Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway allows journeys over 10.5 miles of standard gauge line between Cheltenham Racecourse and Toddington, but with an extension under construction to Broadway this will increase it to around 15 miles. Steam operations started in 1964 and the Cheltenham Racecourse extension was opened in 2003.
It's likely that trains will be able to run to a place with a loop to allow the engine to get back to the front of the train part way to Broadway, allowing travel over the viaduct and two way trains at Toddington before long. The lines and points for this are being put in now.
The potential is to develop this line from Cheltenham to Stratford upon Avon, making it then the longest heritage railway in the country, but this is probably a long way off. They currently have the track bed as far north as Springfield Lane bridge at grid reference SP 091386, about 440 yards north of the old station site at Broadway, so far enough to put events on running trains from this end point through Broadway station and on towards the existing line. They will need a another 4.6 miles beyond this to get to Honeybourne junction that would allow it to link up with British Rail. The section between the racecourse station and the mainline station at Cheltenham is mostly available but with one bridge problem along the route, and a lot of expensive work required on other bridges and infrastructure. The trackbed through Cheltenham town centre is owned by the Borough Council. Railtrack has a plan that shows this line being rerouted to join the main line north of Swindon village.
This is a nice line for photographers for several reasons, including good access to take photographs from bridges and public rights of way, the Cotswold scenic location, and the fact that this once before was a dual width line as there is extra width either side of the trackway, plus with a lineside pass, walking along the trackside is safer as much of the way there is a safe walkway on much of the route, left to drive railway service vehicles along.
Greet tunnel is impressive and trains can be photographed coming out of either end (with lineside pass). There is a second smaller tunnel beyond Cheltenham racecourse station, which is not yet in use. North of Toddington, and not yet having regular trains over is the Stanway Viaduct, 15 arches in curve standing 50ft high. On some special events some trains may be run across it, but watch the locomotive roster page for information on these events.
Due to the line width and the number of bridges, there are a lot of opportunities to get photographs. The roads between, although country roads, are not generally busy, and allow rapid access so that you can often leap frog the train getting several shots along its journey, with some planning. There are a number of good photo points.
Along this 15 miles there are a lot of structures including:-
Both Toddington and Winchcombe stations are impressive historic stations that have been moved and re-erected in these locations. The original Gotherington station and signal box are privately owned but have been restored, and a goods siding added, all of which can be photographed. Cheltenham Racecourse station is the original building at bridge level with a walkway down to platforms.
They have a range of resident steam and diesel trains and put on both regular days throughout the year and a number of spectacular special events. In addition there are dining trains and other specials like the ones to the Racecourse of Race Days (ie Cheltenham Festival in March) and fish and chip specials.
Lineside passes are available for the day or as annual passes. Available to those over 18 and you must wear an ORANGE HIGH VISIBILITY JACKET. You can go nearly anywhere, except inside Greet Tunnel or on the line in stations between the platforms.
Day passes are £8, some events may be £10.
Annual passes are £35 for non members or £15 for members. As membership starts at £14, you can save £6 by becoming a member. Lineside passes run for the calendar year but membership is renewable around April time. So one years membership could allow two annual passes to be obtained. Membership also includes other benefits. Like many organisations run largely by volunteers, things may not happen fast, so allow loads of time if applying by mail.
Information and application form on lineside passes is available by clicking here . Day passes can be obtained from Toddington station, but arrive in plenty of time to allow the right person to issue them to be available. The volunteers on the fire service side at the railway (they also have some period fire engines) sometimes act as checkers to see everyone has a lineside pass, and at events I have seen passes being checked around Winchcombe and the Greet Tunnel areas, so don't be tempted to join the crowd of photographers at events and go onto the line.
Locomotive roster is available by clicking here
Further information Grid
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