NEXT weekend sees the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway is springing into action once again for the 2019 season.

Over the winter shut-down, the railway has been busier than ever, even if no passenger trains have been running.

Stations have been tidied up, some track has been relaid, work has been continuing at the multi-award winning Broadway station and the lineside has been tidied up, with fencing and drainage work continuing.

There has also been a hectic schedule of steam and diesel locomotive maintenance, as well as progress to add more carriages to the railway’s rolling stock fleet.

And a new cafe will be open for business at Broadway station, offering a range of light refreshments. It joins the Flag and Whistle restaurant at Toddington station and the Coffee Pot cafe at Winchcombe.

Colin Fewell, the GWSR’s commercial director, said: “The railway is looking absolutely spick and span for the start of the season and we are gearing up for another very busy year.

“Our timetable shows that we are operating public services on 186 days this year involving around 1,200 round trips of our 14-mile line. That adds up to some 33,600 miles by historic steam and diesel locomotives and rail-cars. And that excludes specials such as the Cheltenham Festival race trains and fish-and-chip services.

“What’s more, our line runs through some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain”

In 2018, the railway carried a record 144,000 passengers, 42 per cent up on the previous year, thanks to the opening of Broadway station, which picked up two major accolades at the recent Heritage Railway Association Awards in Birmingham.

“Our railway, which is almost exclusively and, uniquely for the major heritage railways, run by volunteers. It offers more for visitors to enjoy than ever,” said Mr Fewell.

“Will 2019 be another record year? After the excitement of opening Broadway station almost a year ago, some days saw nearly double the number of passengers carried compared with similar days last year.

"We are unlikely to see that again but, on the other hand, news is getting out that the line runs between two of the Cotswolds’ most important centres, Cheltenham and Broadway. So who knows? We’re ready for anything and our volunteers are as determined as ever to give our visitors a five-star day out.”

The first train of the season leaves Toddington at 10am on Saturday, March 9, bound for Cheltenham and will be hauled by the engine Foremarke Hall. That is followed by a 10.15am departure for Broadway with the early 1960s diesel railcar service.

The first service from Cheltenham Racecourse departs at 10.55am and the first from Broadway at 10.50am, the two trains passing at Winchcombe.

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