On Saturday, 12th March, the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) will reopen for the 2022 season over its 14-mile Cotswold line between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway.
The re-opening is a week later than originally planned, as a number of significant engineering works that had taken place during the winter were being completed, including:
- Contractors carrying out a permanent repair of a cutting slip at Winchcombe.
- Contract repair of ‘Bridge 8’ which carries the B4632 Broadway Road over the railway near Stanton.
- Extension of the canopy at Broadway station to provide an airy, covered area between the station building and the new footbridge.
- Installing new pointwork at Toddington and Cheltenham Racecourse stations.
- Ballasting and tamping of the entire line following the pointwork repairs and maintenance of the track.
Demolition of the former Toddington garden centre ahead of construction of a new visitor centre.
- Improving drainage including at 73 structures that carry water from the Cotswolds under or over the railway.
During the winter break, the fleet of steam and heritage diesel locomotives based at Toddington underwent maintenance and repair, and all of the line’s coaches were inspected and repaired at Winchcombe carriage works.
Trains will run every weekend and most weekdays until the end of October, with the Santa Special season beginning at the end of November.
The railway is also planning a wide range of events, but the popular ‘War in the Cotswolds’ scheduled for 23-24 April has been cancelled because of the escalating crisis in Ukraine.
The first trains of the year are to the steam ‘Purple’ timetable, with the first departure from Cheltenham Racecourse to Broadway at 10.00 and the from Broadway at 11.15. The first trains from Toddington are to Cheltenham at 10.15 and to Broadway 10.38. On Sunday the ‘Blue’ timetable operates to the same times, but with a combination of steam and diesel-railcar operation.
Richard Johnson, the voluntary Chairman of GWSR Plc, said in an announcement to volunteers: “The event was intended to be a joyful weekend and that conflicts deeply with what we now see happening. To continue would send completely the wrong message to our potential visitors and the wider public.
“For the same reason, we have also decided that the schools’ ‘Evacuation Days’ should be suspended.”
Richard Johnson says: “It is astonishing how much has been achieved since Christmas to enable the railway to reopen for the 2022 season. I think that in terms of engineering work to the running line and stations, this has been one of our busiest-ever winters. Not only has it involved some serious civil engineering and bridge works as well as ensuring that our track meets the highest possible standards for the safe operation of our trains; but maintenance of our stations, signalling, and gardens, too.
“Our railway depends on around 900 volunteers. They don’t just put their feet up during the winter break – they muscle in and devote a huge amount of effort to ensure that the railway is in the best possible shape for re-opening.
“It is an enormous tribute to them and to those pioneers who started the long process of restoring this wonderful railway that we have the line we love and enjoy today!
“I can’t wait to welcome our first passengers when the railway starts running public services once again on Saturday 12th March.”