Stratford-Upon-Avon to Cheltenham Timeline

1859

A single line branch from the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Line is opened from Honeybourne to Stratford-Upon-Avon.

1898

The presentation of the Andoversford and Stratford-Upon-Avon Railway Bill spurs the GWR into acting to secure a line through the Vale of Evesham

1899

An act of Parliament is passed for the construction of the Stratford and Cheltenham line. The GWR's proposals for the line have convinced Parliament that their line will serve the region better than the A&SUA Railway and their Bill is rejected.

1902

Construction starts on the line at Honeybourne.

November 1903

Construction of Stanway Viaduct, just north of Toddington is marred by a serious accident. Four of the viaduct's arches collapse after the supports are removed, killing four men. Fortunately, prompt action saves the remaining supports. A combination of bad weather, insufficent time for the mortar to set and use of labourers with insufficient skills (one of the dead was a butcher by trade, earning some extra cash on the site) is blamed.

August 1904

The line from Honeybourne to Toddington is opened, although passenger trains terminate at Broadway due to Toddington passenger station not being ready.

February 1905

The line reaches Winchcombe, with the GWR providing a temporary bus service to Cheltenham.

June 1906

The line opens as far as Bishop's Cleeve.

August 1906

The line to Cheltenham opens.

1907

The doubling of the Honeybourne-Stratford branch is completed, and through goods traffic commences. The work on this section has resulted in rebuilt stations at Milcote and Long Marston, and a new viaduct across the River Avon at Stratford.

July 1908

Through passenger services begin.

March 1912

Cheltenham Racecourse Station opens.

August 1928

Possibly the most tragic operating acccident on this line occurs at Bishops Cleeve. Two sisters are killed on the barrow crossing (the station had no footbridge) when they cross in front of an express train they have mistaken for their stopping train.

November 1928

Hayles Abbey Halt is opened.

1933

Stratford Racecourse station opens.

November 1943

The firebox on American Class "S160" Austerity 2-8-0 No 2403 collapses near Honeybourne East Loop Signal box. Both driver and fireman are badly scalded in the incident, with the latter's injuries eventually proving fatal.

October 1944

Honeybourne East Loop Signal Box is again the scene of a fatal accident when a Wellington bomber crashes near it.

March 1960

Local passenger services are withdrawn from Cheltenham to Honeybourne, although Cheltenham Racecourse station would be used for race meetings until 1968. The line is maintained as a diversionary route.

May 1969

The Honeybourne to Stratford-Upon Avon section closes to passengers.

August 1976

A derailment at Winchcombe results in closure of the line apart from the Honeybourne-Long Marston section. The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway is formed in the same month; its purpose, to convince BR to retain the line or to sell it to a private concern. However BR chooses to keep the line under "operational control".

July 1979

Having done nothing positive with the line for three years, BR lifts the track, apart from the Honeybourne to Long Marston section, which is now effectively a single-track siding.

January 1981

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway reaches an agreement with BR to purchase the trackbed.

March 1981

The first working party arrives at Toddington.

February 2001

Hunslet 0-6-0ST "King George" makes the the first steam-hauled visit along the newly relaid line from Gotherington to Cheltenham Racecourse. Further work on this section is expected to take another two years before it can be opened to the public ("Steam Railway" Issue 255 March 2001).

April 2003

Cheltenham Racecourse Station is re-opened.

2008

By this point track has been laid to Laverton

February 2010

The Stratford and Broadway Railway ceases to operate, mainly due to falling volunteer levels and no real progress in restoring the line between Stratford and Honeybourne in sight.   A plan to to move to the Sharpness and Berkeley line in Gloucestershire fails, and the railway's assets are sold.

May - June 2010

A landslip at Gotherington closes the line between there and Cheltenham.    Services during the June 2010 "GWR 175" gala event are top-and-tailed between Winchcombe and Gotherington.   Normal services for the next few months are also run "top-and tailed".

The "GWR 175" event sees the first public services across Stanway Viaduct.

September 2010

The bridge taking the Oxford to Worcester line over the trackbed of the Stratford to Cheltenham line is replaced with a new one to take double track.    A panel of track is installed by the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway under this new bridge as a "Statement of Intent" to return a single line to Honeybourne.

November 2010

With the Gotherington landslip still unrepaired, a second landslip at Chicken Curve to the east of Winchcombe renders the railway incapable of operating any real service at all.  

2011

The Gotherington landslip is repaired, and the railway operates in two halves, with steam services between Winchcombe and Cheltenham and a DMU service between Toddington and Laverton. 

December sees plans unveiled for a Military Heritage railway based at the former MOD depot at Long Marston.

April 2012

Work is underway to repair the Chicken Curve collapse, with investigations revealing major issues with the embankment at this location, some of which date back to the line's construction.     With funds still needed, "Steam Railway" magazine launches an appeal to raise the remaining money to complete repairs (which the author made a not-insignificant donation to).

September 2012

The repairs at Chicken Curve are completed.

October 2012

A report carried out regarding re-instatement of rail services between Stratford-Upon-Avon and Honeybourne appear to suggest that it is feasible, but could cost up to 100 million pounds (the author has several questions he feels need answers to before he can accept these findings).

May 2013

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire holds its first full steam gala in nearly three years (the author attends on three of the four days of the event)

October 2013

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway initiates a share issue scheme "Bridges to Broadway" to raise the 500,000 required to bring the bridges between Laverton and Broadway to a suitable condition to operate trains over (the author purchases shares at this time).

May 2014

Work starts on the five bridges between Laverton and Broadway.

"Temporary Track" is laid at Broadway station.

October 2014

The "Bridges to Broadway" share issue closes, having raised the money required for the bridge repairs. 

December 2014

The bridge repair work between Laverton and Broadway is completed.

January 2015

The Military Heritage railway project at Long Marston is abandoned when the site's owners decide to use the land for housing instead. 

April 2016

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway initiates "The Last Mile" share scheme in order to complete the restoration of services to Broadway.

August 2016

At this point, work is underway to re-open Hayles Abbey Halt.

October 2016

Re-laying of track north from Toddington to Broadway enters Worcestershire, and is now within a mile of Broadway Station.

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