18 December 2020
Merchant Navy class 'Pacific' 35006 'Peninsular & Oriental SN Co.' to haul covid-compliant services on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) between December 27 and January 3.
Bookings are being taken for round trips on the GWSR, departing Toddington station at 10.00 and 13.20 between December 27 and January 3, 2021. The 28-mile round trip will allow visitors to enjoy a steam train in the winter wonderland that is the Cotswolds, taking in Cheltenham and Broadway. Seats are to be made available for individuals, couples and compartments of up to six in a social bubble, with refreshments available.
The GWSR is running a daily service of two full round trips of the popular heritage line from Toddington station (GL54 5DT) before the line closes for winter maintenance. The journey runs first to Cheltenham Racecourse, then back via Toddington to Broadway and return to Toddington. Tickets are available online from the virtual booking office.
The locomotive chosen to haul these post-Christmas specials is the railway’s biggest and most powerful – Southern Railway ‘Merchant Navy’ class 35006 Peninsular & Oriental SN Co (or ‘P&O’ for short). One of 30 built in the 1940s to handle the heaviest expresses from London Waterloo to the South and South-West, such as the ‘Bournemouth Belle’ and ‘Atlantic Coast Express’, the locomotive was bought from Woodham Bros. scrapyard in South Wales and, over following years, was meticulously overhauled at Toddington, moving under its own power for the first time in over 50 years in 2015. Many people regard the locomotive to be the railway’s ‘flagship’, given its history, impressive appearance and size.
Chairman of GWSR Plc, Richard Johnson, said, “This is a great way to wrap up what has been a very difficult year for us and indeed for the heritage railway movement as a whole. With two lockdowns, we were unable to operate for six months including what should have been our busiest weeks. I am full of praise for all our volunteers for the work they have put in to ensure that we could resume services, which have proved to be extremely popular. To ensure the safety of our visitors and volunteers, the trains we are operating, including our wonderful ‘Santa Experience’ service, are carrying half their usual capacity. But the important thing is, we are operating and bringing a lot of joy to families over the Christmas period.”
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway operates over 14 miles through the Cotswolds between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, since August 15 it has operated round trips from Toddington station only, bookable in advance. 'Turn-up-and-go' tickets have been available subject to space being available.
For more details on services, visit its website.