Cotswold Festival of Steam: 'Workhorses of Steam'
Saturday 27th to Monday 29th May 2017
Celebrating the unsung steam heroes of Britain's railways
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.
'Unsung Heroes' - what's that all about?
No 45305 on the Great Central Railway on 16 January 2016 (Malcolm Ranieri)
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.
You can certainly expect variety at the event. The railway's home fleet of five locomotives will be bolstered by visitors, adding extra interest and variety. Already one visiting locomotive (subject to contract) is a member of perhaps the architypal railway 'workhorse': ex-LMS 'Black Five' 4-6-0 no. 45305 * (courtesy of the Great Central Railway and 5305 Locomotive Association) and one of more than 840 built between 1934 and 1951.
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, including something from industry: but we can't reveal what just yet; you'll have to keep guessing!
You might question how the newly-restored, award-winning Southern Railway Merchant Navy class express locomotive (which made its public debut this time 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)
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.
Merchant Navy class pacific 35006 Peninsular & Oriental SN Co heading a 14-coach train at its inauguration into traffic last year (Jack Boskett)
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!
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!
Cheltenham Racecourse is probably 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! More details will be appearing here soon. Check the date in your diary. Online tickets will shortly be available.
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!** Bookings will soon be taken for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a ten-mile trip between Toddington - Cheltenham or Cheltenham - Toddington, at a cost of only £85 (including Gala entry). Full information, train times and how to book available soon.
- Timetable and map The timetable is currently being worked on and you will be able to download a FREE copy along with a map of the line.
- Getting to the railway Click on the link to find out where we are and what public transport is available. Once again we will* operate 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. 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.
* Note that locomotives, attractions and classic 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 applies for: footplate ride (advance booking only); brake van ride (£10 return, tickets available at Toddington on the day of travel only) and 'Driver for a Tenner' (payable on the day).