Monday, June 06, 2005

Vintage Trains

Vintage steam trains will once again be a weekend sight between Birmingham and Stratford-uon-Avon. This is due to the presence of the Birmingham Railway Museum Trust, based at the old Tyseley engine sheds. Unlike most preservation lines, the Shakespeare and Bullring Expresses run on the national railway network and therefore serve more than a large dose of nostalgia.

While visiting the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway (GWR) preservation line a few weeks ago, we were told that there is the possibility that one day steam trains could run from the center of Birmingham, through Stratford and onto the original GWR, all the way to Cheltenham Racecourse. This will take a lot of effort because half of the track between Stratford and Cheltenham has been lifted and some of the permanent way has been made over to a relief road bypass as well as a cycle track (the Greenway).

The GWR has rights to all the trackbed where rails have been lifted and is busily extending its single line track north from Toddington to Broadway. This will take a few years. Next it will have to extend to Long Marston, crossing the Cotswold Line at Honeybourne (once a junction station). There are tracks at Long Marston (a disused military warehouse). Then the trackbed becomes the Greenway and I am sure there will be those who will fight long and hard to give back their rural cycleway (understandably).

The Greenway ends on the outskirts of Stratford where the old trackbed has been incorporated into the southern relief road. Seven Meadows Road appears to have completely taken up the right of way between two roundabouts (it's the north-south piece of this road). Then the old track bed serves as a public footpath before entering Stratford Station and the present day "end of the line".

Stratford Council (local government) is supporting the expansion of the vintage train service. They have made land available for a turntable at Stratford Station (at the moment the steam locomotives have to travel backwards on the outward leg of the journey) as well as full steam engine facilities. For the longer term, if the GWR can continue to expand, Stratford may be prepared to open up the Greenway and allow a single track to run down the center of Seven Meadows Road! Now that would be interesting. In theory we would then be able to take a train from nearby Broadway all the way to Birmingham Moor Street Station, just like the old days!