The former Great Western Railway's Cheltenham Branch started life as part of that
systems broad gauge (7' 0¼") network. This commenced in the GWR's own terminus in
Gloucester, later Central station, which itself became a through station in 1851 with
the opening of the South Wales Railway, and ran via Tramway Junction where it
connected with the Midland Railways standard gauge line to Birmingham. This then
formed a mixed gauge line to Lansdown Junction at Cheltenham where a broad gauge line
diverged to the GWR's station in the town, that became St James, with the opening of
Cheltenham Malvern Road station in 1908 to serve trains on the new direct route from
Birmingham via Honeybourne.
The problems at Gloucester in the early years caused by the change of gauge were a major factor in Parliament ultimately passing legislation requiring all future lines to be built to the standard gauge which was to lead to the eventual complete phasing out of the broad gauge. The Cheltenham branch was itself converted to standard gauge and commenced operations in this form in May 1872.
With the opening of the Honeybourne & Cheltenham line in 1908, the Cheltenham branch became part of the Great Western's main line from Birmingham to Bristol & South Wales, albeit that it could still only reach Bristol using running powers over the Midland Railway's line south of Standish Junction.
The second world war saw the greatest volume of traffic over this section with the two track section between Lansdown Junction & Engine Shed Junction, Gloucester being widened to four. After the war and nationalisation and with declining traffic, rationalisation became the order of the day, part of which was deemed to be the elimination of duplicate routes. This eventually resulted in the closure of the former GWR line from Birmingham south of Stratford-upon-Avon and with it the stations at Cheltenham Malvern Road & St James and the concentration of all traffic on the former Midland/LMSR station at Lansdown.
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