article by: Ian Crowder
This page contains a chronology of key dates from the earliest
history of the route between Honeybourne and Cheltenham, to the
present day. The line had stations or halts at one time or another
at Weston-sub-Edge, Willersey Halt, Broadway, Laverton Halt,
Toddington, Hayles Abbey Halt, Winchcombe, Gretton Halt,
Gotherington, Bishop's Cleeve, Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham
High Street Halt, Cheltenham Spa St. James and Cheltenham Malvern
Building the Line
1899 - The Great Western Railway obtains an Act of Parliament
permitting construction of a double-track railway between
Honeybourne and Cheltenham and doubling of the single-track route
from Stratford-upon-Avon to Honeybourne, creating a through route
from the Midlands to the South West to compete with the Midland
route which survives today.
1902 - Work began on construction of the Honeybourne-Cheltenham
line in November.
1903 - Stanway viaduct collapse. (Picture in gallery)
1904 - The line opened from Honeybourne to Broadway on 1st
August, and to Toddington on 1st December.
1905 - Line extended to Winchcombe (1st February) and Bishops
Cleeve (1st June). Laverton Halt opened 14th August.
1906 - Final section to Cheltenham opened to the connection with
the line to the original Cheltenham station (later St. James) at
Cheltenham Malvern Road East Junction (1st August). The route
continued towards Gloucester on the existing GWR line alongside the
Midland main line. At this stage, Prestbury Park racecourse was
being laid out and Racecourse station was not opened. Click here to read an interesting
extract from a contemporary Great Western Railway Magazine.
From 1906 - Line opened with nine or ten stopping passenger
services each way between Cheltenham and Honeybourne on
1908 - Cheltenham Malvern Road station opened and the original
Cheltenham station was renamed Cheltenham St. James (30th March).
Cheltenham High Street Halt opened 1st October.
1910 - First through trains introduced between Wolverhampton and
the West Country, which became a lasting feature of timetables.
Other destinations included Cardiff, Birmingham, various West
Country towns and, for a short time, even Norwich.
1912 - Cheltenham Race Course station opened, seeing both equine
and passenger traffic for the first Cheltenham Gold Cup that
1917 - Cheltenham High Street and Malvern Road stations closed
as a wartime economy measure. High Street never reopened; Malvern
Road was reopened in 1919.
1928 - Hayles Abbey Halt (note the spelling of Hayles with a
'y') opened on 24th September to coincide with the opening of a new
museum at the abbey.
1930's - Up to 12 summer Saturday expresses used the line in
each direction as well as local passenger and freight traffic.
1941 - Gotherington closed to goods traffic and reduced to
'Halt' status on 1st January.
1948 - Great Western Railway was absorbed by British Railways on
1949 - Gotherington signal box closed.
1950 - Weston-sub-Edge station closed to goods traffic (25th
September) and signal box closed (8th October).
1952 - The Wolverhampton-Penzance express was named 'The
Cornishman'. The line was heavily used throughout the 1950's,
including much summer holiday traffic to the West Country.
1955 - Gotherington station closed (13th June).
1960 - Local passenger services between Cheltenham and
Honeybourne ended on 7th March with closure of intermediate
stations north of Cheltenham Racecourse. Broadway signal box closed
1962 - Last 'Cornishman' express ran over the route on 7th
September; this and other express trains were re-routed via the
Birmingham - Gloucester line.
1963 - Bishops Cleeve closed to goods traffic (1st July). Last
steam-hauled race train ran, hauled by 'Castle' class locomotive
Clun Castle (14th March).
1964 - Cheltenham Racecourse signal box closed (9th February).
Goods traffic withdrawn from Broadway (1st June) and Winchcombe
1965 - Signal boxes closed at Winchcombe (24th February) and
Bishops Cleeve (11th July). Most through freight traffic was
re-routed from 8th November. Last steam-hauled trains ran over the
1966 - Cheltenham St James and Malvern Road stations and all
remaining stations north of Honeybourne Junction closed (3rd
1967 - Toddington was the last station yard to remain open for
goods traffic (it was important for fruit traffic from the Vale of
Evesham), closing on 2nd January.
1968 - Last timetable through passenger train, Leamington Spa to
Gloucester, ceased from 23rd march. Cheltenham Racecourse station,
which had remained open for race trains, was officially closed on
25th March, but was reopened in 1971 for occasional race traffic
1969 - Through passenger trains ceased using the northern
(Stratford - Honeybourne) section with withdrawal of the Stratford
- Worcester service on 5th May.
1970's - Line used only as a diversionary route; much of the
infrastructure, including stations, demolished.
1976 - Last visit by a race train to Cheltenham Gold Cup , 14th
March, hauled by a Brush Type 4 (Class 47) diesel. Freight traffic
came to an abrupt end with derailment of a Toton to Severn Tunnel
Junction coal train at Winchcombe, close to the B4632 bridge,
causing considerable damage to the track. The line never reopened.
It was officially closed on 1st November.
1979 - From July, the track was lifted.
1976 - Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Society formed at
public meeting at Willersey Village Hall on 18th August with aim to
persuade BR to retain line.
1977 - Society became Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Trust
on 28th October, seeking to preserve the line.
1981 - A lease was taken out on part of Toddington yard. On 30th
May, the first items of rolling stock arrived for restoration.
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway Plc was formed in
August. Track laying began.
1983 - The Department of Transport granted a 'Light Railway
Order' - permitting the Company to relay the line between Broadway
1984 - Purchase of 15 miles of track bed, associated land and
remaining buildings completed on 24th February. Line reopened on
22nd April by Rt. Hon Nicholas Ridley, MP and public services
commenced over 700 yards of track.
Restoration of public services
From 1984 - Volunteers have, since 1984, steadily restored the
line, building signal boxes, station buildings and replacing lost
signalling and other infrastructure, working south from Toddington
towards Cheltenham Race Course.
1985 - 2,000 yards of track laid to Didbrook.
1986 - Trains run as far as Hayles Abbey, approx 1.5 miles.
1987 - Line reaches Winchcombe - first steam train for 28 years
arriving on 8th March. Winchcombe station officially opened by John
Slatter, Chairman of Winchcombe Council. Re-construction of the
former Monmouth Troy station building started at Winchcombe. The
former Hall Green, Birmingham, signalbox had been re-built at
Wichcombe and became operational (there were no buildings remaining
at Winchcombe, except for the Weigh Bridge and the goods shed which
is now the base for restoration of carriages and wagons). Track
laid through Greet Tunnel (693 yards long).
1990 - Line reopened as far as Gretton (4.25 miles from
1994 - Line reopened as far as Far Stanley (5 miles)
1997 - Line reopened as far as Gotherington (6.5 miles).
1998 - Track was laid in Cheltenham Racecourse station and a
Press Launch inaugurated by Laurence Robertson MP to promote the
1999 - Railtrack express an interest in using the route as a
possible diversionary route because of increasing congestion on the
former Midland line between Gloucester and Birmingham. Station
canopy at Winchcombe completed. Work starts on relaying track on
the southern extension.
2000 - On 28th December, the track was laid as far as Cheltenham
Racecourse, an '03' class diesel shunter pulling the first works
train in to the station, 10 miles from Toddington. However, at this
stage the line needed to be ballasted and finished and was not
operational. The Cheltenham extension incorporates a section of
continuously welded rail through Woodmancote, to minimise
disturbance for local residents from passing trains.
2001 - On 20th February, a press day was held to celebrate
completion of the track laying an to promote the effort and funding
required to complete work on the reinstated line, before passenger
trains can run again. Hunslet 0-6-0ST shunting locomotive 'King
George' becomes the first steam locomotive to travel to the
Racecourse for over 30 years. Good progress made towards completion
of the trackwork. Major ballasting exercise carried out during
2002 - Work started towards building a new platform building at
Cheltenham Racecourse. During April/May, Balfour Beatty Rail Plant
Limited send a tamping machine to the line as part of a training
programme for their technical staff, finishing the Cheltenham
extension to the highest possible standards of safety. Final
ballasting also completed as part of this programme - in all, some
8,000 tonnes of stone ballast has been used on the three-mile
extension. Deal signed with Racing Tours Limited to run special
race trains to Cheltenham Racecourse from the Cheltenham Festival
in March 2003. On 17th November, first rake of passenger coaches
reaches Cheltenham Racecourse station since 1971, launching 2003
race trains. First track laid northwards from Toddington towards
Broadway, to a point just short of Stanway viaduct (currently used
for stock storage).
2003 - Racing Tours Limited, in conjunction with the GWR, run
race trains for the 2003 Cheltenham Gold Cup - allowing race goers
to once again travel 'by rail to the races'. HRH The Princess Royal
opens Cheltenham Racecourse station on 7th April. First public
trains run on 12th April, using visiting Schools class locomotive
Cheltenham. GWR wins Ian Allan Independent Railway of the Year
Award, and the Heritage Railway Association's Annual Award.
Believed to be the first time both awards have been won by the same
railway for the same year. New website launched: www.gwsr.com.
2004 - GWR's season ends on 1st January having carried nearly
46,000 passengers - a 25% increase on the previous year. During
January and February, nearly one mile of track replaced between
Toddington and Winchcombe.
2005 - Track laying northwards towards Broadway commences, and
track is laid across the Stanway Viaduct. In November, an
engineering train becomes the first train to cross the viaduct
2006 - The GWR celebrates the Centenary of opening throughout
from Stratford to Cheltenham, in 1906. This year was also the 25th
anniversary of the formation of Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam
Railway Plc and the effort to restore the line. (see 1906 and 1981
in this chronology). The first steam locomotive to cross
Stanway Viaduct in preservation is 0-4-2T no. 1450 with an
autotrailer (a combination known locally as the Coffee Pot), on
loan from the Dean Forest Railway for the railway's highly
successful Centenary Festival. The railway ran a special day for
people who recalled the 'Coffee Pot' service that once ran from
Cheltenham to Honeybourne. The Broadway extension reaches Stanton
Lane bridge, over a mile north of Toddington. Exminster
signal box acquired for eventual use at Broadway. 67,327 train
tickets sold - a record year for the GWR.
2007 - £100,000 project starts on major improvement
of the locomotive servicing facilities at Toddington.
Signalling at Cheltenham Racecourse commissioned; structural work
on Gotherington signal box also completed.
July: Flooding which affected much of Gloucestershire causes
suspension of services for the first time since the GWR started
services. Six operating days were lost.
National Railway Museum's iconic locomotive 'Green Arrow' visits
for Cotswold Festival of Steam.
150th anniversary of the Great Western's most famous
Chief Mechanical Engineer, G J Churchward
Railway's passenger numbers exceeds 70,000 for the first time
2008 - April: David Shepherd's 'Wildlife & Steam' talk and
art show raises 19,000 for the David Shepherd Wildlife
November: Landslip near Cheltenham Racecourse closes line south of
Gotherington. Repairs extend through to February 2009, costing
£300,000. Phase 2 of £100,000 Toddington redevelopment: new
inspection pits used for first time.
2009 - April 22nd: 25th anniversary of the commencement of
services over just 700 yards of track.
25th anniversary Cotswold Festival of Steam sees return of Cadbury
No. 1, the Avonside tank locomotive that handled the railway's
National Railway Museum's SR 4-6-0 no. 850 Lord Nelson visits for
an extended period.
Online ticketing introduced for the first time
Brand new concrete bridge built over Laverton Road, between
Toddington and Broadway to replace the steel span removed some
Toddington station and 2-6-2T feature in BBC-TV wartime drama
Work starts on doubling Worcester-Oxford line, work including
modifying Honeybourne Junction station to eventually enable GWSR
trains to use the station
Magical visit by GWR 'Olton Hall', otherwise known as 'Hogwarts
Castle' from the Harry Potter movies visits
'Cadbury No. 1' - the Avonside 0-4-0T that hauled the first
train on the embryonic Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway returns
to Toddington for static display (see 1984)
April: railway carries its 1,000,000th passenger
Share capital in GWSR Plc exceeds £1m
Turnover of GWSR Plc also exceed £1m for the first time
Railway carries a record 74,000 passengers during the year
12,000 gallon water tank erected at Toddington, replacing the
original removed in about 1970
Serious embankment collapse at Gotherington severs railway,
closing line south of Gotherington to Cheltenham Racecourse
Railway features on BBC1 prime time programme 'Countryfile'
Short extension north if Toddington, over Stanway Viaduct,
passed for passenger carrying. First trains run during
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway celebrates the 175th
anniversary of the Great Western Railway with its biggest-ever
Railway stages its first major railwayana auction at Toddington
during GWR175-12,000 passengers carried over nine days
Pete Waterman appointed President of GWSR Plc, his first job is
to launch a £1m emergency appeal to repair embankment
Two locomotives restored at Toddington return to steam,
ex-Turkish State Railways 8F no. 8276 and 1905-built GWR 2-8-0 no.
Work starts on building a new platform at the site of Broadway