Published 08 July 2013
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway’s (GWR) heritage diesel weekend and open days, Friday July 26 to Sunday July 28, is the first diesel event since July 2010 and the first to feature the whole 11.75 miles from Cheltenham Race Course to Laverton, via Toddington. The GWR has been unable to stage such events subsequently due to the catastrophic land slips that severed the line and pushed the railway to the brink of disaster.
The gala celebrates the rebuilding of the line and sees the return of the railway’s popular annual diesel-only event which has been much missed by classic traction enthusiasts.
The GWR is not connected to the national network, which makes it expensive to bring in visiting locos, but it is fortunate in being able to muster a good range of main line diesel types from its home fleet. On this occasion it is also able to produce two interesting locos that have never been seen in operation in preservation before. Class 26 No. 26043 and Class 45 ‘Peak’ No. 45149 have both been undergoing extensive restoration at Toddington for many years, and subject to availability, will be starring at the event.
Other main line diesels in operation will be Class 24 No. 5081 and the Growler Group’s Class 37 No. 37215, both of which were stars themselves at the West Somerset Railway’s mixed traction event in June. Also running will be Class 20 No. D8137 (20137), Class 47 No. 47376, and electro-diesel No. Class 73 No. E6036. Driver-for-a-fiver diesel experience runs will be available at Race Course station while each arriving loco waits over for its next turn.
The newly commissioned signalbox and passing loop at Gotherington, between Toddington and Cheltenham Race Course, will enable a 35-minute frequency service to be run throughout the day. In addition to the frequent loco-hauled trains there will be a DMU service.
At Toddington, the recently completed diesel shed will be open to the public for the first time where they will be able to see two locos undergoing extensive restoration. These are Class 47 No. 47105 and Class 37 No. D6948. As well as seeing ‘behind the scenes’ and ‘how it works’ displays in the shed, there will be a model railway exhibition and sales stands. The unique ex-LMS diesel shunter, No. 7069, will also be on display in the shed.
Various activities are planned for Toddington and Winchcombe stations, where the carriage and wagon workshop will be open to visitors. A classic car rally takes place at Toddington over the weekend and there will be a real ale tent.
On Saturday evening there is a live band at Toddington from 18.15 to 20.15 playing ’70s and ’80s music, plus food and refreshments. To get you home afterwards there will be a 20.30 train to Cheltenham.
Tickets are available on the day, but if booked in advance are at a reduced rate. An adult rover ticket on the day is £20.00, in advance it is £17.50 for example. Tickets are available for one, two or three days and include unlimited travel for each day. Child, concession and family tickets also available.
Please note that there will be no separate access to stations or yards as admission is by ticket only. See website for details and online booking, or telephone 01242 621405.
Car parking is free at all stations: Cheltenham Race Course (GL50 4SH), Winchcombe (GL54 5LD) and Toddington (GL54 5DT). The car park at Cheltenham is within the racecourse and accessed via the internal road system. Spaces are limited at Winchcombe.
The nearest main line station is Cheltenham Spa from where Stagecoach bus service D serves racecourse park-and-ride bus stop, about ¾ mile from the GWR station.
On Saturday, a free vintage bus runs from Cheltenham Spa station at 09.00 and 09.40 to Race Course station, returning at 17.26, 18.06 and 21.00, and on Sunday, from Cheltenham Spa at 10.15, returning from Race Course station at 17.26.
Written by Peter Nicholson