NEARLY six decades after the track was torn up a £2.5m appeal has been launched to link Swindon and Cricklade by rail once more.

Work has already started on clearing trees and undergrowth from the old track bed that has all but disappeared since the last passenger trains ran 57 years ago.

Now, as it celebrates its 40th birthday, the Swindon and Cricklade Railway has announced plans to return to Cricklade with a new station just outside the town.

It is a huge project for the heritage society and the proposal is to carry it out in two phases to keep it manageable.

Publicity officer Adrian Thompson said the volunteers were really excited by the possibility of running trains between the two towns.

“We have the ambition and the drive to complete this challenge all we need now are donations of funds and also offers of help to drive the progress forward, like everything else in the world this challenge will be done faster with increased financial assistance,” he said.

The first phase will see them going full steam ahead on extending the current railhead from South Meadow Lane to Farfield Lane Bridge by September.

“The estimated cost for restoration of this section of railway line is £250,000, this amount would cover the materials needed including rail, sleepers, ballast and repairs to fencing and culverts as required,” he said.

“By rebuilding this section of the line to Farfield Lane to passenger carrying standards we hope this will give the public an idea of what we are aiming to do.”

Some of the sleepers have come as a result of the work to electrify the Great Western Route, but more will be needed to reach the bridge which was blown up and filled in when the line shut.

At that point a plan to install a new modern bridge will be decided.

A major civil engineering project, it will start phase two. “This is going to be a major civil engineering project on its own as it needs to completed to a very tight timescale,” said Adrian.

“The railway then plan to install a run round loop and station halt just past the bridge which will give the passengers the chance to leave the train and enjoy the planned picnic facilities to be installed this area and opens the opportunity of a relaxed walk into Cricklade a distance of approximately a mile and a half.”

He added: “We have got to stop short of the new housing developments next to the railway track bed in Cricklade. Effectively there will be a short stroll from the main road.”

A completion date has not yet been set but the hope is that it can be done in the next two years.

When the group took over the site of the former Blunsdon Station 40 years ago they found it had become a swamp. Over the years they built the current station, laid track up to Hayes Knoll and built the engine shed and workshops before extending south and opening the Taw Valley Halt.

It has become a hugely popular attraction, carrying more than 12,000 passengers in the past year. The Santa specials were a sell out and there is already interest in this year’s services and events.

Anyone who wants to help get the appeal going can do so online at