Southern Railway Schools class locomotive visits Cheltenham for Cotswold Steam Celebration. Cheltenham College staff and pupils to meet ‘their’ engine for first time

On Thursday 16th May at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway’s

Cheltenham Racecourse station, a piece of missing history from Cheltenham College will be repaired.

Staff and pupils will gather to see a 79-year-old locomotive that is named

after the co-educational independent school.

The Southern Railway ‘Schools’ class locomotive, No. 925 Cheltenham is on loan to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway for its ‘Cotswold Steam Celebration’ over the late-May Bank Holiday, 24th to 27th May.

The engine is owned by the National Railway Museum at York and it was

returned to steam last year following an extensive overhaul funded by the
Mid-Hants Railway, where it is now normally based.

Henry Howard, chairman of the GWR Trust, said he was delighted that the

engine is able to visit the railway for the Cotswold Steam Celebration
“But I’m especially pleased that we have been able to arrange for the school

to meet ‘its engine’ for the very first time,” he said.

Mr Howard points out that the Southern Railway used to take each new member of the 40 Schools class engines to the station closest to the school after it was named, if it could.

“So ‘Eton’ went to Eton & Windsor station; ‘Brighton’ to Brighton,

‘Charterhouse’ to Farncombe station, ‘Dulwich’ to Herne Hill station and
so-on. But that never happened with ‘Cheltenham’, because the town’s
stations weren’t on Southern territory.

“For me, it’s quite a thrill that we can put the clock back and repair an

eight-decade omission!”

Historic link with College

Dr Alex Peterken, Headmaster of Cheltenham College , said that he was aware of the history of the engine and proud of its connection to the school.

“Back in the 1930s, the Southern Railway contacted Cheltenham College to ask for permission to name the locomotive. The Headmaster at the time, Richard Roseveare, agreed and no. 925 ‘Cheltenham’ was born.

In those days, locomotives were a fundamental mode of transport for pupils

travelling to and from boarding schools. To name them after famous
independent schools was a quirky but fascinating initiative and we are proud
to have 925 ‘Cheltenham’ as part of our heritage.

I would like to thank the GWR for their concerted efforts to bring the

locomotive to Cheltenham, not only righting the eight-decade omission but
also giving our pupils an insight into the engineering aspect of steam

Both Cheltenham College and Cheltenham College Junior School took advantage of the invitation from the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway to open up the historical event to the pupils, including running a Year Three physics class to find out how ‘Cheltenham’ works.

More than 50 pupils, staff and Governors are expected to attend a short

ceremony at Cheltenham Racecourse station before taking a round trip on a
train hauled by ‘Cheltenham’.

Cotswold Steam Celebration – 24-27 May 2013

This is the first major steam gala event that the Gloucestershire
Warwickshire Railway has organised since 2010. It was that year that the
railway suffered the first of two major embankment collapses which were the
subject of a successful £1 million appeal to repair them.

The Cotswold Steam Celebration celebrates the once-again complete railway,

which now offers a 25-mile round trip between Cheltenham Racecourse,
Winchcombe, Toddington and Laverton. The line is planning to extend a
further two-and-a-half miles to Broadway.

This major event presents no fewer than SEVEN locomotives representing the ‘big four’ railway companies that were nationalised in 1948 to form British Railways. Engines bearing the liveries of the Southern Railway; London & North Eastern Railway; London Midland & Scottish Railway; the Great Western Railway and of course British Railways will be running an intensive train service over the four days, including a freight train typical of the 1920s to 1960s period.

A host of additional attractions, include the North Gloucestershire Narrow

Gauge Railway at Toddington which itself will have three locomotives in
steam. The attractive private Gotherington Station yard, with its eclectic
displays of railwayana, rarely open to the public, will be opened specially
for the occasion.

Schools Class locomotives: Historic note

The three-cylinder ‘Schools’ class locomotives were designed by R E L
Maunsell, chief mechanical engineer of the Southern Railway, the first, no.
900 ‘Eton’, being completed in 1930. They were the last 4-4-0
wheel-arrangement design in Britain and the most powerful of that type in
Europe. They were reliable, economical and powerful and very popular
amongst drivers and firemen. They could be found throughout the Southern
Railway system, but growing electrification during the late 1950s and early
1960s led to their withdrawal. One of the last was ‘Cheltenham’, which was
reserved for preservation and acquired by the National Railway Museum. In
2010 the engine was taken from York Railway Museum and moved to Eastleigh in Hampshire, where it was built in 1934, for a complete overhaul and in 2012 it was returned to steam. It is now resident on the Mid-Hants Railway. The GWR is grateful to the Mid-Hants Railway for its loan.

Source: The Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Steam Railway