Famous ‘Holiday Express’ trains on the roster for the GWSR in August

Alex Farran
July 11, 2023

• Resident steam locomotives to haul named trains on 2nd, 9th, 16th & 30th August • Memories & nostalgia of summer holiday train journeys to the seaside

A recreation of several famous 'Holiday Express' trains is to take place on summer Wednesdays during August on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR), bringing visitors and enthusiasts memories and nostalgia of summer holiday train journeys to the seaside while travelling through the idyllic Cotswold countryside. The railway's steam locomotive fleet will be hauling 'The Devonian', 'The Cambrian Coast Express', 'The Atlantic Coast Express', and 'The Cornishman' on the 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 30th of August, respectively.

‘The Devonian’ (Wednesday 2nd August 2023) was a named passenger train of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS), the Great Western Railway (GWR) and latterly, British Rail (BR) that operated cross-country from Bradford in West Yorkshire to Paignton and Kingswear in Devon. The train ran via Leeds, Sheffield, Derby, Birmingham, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Bristol, Exeter, and Torquay, with its inaugural running on the 26th of September, 1927. Motive power for ‘The Devonian’ in steam days included LMS Scot, Patriot, Jubilee, Black 5 and Capriotti class locomotives, with the GWR utilising Large Prairies and Castle class locomotives. The Second World War saw the train suspended until its reinstatement on the 23rd of May, 1949, lasting until 1975. Twelve years later, in 1987, the train was revived once again and continued until 2002.  

‘The Cambrian Coast Express’ (Wednesday 9th August 2023) was a named passenger train of the Great Western Railway (GWR), and later British Rail (BR), that operated from London Paddington to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli via Shrewsbury over the Cambrian line – A line which runs across mid-Wales and along the Welsh coast. The named train was officially introduced in 1927 with the service operating on summer Fridays and Saturdays. By the mid-late 1950s the train operated every day during the year except on Sundays. Steam haulage of the Cambrian Coast Express ended in 1965, with home resident locomotive No. 7820 Dinmore Manor having the honour of hauling the last regular steam hauled service.

The Atlantic Coast Express’ (Wednesday 16th August 2023) affectionately known as ‘ACE’ by enthusiasts and travellers - was the principal express train of the Southern Railway (SR) from London Waterloo to the West Country. The train operated between July 1926 and September 1964 and, at its height, served no less than nine different destinations in Devon and Cornwall, including Plymouth, Bude, Ilfracombe and Padstow. The service reached its Zenith in the 1950s when the Bulleid Pacifics brought increased speed operation, improvements in reliability and timekeeping, plus the first timetabled ‘mile-a-minute’ schedule. The final ‘Atlantic Coast Express’ departed Padstow on the 5th of September, 1964, hauled by West Country locomotive 34023 Blackmoor Vale.

‘The Cornishman’ (Wednesday 30th August 2023) was a named passenger train of the Great Western Railway (GWR) that operated from London Paddington to Penzance in Cornwall. The named train was first operated in the summer of 1890 and continued to operate until 1936. In 1952, ‘The Cornishman’ was resurrected by the Western Region of British Railways with the named train operating for the first time under BR on the 30th June. Unlike the pre-War train with the Great Western Railway (GWR) which operated from Paddington, the new service operated from The Midlands starting at Wolverhampton. By the early 1970s, starting locations for the train had moved much further north, with the train operating from Bradford and Leeds.

For further information and to purchase tickets online for the ‘Holiday Express’ trains, please visit www.gwsr.com - There is a 5% discount for all tickets bought online.

Main photo - 7903 & 75014 with headboards (Picture: Jack Boskett)