Spectacular success for GWSR's 40th anniversary gala
By David Wood
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) has ended its pre-Christmas operating season in spectacular style, with a two-day mixed traction gala that attracted almost 2,000 passengers.
The event, over the weekend of 6-7 November, was staged as a finale to the railway's 40th anniversary with eight locomotives operating - four steam, four diesel plus a diesel multiple-unit - working an intensive timetable that included a freight train. There were in addition, double-headed and non-stop services each day.
Entirely organised and run by the railway's volunteers, the railway also threw open the doors of its David Page steam shed as well as the Carriage & Wagon department's works at Winchcombe. Also operating was the Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway.
In addition, the railway offered on-the-day tickets for rides in the superb newly-restored SR 'Queen Mary' bogie goods brake van as well as pre-bookable footplate rides.
Janet Gough, the GWSR's volunteer resources director, said: "Scheduling a big event for early November and running it on a small budget was always going to be something of risk. But blessed with good weather, almost 2,000 people bought tickets and, for the first time ever for such an event, online ticket sales exceeded those bought on the day.
"Visitors enjoyed a variety of experiences showcasing our impressive home fleet of steam and diesel locomotives. All departments pulled out the stops to work together to prepare and run locos and rolling stock to meet a very full timetable. Operationally, station and train staff, crossing monitors, signalling staff, catering, retail and everyone else ensured that we put on a truly first-class show.
"All of this was done by volunteers and it was a fitting tribute to those early volunteers who, back in 1981, took occupation of a derelict Toddington station site and a 15-mile stretch of vacant trackbed, starting the long task of restoring the railway that we love and enjoy today."
Janet added: "The event also provided a much-needed shot in the post-Covid financial arm of the railway at the end of a very difficult couple of years. Coupled with the fast-selling Santa Specials, it will help us through the winter before we resume services in March."
Overall, the railway has bounced back well from Covid restrictions and lockdowns.
For the period 1st August to 7th November, the railway carried just over 18,000 ticketholders compared with 16,200 over the same period in 2019, the last time the railway operated over those months (when two days of the half-term included 1st and 2nd November). In addition, three-quarters of the Santa Special tickets during December are now sold with many trains fully sold-out, so the railway seems set to end its year on a high note.
"During recent weeks we have seen some of our best days in terms of ticket sales. Not only is this good for the railway but for the Cotswolds too. I'm glad that we are able to play a part in the region's economic recovery," added Janet.
Locomotives that operated over November 6th and 7th
- GWR Churchward 2-8-0T no. 4270, built in 1919
- SR Bulleid Merchant Navy class 4-6-2 no. 35006 Peninsular & Oriental SN Co, built in 1941
- BR(W) Hawksworth Modified Hall class 4-6-0 no. 7903 Foremarke Hall, built in 1949
- BR (W) Collett Manor class 4-6-0 no. 7820 Dinmore Manor, built in 1950
- BR Sulzer Type 2 (Class 24) no. 5081, built in 1960
- BR Sulzer Type 4 'Peak' (Class 45) no. 45149, built 1961
- BR Brush Type 4 (Class 47) no. 47105 no. 47105, built 1962
- BR English Electric Type 3 (Class 37) no. 37215, built 1963
- BR Class 117 3-car, comprising W51405 (DMS), W59510 (TCL), W51363 (DMBS), built between 1959-61
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