Dead End On The GWR

I had always wanted to do the run from Toddington to Cheltenham, having been told that the journey through the countryside was excellent value for money if you consider the views of the picturesque Cotswolds and their historical content. The only thing that put me off doing it earlier was my fear that I would be a lone traveller.

Still, here we go, Toddington Station Platform, with me waiting to catch an old-fashioned steam train whilst worrying about who my fellow travellers might be. I'm only doing the one way, not the round trip. My pension won't allow me to do both. A twelve-mile journey for £13, not bad really.

Opening a carriage door, I stepped in. Empty, thank goodness. Just like I hoped, an old fashioned carriage with no passageway, just individual compartments with padded bench seating and a door at either side to get in or out. Room for another seven with four each side.

Another seven! I crossed my fingers and hoped.

It did not work, the doors opened, two more people entered and slammed the door shut.

"Hello, my name's John and my friend is Peter."

"Hello," I say, "my name's Bill."

"Are you doing the full trip?"

"No just the one way, Toddington to Cheltenham. Are you?"

"Yes Toddington and back via Laverton. You know you will miss the best part of the trip. North, between Laverton and this station, you would have gone over the fifteen arch Stanway Viaduct from which you could see Stanway House. There is also an aqueduct that spans the line a bit further on."

"Don't keep on John, I'm sure Bill does not want your commentary, do you Bill?"

"I don't mind, honest," I replied thinking to myself, I wish he would shut up.

Ten on the dot, the train pulled away from the station and the wheels started their melodic clickety-click. What a wonderful sound.

Not for long though, the music was taken from my mind as John started his ravings again.

"Didbrook, not much to say apart from it's a pretty little village."

John stops to take a breath. Peter appears to be a bit like me, quiet and a little bit in fear of John. It looks like we are both going to be verbally bullied for the rest of the trip.

"Hailes Abbey Halt, the Abbey was founded in 1246 and closed Christmas Eve 1539. It's now run by the National Trust. Hailes Church was built in 1130."

The clickety-click returned as I joked to myself, did he mean in 1130 or at 1130. A smile crossed my face.

"Winchcombe Station wrongly named. It's in Greet so it should have been called Greet Station. Sudeley Castle is in Winchcombe, built in the reign of King Stephen and rebuilt in the fifteenth century."

"What year was it built?" I asked, pretending to be interested.

"I don't know. I don't know everything, you know," John said with the disturbed tone of someone not used to being questioned.

It was Peter's turn to smile. I guessed he was thinking, that will teach you, now shut up. I was beginning to warm to Peter. He was a lot like me.

"Greet Tunnel, six hundred and ninety-three yards long, the second longest on a preserved railway. It was also haunted."

Silence, he's stopped again, I sighed with relief, then it started again.

"Vale of Evesham, Gretton and the hamlets of Stanley Pontlarge and Far Stanley coming up, followed by Prescott Hill Climb, which is close by but you can't see it. Did you know it is the home of the Bugatti owners club?"

No response came from us, just the deathly hush of two bored travellers trying to concentrate on anything bar John's monotones. To our relief we reached a station where the train stopped and some people got off.

"Gotherington Station with its stone built platform and shelter, originally built by volunteers. The original was closed in 1995 and is now a private home."

When we started again I thought the best plan would be to look out of the window. Peter copied me and started looking out of the opposite window.

"On a clear day you can see the Malverns and Tewkesbury Abbey in the dis..."

"Bloody hell," I screamed. "Somebody's just fallen out of the carriage in front and the doors closed on them!"

"Crikey, what are we going to do?" added Peter.

"Nothing. We're almost at Bishops Cleeve, there was once a station here but there's not now. It was closed in..." John continued.

"Shut up!" I said angrily, "I'm going to phone the police."

John watched and listened to me. When I had finished he started up again just as if nothing had happened.

"Notice the clickety-click, yes, you're right, it's stopped. This is believed to be the only bit of welded railway track on any Heritage line. The wheels make no noise because welding leaves no gaps between tracks."

Peter and I were now on a different planet to John. We were both consumed with the question of what would happen at the end of the line. John wasn't, he just rambled on.

"Under Southam Bridge and you can see Cheltenham Racecourse."

As we pulled into the station Peter spoke.

"Good grief! Look at all those police."

Our carriage door was opened from the outside.

"This station was opened in April 2003 by HRH the Princess Royal. Not only does it have toilets but it also boasts disabled ones as well."

An authoritative voice said, "Very nice sir, now please shut up and listen."

John went quiet and his colour changed to white.

"At last, he's come up for air," I said to Peter and we both laughed out loud.

"Gentlemen, this is no laughing matter. Which one of you made the call to us? Which one of you is Bill Bosely?"

"Me," I replied.

"I must ask the three of you to remain in your carriage until I return."

"Is the passenger who fell out alright?" I enquired.

"He would be if he never had the knife sticking out of his stomach," came the deathly reply.

"You said the carriage in front of yours?"


The officer left us, opened the door in the next carriage, turned to a fellow officer and spoke in a surprised tone.

"The carriage, it's empty!"


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