Diesels by road and rail as Heritage Diesel Gala and Bus Rally combine on GWSR


  • Three-day Heritage Diesel Gala 26-28 July

  • Bus Rally Sunday 28 July


17 July 2019: The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway’s (GWSR) annual Heritage Diesel Gala (26-28 July) and the ever-popular Bus Rally (28 July only) join forces this year, offering a colourful variety of action on both road and rail.


The Heritage Diesel Gala transports visitors back to the immediate post-steam era when British Rail ran diesel locomotive-hauled trains throughout the UK – a sight that has now largely disappeared from the national network as electric, hybrid and multiple-unit trains take over.


The railway will be running no fewer than eight locomotives including visiting class 50 no. 50035 Ark Royal which is normally based on the Severn Valley Railway and appears by courtesy of the Class 50 Alliance. Fifty of these large diesel-electric machines were built during 1967-1968, exactly when steam traction ended on the national network. They had a top speed of 100mph. Most were withdrawn as the 1980s drew to a close.


The GWSR’s ‘home fleet’ of locomotives includes the return to service of class 24 no. 5081 after a three-year overhaul as well as class 45 no. 45149 – a type that was long associated with the Honeybourne Line after the end of steam in the 1960s. The locomotives appear in a range of liveries representing different periods of ownership on the national network.


Peter Smith, one of the small team organising the event comments: “Heritage diesel locomotives have a special appeal and this event offers an opportunity for visitors to enjoy the variety of designs that used to operate in the UK, of which very few remain in national service.


“Most are well over 50 years old, built during an era between the 1960s and the 1980s. The earliest were introduced while the last steam British engines were still being built.


“Many people lamented diesel power displacing steam, but these diesel classes often had a sadly short life as modernisation gathered pace. This event celebrates the special place that diesel traction has in British railway history.


“It’s also a wonderful testament to the skill and dedication of volunteers on the GWSR who have restored and operate restoring these often highly complex but always impressive machines.”


The event will see up to ten trains each day with a 45-minute frequency over the 14-mile GWSR between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway, through the glorious landscape of the Cotswold escarpment.


A timetable for each day that includes the locomotive allocations, can be downloaded from the event pages on www.gwsr.com.


Features during the event include

  • Diesel Shed Open Day (with the opportunity to get close-up to a locomotive undergoing overhaul)
  • Model railway layouts in the diesel shed
  • Sales stands and stalls (inside the shed and outside too)
  • An evening train on Saturday offering a 2 hour round trip of the line departing at 18:45 from Toddington (with a free bus connection to Cheltenham main line station) and arriving back at 20:40.
  • The 'Flag and Whistle' cafe selling a range of hot home-cooked food, snacks and drink. Fast food available outside adjacent to the platforms.
  • Beer tent
  • Carriage and Wagon department at Winchcombe open for behind-the-scenes look at carriage overhaul and restoration
  • Visits to the driver’s cab at Cheltenham Racecourse, and bus link to Cheltenham Spa station
  • Refreshments at the new Broadway station


On the buses

Sunday 28th July sees the railway’s annual Bus Rally taking place at Toddington station when up to 30 vehicles are expected to attend, from the early 1950s to relatively recent examples.


The event is bound to trigger as much nostalgia as the Diesel Gala as visitors ‘of a certain age’ remember when they used buses to get to work, college or school – or enjoyed days out during the glorious days of coach travel.


David Martin, one of the event organisers says: “There is something about buses from the 1950s to the 1970s that brings back vivid memories.


“We might look back through rose-tinted spectacles but these historic vehicles, lovingly restored by their owners, recall seemingly endless summers and the prospect of adventure as we embarked on a short or long trip. Several of the buses will be offering free trips around the Cotswold countryside – however they won’t be going to Broadway this year because of a weak bridge with a temporary three-ton weight limit.


“Reminders of past girl/boy-friends, jaunts to the seaside or simply enjoying the view from the top of a double-decker lurching through city streets instantly take many people back.”


David adds that the Bus Rally and Heritage Diesel Gala offer a unique opportunity to enjoy diesel power both on and off the rails. “Diesel fuel is gradually being phased out on both road and rail and in time, it will be events like these that, similar to steam, will provide the chance to experience transport that was familiar to our parents.”


A Facebook page that is constantly being added to provides the latest information about buses that are expected to attend.


“This is certainly going to be a colourful event with a wide range of liveries, from private coach companies, to some of the bus companies that were once familiar – such as the red of Midland Red, blue and cream of Birmingham City Transport, green of Bristol Omnibus, Royal Blue coaches – to name but a few!”, says David.


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Please note, special event tickets are required that offer unlimited travel over the railway and access to the Bus Rally. Car parking is free at Cheltenham Racecourse and at Toddington – however a charge applies at the pay and display car park at Broadway station.



GWSR diesel images can be found here https://www.dropbox.com/sh/udlitiuv7pgn7nx/AAAvjsmcRXwUns05-hYZRAHoa?dl=0

GWSR Bus Rally pictures can be found here https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9273bnnjsdrslmc/AABVsTwHP9NZmQEfASpvGTgaa?dl=0


Media contact: Ian Crowder, 07775 566 555 or press.office@gwsr.com

Media wishing to attend the event please contact Ian Crowder for a press pass!



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