Railways around Cheltenham
Very briefly, the town of Cheltenham Spa was once on relatively important through routes, north to south, of both the GWR (Malvern Road Station, closed 1966) and the LMS (Lansdown Station now renamed Cheltenham Spa).On the summer Saturdays prior to the 2nd World War and immediately following nationalisation up to the very late fifties the amount of extra passenger traffic from the Midlands and the north to the south and west meant these two routes were extremely busy with through trains of holiday makers.
There was also a terminus station (St James', closed in 1966) which, after the link at Lansdown Junction to the ex-LMS Lansdown Station was removed in 1958, became the starting place for the Cheltenham to Southampton trains over the pre-grouping MSWJ route.
The town once had seven stations either in or in the immediate outskirts, but all were closed, mostly in the 1960s, except the Midland station at Lansdown. Evidence, perhaps tenuous in some cases, of all the former stations can still be found around town. However, following the rebuilding and reopening in 2003 of Racecourse station on the outskirts of the town, Cheltenham now has more than one station again. The station was on the former GWR route north from the town, but is now one end of the preserved Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway whose other terminus is currently at Toddington. (See separate notes under the heading “Cheltenham Stations”)
The remaining main line Cheltenham Spa station has very regular services to London, Bristol, South Wales and the south west and Worcester, Birmingham and the North, served by CrossCountry, First Great Western and Central Trains. Freight traffic, operated by EWS, Freightliner, and occasional traffic by DRS, brings a variety of locomotive traction to the town.
Class.47 number 47810 "Porterbrook" taking four class.87s from Oxley to Gloucester for Cotswold Rail. 10th May 2006.
Virgin Voyager on route to Plymouth taken from Cloddymore bridge. 10th.May 2006.
Of Cheltenham's seven original stations only two remain open today. Cheltenham Spa (Lansdown) on the national rail network and Cheltenham Race Course station on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway.
Cheltenham Race Course station opened for the races in March 1912. The station was on the recently opened GWR line linking Honeybourne Junction to Cheltenham Malvern Road, which had been opened in stages from Honeybourne Junction between 1904 and 1906. When originally opened the station had two platforms with shelters and toilets. The ticket office was sited next to the main road at a higher level. A signalbox was provided which was open on race days only. The station only handled passengers as there were no sidings provided. Racehorses were unloaded at Bishops Cleeve and walked to the course. The station initially closed in 1968, but was later reused in 1971.
After purchase of the line by the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway the station was formally reopened by HRH The Princess Royal on the 7th April 2003.
The original Ticket Office next to the main road bridge has been restored for continued use. The building is of wooden construction with a metal roof formed to look like tiles.
A general station view at platform level looking North East. The signal box is of new construction and is sited close to the original. The station signalling was past for use in February 2007. The platform buildings are again new work prior to the reopening in 2003. The remains of platform 2 have been removed as the facing wall was leaning inwards.
On leaving the station the railway is on an embankment before reaching Southam Lane road bridge. Passengers have fine view across towards Cleeve Hill.
V2 Green Arrow is seen heading south under the road bridge on Sunday 26th August 2007. This section of the line is easily accessed via a public footpath which runs for a short distance along the rear access road to the racecourse.
Currently Cheltenham Race Course station is the southern limit of operations on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway. The track has been extended southwards into Hunting Butts Tunnel and is used as a siding. Further south the original trackbed through Cheltenham has been converted to a cycle track and can be easily accessed from several roads in the town. The line provides a link across the town between the Prince of Wales stadium and Lansdown station.