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Dreams and Realities

Honeybourne Junction Platform 3, awaiting our trains from Cheltenham

Honeybourne Junction Platform 3, awaiting our trains from Cheltenham

Preserving our railway heritage has always required (at least) two things: the refusal to accept ‘can’t-be-done’ as an answer to an idea and the ability to have the bloody-minded, tenacious patience to get down and get it done.

There are lots of ‘can’t-be-dones’, no-hope projects that no sane person would ever give a second thought to. Building ‘Tornado’ was one of them, the Patriot Project is another and so is the Grange. At Didcot, the idea that we might recreate a Saint, Night Owl or a County would all have been laughed out of the pub not very many years ago.

I trod the green track of the Welsh Highland Railway as a child, sad that it was unlikely ever to return, and a few months ago had to pinch myself at the sight of the ‘unrestorable’ England 0-4-0 Palmerston whistling as it emerged from Aberglaslyn tunnel at the head of a heritage charter train.

Last year, a similar pinching exercise was required as I sat at the front of a DMU departing from Midsomer Norton station on the Somerset and Dorset. This year it was Woody Bay station on the Linton and Barnstaple – and surely nobody is going to say that the L&B is beyond renaissance any more. I doubt I will live to see it open throughout but I am sure it will happen.

And removing that slag heap between the Bluebell and East Grinstead must be right up there with the most unglamorous ‘Cant-be-Dones’ of all time of them and look at the impact that reconnecting with Network Rail is having on that railway!

So what else ‘cant be done’ now? As a working volunteer on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire, I have to admit that one of the things I just love the sheer immense potential of this line. I have to be careful, though. It doesn’t do to talk too much about how things will be ‘when we get to Honeybourne Junction’ because many of our members are much more sensible than I am and have an enviable capacity for patient restoration and sensible step-by-step planning which are exactly the skills and never-say-die attitude you need to actually achieve all these hair-brained schemes.

So, what dare we not dream about on this ex-GWR secondary mainline as we coherently and conscientiously plan for just getting to Broadway? Beyond, that beautiful Cotswold station in the making, it is another 4 1/2 miles to Honeybourne. It is pretty straight all the way before our future trains dip under the Cotswold line and turn sharp left to climb up before coming to rest at Platform 3 at Honeybourne.

The intriguing question is: what will happen when we get there? We will have that precious mainline connection with the rest of the rail world so there is the lure of Cheltenham Gold Cup trains hauled by one of Tyseley’s Castles from Birmingham for starters. By then the plans to rebuild the spur to Stratford-on-Avon will surely be nearly there so will we want to find a way of sending our trains on to Stratford? You bet your life we will because visitors to Stratford will just love the prospect of going by GWR steam to Broadway for a cream tea in that quintessential Cotswold village before getting back for King Lear at the RSC!

And then there is Long Marston, that enticingly huge depot and rolling stock graveyard. Will we want a depot there (or else in Honeybourne North yard maybe…?). Will we run our own mainline specials using our own mainline certificated locomotives? And will we have an arrangement with Didcot, just down the line that will see an exchange of rolling stock from time to time?

And, most of all, will we have some double track by then, perhaps between Toddington and Gotherington so that we can have steam trains passing in the tunnel?   For me, that is what I am working for.  That and, of course, a southern connection at Cheltenham so we can run down to Bristol!

Impossible?  Cant be done?  Of course it can!

Why not post your impossible, ‘Can’t-be-Done’ project dreams here?

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One Response to “Dreams and Realities”

  1. I have received an interesting email from the GWSR. the content is largely confidential but I can say that our further extension beyond Broadway to Honeybourne is very much on the agenda and that discussions about how it will be managed are advancing well. Excellent news and I will keep everyone posted about developments

    Posted by Howard | August 28, 2013, 8:52 pm

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