Visiting American wartime S160 no. 5197 passes resident Manor class no. 7820 'Dinmore Manor' at Toddington (Jack Boskett)
01 June 2018
‘King' crowns best-ever May for GWSR
Cotswold Festival of Steam attracts 6,000 visitors
‘Celebrity’ visiting engines included ‘King Edward II’
Passenger numbers year to date up by more than half
Records tumble thanks to Broadway effect on volunteer-run railway
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) is seeing numbers of travellers on its trains that have astonished even the most optimistic of its volunteers as records tumble one after the other.
By the end of May, the railway carried over 40,000 passengers, up by more than 50% compared with the same period last year.
May included three special events – the first two being ‘Bricks and Trains’ which featured highly creative Lego exhibits, drawing 2,000 visitors (1,400 in 2017); and Steam and Real Ale Weekend which, despite coinciding with the Royal Wedding, drew 2,300 visitors (1,400 in 2017).
But the crowning glory goes to the Cotswold Festival of Steam and its theatrical ‘Give my Regards to Broadway’ theme. With eight locomotives working, including a Great Western Railway ‘King’ class for the first time ever, it attracted just 40 short of 6,000 visitors. Saturday 26 May saw nearly 2,200 passengers carried - believed to be a record for the railway for just one day.
Colin Fewell, the railway’s volunteer commercial director commented: “If you add to that total early May bank holiday, when 2,500 people travelled (compared with 1,300 in 2017) and full trains on ordinary timetable days, even on weekdays, we seem set to smash all previous records.
“All of us expected a big uplift in passenger numbers following the opening of Broadway station on Good Friday, March 30th this year. To cope with the numbers, we have increased the length of our trains to eight coaches.
“But May has been astonishing with the Cotswold Festival of Steam taking passenger numbers well past the 40,000 mark for this year
The Cotswold Festival of Steam, 26-28 May almost overwhelmed the railway with an average of 2,000 travellers per day. This saw trains packed to standing with visitors enjoying the spectacle of some of the most celebrated steam locomotives running in Britain today.
Topping the bill was a Great Western ‘King’ class locomotive no. 6023 King Edward II – the most powerful locomotives of their type which were the ‘high speed trains’ of their era. They used to handle the heaviest and fastest expresses between London Paddington and the West country and the West Midlands.
‘Britannia’ class no. 70013 Oliver Cromwell also claimed top billing. The last express locomotives built by British Railways in the 1950s, they were associated with the last steam hauled expresses over what is now the GWSR, coming to an end in 1965.
A highly unusual visitor was a United States Army Transportation Corps ‘S160’ class locomotive. Over 2,000 of these very American looking machines were built in the USA during the war to help with rail transportation for the Allies in Europe following D-Day. Many found their way to the UK and worked on British tracks for a time, including the line on which the present-day GWSR operates.
The fourth visitor was a Great Western Railway pannier tank locomotive, of a type built in their hundreds at Swindon works for branch line work, shunting in yards and handling local goods and passenger traffic. This delightful engine, no. 6430, was also an extremely popular addition to the line-up of celebrity visitors, which worked alongside the railway’s own current fleet of four locomotives that include the oldest Great Western Railway engine in working order at 112 years old.
There was plenty of things to see and do at the railway’s stations while brand new Broadway station - built to a design that faithfully followed the original, which was demolished in 1963 – drew huge numbers of compliments.
Adds Colin Fewell: “Our railway now links two of the Cotswolds’ most popular destinations - Cheltenham and Broadway. That’s a distance of nearly 15 miles, running through some of the UK’s most attractive countryside.
“We offer something for everyone – whether a railway enthusiast or a family looking for an interesting and enjoyable day out. What’s more, if the weather is wet, you can still enjoy the day taking a trip back in time from the comfort of a beautifully restored railway carriage.
“And, given that we are an almost entirely volunteer-run enterprise it means all profits are ploughed back in to the railway to develop and expand the facilities we offer to everyone who pays us a visit and rides on our wonderful trains.”
The railway has further special events planned for the rest of the year including:
- Classic Vehicle Clubs days – 17 June and 9 September
- Day out with Thomas – 23 and 24 June and 15 and 16 September
- Classic Bus rally – 8 July
- Back to Broadway Heritage Diesel Weekend – 27, 28 and 29 July
- Teddy Bear Tuesdays throughout August
- Summer Steam and Real Ale Weekend – 10, 11 and 12 August
- Autumn Diesel Weekend 6 and 7 October
- Cotswolds Food & Drink Fayre 20 and 21 October
- Santa Specials throughout December
- Christmas Carols by steam train – 8 December
- Christmas Cracker 29 and 30 December
Full information about special events and ordinary timetable days for the rest of the year can be found on www.gwsr.com
Media contact – Ian Crowder, 07775 566 555 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Images of the Cotswold Festival of Steam available here: please acknowledge phogographers: IHC (Ian Crowder); JB Jack Boskett and Malcolm Raniere (in file names)
Belwo: Locomotives gather at Toddington (Jack Boskett)
Below: American invader - wartime USATC S160 at Toddington (Ian Crowder)
Rhapsody in blue - King Edward II (Ian Crowder)
Rule Britannia - 'Oliver Cromwell' blasts away from Broadway (Jack Boskett)
Drawing the crowds: Oliver Cromwell arrives at Toddington (Ian Crowder)