Culture Secretary The Rt Hon Oliiver Dowden CBE, MP happy to be on the footplate of 35006 'P&O' at Toddington station on 28 May 2021 (Pic: Jack Boskett)

Culture Secretary visits Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway

  • Visit follows Culture Recovery Grant for GWSR

  • Culture Secretary enjoys steam locomotive footplate ride


Winchcombe, 28 May 2021: The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt. Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP (the Culture Secretary) paid a visit to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) on Friday 28 May 2021.


It was part of a ‘whistle stop’ tour of organisations that have benefited from government Culture Recovery Grants to help them through the recent pandemic lockdowns.

The Culture Secretary putting in some elbow grease (pic Jack Boskett)

A shovelful of coal - the future supply of which was raised with the Culture Secretary (pic Jack Boskett)

Culture Secretary Olover Dowden MP with Richard Winstanley, GWSR Finance Director (pic: Jack Boskett)

The GWSR received a stage 1 grant and expects to receive its stage 2 grant, in all totalling up to £390,000 while Dinmore Manor Locomotive Limited, which is overhauling a Great Western Railway freight locomotive at Toddington, received grants of up to just under £39,000.


Mr Dowden met some of the railway’s directors and volunteers at Toddington station.  Also present were Nick de Bois, Chairman of the Visit England Advisory Board and Laurence Robertson, MP for Tewkesbury, through whose constituency the railway passes.


Mr Dowden then boarded the footplate of Merchant Navy class pacific no. 35006 Peninsular & Oriental SN Co for the short journey to Winchcombe, from where he travelled by car to Sudeley Castle.


Richard Winstanley, the volunteer Finance Director of GWSR Plc who greeted Mr Dowden, commented: “We were delighted to welcome Oliver Dowden to the railway – it was an opportunity to thank his department for our recent Culture Recovery ‘lifeline’ grants. 


“Indeed, without such grants replacing part of lost ticket income, organisations in the culture and tourism sector would be in serious financial difficulty.  It’s no exaggeration to say that without the grants, some would not have been able to carry on which would be a tragedy for Britain’s rich and historic culture.


“We also drew his attention to the looming issue of lump coal supplies in the UK, on which heritage railways such as the GWSR depend.  In the absence of other suitable fuels, we urge positive Government protection for heritage users of coal, including railways such as ours.


“The last coal mines in the UK are expected to close soon. This means supplies – not just for heritage operation which burns just 26,000 tonnes per year of the estimated 9.5m tonnes of coal still consumed by industry in the UK – will have to be imported from as far away as Russia and Australia with the considerable carbon footprint and cost that implies.”


Mr Dowden was clearly impressed by his experience on the footplate of one of the most powerful express steam locomotives currently operating in the UK, staying longer than was allocated for his busy schedule.


“I believe that Mr Dowden was excited with what he saw and went away with a clear appreciation of the vital role that organisations like the GWSR play in their local tourist economy, and in keeping local history alive.”


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Media contact: Ian Crowder, 07775 566 555 or  



Train services from 18 May 2021 until further notice; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays :

  • Round trips from Toddington depart: 10.00; 11.40; 13.20 and 14.40
  • Round trips from Broadway depart: 12.09 and 13.49
  • Return trips from Cheltenham Racecourse to Broadway depart: 11.00; return on 13.49 from Broadway


Heritage Diesel Day Sunday 27 June

Trains depart Toddington 10.00, 12.30 and 15.00 using a variety of diesel motive power


ABOUT GLOUCESTERSHIRE WARWICKSHIRE STEAM RAILWAY The multi-award-winning Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) operates over 14 miles through the Cotswolds between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway.  Because of Covid-19 restrictions, the railway has, since 15th August 2020 operated round trips when permitted under government guidance, only from Toddington station, bookable in advance.  2021 Covid-secure services resumed from 13 April and a new timetable operated from 18 May 2021.  Turn-up-and-go tickets have been available subject to space being available on trains.  Services have and continue to reflect prevailing Government guidelines. The GWSR is on part of the former Great Western Railway route between the West Midlands and Bristol, South Wales and the West Country, construction of which was completed in 1906.  The line between Cheltenham and Stratford-upon Avon closed in 1976 and the infrastructure was removed in 1979, the formative GWSR beginning to rebuild the line 40 years ago in 1981.  A special display marking the anniversary will open at Winchcombe station on 17th July.