article by: SJO
A journey on the GWR
The railway offers a 25-mile round trip between Laverton and
Cheltenham Racecourse through some of the most spectacular scenery
in the Cotswolds.
Going north from our station at Toddington, once a major fruit
distribution centre, you emerge from a cutting to cross the 15-arch
Stanway Viaduct from which Stanway House can just be seen. The line
continues, soon entering another cutting which is spanned at
one point by an aquaduct, before emerging at Laverton, the
present northern extent of the line.
Going south from Toddington
the train passes the workshops where our fleet of steam and diesel
locomotives are maintained and restored. The journey then takes you
past the village of Didbrook
and the site of Hayles Abbey
Halt which served the nearby Abbey (English Heritage). Good views
of the Cotswolds can be seen from both sides of the train, before
arriving at Winchcombe station,
which is actually at Greet, about a mile from the town.
The station building here once stood at Monmouth Troy and was
painstakingly dismantled, moved and rebuilt by volunteers. This is
also the headquarters of our carriage and wagon department. Shortly
after leaving Winchcombe the train enters Greet tunnel which, at
693 yards, is the second longest on a preserved railway. Emerging
on to an embankment offering splendid views over the Vale of Evesham to the distant
Malverns, the train passes the village of Gretton and hamlets of
Stanley Pontlarge and Far Stanley. Not far away is the famous
Prescott Hill Climb, home of the Bugatti Owners' Club.
After a long straight through Dixton cutting the train reaches
Gotherington. The original station (closed 1955) is now a private
home, but the owner has a number of interesting railway artefacts
in his grounds, including the award-winning 'Gotherington West' -
an original 'pagoda' Great Western iron-built halt (no public
access). If you are alighting at the new platform which, with its
stone-built shelter, was built by volunteers, please move to one of
the first two carriages.
Leaving Gotherington, you may get a glimpse of Tewkesbury Abbey in the distance
with the distinctive Malvern
Hills beyond. Now the train descends over the extension
completed in 2003 to Bishop's
Cleeve - mature Scots Pine trees mark where the station once
stood (closed 1960). Here, the train runs over what is believed to
be the only continuously-welded section of line on a heritage
railway. Note the absence of the 'clickety-click' from the wheels -
a benefit for local residents! A housing estate now occupies what
was the station yard.
As the line approaches Cheltenham Racecourse, views of Cleeve
Hill (the highest point of the Cotswolds) open up. Passing under Southam Lane, the racecourse comes
into view before entering the station, which was opened by HRH The
Princess Royal in April 2003. There is a new platform level
building here with toilet facilities (including facilities for
disabled visitors). The original and unique Swindon-built
pre-fabricated station building, reached by a ramp, is perched high
above the track at road level. The station once again fulfils its
original purpose - bringing race-goers for important meetings such
as the Cheltenham Gold Cup.