Cotswold Festival of Steam: 'Workhorses of Steam'

  • Saturday 27th to Monday 29th May 2017

  • Celebrating the unsung steam heroes of Britain's railways

Please note: parking at Toddingtn will be extremely limited. Please start your day on the Railway from Cheltenham Race Course station where there is plenty of FREE car parking.

If you are travelling by public transport a FREE bus service operates between Cheltenham Sap Network Rail bus station and the GWSR's Cheltenham Racecourse station.  Train times are designed as far as possible, to link with departures/arrivals at both stations.


Once again the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway is putting on a spectacular Festival of Steam with up to eight locomotives in steam over the late May bank holiday weekend.

The theme this year is 'Workhorses of Steam' and it will celebrate the hard-working 'unsung heroes' that kept Britain's economy going, shifting the nation's goods and people. Up to four visiting locomotives are expected to bolster the home fleet.


Quick links

Brake van rides
Getting there
Footplate rides
Narrow gauge



'Unsung Heroes' - what's that all about?

The big attraction of the Cotswold Festival of Steam must be the locomotives - and there will plenty of all shapes and sizes, with opportunities to travel over the full length of the railway from Cheltenham Racecourse to Toddington, as well as 'up the branch line' to Laverton, half-way along the extenstion to Broadway.  Britain's railways boasted a startling variety of steam locomotives: from the smallest that shunted the sidings of industry; through freight and mixed-traffic types that moved millions of tons of goods the length and breadth of the country to express superpowers of steam.  

The event team always strive to find locomotives that have never visited the railway befoe and you may be sure of some surprises at work in the Cotswolds for this breathtaking family-friendly event. 

The railway's home fleet of five locomotives will be bolstered by an expected three visitors making EIGHT LOCOMOTIVES operating, adding extra interest and variety.  

One for sure will catch the eye becasue of its distincly American appearance - a United States Army Transportation Corps S160 class freight locomotive, over 2,000 of which were shipped to Europe to help the war effort.  Several worked for a time in the UK, including over this line!  The American imposter is the Churnet Valley Railway's no. 6046.  We will be seeing a BR Standard Class 4 on the line for the first time inpreservation in the shape of No 76017 from the Mid-Hants Railway. And, it is a pleasure to welcome back an occasional diminutive visitor to the railway, Great Western 14xx 0-4-2T no. 1450 which will be working with an auto-trailer from Toddington towards Broadway, as far as possible along the new extension. May be this might be regarded as a work 'pony' rather than a workhorse?

You might question how the newly-restored, award-winning Southern Railway Merchant Navy class express locomotive (which made its public debut last year) - no. 35006 'Peninsular & Oriental SN Co' fits the 'workhorses' theme.  Well, the class was introduced during the Second World War when cosntruction of express passenger locomotives was banned.  Cleverly, its designer - OVS Bulleid - developed the class as 'mixed traffic' locomotives and certainly, they could be seen handling heavy fast goods trains as well as the Southern Railway's crack expresses!


Lots of family fun

Of course whether you are a 'railway nut' or a family looking for a brilliant day out, the Cotswold Festival of Steam is for you. You can expect a very exciting day with lots of opportunities to do something you might not ordinarily have the chance to do;  not least is to travel behind lots of different locomotives all on the same day!

This is the view you could enjoy on the freight train as it heads away from Greet Tunnel with Manor class 7820 Dinmore Manor at its head (Ian Crowder)

No 76017, a Standard Class 4 2-6-0 climbing Medstead Bank on its home Mid-Hants railway.  This is the first time a working member of the class has visited the GWSR (Matt Allen)

Merchant Navy class pacific 35006 Peninsular & Oriental SN Co heading a 14-coach train at its inauguration into traffic last year (Jack Boskett)

American invader: The Churnet Valley Railway's USATC S160 no. 6046 will be an eye-turner! (Ray O'Hara)

Other out-of-the-ordinary plans includes a 'vintage train' shuttle service* between Toddington and Laverton.  You can visit the footplate of a live steam engine - there will usually be an engine at in steam in the bay platform at Winchcombe where the footplate crews will be delighted to 'welcome you aboard'.  

And there will once again, be limited opportunities to take a ride on the footplate between Toddington and Cheltenham (or the other way round), for an additional charge - these are strictly limited and they get snapped up very quickly! Instructions on how to book for this once-in-a-lifetime experience will be published soon.  We also hope to offer you the chance to get your hand on the regulator and be 'a driver for a tenner' for a short run at one of our stations. 

Or perhaps you might enjoy a brake van ride with the goods train. You can uniquely experience how the nation's freight and victuals were moved around the country before road transport took over and you'll experience first-hand what life was like for the guard. Tickets for this rare opportunity will be availabe each day of the Festival - first come, first served.  For just £10 you can enjoy a round trip from Toddington to Cheltenham and back.  More details and the freight train timetable will be published soon.

And we plan an evening 14-coach special on Saturday.  This is what inter-city trains used to be like and if you want to record the thrilling sound of an engine putting in some real muscle then this is a must!  

At Toddington station there will be free car parking (but the car park fills quickly so aim to get there early, or park at Cheltenham Racecourse where there is stacks of space - parking is free).  There will be sales and preservation group stands to visit; railway displays, including a stand showing the work of Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Trust: why don't you join up as a member?  The delightful North Gloucestershire Narrow Gauge Railway, which should have at least two locomotives in steam, will be operating; bouncy castle for the little'uns; traction engines in steam and of course the Flag & Whistle tea rooms.

Gotherington station is a delightful spot and once again, Bryan and Savita will be throwing open their lovely gardens which include a private siding.  Here you could have a go on Bryan's pump trolley or ride in a Wickam platelayers' trolley.  There's lots of railwayana to catch your interest while homemade teas will also be on offer. A great spot for a picnic while you watch the trains go by! Winchcombe station is a terrific place place to catch the atmosphere of a busy country station.  Between passing trains, pop along to the Carriage & Wagon works to find out how the railway restores and maintains its growing rolling stock fleet - you could sign up as a volunteer too! Look in to the former Royal Mail carriage to see an extensive model railway; find out more about the railway in the Discovery Coach or enjoy a pint of Goffs real ale in the beer tent.  Of course the 'Coffee Pot' cafe will be offering great tea, coffee, sandwiches and cakes.  There is very limited car parking here so our advice is not to try!

Cheltenham Racecourse is the best place to start your day, not least becasue there is almost unlimited car parking.  For the first time, the new Platform 2 will be in use so the station will be busier than usual.  If you are coming by public transport, there will be a classic bus service kindly provided by Wyvern Omnibus* from Cheltenham Spa Network Rail station to Cheltenham Racecourse station. This will be free of charge.  Light refreshments will be available here as well.

Suffice to say, this will once again be a show to remember!  

What's going on over the weekend?

(The bold links will in due course, take you to additional pages)

  • Locomotives Information about the locomotives that will be in action or on display throughout the three days will be here shortly, including visitors as they are confirmed.  All locomotives will be  'subject to availability' but they will include all available home fleet locomotives
  • Footplate rides!** SOLD OUT
  • Timetable and map  The timetable is now available and you can download a FREE copy along with a map of the line. This will also be ditributed free during the event.
  • Getting to the railway Click on the link to find out where we are and what public transport is available. Once again we are operating a heritage bus service throughout the gala between our Cheltenham Race Course Station and Cheltenham Spa Railway Station. Car parking is FREE and there is plenty of it at Cheltenham Racecourse.  Please note that there is extremely limited parking at Winchcombe station.  At Toddington, look out for direction signs for additional car parking on the Stow side of the station just off the B4077.  There will be no parking in Toddington station yard
  • Tickets please!   Click on the link to find out about ticket prices and to by tickets. You can buy your ticket on-line now, please note the online ticket line will close on 22 May.  Tickets will also be available on the day, of course, and reduced-rate tickets will be offered for those who arrive after 3pm. Please note that it will not be possible to provide access only to the station yard: access to the site is for ticket holders only
  • Take a Brake on a Freight** A really unique and memorable experience.  You can ride at the front of the train immediately behind the locomotive or at the end of the train - each offering a quite different perspective.  Tickets only £10 return for event ticket holders** only.  Freight train tickets will be available on the day, first come first served from the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Trust (GWRT) stand.
  • Traders and preservation groups: A great way to find out more of what's going on in the wider preservation world while there will be art, crafts, sweets, bric-a-brac, railwayana, models - lots to enjoy.  If you are a trader, you can take a stand at the event!
  • Where to stay There are plenty of wonderful places to stay in the area and here we've made a few suggestions to help you!
  • North Gloucestershire Narrow Gauge Railway at Toddington  will be operating throughout the weekend with steam locomotives working on this delightful 2ft-gauge line that runs from Toddington, the station being on the opposite side of the car park to the main line.  The railway expects to field up to three locomotives.

* Note that locomotives, attractions and bus service all subject to availability.
** Please note, NO ADMISSION is possible to the railway WITHOUT A TRAVEL TICKET.  We are sorry but the layout of car park and station at Toddington preculdes admission 'just to have a look around' or 'go to the cafe'. Admission tickets include unlimited travel on the day of issue (including the North Gloucestershire narrow-gauge railway) and all other on-site attractions.  Additional charges apply for: footplate ride (now sold out); brake van ride (£10 return, tickets available at Toddington on the day of travel only) and 'Driver for a Tenner' at Cheltenham Racecourse (payable on the day).