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GWR's £1 million emergency appeal reached, thanks to anonymous donor

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway has passed the £1 million mark in its Emergency Appeal, launched three years ago to fund the cost of repairing major embankment collapses at both Gotherington and just north of Winchcombe.

The landmark was passed thanks to a £7,000 donation from an anonymous benefactor who simply asked how much was needed to complete the appeal.

The Gotherington repair cost was met partly through insurance, but this wasn't available for the ‘Chicken Curve' collapse, just north of Winchcombe station, which landed the volunteer-run railway with a £670,000 bill.

These problems, compounded by a severe winter which wiped out £60,000 worth of ‘Santa Special' business in December 2010, led to the railway's chairman, Malcolm Temple, to declare that the railway had been ‘brought to its knees' by the disasters.

"The £1million Emergency Appeal was launched by railway enthusiast and music impresario Pete Waterman in 2009 and it immediately struck a chord with both local people and the heritage railway movement as a whole," he said.

"We have been astounded by the huge support the railway has received. It's clear that the former ‘Honeybourne Line' is held in deep affection by many people.

"This is also a railway with huge scope for growth and development and this was recognised last year, by the accolade of the Ian Allan Publishing ‘Heritage Railway of the Year' award."

The appeal has been further boosted by the magazine Steam Railway which has run its own reader appeal in aid of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, and this has contributed almost £70,000, including Gift Aid.

"It is remarkable that so many people have contributed - whether it's £1 or £10,000 it has enabled the £1 million mark to be passed remarkably quickly, and at a time when many families are struggling during the recession. I'm especially grateful to the gentleman who donated the £7,000 that took us to the target. And the money is still coming in!" Mr Temple added.

"I can promise everyone who has offered their support that this will not be forgotten.

"I especially want to commend the considerable fortitude of our volunteers who simply would not let these major problems get in the way of developing their railway.

"They have come up with imaginative solutions such as running the railway in two sections. They have gone out and rattled buckets, attended events and devised countless ideas for raising money. Everyone has pulled together as a team and, I think, have confounded critics who suggested that this was a blow that the railway would struggle to overcome.

"Everyone can be immensely proud of the contribution they have made and I am honoured to be chairman of such an enterprising group that just won't take ‘no' for an answer. This spirit of enterprise can only ensure that this railway will go from strength to strength."

The earthwork repairs on the so-called ‘Chicken Curve' embankment just north of Winchcombe station are complete and the railway's permanent way team have laid track over the embankment once again, although it is not yet connected.

Mr Temple warns that there is a lot of work still to do: "The track needs to be welded and ballasted over coming weeks while signalling needs also to be re-installed and tested.

"However, we expect the task to be completed around the end of October or November when the first train for nearly two years could run between Toddington and Winchcombe."

The railway will then be 12 miles in length as the northern extension from Toddington to Laverton was opened after the railway was severed by the embankment collapse, which happened in January 2011.

A major celebratory Gala is being planned for May 2013, which will include a host of activities and visiting celebrity locomotives to show that the railway is, once again, very much ‘in business'.

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway operates over part of the former Cheltenham to Stratford upon Avon main line, which was closed by British Railways in 1979.

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway runs 12 miles between Cheltenham Racecourse and Laverton, via Gotherington, Winchcombe and Toddington. The railway will be operating a full and frequent service over the whole of the railway from March 2013. Projects the railway is currently pursuing are:
Better visitor facilities at Toddington, the railway's HQ
An additional platform and visitor facilities at Cheltenham Racecourse
Extension of the railway to Broadway over the next five years, including building a new station at the town (much of the platform has already been built)
New carriage restoration facilities at the railway's Carriage and Wagon department at Winchcombe
The Appeal remains open for the time being - full information on the railway's website at

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway 

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