Our speaker on 26th September was our member Steve Sanders who presented an excellent overview of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway at which both he and his wife are volunteers, two out of a total of 950. The railway has only five paid staff. Steve started off carriage cleaning, moved to permanent way (track work) then ‘meet and greet’ (meeting coach parties) and is now a booking clerk, while his wife is part of a team of six looking after the station garden at Toddington. The inclusion of ‘Warwickshire’ in the railway’s title dates from the time it was planned to reopen the line as far as Stratford but this is now unlikely. The line was opened by the GWR in 1904-6 as part of a plan to provide its own main line from Birmingham to Cheltenham and the West Country (the original route was owned by the Midland Railway). Passenger services over the line were withdrawn in the 1960s but freight trains stopped in 1976, following a major derailment near Winchcombe. BR decided the cost of repairs could not be justified so the track was lifted and stations demolished. The site of the derailment was the ‘Chicken Curve’ which, with various other locations on the line, suffered from slippage due to the drainage problems caused by the clay at the foot of the Cotswolds. Steve also mentioned the partial collapse of the Stanway viaduct when under construction. A company was formed in 1981 to buy 15 miles of track bed from Cheltenham to Broadway and £70,000 was raised to complete the sale. Track laying started in 1982 and in 1984 the first train was operated from Toddington. The line was extended in stages and trains now run from Cheltenham Racecourse to Broadway. The railway has a turnover of over £2m. p.a. and has 140,000 visitors a year. It is therefore big business and contributes much to the local economy. Many special events are organised each year to raise money as running a railway is an expensive business. Landslips continue to occur, one of which cost £500,000 to rectify. Another major problem is the overbridge carrying the Winchcombe to Broadway road over the line which is in need of rebuilding at a cost of around £1m. Who will pay this is under review. There is a tunnel and a viaduct to maintain, in addition to 14 route miles of track, signalling, bridges, six stations and one halt, rolling stock and locomotives. It was explained that all the locomotives on the line are privately owned and cost the railway £1000 a day. Apart from fares revenue, money is raised from gifts and legacies. Steve graphically demonstrated what is involved in running the railway and what a remarkable achievement it is that it is almost wholly the responsibility of volunteers – nearly 1000 of them! We meet at 10:00 every Thursday at The Boathouse, Evesham Rowing Club. On 3rd October we shall be visiting Bletchley Park and on 10th October there will be a Q & A session with Andy Richardson (subject to confirmation). Full details can be found on our website www.eveshamprobus.co.uk Alan Smith Photo: 92203_at_Toddington_on_the_Gloucestershire_Warwickshire_Railway By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]