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2013 season gets under way

article by: Ian Crowder
posted on: 09 March 2013
updated on: 06 May 2013

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Damp weather didn't dampen spirits as the 2013 season got underway for the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, over the full line length for the first time.

Although a limited service of diesel multiple-unit trains from Toddington via Winchcombe and Laverton began in February, Saturday 9 March saw the full line reopened, with a two-train service, one train steam and the other a 1960s diesel multiple unit. 

'History making' is a term often over-used but this day was a historic occasion for the 'Honeybourne Line': for on this day:

  • The 09.45 departure from Toddington was the FIRST timetabled steam service to complete a round trip over the full length of the 12-mile railway.  Although the Broadway extension as far as Laverton has been open since 2011, the landslip at the so-called 'Chicken Curve' just north of Winchcombe, severed the line meaning no through train services were possible until late 2012.  In addition, the loop at Laverton has not been use until now, meaning any locomotive-hauled trains over the extension had to be 'top and tailed' with a locomotive at each end
  • A timetabled diesel-multiple unit service ran over the full length of the line for the first time
  • The Laverton run-round loop was used for the very first time
  • This was also the first time for almost exactly three years that it has been possible to catch a train directly between Toddington and Cheltenham (and vice versa)

"We've made it!" commented a delighted Malcolm Temple, chairman of GWSR Plc.  "We've been through so much that at times, a 'normal day' seemed little more than a distant dream.  But here we are, people are arriving to catch the train to make a full round-trip on our railway. This is a normal service day - the first of hundreds. Isn't it fantastic?"

Spot on time, 1924-built Great Western small Prairie locomotive no. 5542 whistled and eased its seven-coach train over the damp rails out of Toddington station, on its way into the railway's history book.  It stopped on the way to Cheltenham at Winchcombe and Gotherington.  At the regulator was Ian Windscheffel, and on the shovel was Clive Norton, the significance of the day not lost on them.

"It's quite a privilege to be driving this train," said Ian. "We'll be using the Laverton loop for the first time and a 24-mile round trip is certainly something for us to enjoy."

On the return journey, the train passed the first diesel-multiple unit service, on its way to Cheltenham, which was also racking up its 'first' for the new season.

When the trian reached Laverton, there was a 'reception committee' of high-vis-suited permanent way volunteers and volunteers from the Broadway Station rebuilding team, to witness the locomotive run over the newly-opened track over the new concrete bridge over Dumbleton lane.  They watched as the locomotive detached and eased over the pointwork, without any problems before it ran past its train and coupled on to the opposite end, ready for the trip back.

At Laverton, there was once a meagre timber-built halt - little used, since it was some distance from the village it was meant to serve.  It closed (along with other stations on the route) back in 1960. And while there are no plans at present to reopen the halt, it does mark the half-way point between Toddington and Broadway - and the arrival of the train there gives great cause for optimism for the Friends of Broadway who are re-creating the long-demolished station.   

By the time the train had made its way through the misty weather, there was quite a crowd at Toddington to catch the train.  The on-train catering team were doing a roaring trade in bacon rolls and toasted teacakes, the evocative smell drawing more and more people to the buffet car. 

A successful day? "You bet!" says Malcolm. "Our staff are made of stern stuff; they have gone through an awful lot over the past two years.  Now things are back to normal and we're looking forward to a successfull future."

The railway will be operating over 180 days during 2013, with dozens of special events and trains on the way.  You can find out more  by clicking here.


5 comments for “2013 season gets under way”

  1. Gravatar of AndyAndy
    Posted 09 March 2013 at 19:01:25

    The photo showing the "permanent way gang" are impostors apart from Ivor Dixon as the real permanent were busy working at Winchcombe carriage & wagon new extension

  2. Gravatar of Andrew bealeAndrew beale
    Posted 09 March 2013 at 20:08:05

    In picture seven, the scene is just crying out for that second track! Excited now, Im driving tomorrow!

  3. Gravatar of PhilipPhilip
    Posted 09 March 2013 at 22:36:55

    Andy, you'd better go to the opticians, because the script describes "permanent way volunteers and volunteers from the Broadway Station rebuilding team". The
    extremely hard working team from Broadway were clearly taking a break from their labours of re-creating a station fit for the wonderful surroundings that it sits in to check that the trains are really heading their way! Their presence at this historic moment was entirely appropriate, as the next celebration of this nature will be a culmination of what they have achieved.

  4. Gravatar of AndyAndy
    Posted 09 March 2013 at 23:55:22

    Hello Phillip. Yes I must get my eyes seen, maybe we should go together as the caption under the photo quite clearly states "these orange suited gents from the permanent way team who laid the Laverton loop"
    Anyway keep up the excellent work at Broadway and I hope the permanent way get there soon as I can't wait to see a Deltic there, Or any of the superb home based fleet of diesels.

  5. Gravatar of Southern Man in ExileSouthern Man in Exile
    Posted 12 March 2013 at 12:54:27

    Fantastic news. Since moving away from Gloucestershire, I have missed my daily commute taking me over the bridge at Toddington.

    How about a small challenge - recreating a pagoda and timber platform at Laverton?

    Even if there is immediate access from the road, the structure will add interest to this stratch of line and can be used as a platelayers hut for the PW team...

    I look forward to visiting later in the year.

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