Published: 4th July 2016
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway’s (GWSR) ‘Broadway - The Last Mile’ share issue was launched May 6 by the railway’s President, pop producer-songwriter and TV personality Pete Waterman OBE. The aim is to finance the extension of the line to Broadway and complete construction of what will become the GWSR’s new terminus by 2018.
“I’m thrilled and humbled at the generosity of so many people,” commented GWSR finance director, Chris Bristow. “For a voluntary organisation like ours to attract such a flow of funds is extraordinary.”
“There are many heritage railways trying to raise money for a range of worthwhile projects but this must be one of the most successful in terms of public response,” continued Chris Bristow. “I think it underlines the great affection that so many people have for our wonderful railway.”
Orders are now being placed with British Steel at Scunthorpe for rail to be employed on the extension. Other materials are also being ordered and the railway is pressing on with vital drainage and civil engineering works in the area of Little Buckland Bridge and Peasebrook Farm Bridge which have to be finished before the rest of the last mile of track goes down.
The first phase of GWSR’s northern extension from its Toddington HQ opened to Laverton in April 2011. A GWSR share issue in 2013 raised more than £500,000 which paid for restoration of the five bridges on the remaining trackbed to Broadway during the following year.
The loop at Laverton has now been removed and the rails will be used to form the north sidings at Broadway. The turnouts, being replaced by plain line, are also destined for Broadway.
At Broadway the footbridge span (originally from Henley-in-Arden) is in position, construction of the signal box is finished and bricklaying is well underway for the main station building. Later this year signal posts will be ‘planted’ starting at the north end of the site.
Working on the basis GWSR will run its first trains to Broadway in 2018, nearly six decades will have passed since the last time a train stopped there. British Railways services to Broadway ceased in 1960. Reaching Broadway will give GWSR a length of 15 miles, linking the Cotswold town of Broadway with Cheltenham and providing a rail link between two of the most important tourist destinations in the Cotswolds.
The expectation is for passenger numbers to jump significantly when the extension is opened, in turn contributing to the economy of the area.
While reaching the half-way mark so quickly is clearly cause for celebration anther £600,000 or so still needs to be raised before the job can be finished. The railway urges anyone who has not yet bought shares to do so now and help keep up the momentum.
Shares in the ‘Broadway: The Last Mile’ share offer are available for as little as £100. For a copy of the prospectus and details of how to apply for shares visit the railway’s website at www.gwsr.com or telephone the railway on 01242 621 405
At the line’s Cheltenham Racecourse Station terminus, lighting is now in place on recently reinstated platform 2, although there are no immediate plans to tarmac the platform surface.
A short extension to platform 1 at Winchcombe is proving popular with visitors who can now stand by the loco while it waits to continue southwards.
Construction of Hayles Abbey Halt has started, a very short walk from the site of English Heritage/National Trust Hailes Abbey – for whatever reason, the Abbey and railway spell the name differently!
Rebuilt ‘Merchant Navy’ pacific No. 35006 Peninsular & Oriental SN Co. was launched into service in May, over 30 years after the stripped, forlorn and rusty locomotive – by then little more than a boiler on wheels without a tender - arrived at Toddington for restoration after it had stood in Woodham Bros. scrapyard on Barry Island for 18 years.