Steaming to Christmas on the GWSR

Ian Crowder
November 16, 2023

• More than two-thirds of Santa Express tickets sold out! • ‘Book quickly’ to avoid disappointment, railway advises • Charity Santa Express runs on 19 November • Post-Christmas Mince Pie Specials

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) is heading at express speed into Christmas, with more than two-thirds of its Santa Express trains sold out and limited availability on most of the rest (first public trains 25 and 26 November).

Catherine Johnson, Marketing Manager of the GWSR says: “The Santa Express has a special place in the hearts of so many families, lots coming year after year.  The day offers amazing value for money: our volunteer elves go to considerable trouble to put on a wonderful Christmas experience with all youngsters getting to meet Father Christmas and receive a top-quality present from him as well as everyone enjoying lovely refreshments.

“Tickets have been going like hot mince-pies, but there are some tickets left that can be booked online but they will soon go,” she advises.

“The steam trains run from Cheltenham Racecourse station where there is ample free car parking, to the winter-wonderland of ‘North Pole’ station at Winchcombe.”

“There remains ticket availability on 25th and 26th November and some tickets remaining for 20th and 21st December – the latter two are days ideal for pre-school youngsters as schools won’t have broken up for the Christmas holidays.”

The first train however, is on 19 November for local charities; James Hopkins Trust which provides nursing respite care to life-limited and life-threatened young children in Gloucestershire and Heart Heroes which works with children and their families living with heart conditions.

The railway’s volunteers have run the Christmas charity trains for some years and are the brainchild of Chris Blake, a member of the GWSR’s steam locomotive department who says: “We will be entertaining some 300 children and their families in a safe, happy and friendly environment on our steam trains.  While of course we bring delight to hundreds of children and families throughout December, there are those who miss the opportunity to enjoy something like this because of serious illness or a disability.  It makes a real difference not only to the youngsters and their families but to us as well: we get a lot of enjoyment out of running these special Santa Expresses.”  

The GWSR has adapted some of its 60-year-old coaches specially for wheelchair access.

After Christmas, the railway is running its Mince Pie Specials between Cheltenham Racecourse and Toddington until 1st January.  The line north of Toddington to Broadway is currently closed as urgent repairs have begun on the 15-arch Stanway Viaduct.  Volunteers have already removed the track and contractors Walsh Construction have started removing the ballast prior to replacing the failed waterproof viaduct deck.  The viaduct is planned to be reopened in time for the beginning of the 2024 season, from 4th March.