Monday 14 September was a day of celebration for the volunteers of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR).
That’s because the 900 people who freely give of their time to help run and grow the popular steam railway in the Cotswolds, were presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, at a special ceremony at the railway’s Toddington station.
Presenting the Award was the Queen’s representative, Dame Janet Trotter DBE, Lord Lieutenant for Gloucestershire. The railway is one of just three voluntary organisations in Gloucestershire to have won the Award this year, out of 187 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups nationwide to also have been honoured.
Dame Janet first arrived at Winchcombe station where she formally opened the railway’s new ‘Discovery Coach’ which imaginatively presents the history of the railway and its local context.
She then boarded a steam train to Toddington, along with GWSR officials and guests. After touring the locomotive restoration facilities she mounted steps to the footplate of the latest locomotive to be restored at Toddington, to announce the citation and present the Award and a certificate from HM Queen Elizabeth to Chairman of GWSR Plc, Alan Bielby.
The occasion was witnessed by up to 200 of the railway’s volunteers.
Dame Janet said that the selection committee had ‘no hesitation’ in making the award to the railway’s volunteers, noting how impressed she was with the scale of the operation and all that it had achieved.
Since 1982, when the embryonic GWSR first took occupation of a derelict Toddington station yard and fifteen miles of vacant trackbed, after British Railways closed the line in 1979 and removed the track and infrastructure, it has steadily grown to become one of the leading tourist attractions in the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire..
GWSR Chairman Alan Bielby commented: “We have won many awards over the years but the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is by far the most prestigious and the most meaningful.
“It is a testament to our volunteers, past and present, for all that they have contributed to making this railway such a success. It’s the envy of many other heritage railways because it remains almost entirely volunteer run.”
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