376 pages. 275x215mm. Printed on gloss art paper, casebound with printed board covers.
This is the second and concluding part of our journey from Gloucester Central to Swindon, which opened as a broad gauge line from Swindon to Cirencester in May 1841 and then from Kemble to Standish in June 1845, from where it joined with the Bristol & Gloucester Railway to reach Gloucester. Having reached Stroud in Part 1, we first complete our study of that station before heading off up the valley towards Brimscombe and Chalford. These were two very different stations, opened over fifty years apart, one designed by Brunel and the other to an 1890s standard GWR design, both of which were closed on the same day in 1964 when local passenger services were withdrawn. Much of this service was provided by the auto trains running to and from Gloucester, which served the valley for sixty years until bus and private car ownership brought about their demise. However, BR having given notice originally in 1962 about ending the service, its last years of operation were well photographed and all of the intermediate halts are illustrated here, along with numerous scenic views of the autos scurrying up and down the valley. Interspersed with the auto workings were a very varied range of other trains, from London expresses to heavy freights, most of which required banking up the fearsome climb to Sapperton Tunnel and the summit of the line. Banking engines were usually stationed at Brimscombe, where a shed was provided from broad gauge days, but assisting locomotives for heavy expresses requiring piloting waited at Stroud, attaching to the front of the train when the stop was made there. Our period covers from the late 1950s to the mid 1970s, through the last years of steam on BR(WR) and the early diesel-hydraulic era. Again the locomotive variety is impressive: ‘Castles’, ‘Halls’ and ‘Granges’, ‘9Fs’ and ‘8Fs’, ‘Prairies’, pannier tanks and ‘14XX’ 0-4-2Ts, along with ‘Westerns’, ‘Hymeks’ and ‘Teddy Bears’. And railbuses! Once we reach Kemble we take time out to travel the branches to Tetbury and Cirencester, on which the AC Cars railbuses operated for the final six years, stopping at all of the halts and studying the infrastructure of both termini. And then, we complete the last leg to Swindon, crossing into Wiltshire and tarrying a while at the delightful Brunellian station at Minety, before arriving at our destination, past the engine shed which lay alongside the line from Gloucester. And everything on this gorgeously scenic journey, especially the lovely mostly long lost stations – Stroud and Kemble alone remain – are as usual illustrated in glorious colour, from spring greens to autumn golds, and Swindon green to Rail blue!