09.40: the first PUBLIC train for 58 years departs Broadway spot on time on Good Friday

The last train to leave Broadway station for Cheltenham departed on 7 March 1960 - the buildings to be demolished soon afterwards.

 

Today, a brand new station, built by the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway’s (GWSR) volunteers to much the same design as the original, stands proudly in its place.  And the first public train left promptly at 09.40, flagging off an intensive train service over the Easter holiday, between Broadway and Cheltenham nearly 15 miles to the south.

 

To mark the occasion, Lord Richard Faulkner of Worcester*, chairman of the Heritage Railway Association and a Patron of the GWSR, unveiled a plaque to commemorate the occasion before accompanying driver John Cruxon and fireman Chris Smith on the footplate of locomotive no. 7903 Foremarke Hall for the first departure.

 

Lord Faulkner described the volunteer effort to restore the former Stratford upon Avon to Cheltenham railway, whose stations were shut in 1960 and the line closed completely in 1976, as ‘astounding’.  He pointed out that Broadway station had painstakingly been built on a derelict and abandoned site over the past ten years, entirely using volunteer labour.  

 

He said: “Two successful share offers raised over £2 million to help fund the last stages of the project, which included repairing bridges, embankments and drainage, buying and laying the track with thousands of tons of ballast as well as completing the new station.  It is a remarkable testament to the determination and vision of volunteer effort - from those who first conceived the idea of restoring the railway back in the early 1980s to those witnessing this historic occasion today.”

 

The railway now operates a full steam and heritage diesel train service between Broadway and Cheltenham Racecourse via Toddington (the railway’s headquarters), Hayles Abbey, Winchcombe and Gotherington through glorious Cotswold countryside.  Ticket and fare information at www.gwsr.com 

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

 

Pictures show (lo res versions attached - hi res on the following Dropbox file): https://www.dropbox.com/sh/z70vc31dgzqwau6/AACvcIYSkJ_NfrSTB0UHZQu0a?dl=0 

 

Lord Richard Faulkner of Worcester commemorating the start of train services from Broadway to Cheltenham after a gap of over 58 years; Volunteer chairman of GWSR Plc Richard Johnson; Locomotive 7903 Foremarke Hall; driver John Cruxon; Fireman Chris Smith

 

* The Lord Faulkner of Worcester is a Deputy Speaker and Deputy Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords; sits on a number of Lords committees and is President of the Heritage Railway Association as well as having other railway interests. He is vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary rail heritage group and treasurer of the all-party parliamentary railways group; and a Patron of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR). http://www.lordfaulkner.net 

 

ABOUT THE GWSR

The GWSR is a heritage railway operating trains hauled by steam and heritage diesel locomotives and multiple-units, over part of the former Great Western Railway route between Stratford upon Avon and Cheltenham. It opened throughout in 1906 with several stations on its route via Honeybourne, Broadway and Toddington.  Most of the intermediate stations closed in March 1960.  The last scheduled (non-stop) passenger services over the line ceased in 1968 after which it was used by freight and occasional passenger trains diverted from the surviving former Midland line  between the West Midlands, Cheltenham and Bristol.  The line was closed in 1976 following the derailment of a freight train at Winchcombe in 1976 and the track and infrastructure removed by the end of 1979.  The GWSR took up residence in the derelict station yard at Toddington in 1981 and ran its first train over a short stretch of track at Toddington, in 1984.  By 2003 the railway had reached Cheltenham Racecourse.  It has now reached Broadway providing a round trip of over 28 miles, making it one of the top five heritage railways, in terms of length, in the UK.  Last year the railway carried over 100,000 passengers for the second year running, its all-time record. https://www.gwsr.com 

 

ABOUT BROADWAY STATION

Broadway station was constructed by the Great Western Railway and opened initially as a terminus for trains from the north, in August 1904, until the line was completed towards the south.  The station site was bisected by the Evesham Road which is crossed by a steel bridge that has been subject to considerable repair following corrosion and bridge strikes by over-height lorries.  The Caravan Club now occupies the site of the former goods yard on the south side of the road.  The station closed to passengers on 7 March 1960.  With the present GWSR’s ambition to reach Broadway, the Broadway Area Group of volunteers was formed and began work in 2009 clearing the station site, finding the foundations of the original buildings and platforms.  The platforms (longer than the originals) were built largely using recovered railway bricks and other materials from several locations.  The design of the new building closely follows that of the original, using similar new bricks including decorative brickwork, for example along the eaves and window surrounds.  The new building is longer than the original, in order to accommodate toilets and other facilities expected by modern visitors.  The roof and platform canopy is supported by a steel framework built at the railway’s steam locomotive department at Toddington, using traditional riveting.  The footbridge came from Henly-in-Arden and the signalbox on Platform 2 is a brand new replica of the one that once stood at Shirley.  The station’s original signalbox was on the south side of the road.  The new structure will eventually be open for visitors to view.  The entire construction has been completed by volunteers.  In January, Wychavon District Council announced its support for the railway by agreeing to fund the £560,000 cost of constructing a new 99-vehicle car park at the foot of the railway’s embankment between Evesham Road and Childswickham Road.  This is expected to open some time during or after August 2018 – meanwile, there is no car parking at Broadway station. http://broadwaystationgroup.blogspot.co.uk 

 

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