Curse this war!

Its that time again… Wartime in the Cotswolds with the GWSR (Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway). The theme? The Battle of Britain. So grab your gas mask and tin hat and follow me….

Last year I attended a similar event and it was amazing and I was really hoping for the same on this day. The weather has been changeable this whole week, but there was the promise of sunshine for later in the day with no rain in sight. I headed out early in the morning to grab a bus to Cheltenham and another bus to Cheltenham Race Course station. On the way I spotted Captain Mainwaring on his way to the station too!

I just hope that Private Pike isn’t lurking in the bushes somewhere.

Although the Americans had set up camp outside the station and that can only mean silk stockings and chewing gum for the locals. 

ARP had set up their barricades too and were checking tickets and dishing out ID cards. Naturally they were looking out for Fifth Columnists too. 

Unfortunately our train was the class 117 diesel railcar  that I always seem to end up travelling on. http://www.gwsr.com/planning_your_visit/what_to_see_and_do/DMURailcar_1.html She is not my favourite rail vehicle. I would have preferred a steam engine, but this was wartime after all, we have to make do with what we have.

The train was full, and many of the passengers were dressed in period clothing or military uniforms, it never ceases to amaze me how the British tackle something like this with so much enthusiasm, and I would really like to thank them for paying homage to a bygone age with so much enthusiasm.

And then we were off….  Our destination: Gotherington

The view out of the window was Britain in Spring, it was really beautiful, especially the huge fields of Rapeseed.

Gotherington was like a military camp, and I expect will remain like that until tomorrow when the event finishes.

It is a very quirky place and one day I must really bail out and have a look around. 

The next stop on the line is Winchcombe, I had visited the town in May last year and I was considering doing it again today, although it really depended on train timings and my own energy levels.  At Winchcombe the train to Toddington stops and waits for the train from Toddington. It is single line working between stations and a token system is used to ensure that accidents don’t happen.

It too had been taken over by the military who were cleaning their rifles and doing what soldiers have done since the days of yore.

Curse this war! how much longer must it go on?

As an aside, there was even a military dentist in his own private rolling surgery, just ready to declare you dentally fit in 7 days!

And then we heard a whistle in the distance and the oncoming train appeared around the bend.

The loco in charge was 4270, a  “42xx” class tank locomotive. She was running bunker first to Cheltenham Race Course, and would carry on with her journey once we had departed. 

The next stop was Toddington, which is really the current endpoint of the GWSR, although they do run trains to Laverton halt further up the line, and in a few years time there will be another station on the line as they extend the rail network closer to the mainline all the time.   Toddington is also where the loco shed is and the majority of displays were being held. There were a few that I had my eye on too..

As usual there was a mixed bag of cars, military vehicles, squaddies, GI’s, airmen, sailors and all manner of uniform on display, along with the usual bag of stalls selling militaria or hobby-est items. There was even a tank just in case there was an invasion.

I had seen her last year at the Welland Steam and County Fair, and just in case I need a reminder, she is a M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer.

The jaw dropper however was the reproduction Spitfire that was on display. I am struggling to find a definitive identification of the aircraft, but it appears as if she is based on the aircraft that Johnnie Johnson flew (MKIX EN398). More information on the “Spitfire Experience” may be found on their website. 

And yes, the engine did run while I was there and it was awesome. Unfortunately it did not run at full power, but it was really something to experience.

Meanwhile, back at ground level, I strolled down to the workshops to see whether there was anything there that interested me. Fortunately it was not a wasted trip because there were a number of diesels in the yard.

GWSR has a number of heritage diesels and they are quite handsome beasties, although against a steam engine they are reasonably insignificant.

Class 47376 (D1895), a Brush Type 4.
Class 37 no: 37215
Class 26043 (D5343)
Class 45/1 45149 (D135)

At the Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway they too had a train at work, although I did not go for a ride this time around. They were using “Tourska” , a 1957 Chrzanow build with works number 3512.

There was still quite a lot to see so I did the rounds once again, hoping to find a few warships for my collection, but there were lots of distractions.

It was really time to head towards Winchcombe, the train at the platform was headed by the 1950 built 7820 Dinmore Manor, a Manor class light mixed traffic locomotive.

We were supposed to leave at 11.30, but somewhere along the line the timings of the trains went haywire and we sat for an additional 20 minutes. I know there is a war on but….  

Winchcombe was crowded, and our altered timing meant that we had to wait for the train from Cheltenham Spa to arrive before we could leave. 

Fortunately ENSA was at hand to provide some wartime melodies, but I think seeing Laurel and Hardy really made my day.

And then I got suspicious because I spotted Oliver Hardy on the cellphone!  It was another fine mess he got Stanley into.

I had decided to not continue into Winchcombe because the messed up times just didn’t fit in with my plans. Remember, Cheltenham Race Course is not the end of the line for me. I had to get back into Cheltenham, catch a bus to Tewkesbury and then hoof it to where I lived. It was a long stretch ahead of me and I was tired.

Then the air raid siren went off……

and once again I could not help think of what it was like living in wartime Britain. The ever present threat of aerial bombing, rationing of food, the long lists of casualties, propaganda, soldiers, aircraft overhead, overzealous ARP members, children being evacuated, family that never returned home. This was the reality between 1939 and 1945, this small experience that I had was nothing like the real thing, and I am fortunate that I did not experience it. When I see the people dressed in their period uniforms and glad rags I cannot help but think that these were the sort of people that took it on the chin and gave it back 100 times more. I suspect the British enjoy these re-enactment events because they are reminded of what their parents and families went through in those dark hours of war. It is their way of saying: “We have not forgotten, and never will.”

And as the Home Guard peddled along the platform on his way to the NAFI, I felt a tinge of pride because I understood what Churchill meant when he said….

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

And then the train departed for Cheltenham Race Course with me on it.

The War was over, the Battle of Britain won. 

The event was great, although last years was definitely better, there was much more to see and experience than there was this time around. The delayed trains were an irritation because you do not want to be stuck in a place like Winchcombe of Toddington with no way of getting home. And of course my own stamina is not as good as it used to be. I tire very easily nowadays and that’s not a good thing at all. Still, sign me up for next year if I am still around. Now where did I leave my tin hat?  

DRW © 2017-2020 Created 22/04/2017

Walking to Winchcombe.

On all of my trips with the GWR we have always stopped at Winchcombe, but I had never been to have a look at the town. One of my workmates said it was an interesting place to see so I filed that info away for future reference, hoping that one day I would make a plan. Yesterday, when I arrived that the station I decided to take the opportunity seeing as “I was in the area”. You can read about that trip at the relevant blogpost

Actually the area was about a mile away from the town, but that’s not an impossible walk, although getting back to the station would need good timing or I could end up hanging around there for awhile waiting for the next train.

It is one of those typical English roads that has very little to see on either side, and with Spring in the air it can be a riot of colour and flowers. I was not quite sure about the route though and eventually I reached the dead centre of town: the local cemetery.

The chapel building is a nice one, and I quickly walked the graves, photographing all the visible CWGC graves that I saw. There are 12 military commemorations in the cemetery, and I managed to snag 10, so the walk was worth it. 

The town is a bit further on, with a handy sign pointing in the right direction. According to the map below, I had come in on Greet Road. Turning left at North Street I then walked up to High Street and then turned right.

 

North Street
North Street

High Street changes names a number of times, and it is narrow and the traffic is terrible with cars having to wait for each other to pass and no real sense of who has priority. I do not want to even contemplate driving in a place like this at rush hour… or rush minute. The buildings are mostly the same colour and I could not help but think that it reminded me a lot of Bath. I had seen a spire behind some buildings so headed roughly in that direction, taking the odd pic as I went.

I found the map that I posted a few pics up very close to this point so now had a better idea of how the town came together and where the church was. I was also on the lookout for the war memorial which was close by.

One side of the street is walled, and at this point it was called Abbey Terrace and I think this is where the Abbey may be or was. Either way the gates said “Private” so I steered away from them. St Peter’s Church was also on this walled area and it is a real beaut.

Unfortunately there is no way to get a proper pic of it from any angle, and that includes from the extensive churchyard.  It has an amazing collection of grotesques along its walls, and these seem to be mentioned wherever the church is mentioned too.

The churchyard was large but I did not really spend too much time in it, the legibility of the headstones is not all that good, although there were some really beautiful carvings on some of them.

I left St Peter’s feeling quite smug, so far I had picked up enough to have made my walk worthwhile, and was now about ready to head back to the station. I will definitely make a plan for a return visit next time I am on the GWR. 

I was really looking for something to eat, but gave up after being stuck behind a queue of two women who seemingly had bought the whole shop, and deliberately chosen the items that had no prices on them. I had a train to catch and still had a long walk back to the station. 

I headed back the way I had come, by the looks of my timetable I had enough time to catch the 14.15 train with about 15 minutes to spare. That was do-able and off I went, photographing this beaut as I got closer to the station. 

But as I was taking this pic I could hear the sounds of steam whistles at the station. That meant that there was a train there already, or one leaving, or even two leaving. I was not prepared to run to the station, any trains there would have left as I arrived anyway, so I just continued at my normal pace, arriving as a Cheltenham bound train arrived. This was a train that had been delayed somewhere in the system, and it was in a hurry to leave, so I quickly boarded and grabbed a seat and we pulled away almost immediately. Had I waited to have my items rung up at the supermarket I would have arrived at an empty station so leaving my stuff behind had been the right choice.

Winchombe is a pretty town, and it is steeped in history. You can feel the weight of ages in it, although the many cars do tend to ruin the ambience. It is however well worth returning to. 

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 28/05/2016

Cotswold Festival of Steam

Yes indeed, I spent the day at the Cotswold Festival of Steam held on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (aka The Honeybourne Line). This will be the fourth time I have travelled on this heritage railway, and it is quite an experience.

This 3 day event was centered around “Swindon Built” steam engines that were primarily built for the Great Western Railway. Sadly, Swindon no longer makes steam engines, but it is the home of Steam, Museum of the Great Western Railroad which I visited in January 2015.

It was promising to be a great day because there were a number of visiting steamers, as well as the long awaited running of 35006 ‘Peninsular & Oriental S.N. Co’ – Rebuilt Merchant Navy class. I had been after a decent pic of this machine since first saw her at Toddington last year and hopefully today would be my chance.  

My day started at Cheltenham Race Course Station where I waited for 9.45 train. Much to my surprise it was a double header, and both were beauts and running tender first. The outboard engine being one of the visitors, as was the inboard.

There were a lot of people at the station, and most were brandishing cameras and that determined look that says “getoutofmywayyouareblockingtheengine!” I sometimes get that look too. Our outboard loco uncoupled and charged past us to the attach herself to the now front of the train. She was 9F class 2-10-0 no. 92214 which is the youngest BR and Swindon built steam locomotive in working order, dating from 1959.

The inboard loco remained behind. And, she was a real beauty that I really wanted to get more pics of, she is an LMS Ivatt 2MT class 2-6-0 no. 46521 and was visiting from the Great Central Railway

There was a scramble for seats and then we were off.

The one thing I realised about the GWSR is that their rails are full of joints and there is that hearkening to the grand days of joined rails that used to permeate train travel when I was young. Clickety Clack Clickety Clack!

First stop was the siding just outside Gotherington where we waited for the next train to pass. Unfortunately every door was occupied so getting a pic was impossible. I do know that the lead loco on that train was 7820 Dinmore Manor, and I suspect the second loco was 7812 Erlestoke Manor. I was really biding my time for Winchcombe where I would hopefully manage a pic of the next train as she entered Winchcombe.

Much to my surprise the next train was a goods! with a crowded brakevan of photographers, the Loco was 2807 (running as 2808), a ’28xx’ class heavy freight locomotive, built in 1905. I will be honest, I have never seen so many linesiders in one day as I did today. It just goes to show that steam engines can still pull crowds, no matter how insignificant they are.  

Once the goods was past we were on our way once again, heading towards my final destination Toddington. The train continues to Laverton, but there is really nothing to see there, except for the Stanway Viaduct and you really need to be watching a train crossing it as opposed to being on the train doing the crossing. 

The train at platform 1 had Modified Hall class 4-6-0 no. 7903 Foremarke Hall in charge.

Out of interest, the train I had just climbed off was on platform 2 which is on the right, with the next train to Cheltenham at Platform 1 on the left.  The loco at the far end of the train on platform 1 was the one I was looking out for. But alas she was just out of sight and I would only be able to see her when the train pulled out. When it finally did she remained behind until it was safely away before she backed down the line. Finally, my Merchant Navy has arrived!

Theoretically, if she continued on this line she could end up crossing to the other line to attach to the back of the train I had just vacated. 

I was wrong, she headed backwards and turned onto a line heading back into the depot and then hid behind a signal pole, hoping that I would not see her. 

After a drink of water, The Red Dragon headed backwards down the line too but pulled off onto the other side and proceeded to move forwards to attach herself to the end of the train on platform 1. 

She is a stunning machine, and I only noticed when I got home that she was a 2-10-0. Now that is impressive. I think I have a new favourite. Interestingly enough she is sister to 92220 “Evening Star”  which had the distinction of being the last steam locomotive to be built by British Railways.

And just as I was about to dash off for a bathroom break.. along came 46521 with her train, now can I go for a bathroom break?

There was not much on the go at Toddington, a traction engine and steam roller occupied some space and that was about all.

There were however, stirrings afoot and my Merchant Navy Class was on the move so it was back I went and I finally got my pic!

She attached herself to the rear of the train that had just arrived at Platform… 1? or was it 2?

It is hard to say with all this steam about. 

I heard tootings from the Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway and I headed in that direction for a look. Much to my joy there had two of their steamers out and about  

This beauty is called “Tourska” and she was built by Chrzanow in 1957 and is works number 3512. The other loco on the go was “Chaka’s Kraal No6” and she is a Hunslet and was built in Leeds in 1940, She spent most of her life in the sugar estates in Natal before being returned to the UK in 1981.  

I was tempted to go for a ride, but I had other things to do first, so would consider returning a bit later. It was time to see what was going where back at the station as I needed to make some plans.

My plans did not include a ride on that! The diesel is 11230, a Drewry industrial shunter.  In all likelihood I would grab the train that was now on its way back from Laverton and head down to Winchcombe. There was movement in the distance too, and that needed investigating.

 As I suspected, it was the goods train, and somewhere along the way she had had a loco change and was now under the control of 7812 Erlestoke Manor. 

and shortly thereafter, the train from Laverton started to appear around the bend.

46521 was still at the head of the train but now she detached from the train and settled down to have a drink and a smoke with the loco next door.

I boarded the train and off we went, heading for Winchcombe. I intended to bail there and go look at the carriage works again, and see what was waiting at the station for us to arrive.

That was 2808 waiting there, and her safeties were feathering all the time, she was ready to blast out of there. 

I was now trainless and headed out of the station towards where the carriage works were, but there was sign pointing towards the town that and I changed direction and headed off to Winchcombe town instead. I was hungry and frankly the queue outside ye pie shoppe was way too long for me. Besides, I really wanted to explore the town, so off I went, 1 mile? nah, that’s easy. 

To read about that portion of my day you can head off to the relevant blogpost about the town

I really thought that I was facing a 30 minute wait for the next train, assuming it wasn’t the goods train! However, on my walk to the station I could hear steam whistles and things were happening. As I got to the station a train arrived and it was heading to Cheltenham. The loco passed me as I got there and I saw it was 46521! The loco on the other platform was my Merchant Navy, but there was no time to grab a pic as the train that had just arrived was late, so she was not going to hang around…

We trundled back to Cheltenham, I was still hungry and footsore and just a tad bushed. The walk to and around Winchcombe had been a long one, and I really needed to start getting home.

Pausing at Gotherington.

I had to admit, it was nice country out here.

Then we arrived and all bailed out for the usual last minute loco photography.

The problem was, what loco would take the train out of Cheltenham? 7812 was sitting on the unused line waiting to shunt to the head of the train, and our current loco would probably take her place.

I walked up the long hill to the road and played chicken with a few cars who tried to run me down. I was very curious about where the line went to after Cheltenham Race Course. According to a book I bought at Toddington, the line enters the Hunting Butts Tunnel and then along a brick viaduct through the centre of Cheltenham and would have joined up with the main line between Bristol and Birmingham. The current station in Cheltenham is called Cheltenham Spa and it is far from the city centre. The former Honeybourne Line had 3 stations after Cheltenham Race Course.

I zoomed into the distance and could just see the roof top of the tunnel in the distance, but what was this loco in the foreground?

I returned to the station to photograph 46521 which should have the whole station to herself, seeing as the train had left. 

As I got to the ramp leading down to the station the loco that I had just seen started to move and it turned out to be 7820 Dinmore Manor. I had wondered where she had gotten to.

It turns out that she was doing “driver experiences” and went back and forth along the platform 3 times while I watched. 

And then it was time to go.

I stopped to photograph the vintage bus that wasn’t going anywhere.

But I was going somewhere, and that was home. It had been a long day and I was finished. I still had 2 buses to catch as well as a long walk home from Tewkesbury Town, and I was hungry too, but, It had been a good day out. I had seen some new loco’s and seen some old friends too. And, I had taken lots of pics and seen a cemetery and church too; and that made it all worth while.

© DRW 2017-2017. Created 28/05/2016