200th anniversary of Gloucestershire's 'oldest railway'

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Replica wagon from Cheltenham tram road
Image caption,
Replicas have been made of the original Cheltenham tram road wagons

An event has been planned to mark the 200th anniversary of one of Gloucestershire's first railways.

A tram road for horse drawn wagons, linking Gloucester docks with Cheltenham, was opened on 4 June 1811.

The nine mile (15km) route was built to allow stone, coal and other goods to be transported easily from the River Severn.

It existed for 50 years before being abandoned after the arrival of the 'modern' steam powered railway.

Flange-less wheels

The tram road is now largely forgotten, but exactly 200 years after its opening historians are to commemorate the event.

Dr Ray Wilson, from the Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology, said: "This was the first [railway in Gloucestershire] that was authorised by an act of Parliament.

"The Bullo Pill railway [in the Forest of Dean] was actually in operation before this one, but the act of Parliament for this one was two months earlier."

The rails used by the tram road differed to modern day train rails, having an L-shaped cross section, allowing conventional, flange-less wheels to be used.

It had a gauge of 3 ft 6 ins (1.1m). Research has shown that one horse would have pulled two trucks, each carrying about two tonnes.

'Very significant'

The line of the route followed the old main road between Gloucester and Cheltenham, passing through Staverton and into Lansdown. The tram road ended in Cheltenham at the Hop Pole Inn in Gloucester Road.

Glimpses of the railway are still in existence, including a short stretch of wall at Gloucester docks, an 'Old Tramway Road' sign in Albion Street, an embankment at Armscroft Park, and the old tram road crossing of the main line railway at Horton Road.

"The line is there if you know where to look," said Dr Wilson. "It is certainly a very significant part of the county's industrial heritage."

A ceremony to mark the 200th anniversary of the opening of the line will take place at Gloucester docks on Saturday 4 June, and will be attended by industrial archaeology experts Professor Angus Buchanan and Sir Neil Cossons.

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