Monday, 3 April 2017
One former Great Western line which is now part of the preserved rail network, is the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway. The line was built and opened in 1906 and whilst local passenger services ceased to operate in the 1960's, the line remained open for freight until a serious derailment in 1976. This happened when a coal train heading for Totton near Southampton derailed near the site of the former Winchcombe station. The damage to the line was deemed too costly to repair by British Railways and the line was closed and lifted by 1979.
The story doesn't end there however, as a group of dedicated volunteers formed the GWSR in 1981 with the intention of preserving and reopening the line between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway. Stations have been restored or rebuilt at Toddington, Winchcombe and Cheltenham Racecourse with new stations currently being rebuilt at both Broadway and Hayles Abbey. Whilst the railway achieved its goal of reaching Cheltenham in 2003, they are now raising funds via a highly successful share issue to ensure that trains will return to Broadway in 2018. This will be the first time trains have stopped in the town since 1960 so it will be a significant milestone. At present a new station is being built on the site of the old one, whilst trackbed preparation, ballasting and tracklaying is continuing as well. Having travelled on this beautiful line a few times I can't wait to visit Broadway station when the trains return next year. The railway's longer term ambition is to extend beyond Broadway and to link up with the Cotswold line at Honeybourne, which would mean the line would have a connection to the main line network once more. Plans have also been suggested at extending the line south of Cheltenham Racecourse to the Prince of Wales stadium, but right now the focus is all on Broadway.