are usually based at the Dean Forest Railway but are being loaned especially for the GWR’s centenary.
Several other locomotives will be visiting the Festival, which will be one of the biggest special events GWR volunteers have organised.
Those who remember the ‘Coffee Pot’ should write to ‘Coffee Pot Memories’, Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, The Railway Station, Toddington, GL54 5DT and they will be given an opportunity to enjoy a free ride. Or send an e-mail to press.office (at gwsr.com).
Other locomotives visiting for the Centenary event are:
- 'City' class no. 3440 City of Truro owned by the National Railway Museum, this 102-year-old veteran of the rails was the first engine ever to be recorded running at over 100mph which it did when just a year old, in 1903. Locomotives of this type worked over our line up to the late 1920s.
- 'Castle' class no 5051, Drysllwyn Castle the type of engine that hauled the heaviest expresses and the only named train on the line, ‘The Cornishman’ express from Wolverhampton to Penzance. On loan from the Didcot Railway Centre.
- Tank engine 5542 a 'small Prairie' tank engine, that was once based at Cheltenham Malvern Road engine shed and worked passenger and goods trains. On loan from the South Devon Railway
- 'Hall' class no 7093 Foremarke Hall a class that again, was a familiar sight on our line hauling everything from express passenger to goods trains. Resident on the GWR.
- 'Merchant Navy' class Pacific, 35005 Canadian Pacific a Southern Railway express locomotive an example of this class is being restored at Toddington. On loan from the Mid-Hants Railway.
- 9F class heavy freight engine 92203 Black Prince owned by artist David Shepherd, this class worked the heaviest freight trains over the line, up to the end of steam. 92203 was one of the last steam engines built for British Railways, in 1959. Resident on GWR.
- D1023 Western Fusilier a Western Region diesel-hydraulic locomotive of the type that took over from the ‘Castle’ class steam express locomotives at the end of steam in the mid-1960s. On loan from the National Railway Museum.