Steaming into Christmas on the GWSR
By David Wood
A special Santa Express steam train is running in Gloucestershire in aid of the James Hopkins Trust.
Tickets are still available for Christmas Carols by Steam Train on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) on Saturday, December 10, from 7pm.
The GWSR is heading at express speed into Christmas to launch its annual 'Santa Express' at the end of November.
The first train on 20 November was run for local charities; James Hopkins Trust provides nursing respite care to life-limited and life-threatened young children in Gloucestershire and Heart Heroes who work with children and their families living with heart conditions.
The railway's volunteers have run the charity trains for some years and are the brainchild of Chris Blake, a member of the GWSR's steam locomotive department.
Chris said: "While we bring such a lot of delight to children and families throughout December, many miss out on the opportunity to enjoy something like this because of illness or a disability. The day brought such joy to the children and their families. It makes a real difference not just to their lives but ours too."
The children all met Father Christmas after their ride to Winchcombe - or rather, North Pole, and all were given a gift. The GWSR has some of its 60-year-old coaches specially adapted for wheelchair access.
Ria Heap from James Hopkins Trust said: "Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway volunteers for making magic memories for the James Hopkins Trust families on Sunday at our GWSR Santa Steam Train Experience. It was perfect in every way! Everyone had the most wonderful time and many magical memories were made.
While the railway's special Santa Express trains are now fully sold-out, a special train departs Toddington at 7pm on 10th December, for Christmas Carols at Winchcombe station, to the music of Cheltenham Silver Training Band and in support of the James Hopkins Trust.
Catherine Johnson, the railway's marketing manager, said: "This will truly be a magical occasion. Winchcombe station has been transformed into a Christmas wonderland and is the perfect setting to enjoy Christmas Carols and support the vital respite work done by the James Hopkins Trust for children with complex and life-threatening medical needs."
After the Carol Service - which includes mulled wine and mince pies - the train continues to Cheltenham Racecourse before returning to Toddington. The train's bar will be offering drinks and refreshments during the journey.
Ria Heap commented: "Trains and Christmas are the perfect partnership. Our Carol Steam Train is the perfect way to enter into the Christmas spirit. It's going to be a fabulous evening full of festivities. We are very grateful for having this fundraising opportunity to raise money for our children's hospice."
Tickets for the Christmas Carols special are available from the James Hopkins Trust by e-mailing email@example.com or calling 01452 612216.
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