Ad’s op­ti­mism sent off track by Beech­ing

Gloucestershire Echo - - NOSTALGIA - nos­te­[email protected] Robin BROOKS

IN the 1950s, Bri­tish Rail­ways ran a re­cruit­ment cam­paign with posters de­pict­ing a jolly porter in his shiny peaked cap with the slo­gan “Get A Job For Life - Join The Rail­way”.

Noth­ing could have been fur­ther from the truth.

In March 1962 Dr Richard Beech­ing, the chair­man of Bri­tish Rail, pub­lished a report ti­tled The Re­shap­ing of Bri­tish Rail­ways.

This pro­posed cut­ting the na­tional net­work by 25 per cent, clos­ing 2,128 sta­tions, scrap­ping 8,000 pas­sen­ger coaches and shed­ding 68,000 jobs.

Which is why a num­ber of the sta­tions pic­tured here in Glouces­ter­shire are to­day no more than a mem­ory.

With hind­sight, of course, the Beech­ing axe did Bri­tain no good at all.

It forced peo­ple and freight onto the roads and many of the closed lines were lost for­ever un­der build­ing de­vel­op­ment.

Some of the sta­tions that dis­ap­peared, reap­peared – a lo­cal ex­am­ple be­ing Ashchurch, which opened in 1997 restor­ing a rail link to Tewkes­bury af­ter 26 years.

Glouces­ter’s present rail­way sta­tion was orig­i­nally built by the Great Western Rail­way (GWR).

Prior to the Beech­ing report, the city boasted a sec­ond sta­tion built by the Mid­land Rail­way which oc­cu­pied the site where Asda now stands.

These two sta­tions were joined by a long, cov­ered foot­bridge - and many

peo­ple of ripen­ing years will re­call strug­gling along its length, car­ry­ing cases, to catch a con­nec­tion.

Had the GWR had its way, Glouces­ter would have been blessed with a third sta­tion.

In 1901 the com­pany pro­posed sit­ing such a fa­cil­ity in Che­quers Road at an es­ti­mated cost of £30,000.

The pur­pose of the third sta­tion was to cut off the loop that re­quired trains from Bris­tol to re­v­erse at Glouces­ter (as they do to this day) be­fore con­tin­u­ing up coun­try.

The pro­posal was dropped af­ter a long ar­gu­ment be­tween the com­pany and the coun­cil over ac­cess.

A sim­i­lar out­come be­came of the GWR’S plan to build a new prin­ci­pal rail­way sta­tion in Chel­tenham’s Townsend Street.

The de­sign was grand with a fa­cade along the lines of Char­ing Cross in Lon­don.

To build the 600ft long struc­ture would have ne­ces­si­tated knock­ing down one en­tire side of Townsend Street to make space.

Sa­muel Daukes, the lo­cal ar­chi­tect of Lans­down rail­way sta­tion and St Peter’s Church, was com­mis­sioned to pro­duce the de­sign,.

The scheme was never re­alised, killed off by an ar­gu­ment be­tween the coun­cil and GWR over ac­cess.

But if it had come to fruition, imag­ine how it might have changed the dy­namic of Chel­tenham, fo­cus­ing the com­mer­cial hub in the Lower Dockem area, in­stead of the High Street/prom­e­nade end of town.

Glouces­ter was the point at which the Mid­land Rail­way (from Birm­ing­ham) and the Great Western (from Swin­don) con­verged and con­sid­er­able chaos re­sulted.

The Mid­land’s gauge was four foot eight and a half inches, while the GWR’S was seven feet six inches.

Con­se­quently all pas­sen­gers and freight bound for the north had to change trains.

Chang­ing trains at Glouces­ter be­came a mat­ter of na­tional de­bate.

Mu­sic hall co­me­di­ans joked about it. News­pa­pers and jour­nals ran car­toons about it.

And fur­ther fuel was added to the fire when Queen Vic­to­ria passed through Glouces­ter on Septem­ber 29, 1849 and suf­fered the in­dig­nity of hav­ing to cross from one plat­form to an­other to change trains.

To add to the gen­eral con­fu­sion, there was the ques­tion of time.

There was no such thing as Green­wich Mean Time un­til 1880, so train timeta­bles were cal­cu­lated by dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies in var­i­ous ways.

Three rail­way com­pa­nies ran ser­vices from Glouces­ter and each had its own time stan­dard.

This meant pas­sen­gers faced the baf­fling prospect of three sets of clocks one based on Bris­tol time, an­other on Birm­ing­ham time and the third on Lon­don time.

A Royal Commission was set up to ex­am­ine the vexed is­sue and fol­low­ing an of­fi­cial visit to Glouces­ter one of the com­mis­sion­ers wrote: “We were ap­palled by the clam­our... the shout­ing out of ad­dresses of con­sign­ments, the chuck­ing of pack­ages across from truck to truck, the en­quiries of miss­ing ar­ti­cles, the load­ing, un­load­ing and reload­ing.”

The is­sue was even­tu­ally re­solved when the straight through nar­row gauge line be­tween Glouces­ter and Bris­tol was opened.

The af­ter­math of the broad gauge rail­way be­ing abol­ished meant, of course, a lot of use­less rolling stock.

In May 1856 an auc­tion took place in Glouces­ter and the lots of­fered were seven first class car­riages, five com­pos­ites, six sec­ond class car­riages, six third class car­riages, three car­riage trucks, three horse boxes, one pas­sen­ger en­gine, one goods en­gine, 29 high sides wag­ons, eight low sided tim­ber wag­ons and one six wheeled tim­ber truck.

There were no bid­ders at the sale.

East­gate Sta­tion, Glouces­ter

Ashchurch Sta­tion, pic­tured by Clif­ford Day, and right the pro­posed fa­cade for a sta­tion in Towsend Street, Chel­tenham

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