Our first speaker this year was Alan Freke from The Frenchay Village Museum who gave an amusing and, considering the title, a surprisingly interesting presentation of the story of The GWR Badminton Line, which ran between Wootton Bassett and Patchway from 1903 until 1968, illustrated with photographs from the whole period and up to the present day.
The original route From London to South Wales in 1852 passed through Swindon, Stroud and Gloucester to Chepstow via Brunel’s Chepstow Railway Bridge which gave rise to it’s nickname ‘The Great Way Round’
The Severn Tunnel which opened in 1886 provided a more direct route to South Wales and later prompted the building of the Badminton Line (The South Wales Direct Line) which opened in 1903.
The line was approx 33 miles long with tunnels at Alderton and Sodbury. The gradient was much easier and favourable for the transportation of coal etc. Locally there were stations at Acton Turville and Chipping Sodbury. Alan gave credit to Kevin Robertson whose book supplied much of the material for his talk. The book is still obtainable and is entitled GWR The Portrait of a railway by Kevin Robertson and David Abbot.