Our story

The museum collection began in the 1960s as a personal project of two school friends, Tim Petchey and John Ferris, who were intrigued by the workings of the railway network and the trackside engineering that made it possible.

This was just after the Beeching Report when British Rail were closing stations and lines that were considered uneconomic. The contents of stations, signal boxes and other structures were being destroyed as no longer needed. BR saw no value in them apart from the rails and sleepers, which were torn up and either reused elsewhere or sent back to the foundry for smelting.

Barn with many signs.
Cast-iron signs? We have a few ...

Tim and John brought home discarded items from Winchcombe, Bishops Cleeve and Toddington stations and gave them a new home in the substantial garden of Tim’s mother’s home in Winchcombe.

They were later joined by Michael Marr, a Cheltenham schoolboy whose father decided that he needed to be “kept out of mischief” (his own words) and Lindsay Ferris, younger brother of John. Together they continued to rescue artefacts, travelling throughout the UK in pursuit of their passion.

Local residents were intrigued by the sight of signal posts peering over the garden wall and expressed an interest in seeing the collection. In 1968 it was decided to open the garden to the public on a limited basis. Visitors who had grown up in the age of steam enjoyed seeing working signals, signal box equipment and other line-side and platform items. Younger visitors who had not had this experience were keen to see how it all worked. Thus the museum became an embryonic educational opportunity and the four boys were keen to pass on the knowledge they had gained.

In time the collection grew, and so did the numbers of visitors. Opening times became more regular and some visitors returned again and again, keen to learn more of what the collection represented. The signalling system was made more child friendly and youngsters were encouraged to operate them and had their uses explained if asked. The museum became a private trust.

The museum garden in early autumn.
We were very proud of our garden setting for exhibits. Visitors loved it.

In 2015, and as by this time Tim was approaching his seventies, the maintenance of both the garden and the collection was proving to be an onerous task and the decision was taken to close the museum. It was at about this time that Lindsay Ferris took the decision to cease his association, removing his personally owned items from the collection. Shortly after, John Ferris met an untimely death in a motor accident. This was a devastating blow to Tim but also served to strengthen his resolve to keep the remaining collection as intact as possible and to ensure its availability as an educational tool.

Since then the Trust has been strengthened by the arrival of Janet Gough, who spent many years working for the National Trust and brings great organisational skills, and Michael Quinion, a retired heritage interpreter and museum curator with substantial IT experience. We are actively working to conserve the collection and find a new home for it so that we can continue our many years of explaining the story of British railways.

News

New member of our team: We are delighted that Jackie Britton, who has long experience in managing and moving museum collections at the V&A and Science Museum, has agreed to join our steering committee. Her expertise will be invaluable.

Change of plans: Planning and business issues mean that it will not be possible for the Museum to locate to the Vale of Berkeley Railway as proposed. The trustees are working on various options for a new long-term home for the collection.

Catalogue project complete: A team of 16 volunteers under Michael Quinion as project manager has completed a project to convert our paper catalogue into a searchable database.In only six months they transcribed the records of more than 12,000 items.

More news as we have it. Please check in again for regular updates on how you can get involved in creating the museum in its new home.

We shall be delighted to hear from you. Your comments and suggestions will be most welcome. And do please contact us If you would like to help us create a new home for the collection.

Contact us

Winchcombe Railway Museum
23 Gloucester Street
Winchcombe
Gloucestershire
GL54 5LX

01242 609305

Email us using our contact form.