Trains made a welcome return to Broadway this year and to mark this event our museum shop is now selling steam railway merchandise. Mugs and calendars are among the items for sale featuring the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway.
Public train services returned to Broadway on Good Friday (30th March) this year after an absence of 58 years. Broadway station, along with most other stations on the line that once ran between Stratford upon Avon and Cheltenham, had closed in March 1960.
The railway line dates back to 1899 when the Great Western Railway obtained 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. The line opened from Honeybourne to Broadway on 1st August, and to Toddington on 1st December 1904. The final extension to Cheltenham was opened in 1906.
There was a gradual closure of the line and its stations during the 1960s although the track was not dismantled until 1979. By then there was already a campaign for the railway line to be retained which in the 1980s developed into the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR).
Speaking in March Richard Johnson, the voluntary chairman of GWSR said: “Connecting Broadway with Cheltenham by rail again was the vision of those early pioneers who first took over a derelict Toddington station in 1982.”
Since 1984 volunteers have steadily restored the line, building signal boxes, station buildings and replacing lost signalling and other infrastructure, working south from Toddington towards Cheltenham Race Course. In 1987 steam trains arrived in Winchcombe for the first time in 28 years.
In 2002 the first track was laid northwards from Toddington towards Broadway but work really got underway in 2005 when track was laid across the Stanway Viaduct. In November of that year, an engineering train becomes the first train to cross the viaduct since 1979.
The funds for completing the restoration of the track were largely raised through share issues. By 2014 the Bridges to Broadway share issue had passed the £400,000 mark. In 2016 Pete Waterman launched the ‘Broadway: the last mile’ share issue to raise £1.25 million to complete the northern extension of the railway to Broadway station during the 2018 season. Nearly half of the funds required were raised in just 12 weeks.
You can find out more about the reopening of the railway line in a display within the Broadway Museum and Art Gallery.