And they’re off – thoroughbred steam train service to Cheltenham Festival

Ian Crowder
January 24, 2023

• Special steam trains run for Cheltenham Festival 14-17 March 2023 • Trains run by Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway volunteers

In the 1930s the Great Western Railway promoted trips to the Cheltenham Festival, urging race goers to travel ‘By Rail to the Races’.


Today that service is again provided – by theGloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR), for Cheltenham Festivalhospitality specialist Classic Hospitality.


The trains run from Toddington and (on Friday) from Broadway on each day of the Festival, 14-17 March 2023, through the glorious Cotswolds straight into the racecourse at Cheltenham’s Prestbury Park.  The main entrance is less than five minutes’walk from the station.  


Hugh Doubtfire, managing director of Classic Hospitality says: “We have had a fantastic relationship with the GWSR over many years and a large proportion of our travellers to both the Cheltenham Festival as well as the November meeting, are repeat customers.


“It’s hard to beat the comfort and style of the train trip, alighting at the racecourse station to take the short walk for a fantastic day’s racing.  


“Best of all, the trip back to Toddington or Broadway avoids the crush of people trying to get out of the venue at the end of the day.  Car drivers can queue for up to an hour – but the train really does take the strain, whisking you away to your waiting car, coach or limousine.”


Hugh Doubtfire adds: “I’m so impressed by the way these classic trains are turned out – spotlessly clean with a real thorough bred steam locomotive at the front.  And it’s alldone by volunteers!  I’m proud that weare helping the GWSR to achieve its own goals by running these special trains –I think we really have backing a winner.”


Adds Richard Johnson, Chairman of GWSR Plc: “The Classic Hospitality service is a vital start to our operating season whichbegins in March.  I am eternally grateful to our willing army of volunteers who put the service on and look after ourvisitors.  


“It’s a great atmosphere – and whether winners or losers on the day, we do our best to make sure that our visitors and the ClassicHospitality team enjoy every moment of their train experience.”


Cheltenham Racecourse station was originally opened by the Great Western Railway in March 1912, specifically to bring both equine and racegoing visitors to the venue. The station was only ever opened on racedays.  Important visitors travelling by train have included many members of the Royal Family, HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother being a particularly regular visitor.  Race trains continued to run from London, the Midlands and elsewhere for race meetings until 1978, when the former Stratford-upon-Avon to Cheltenham line closed and the track was lifted.  


Over subsequent years GWSR volunteers have steadily rebuilt the railway, re-opening Cheltenham Racecourse station in time for the Cheltenham Festival in March 2003. Cheltenham Racecourse station is today the railway’s southern terminus, open on operating days throughout the year: not just race days.


Ticket for the special trains and hospitality packages,organised in partnership with At The Races, are only available from Classic Hospitality from their website www.classichospitality.co.uk or by calling 01825 746082.