Cheltenham Racecourse railway station
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|Owned by||Great Western Railway|
|Operated by||Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway|
|Platforms||1 (to be 2)|
|Stations on heritage railways in the United Kingdom|
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|Railways around Cheltenham|
It is located on the former ex-GWR Cheltenham to Stratford line, which was opened by the Great Western Railway in 1906. The station itself was opened in 1912 specifically to serve the new racecourse at Prestbury Park, home of the famous Gold Cup meeting. The platforms were extended at some stage to accommodate trains of up to 14 carriages. The station was only opened on race days and so facilities were rudimentary, but it continued to serve racegoers travelling 'by rail to the races' (as contemporary advertising put it) until the March 1976 Cheltenham Festival.
Although most of the stations on the line closed in 1960 the line itself remained open for non-stop passenger services until 1968.. Special trains on racedays only served Cheltenham Racecourse station until 1976. The line was also used as a diversionary route with no scheduled passenger services until 1976 when a freight train derailed at Winchcombe and damaged the track. The line was officially closed in 1976 and the track was (by 1979) lifted shortly afterwards.
Cheltenham Racecourse (described by the Great Western Railway as Cheltenham Race Course) is currently the southern terminus of the currently 12-mile long heritage Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway. Reopening of the line has been a drawn out affair, given that the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway is run entirely by volunteers. The line trackbed itself was bought in 1984. The track from Bishop's Cleeve to the racecourse was relaid in late-2001, but the line did not reopen for tourists until April 2003. The station was re-opened by HRH The Princess Royal on 7 April 2003.
The station itself is very attractively situated. It and is mostly in a cutting fringed by Corsican pine trees. Its northern end, where it emerges from the cutting, affords magnificent views towards Cleeve Hill. The original station booking office is of historic interest in that it is believed to be the only remaining example of a Swindon-built 'flatpack' prefabricated building that was brought by train and assembled on site. It is perched at the top of the cutting, next to the A435 roadbridge and just three minutes' walk from the main entrance of the racecourse. It has been well restored despite the efforts of local vandals over the years and there is an interesting collection of artifacts housed within it. A gentle slope through well-tended landscaping gives access to the platform where there is a new station building with a canopy, toilets and waiting room. Currently, only one platform of the station is in use. The second platform has been removed but will be rebuilt at a later date. The station has two tracks, one adjacent to the platform and the other to allow locomotives to run around the train. A new signal box was opened in 2005 to control the signals and point work around the station.
Access to the station by car is only via the main racecourse entrance (follow brown signs to racecourse). There is a large free car park. A bus service runs from the Network Rail Cheltenham Spa station, through the town centre to the Racecourse Park & Ride, about 10 minutes walk from the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway station.
Platform 2 Rebuild
In July 2012, as part of a new Development Foundation, the GWSR launched an appeal to reconstruct Platform 2 at Cheltenham Racecourse station. The intention is to reduce overcrowding at Platform 1. Their website details the rebuilding now being undertaken by volunteers.
Possible extension towards Cheltenham Spa
||This section may contain unsourced predictions, speculative material or accounts of events that might not occur. (March 2013)|
The line originally continued beyond the racecourse station via the old Cheltenham Malvern Road station site towards the mainline station at Cheltenham Spa. A section of track has already been relaid through the tunnel at Cheltenham Racecourse, but it is currently impassable. While the track bed is mostly complete and intact, the remaining line is still in need of extensive reconstruction. This would also involve replacing a non-rail bridge near the site of the old St James's Station as it would not be strong enough to carry the line.
Though, however the "GWR (Toddington)" do own a further mile of track through Hunting Butts tunnel to as far as a nearby stadium in Wyman's Brook (a suburb of Cheltenham itself), It could likely that a new (and temporary replacement) station could be considered as the new southern terminus of the heritage line, as the trackbed beyond towards the mainline spa station is owned by the council and laid with rolled asphalt as a cycle path route.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cheltenham Racecourse railway station.|
- Croughton, G.; Kidner, R.W.; Young, A. Private and untimetabled Railway Stations.
|Preceding station||Heritage railways||Following station|
|Gotherington||Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway||Terminus|
Line open, station closed
|Great Western Railway
|Cheltenham High Street Halt
Line and station closed
|Proposed Heritage railways|
Line open, station closed
|Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway||Cheltenham Malvern Road
Line and station closed