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Cotswolds Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Steam Railway

A blast from the past with the restoration of part of a GWR main line running through some of the prettiest scenery in England

This makes a very enjoyable day out on a 14 mile journey between Cheltenham Race Course to Broadway along part of the busy main line between Cheltenham and Birmingham.


Some History

In the late C19th the Great Western Railway were considering schemes for building a new route from Birmingham through the Vale of Evesham to Cheltenham. They got parliamentary approval for a line in 1899. By 1906 a 21 mile stretch of double track line was opened between between Cheltenham and Honeybourne, where it linked to the line from Stratford upon Avon to Birmingham. Nine or ten passenger services ran each way.

From Cheltenham the line was extended to Gloucester and the South West. The first through trains ran from Wolverhampton to the West Country in 1910 and it rapidly became the main line link between the Midlands and the South West competing with the Midland Railway route. The line was popular with holiday traffic in the 1950s.

By the 1960, passenger and good traffic had fallen. Local services between Cheltenham and Honeybourne were withdrawn. The last Cornishman Express ran in 1962 and express trains were then rerouted via the Birmingham to Gloucester line, although Saturday holiday trains continued to use the line until the mid 1960s. The line was still used for freight traffic, with the occasional diverted passenger train.

Freight traffic came to an abrupt end in 1976 when an empty coal train derailed just outside Winchcombe, close to the B4632 bridge. The track was sufficiently badly damaged for British Railways to decide it didn’t justify the cost of replacement and the line was closed. Although local residents and enthusiasts objected to the closure, they were unable to meet the price British Rail were asking. The track was lifted in 1979.

The Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway Trust was set up to preserve the line. It was a lot cheaper to buy the trackbed once the rails had been removed. Track laying began in 1981 and in 1984, the first public train with an engine hauling one carriage steamed out of Toddington along a short stretch of line. The line was gradually rebuilt reaching Cheltenham Race Course by 2003. Broadway was reached in 2018. Stations, signal boxes and road bridges have needed to be restored or rebuilt, recreating the feel and nostalgia of the GWR mainline as it was seventy years ago.


There are now plans to extend the 4.5 miles to Honeybourne, which had been an important junction on the Worcester to London main line.

The railway own a wide variety of steam locomotives, heritage diesels and DMUs, many beautifully restored.



Although the coaches are around 60-70 years old, they have been carefully restored in the railway workshops with seats reupholstered. There are no sagging springs here.

The railway can boast possibly the largest collection of wagons on any heritage railway which are used to make up’ demonstration’ goods trains for special events, photography or film sets.




The Route



Cheltenham Race Course Station

Cheltenham Race Course Station lies within the race course grounds, which are set below the scarp of the Cotswolds.



The station was opened in 1912 to serve the new racecourse. It was only opened on race days, so facilities were rudimentary. It was so popular with race goers that platforms had to be extended to accommodate trains of up to 14 carriages. The railway still runs special trains from Toddington on race days.

The beautifully restored ticket office beside the A435 road bridge and close to the main entrance of the racecourse.


It is the only original building to survive here and is thought to be the only remaining example of a Swindon-built flatpack prefabricated building that was brought by train and assembled on site. It now houses a collection of artefacts.

The station itself is in a cutting surrounded by Corsican pine trees, making it feel like a really rural station. The line is double track, allowing locos to run round.


The station buildings are new with the signal box at the far end.





Looking back towards Cheltenham under the road bridge, the track has been replaced and is used to store rolling stock. Beyond Hunting Butts Tunnel, the track bed is now a cycle way into to the centre of Cheltenham.


Leaving Cheltenham Race Course Station, the line runs along the foothills of the Cotswolds which are very rich agricultural countryside, and overlooking the flat Severn Plain. This is important sheep country.




The remains of the medieval ridge and furrow ploughing can still be seen in the fields.


Bishop’s Cleeve can be seen on the left with the Forest of Dean in the far distance.


The line continues to climb to Gotherington Station, with a passing loop and signal box before the station.


Gotherington Station

The goods yard, old up platform and original station buildings are now privately owned, and the track alongside the station has been lifted. Railway relics can be seen in the old goods yard.




The tiny Gotherington West station with its short stretch of line is also privately owned.


The GWSR have rebuilt a very short platform opposite with a stone shelter. The only access is by foot.

It is a lovely run between Gotherington and Winchcombe, between Oxenton Hill and Prescott Hill. This is the site of the prestigious Prescott Speed Hill Climb, a 1127yard course that climbs over 2000’ in short straights and hair pin bends.




Beyond is the Severn Plain


Winchcombe can be glimpsed through the trees

Winchcombe Station

Winchcombe Station is actually in the village of Greet, and is the mid way paint on the line. Trains pass here.



The only original buildings are weighbridge and the old goods shed, which is now the main workshop for the carriage and wagon group on the railway.

The station buildings come from Monmouth Troy on the Wye valley line and were dismantled and re-erected here on site of the original building. The signal box rebuilt on foundations of original one.



Parked up in a siding next to the platform is the Discovery Coach which has information about the history of the railway. Next to it is a Royal Mail coach with a model railway.


Heading out of the station on the right immediately beyond the signal box is the group of buildings making up the Carriage and Wagon workshops. Wagons and old coaches can be seen in the sidings.



After leaving the station the line runs along a high embankment, the famous Chicken Curve (named from a redundant battery chicken farm on the right). This was the scene of a massive embankment collapse in 2011, necessitating a £1million rebuild.

Hayles Abbey Halt

Hayles Abbey Halt with its tin waiting shelter is just beyond. A station was opened here in 1928 to bring visitors to the newly opened museum at the nearby Hailes Abbey. The present halt was reopened in 2017.


Leaving the station, Didbrook village can be seen with its church. Ridge and furrow can be seen in the fields.



Approaching Toddington, on the left hand side is the track of the narrow gauge railway operated by the North Gloucestershire Railway Company. 
Trains are run on the half mile of 2’ gauge track on summer Sundays.
Toddington Station

Toddington is the main operations base of the railway and the extensive sidings approaching the station contain l large collection of locos and rolling stock. The Goods shed has been converted into a workshop. There is a viewing area and guided tours of the sheds.




When it first opened, Toddington was an important station with a large goods yard, cattle loading pens, fruit packing shed and weigh bridge.

All original buildings survived and have been restored and sidings laid to accommodate a large collection of locomotives and rolling stock.




There is a display of railway artefacts in the brake coach in a siding next to the main platform.


Leaving Toddington, line drops down through a cutting and crosses the Severn Plain 50’ below on the cutting an Stanway Viaduct. Although impressive although you are almost unaware of the viaduct from the train.

There are views of Cotswolds and distant views of the Malverns on the left.





Broadway Station

The line now approaches Broadway Station, which is about a mile from the town.


The original station buildings was demolished in 1963 although the line remained open for passenger trains until 1968. A new signal box, footbridge and station buildings were rebuilt in the style of the original station, using reclaimed bricks. The footbridge came from Henley in Arden.




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