Merchant Navy class pacific 35006 forges through the winter landscape near Laverton (pic Malcolm Ranieri FRPS)

Steaming into the New Year on the GWSR


  • Steam train service runs from Toddington daily 27 December – 3 January

  • Two round trips (28 miles) daily at 10.00 and 13.20

  • One of UKs most powerful locomotives to haul the trains

  • Railway looks forward to 2021 after ‘difficult year’


Winchcombe, 15 December 2020: The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway’s (GWSR) covid-compliant Santa Experience trains were sold out within days of being made available – but there is plenty of opportunity to enjoy a steam-hauled journey through the winter Cotswolds wonderland between 27th December and 3rd January 2021.


The GWSR is running a daily service of two full round trips of the popular heritage line from Toddington station GL54 5DT.  The 28-mile journey runs first to Cheltenham Racecourse, then back via Toddington to Broadway and return to Toddington.


Tickets are now available online from the virtual booking office.  On-the-day tickets will be available at Toddington station subject to availability – however, because of the reduced socially-distanced capacity trains fill quickly so it’s best to book before travelling.


The locomotive chosen to haul these post-Christmas specials is the railway’s biggest and most powerful.  It is a Southern Railway ‘Merchant Navy’ class no. 35006 Peninsular & Oriental SN Co (or ‘P&O’ for short).  It is one of 30 built in the 1940s to handle the heaviest expresses from London Waterloo to the South and South-West, such as the ‘Bournemouth Belle’ and ‘Atlantic Coast Express’.


The engine was bought from a South Wales scrapyard in the 1980s and, over following years, was meticulously overhauled at Toddington, moving under its own power for the first time in over 50 years in 2015.


Chairman of GWSR Plc, Richard Johnson, said: “This is a great way to wrap up what has been a very difficult year for us and indeed for the heritage railway movement as a whole.


“With two lockdowns, we were unable to operate for six months including what should have been our busiest weeks.  I am full of praise for all our volunteers for the work they have put in to ensure that we could resume services, which have proved to be extremely popular.


“To ensure the safety of our visitors and volunteers, the trains we are operating, including our wonderful ‘Santa Experience’ service, are carrying half their usual capacity.  But the important thing is, we are operating and bringing a lot of joy to families over the Christmas period.”


With the arrival of an effective Covid vaccine, Richard Johnson hopes that we may have turned the corner and can look forward to developing the railway’s offer during 2021.


“The railway closes for essential maintenance during January and February although we are planning a limited diesel railcar service during the February school half-term.  And, although I hope that restrictions will have eased, I suspect that we will need to start our 2021 season in March with covid restrictions still in place. 


“But, as a volunteer-run organisation, you may be sure that whatever train service we are able to offer next year, everyone will receive the warmest of welcomes!” adds Richard Johnson.


Post-Christmas trains operate daily 27 December 2020 to 3 January 2021 inclusive, however only round trips from Toddington station.  Departures are 10.00 and 13.20, the round trip taking approximately 2 hrs 25 minutes with plenty of time at Cheltenham and Broadway to take pictures of the locomotive detaching from its train and re-attaching at the other end for the return journey.  Refreshments available, in the ‘Flag & Whistle’ tearooms at Toddington and from the buffet car when the train is stationary at Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway stations.  The café at Broadway station is also open.


Ends / more


Media contact: Ian Crowder, 07775 566 555 or or Bryony Exton,


The award-winning Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway operates over 14 miles through the Cotswolds between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway.  Because of Covid-19 restrictions, the railway has, since 15th August operated round trips only from Toddington station, bookable in advance.  Turn-up-and-go tickets have been available subject to space being available.  Services reflect current Government guidelines Location of Toddington Station is off the B4077 Stow Road close to the roundabout with the B4632 Winchcombe-Broadway road at GL54 5DT  or  What3Words trials.composers.turntable

Santa Experience trains are fully booked.  Post-Christmas trains (round trips from Toddington) operate daily from Sunday 27th December 2020 – Sunday 3rd January 2021



The Merchant Navy class locomotives were introduced on the Southern Railway in 1941 and are amongst the most powerful express steam locomotives to run in the UK.  The 30 engines, designed by O V S Bulleid, were originally built with a distinctive ‘air smoothed’ or semi-streamlined appearance and incorporating a number of novel design features which in later years proved troublesome.  In the 1950s British Railways rebuilt all 30 of the engines to a more conventional appearance as 35006 is presented today.  35006 was built in December 1941 and named Peninsular & Oriental SN Co.   The class were all named after merchant shipping lines which played a vital role in keeping Britain supplied during the second world war and in memory of the thousands of merchant seamen who lost their lives.  35006 was withdrawn from British Railways service in 1964 and sent to Woodham Bros. scrapyard in South Wales.  It was rescued from there in 1982 and delivered to the GWSR at Toddington and meticulously overhauled.  It steamed for the first time in over 50 years in 2015 and re-entered service on the GWSR the following year.  Many people regard the engine to be the railway’s ‘flagship’ locomotive given its history, impressive appearance and size.