Classic traction at the helm for GWR summer heritage diesel gala

Alex Farran
April 20, 2023

• Diesel extravaganza for the GWR summer heritage gala, 7-9 July 2023 • Sights and sounds of 60-year-old traction over 14 miles in the Cotswolds • Guest locomotive & home fleet to operate intensive three-day timetable

The second weekend in July heralds the return of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway’s annual Summer Heritage Diesel Gala which takes place between Friday 7th and Sunday 9th July 2023 – the flagship event for the railway’s resident diesel locomotive fleet. A visiting locomotive for the summer diesel weekend is to be confirmed in due course.


The three-day diesel spectacular offers visitors and enthusiasts young and old the opportunity to experience the sights, sounds and smells of classic heritage diesel traction from the heyday of British Rail, whilst travelling through the idyllic Cotswold countryside – featuring the railway’s iconic structures of Stanway Viaduct, Greet Tunnel and stopping at picturesque period stations.


Diesel traction came to the fore with the end of steam during the mid-1960s, by which time many of the railway’s resident fleet had entered service hauling trains all across the country. Diesel and electric traction could be found on a multitude of services, from fast expresses on the East Coast Mainline (ECML) and the West Coast Mainline (WCML), inter-city services, cross-country workings and heavy freight operations, not to mention the popular summer holiday excursions to many familiar seaside resorts which were often hauled by freight locomotives not normally used on passenger services.


With the end of steam in the Western Region (WR) in 1965, the Honeybourne to Cheltenham route continued to see freight and passenger traffic (albeit at a declining rate and predominately for diversions) until a final race train to the Cheltenham Gold Cup, operated on 14th March 1976, hauled by a Brush Type 4 (Class 47) diesel. Freight traffic came to an abrupt end during the same year with the derailment of a Toton to Severn Tunnel Junction coal train at Winchcombe hauled by a class 45 locomotive, close to the B4632 bridge, causing considerable damage to the track.

During the 1960s & 1970s, diesel workings on the route included: Classes 20, 25, 35, 37, 40,45, 46, & 47.


Up to ten trains will operate each day between Broadway and Cheltenham Racecourse, with additional trains running between Toddington and Cheltenham Racecourse. A full 28-mile round trip can be experienced on most services. Passing loops at Toddington, Winchcombe, and Toddington will allow a 45-minute service all day.


At Toddington,the diesel locomotive shed will be open to visitors offering the chance to see ongoing restoration and maintenance projects, including 1959-built Class 26 No.D5343 and Class 20 No. 20228 which are currently undergoing overhaul.

 Subject to availability, the following home traction will be in service operating trains:

Class 20 No.20137

Class 24 No.5081

Class 37 No’s37215 & D6948

Class 45 No.45149

Class 47 No’s47105 & 47376

Class 117 No.L425


The following home traction will be on static display:

Class 20 No.20228

Class 26 No.D5343

Class 122 No.W55003


With many of therailway’s resident diesel locomotive fleet now approaching 60 years old (5081,37215, 45149 and 47105 are either 60 years old or over), the summer diesel festival is an event not to be missed. The weekend is a celebration of these locomotives which originated from a very different time in our railway history, a time of great change, a time of technological and mechanical advancement, and a time of modernisation for British Rail.  There’s nothing quite like the smell and sound of a diesel engine hard at work!

Tickets for thesummer diesel gala will be available to purchase online at www.gwsr.com from Monday 24th April 2023. Discounts are available for tickets purchased online, with one-day adult tickets from £28. Multi-day rover tickets offering substantial savings are also available, but must be booked in advance. Tickets can also be purchased on the day, with adult tickets at £30.