On the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway (GWSR), travellers can step back in time to a period when rail travel was a fundamental part of British life. This heritage railway operates along a 12-mile stretch of track between the Cheltenham Racecourse and the rural hamlet of Laverton with both steam and diesel engines in use.
The original line was part of the Honeybourne Line that provided services between Cheltenham and Birmingham, which opened in 1906 and eventually closed in 1976. In 1984, a preservation group reopened part of the line with steam trains providing the service. Since then, more of the track has been restored with plans to develop the line even further.
The track starts at Cheltenham Racecourse. The original station building remains at the Racecourse and from here there is bus access to Cheltenham town centre.
Leaving Cheltenham Racecourse, the line provides views of Cleeve Hill, which is the highest point in the Cotswolds. The line then leads into Gotherington Station. Volunteers have rebuilt the station, as the original building is now a private home.
The journey continues onwards from Gotherington Station and offers views of the Vale of Evesham, which was inspiration for Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It then heads into Greet Tunnel – the second longest tunnel on a preserved railway.
Trains then arrive in Winchcombe, a town that was once the capital of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia. Here visitors will find another period station that has been completely restored by volunteers.
The final station on the route is Toddington. From here, trains continue to Laverton, but only to turn around for passengers wishing to do a round trip. Fundraising is ongoing to extend the line past Laverton.
Seasonal and Special Events
The GWSR has a number of special and seasonal events throughout the year that generally require advance booking. These include:
- Thomas the Tank Engine – Guest to the railway, a replica Thomas the Tank Engine, pulls passengers along the route. The Fat Controller is even on hand to keep order and there are lots of activities for children along the way
- Santa Specials – Operating solely over the Christmas period, children are able to meet Santa and get a special present from the jolly man himself
- Heritage Diesel Weekends – These weekends showcase the best of British engineering in diesel trains
Refreshments can be obtained from the Flag and Whistle Tea Rooms at Toddington Station and the Winchombe Coffee Shop at Winchcombe Station. Both serve sandwiches, cakes, drinks and other snacks. Alternatively, hot and cold beverages and snacks can be purchased on-board from the Buffet/Restaurant Coaches that are featured on each train.
Cheltenham Racecourse is on the northern edge of Cheltenham and is signposted from the M5 at junction 10. There is ample parking at the station.
Buses operate every 10-minutes from Cheltenham Spa Rail Station to the racecourse.
For departures from Toddington, exit the M5 at junction 9, taking the A46 towards Evesham and then turn onto the B4077 for Toddington. A limited bus service is in operation between Cheltenham and Toddington.
Opening Times and Cost
Running days are most weekends and some mid-week days. The timetable varies seasonally, so it is advisable to check the GWSR website prior to your visit.
An All Day Rover Ticket covers a round trip on the full length of the line. Adults are £16 and children 5-15 years are £7. Children under 5 years of age travel for free. Other single and return options between the stations are available, as well. Please note that prices for special events will vary.