25 February 2016

Railway steaming up for 2017 season!

- Trains start running on Saturday 4th March

- Last year's 100,000 passenger record expected to be beaten

- Host of special events including new 'Bricks and Trains' 

- New station halt to open at Hayles* Abbey

- Broadway extension on target to open in 2018

 

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway re-opens for business on Saturday 4th March, for its 2017 season.

 

This popular volunteer-run steam and heritage diesel railway, which operates over 13 miles** between Cheltenham Racecourse in the south and to a point half way between Toddington and Broadway in the north, carried more than 100,000 passengers last year.

 

The railway's 870 volunteers have not been resting, however, during the winter 'recess'.  

 

Significant work has been carried out on maintenance of the running line.  This includes vital drainage works at Woodmancote and elsewhere; undergrowth clearance; bridge maintenance and track refurbishment including moving a set of points at Winchcombe to allow for longer trains.  

 

In addition, a huge maintenance and refurbishment programme has been progressing to bring the railway's fleet of steam and diesel locomotives, as well as carriages, into tip-top condition.

 

Colin Fewell, the railway's volunteer commercial director, is confident that the line will do even better during 2017.

 

“We smashed all sorts of records year last year and we expect to do even better this year with some fantastic special events that will appeal to families and enthusiasts.

 

“Among them is a brand new 'Cotswold Bricks and Trains' weekend organised by the Southern Lego Train Club who will be putting on displays of what can be achieved with the popular plastic bricks – and opportunities to have a go yourself.

 

“Our really popular crowd-pullers will also be repeated including 'Days Out with Thomas', 'Wartime in the Cotswolds', the Cotswold Festival of Steam and Diesel weekends will again have huge appeal.”

 

The railway's popular fish & chip evenings, Teddy Bear Tuesdays and Cotswold Steam and Real Ale weekends are also once again in the calendar. 

 

“We'll be running public services on almost 190 days during 2017 and that's quite apart from special days such as the Cheltenham Festival race trains (fully booked) and opportunities to experience your hands on the controls at steam and diesel footplate experience days,” Colin Fewell says.

 

Why are steam trains so popular?

 

Steam disappeared on the national network altogether in 1968 – yet heritage railways, using historic steam and diesel locomotives spared from the scrap-man are more popular than ever.

 

Colin Fewell points out: “Steam trains really tap in to the British appeal of nostalgia – of 'how things used to be'.

 

“The idea that steam trains are just for eccentric train-spotters has long since been swept away with huge audiences for TV programmes that celebrate train travel in all its forms.  The relaunch of 'Flying Scotsman' last year for example, did much to encourage people to visit railways such as ours.

 

“Once known as the 'Honeybourne Line', our railway has always been held in high affection.  It runs through some of the most glorious countryside in Britain, with perhaps the best views you can see from a carriage window.  

 

“What's more, the railway is growing.  

 

“This year we will be continuing our extension to Broadway thanks to the continuing success of the 'Broadway: The Last Mile' share offer.***  We expect services to be extended to Little Buckland during the year, half a mile beyond the present northern extent of the operating line, at Laverton. 

 

“We are on target to reopen the line to a brand new Broadway station in a little over a year's time.

 

“And, this year we will open a new station halt at Hayles* Abbey, replacing the halt that used to serve the nearby Cistercian Abbey (National Trust/English Heritage).

 

“Many of our trains will be longer this year, too – some services in 2016 were full to capacity, so for many trains we're adding an extra coach, making the trains eight coaches long.  That's the same length as the direct main line services from Cheltenham to London Paddington!”

 

The railway is operating to its Blue timetable in March.  The first train of the 2017 season departs Toddington station at 10.00 to Cheltenham Racecourse (steam), followed by the 10.45 from Toddington to Laverton (diesel railcar, on the extension towards Broadway) and 10.55 from Cheltenham Racecourse to Toddington.

 

Full information is on the railway's 'Planning Your Visit' pages at www.gwsr.com 

 

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NOTES FOR EDITORS

*  Hayles is the spelling used by the Great Western Railway and the station halt name will be spelled the same way when it opens

** The railway expects to extend services to Little Buckland during the year, extending the line to about 13 miles.  The present northern extent of train services is at Laverton.

***  In early February, the railway's 'Broadway: The Last Mile' share offer passed £1 million nine months after being launched by the railway's president, Pete Waterman.  The railway must raise £1.25 million to complete the Broadway extension.  The share offer closes at the end of April.  

 

About the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway: One of the UK's leading heritage railways, almost entirely run by volunteers.  Its 13-mile route runs from Cheltenham Racecourse, through Gotherington, Winchcombe, Hailes Abbey (opening during the year), Toddington and Laverton (due to be extended to Little Buckland during the season).  It operates steam and heritage diesel train services on what was once the 'Honeybourne Line' which was opened by the Great Western Railway from Stratford upon Avon to Cheltenham in 1906.  Local passenger trains and stations closed in 1960 and the line closed completely in 1976 with track lifted by British Railways in 1979, before plans to restore the line had got under way.  The present-day movement to rebuild the line effectively began in 1981 when the formative Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway occupied the derelict Toddington station yard.

 

Media contact Ian Crowder, 07775 566 555 or ian.crowder@gwsr.com 

 

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