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Gloucestershire’s ‘oldest railway’ celebrates 200th anniversary

The 200th anniversary of one of Gloucestershire’s first railways will be celebrated this year. The Gloucestershire tram road for horse drawn wagons that linked the Gloucester docks with Cheltenham was first opened in 1811. The route was used to ease the transportation of stone, coal and other goods from the River Severn. The nine mile (15km) route was important for 50 years until the arrival of steam railway.

Although the tram road has now been forgotten by most, historians are planning to commemorate it 200 years after it first opened.

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 tram road rails differ from modern train rails as they used an L-shaped cross section, so that flange-less wheels can be used.One horse would have pulled two trucks, which would have weighed around two tones. The route followed the old main road between Gloucester and Cheltenham, which also passed through Staverton and Lansdown.

There are glimpses of the railway still in existence, including an ‘Old Tramway Road’ sign in Albion Street, a short wall at the Gloucester docks and a railway crossing at Horton Road.Dr Wilson said: “The line is there if you know where to look. It is certainly a very significant part of the county’s industrial heritage.”

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