Please note that the dates for these tours may vary from the guide below. No tours will be offered until international borders are open.
What a day, an extraordinary day. Our day started as a normal day visiting a couple of Heritage Railways. This did happen early but then time started to interfere with what we had planned and we had to adjust and push on as best we could. But that is later.
Our first stop was at the Toddington Station for the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Steam Railway. Arriving a little before the first train we obtained our tickets and then viewed the various shops that we around the station. Then we watched as the Locomotive was coupled to the carriages for the trip. We settled into the first carriage and waited for the train to start the run to Cheltenham Race Course. This was to be a special trip as now, after 58 years the train would be able to go all the way to Broadway. The Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Steam Railway had been working to extend the line to Broadway for quite a few years and also have built a new station and signal box there at Broadway, in the same style and period as the other station at Toddington. They did a magnificent job and it does not look like a new building.
This line is 14 miles long now but the whole railway is in pristine condition and as well as the shiny locomotives, all the surrounding infrastructure has been painted and maintained beautifully. This is one of the best maintained railways that we have been able to visit and as we stayed on the train for the whole length of the line and some, we were late to start lunch. Lunch was taken in Broadway, the Crown in the Jewel that is the Cotswolds. A beautiful village with that wonderful honey coloured stone that makes the architecture look especially lovely to the eye. Time spent here is always worthwhile and very agreeable. But, because we stayed, we were running out of time to visit the last train at the Swindon and Cricklade Railway.
So off we went and Michael had selected the best route and we hoped we wouldn't be delayed by traffic etc. It was to be a 55 min trip to reach the site. We were losing as time was against us so I phoned ahead and the staff at the railway said that as they were expecting us, the Australians, they would hold the train for 5 minutes past the leaving time. We arrived and rushed up to board the train, the tickets were ready and the ticket seller followed onto the train so I could pay him as the train was about to leave. But, the train did not leave straight away as nobody told the driver we were aboard. Finally we took off and proceeded through some very natural bushy country to Taw Valley Halt where the engine was to be uncoupled and taken to the front of the train for the return journey to the far end of the line. All was going well, until there appeared that the water level in a special part of the engine was leaking and therefore the locomotive had to leave us and return to the repair sheds. When it left, the driver it had instructions to send the Diesel down to take over the role of the Steam Train.
It was around 28C and the cabins were incredibly hot so most stood out on the platform. We were then told that we wouldn't be rescued for 30 to 40 minutes. Here we were out in the bush, awaiting rescue from the "Ladysmith Express" and in really hot conditions. So, as we were told that down through the bus and a left turn at the road, there was a little pub awaiting, the Tawny Owl. So Alan and I headed off on the mission that would ensue all survived the ordeal. ½ an hour later we returned with the cold beers for all our group. While we were drinking our Guinness, that was the only canned beer the pub had but it was cold and quenched our thirst. Then, down the line came the "Ladysmith Express", of course named after the Ladysmith siege during the Boer War and as at there, we were also rescued.
Once ready we again took off and proceeded to the Hayes Knoll Station where we were able to enter the sheds and be shown the carriages and Locomotives that are there being repaired or refurbished. Amongst the carriages was a 1836 carriage that had been refurbished and the First Class and 2nd Class seats were beautifully reupholstered. A busy day full of unexpected adventures, I wonder what awaits us tomorrow.