Saturday 19 August 2017

Siding completed

A number of notable absences from the team today, as the effects of the summer holidays began to bite. They didn't really affect our progress though. That said, it was decided, rashly in the opinion of the tea drinkers, to skip the tea at Toddington and go straight to the site at Broadway.

Feeling a little dry, and while waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive, three of us availed ourselves of a cheeky cuppa in the Broadway mess room. They have it nice there...chairs, a patio, watch the world go by. Here comes the Landie though.

We got the tools out, and shortly afterwards the Telehandler arrived with the first load of sleepers, taken off the Warflat - loaded on Monday - at Childswickham. It's a tricky drive down the single trackbed that is available for us, just hit the fence once (sorry about that).

The first load was dropped off at the end of the Malvern side siding, which we then started to extend further southwards, in the direction of the platforms.

Once we had laid down 26 sleepers, Stevie came down from Childswickham (where he had been sorting sleepers) to lift in the first rail of the day. This shot shows the depth of the cutting north of Broadway, which was used as a quarry in 1903 to get material for the goods shed embankment and mainline down to Peasebrook.

Nigel then brought another 12 second class sleepers for the siding, where 120 were left to lay to get to the end of the plain track.

Here they are being stacked temporarily at the end of the northern turnout, from where they are brought to the rail head in smaller batches.

Just before we lift in the rails, Steve comes and drags down the next pair.

You can see us here getting increasingly close to the northern turnout, on the left. 

This picture shows the second length being prepared today. The double track seems to extend into the distance, all the way to Stratford, the way it used to...
We are now so close to the station that it is possible to climb the embankment for a photograph like this, thanks to recent bramble clearance by a member of BAG. On the right is the new inner home signal, with its route indicator attached.

As we approach the turnout with the siding, thoughts turn to the layout of the track at this point. Just how long is this siding anyway? Where does the turnout for the siding start, how much more track do we need here?

Nigel and a number of gang members consult the drawing for the northern turnout, to see where we are. 

Another one watching was Speedy the snail, now getting a little concerned about the banging around the rail end, which was his home until this morning. Where to go? 

Speedy eventually jumped off the end (if a snail can do this) and vanished under a sleeper, which hopefully will offer him a new home. 

We continued laying in the sleepers. It's quite hard work as we are unable to use the spreader bars and the JCB to drop them in. Instead they have to be manhandled into position with bars, first roughly off the wobbly forks, and then more carefully into their exact positions, left or right, forwards or backwards.

By lunch time we had passed the signal post, and we felt we deserved a rest. The weather was dry and pleasant, so we sat outside on the track and ate our salads.

Shortly afterwards the cakes were made available. This coffee and walnut one had been eagerly awaited by Neil, and there it was! Yes!

After lunch, we lengthened the siding some more, and it now started to overtake the mainline headshunt. Tail wagging the dog here!

The Telehandler brings in another load of sleepers, making 26 and time for another pair of rails to be laid in. 

As the siding was now longer than the main line head shunt, Steve was able to position himself alongside, which made lifting in the rails a lot easier. This was the last panel constructed today, four in total. From here on the track in the foreground meets the turnout from the loop to the siding.

Our white spacer board is having a hard time. It was made specially for us, and has been in constant use throughout the extension. Today the grab handle fell off, a sad reminder of its deterioration. The question is, will the remains last to the end of the extension track laying?

At least Steve L will now be able to use the handle for his plastering jobs at home. Just like this.

Having completed the siding, our attentions were turned back towards the northern main line turnout, which we had left well started, up to sleeper no. 26.

Now, where is no. 27?  Naturally, it is always at the back, or on the bottom of the pile. To boot, we were also short of bars today (where are they all, they're not in the site safe?) and you can see Ivor here trying to lever one timber off another using just a bearer from stacking.

Batches of 4 timbers were laid out in the right order further up the trackbed, and then brought down and dropped off roughly into position.

Their precise position is critical, as they have two tracks that gradually diverge, and you can't get the rail in if the angle of the chairs does not fit underneath.

Here Neil shows Pete where to point... put your finger just here. It takes skill to know that, not everyone has it.

After consulting the diagram, each sleeper was precisely positioned in relation to its neighbour.

In the picture we are up to no.40 already, but there are plenty more to come. The timbers get longer and longer (centre left) until they gradually interlace with those of the adjoining track. We haven't quite got there yet though.

You can see on this closing picture that the timbers are just about to do this (centre). The turnout on the right is main line to loop, and the one that will go in by the site safe is loop to siding. The two turnouts will meet in the centre; the whole thing is known as a crossover on double track.

Broadway bits

With today's fine weather, the Broadway gang made good progress, as you can see from this photograph taken from just south of the signal box.
In the centre the first row of engineering brick corbelling has been laid on the platform closure. The wall is now too high to just step over, hence the steps on the right.

The canopy sees work almost every day now, and the woodwork on it is coming on in leaps and bounds. The white lines on the canopy end represent the start of the typical chunky moulding that the GWR canopy has here. It will have a second moulding fitted on top of it, and finally an angled piece to support a short overhang in the corrugated sheeting on top.

This is the chunky second moulding that will go on top of the white strips in the last picture.

At the northern end, the second canopy end framework is being constructed.

This framework is almost identical to the first, but will be removable in order to add on the canopy overhang to the footsteps that belongs here. When we can afford it.

The diagonal length of wood was used to check that the wooden supports fitted to hold the sheeting are properly in line. And they are.

Calling all GWSR oldies

A veteran Broadway member Terry has made available some old colour prints of the first days at Toddington. We'd like to share these with you, but we're not too sure who is on them. Can anybody say more, or provide some reminicences?

This shot was taken in February 1984 at Toddington. 

The platform 2 waiting room is still derelict. Platform 1 has been rebuilt.

There's a Midland lamp post on the platform; it's not there any more today! 

Also taken at Toddington in February 1984, this shot shows the same short train in the background, with other industrial stock in the foreground, none of which is on the railway today. In those days you took what you could. 

The steps to the carriage on the left are marked 'Autocoach'. Where is that today?

All we know about this one is that it was taken in February 1984. It's thanks to these guys that we are running trains at Toddington today, but can anyone identify them?

If you are old enough maybe you recognise this crew? They were snapped by Terry in 1981, right at the beginning of the GWSR revival of the Honeybourne line. Note that there is no track at all in this picture, which was nonetheless taken at Toddington.

And what about this Barry wreck! Recognise it? Now that P&O is up and running, it is easy to forget the enormity of the project taken on by its owning group. It didn't even have a tender, but it certainly does now. It just makes you appreciate what they have achieved.

If you also have some old photographs you want to share, you can send them to breva2011 (at)  Once we have some captions for them, they will go on to the Flickr site here:
which includes a section on old GWSR photographs.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Ever more progress so interesting to see and read. Any update on the goods shed embankment please? Thanks.

    1. Work has been completed on time and on budget.

  3. Progress is now coming on in leaps and bounds in all fields, gets more exciting each week, we'll done everyone and thank you for the wonderful informative blog, including the bits on the rebuild, which otherwise we wouldn't know about.

  4. It's wonderful to see the trackwork coming along at the rate that it is. This is all credit due to the P Way crews who make it possible. Thanks also go to you for providing extra pics of the station building, which is also getting along wonderfully. Perhaps B & S could 'GWRify' CRC after Broadway is complete,, and also the signal boxes at CRC and Gotherington. Maybe? Regards, Paul.

    1. Great idea about CRC and how much money do you think that's going to cost?

    2. When I write about 'GWRifying' CRC and Gotherington Box, it is a desire at this stage and not a costed work. Regards, Paul.

  5. The photo from Feb 1984, second from left could be Dave Black.....

  6. The Autocoach is No 169, which went to the Cholsey & Wallingford until it was rescued by the WSR and is now under restoration. It would have been marvellous if it could have remained at the GWSR but the Railway wasn't equipped to restore it then. The figure 3rd from left in the bottom photo is David Heathcote, who was one of the directors and a Mr Fixit in the early days. The Midland Railway lamppost migrated to Winchcombe I believe. It originated from Gloucester Eastgate Station, whatever that was. Steam services commenced in April 1984 using the Avonside 0-4-0T in the 1st photo. I always expected it to "puff" like most steam locos do, but it didn't, it just hissed. Very disappointing! (Apologies to Avonside industrial tank loco fans.)

    1. 169 is owned by the 5542 group & is being restored by them @ Williton on the WSR so I am sure it will return one day

      Regards Richard Symonds

  7. I have some photos from 1984 - 1988 including tracklaying at Hailes in Oct 85 and Greet tunnel 88 and the sponsored track walk march 85. Will dig them out to scan.

  8. Hi, while the steps say autocoach the coach is not an autocoach, it's the wrong shape. Looking at pictures it may be a churchward third class coach.

    1. You are quite correct. The autocoach was elsewhere on site when that photo was taken. The coach in the photo is indeed a Churchward Third Class coach, one of 4 camping coaches from Dawlish Warren which arrived at the GWSR. At the time, the opportunity to restore them was beyond the capability of "Toddington Scrapyard" which some locals referred to us as, so they all moved on. I believe that some of them ended up at the WSR where they will eventually form a period GWR rake. If only we could have some! I have some "oldie" images so I'll e-mail them to you.

    2. Agree we should borrow a. Heritage coach set or two for future galas from svr didcot or wsr

  9. The chap with the beard and white shirt in the 1981 picture at Toddington is Richard Major, now living in Kent.

  10. Great to see the appearance of period detail such as wooden mouldings on the end panels of the canopy and authentic chimney brickwork. It is also good to know that all is not lost with the canopy extension. Well done to you and the GWR Trust for your influence and the Broadway team for doing the work.

  11. Yes. I too also hope that the canopy extension can be built at some time in the future as it is a feature of Broadway station and unusual in design. Regards, Paul.

  12. I,remember seeing some pics of the purlins,for the canopy extension,on one of the blogs,some time ago!.The station building,is coming along great,now!.I,do remember seeing 35006,shortly after it arrived at Toddington!.That autocoach,169,stood in the yard,at Winchcombe,untill it was sold!.5542 Ltd,own it,now.It's being restored,at Williton,on the WSR!. Regards!. Anthony.

  13. When is there going to be some money in the budget to do the steps for the footbridge? It looks a bit bare without them! Also, if Platform 2 is going to be used for passenger trains shouldn't the siding have trap points?

  14. As a teenager I went on some of the earliest working parties at Toddington, and also helped to demolish the old Birmingham Snow Hill station, bits of which were recycled as Toddington's platforms (which meant that when BR decided to reopen Snow Hill, they had to rebuild everything from scratch). I also went on an expedition to rescue two industrial tank locos from a scrapyard in Dursley. That must've been about 1981 - slightly amazingly, you could still find steam locos in scrapyards back then.

    The chap in blue overalls on the left of the shovel line-up might be Mike Shorland, the railway's first S&T man. I think the bloke in the hi-viz vest in the following pic is Dave Heathcote, the original head of the permanent way department - although job titles were fairly flexible in the early days. Everyone did a bit of everything.

    The motley assortment of stock seen in the photos - including the 'Cadbury' 0-4-0 loco - were originally the collection of the Dowty Railway Preservation Society at Ashchurch, near Tewkesbury.

    Dowty was a big company at the time, making aircraft equipment and hydraulic gear - it was big enough to have its own rail yard where rail enthusiasts among the staff could restore their own collection of stock and host visiting locos. Occasionally the site was open to the public and they'd offer brake van rides.

    It seems quite odd now to think that there were enough railway enthusiasts in the company to run a fairly large preservation project - much like the Great Western Society at Didcot, but all based on the employees of one firm.

    In the very early 1980s the Dowty rail yard was sold off (it's now a housing estate) and the entire collection was transferred to Toddington. This gave the fledgling GWR a great boost, because all of a sudden we had a working steam loco. The Dowty collection also provided the basis for the narrow gauge line at Toddington. For a few years the Dowty and GWRS worked very well together.

    I can't recall why, or when, the Dowty stock was eventually moved away from Toddington, or where it went, but the break was quite sudden when it happened. When the Dowty crew moved out, they even took their engine shed with them! I don't think the collection was kept together. 'Cadbury' in particular seems to have vanished completely.

    There's an interesting history of the early days of the Dowty Railway Preservation Society here - only up to 1970, so the Toddington period is not mentioned. But it's a fascinating insight into how the heritage railway movement in the UK got going...

    1. Cadbury is now up at Tyseley - I seem to recall it revisited GWSR (albeit not in steam) a few years back?

  15. One memory I have from the earliest days at Toddington is the day we found a short piece of track that the demolition contractors had left behind. That seemed like real treasure at the time.

    When the line was lifted, the contractors took every last inch of track - there was nothing left but bare ballast (although I do recall seeing some Great Western AWS ramps left on the ballast at the Cheltenham end, some time after the track itself had gone). Toddington was just a windswept expanse of dereliction.

    Many people at the time thought that the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Society, as it then was, would never be able to rebuild the line. The job was just too big. And I must admit, standing in the middle of all that empty space at Toddington, it did seem like an impossible dream.

    But then we found a length of track - and suddenly it all seemed possible again.

    The approach road at Toddington originally extended alongside the goods shed (where the road/rail transfer siding is now). The siding that gave access to the yard curved away from the main line near the present ashpit siding (look out for a drainage pit alongside the track, positioned at what seems an odd angle - that's the alignment of the original siding).

    Where this siding crossed the road to the goods shed, there was a level crossing. Rather than dig up the road, the demolition contractors had left about 20 feet of track in place at this spot. This was the only piece of track remaining between Cheltenham and Honeybourne.

    Everyone pitched in to dig this length of track out of the tarmac. I remember a big crowd of people hacking away with shovels and pick-axes. Eventually the track was lifted, and transferred - with a certain amount of ceremony - to the side of the goods shed, where it became the first length of track on our first siding. It felt like a great achievement. We were rebuilding a railway!

    As far as I know, that section of track is still there. It's somewhere under the Steam dept's mess coach. I don't know if it's possible to identify it now, but there's a little bit of history lurking under that coach...

    1. Fascinating little story there!

      Cadbury No. 1 is sat in one of the turntable roads at Tyelsey by the way - word be great to have it back here one day...


    2. Cadbury No 1 came back to the GWSR (in non-working order)from the BRM at Tyseley for display temporarily during the May 2009 Cotswold Festival of Steam. I remember it hauling the 1st train from Toddington on the GWSR opening day in April 1984. It belonged to the Dowty Railway Society who, as Michael Johnson quite rightly says, had a significant collection of standard gauge as well as narrow gauge stock. (One item was a beautiful Collett GWR Centenary coach, which v quickly went off to the GWS at Didcot! Only the narrow gauge and some fine museum memorabilia now remains at Toddington. For the GWSR opening day, Cadbury No 1 carried a headboard proclaiming "22nd Year Dowty Railway Society" At the time I thought that was downright mean and part of me has never forgiven that hissing little coffeepot for what it displayed on that day! Toddington Ted.

    3. Michael Johnson,

      Fantastic to read your part in the GWSR story. Thank you for taking the time to explain what happened.

      Michael, will you be at the opening of the Broadway Station?

      Best Wishes,

    4. I don't know if I'll be at Broadway for the actual opening day, but I'll certainly be there as soon as I can. I live in London these days, but my mum still lives in Cheltenham (she always asks when the GWR will get to Stratford, so she can go to the theatre!) and I visit the line fairly often.

      I can't claim to have played a big part in the early days. I did a bit of shovelling, basically. My dad helped to run the Toddington shop for a while, and was even Father Christmas one year, when the grotto was in the office attached to the goods shed. There was thick show that year, so it was a very authentic scene.

      Now that I'm thinking of all this, I remember I also drew up some track plans for possible layouts at Toddington and Winchcombe, which were then turned into slides by Mike Shorland, for use at a public meeting at Cheltenham Town Hall.

      I remember Mike was very insistent that although the plans were fairly theoretical (we didn't actually have any track at the time), they had to accurately represent operating procedures. So I had to make sure the front siding at Toddington (which occupies the bed of the old northbound running line) was correctly shown at a greater distance from the single-track running line (the former southbound line). If you look at the Toddington track layout, you'll see a slight swerve in the platform 1 line when it becomes a siding and moves over to create the mandatory clearance. I remember drawing that in my bedroom, before there was any track on the ground!

      All this was at a very early stage, before the GWRS had even bought the trackbed. We were trying to convince people that rebuilding the railway wasn't a completely mad idea, and please could everyone give us some money.

      As I recall, the meeting was hosted jointly with Sustrans, who wanted to turn the entire line into a cycle path. The idea was to have the cycle path and a single track side by side - not a plan that everyone liked. But Sustrans had access to some fairly generous government grants, so it was a case of going where the money might be found.

      I don't quite know what happened to the cycle path idea, but it obviously didn't happen - although Sustrans did eventually take over the Long Marston - Stratford section.