A View from the bridge
Fortunately, it's once again possible to take pictures of passing steam-hauled trains from the bridge that carries Two Hedges Road over the railway in Bishop's Cleeve/Woodmancote. Once it was a popular spot for photographers - not least of whom was the late Bill Potter, whose legendary photographs of the Cheltenham-Honeybourne line are now in the care of the Kidderminster Railway Museum.
Bill Potter used to live in Bishop's Cleeve and would certainly have been familiar with the sound of Great Western whistles echoing over the village as they do once again. Although the view from the bridge which he captured many times has changed: there are houses in what was once Bishop's Cleeve station yard and the attractive Cleeve Hill stone-built goods shed, station and signal box have long since been bulldozed, it is still unmistakable. And while 12-coach expresses and endless freight trains are no more, you can of course see and hear locomotive classes that did indeed once ply the 'Honeybourne Line'.
So here are two excellent pictures from the past. They are provided by Bernie Holland, a long-time supporter of the GWR and who grew up in Bishops Cleeve. He knew Bill and his wife Joan very well and is building a library of not just Bill's pictures, but those of other photographers who have captured the spirit of a much-loved railway.
The first photograph was taken in the summer of 1962 of an up holiday express to Wolverhampton in the charge of a very nicely turned-out Grange class 4-6-0, no. 6823 Oakley Grange, approaching Two Hedges Road. This view has changed little - the fields to the left remain; on the extreme right in the distance is Cleeve Hill. Bernie Holland says: 'The 68xx Grange glass was one of my favourites - they were common on our line during the '50s and '60s.' Oakley Grange was built in 1937 and at the time this photographs was taken it was allocated to Truro shed. It was withdrawn from Oxley (Wolverhampton) shed in 1965 and broken up just a few miles north of where this picture was taken, at Bird's, Long Marston. None of the 80 members of the class survived. However this omission will be rectified with the Betton Grange project at the Llangollen Railway. Click here for a history of the Grange class of locomotives.
The second was taken from Two Hedges Road bridge on 17th July 1965 right at the end of Western Region steam and, in contrast to the other picture, shows a filthy Manor class 4-6 -0 heading south through the remains of Bishop's Cleeve station with a long train of open wagons. Bereft of name and number plates, it is impossible to identify the engine except that the meticulous Bill Potter was able to note that it was 7816 Frilsham Manor which was built in 1939 but had just four months left before being withdrawn from Gloucester in November that year. It was scrapped at Cashmore's at Newport but, remarkably, of a class of just 30 locomotives almost a third (nine) survive. The Manor class is in fact, a lightweight version of the Grange class, incorporating the distinctive raised running plate over the cylinders. Like the Grange, reconditioned wheels and motion were used from the 43xx 2-6-0s but using slightly narrower bore cylinders than the Grange. It also used a smaller boiler. The engines were about 5 tons lighter than the Grange which gave them greater route availability but they still enjoyed a power classification of D (GWR) or 5MT (BR).
Bishop's Cleeve station had been closed for over five years when the picture was taken. Again, the view has not changed much: you can see the goods shed in the background and housing now occupies what was the yard. There is also housing now on the immediate right. The Royal British Legion building now stands a little closer to the photographer than where the goods shed once stood.
Images portraying the view
Both photographs by Bill Potter, courtesy of Bernie Holland/Kidderminster Railway Museum.