Platform 2 Lighting Inspection

Dear Bill,
    The culmination of many weeks of work by Mick and Tim, wiring in the Platform 2 lanterns and providing a ready access to mains electricity on Platform 2 took place this morning with the inspection of our installations by an NiCEIC certified electrician. Ben from BMJ Electrical installations  inspected all aspects of the installation and the safety measures employed in the supply wiring from the station input cabinet to the Ticket Office
    Ben started with the testing of the newly relocated and installed switching cabinet. As some of the tests involved forcing the safety trips to interrupt the supply at the correct simulated fault current levels, there were a few interesting moments when the main site supply decided to trip first (it should not have done so)!


    The end extremities of the lighting circuits were then tested and we are pleased to be able to report that all the results obtained were “within spec” and we were given a pass on the new lighting/power installation. The paper work to back up this claim will be delivered in the next couple of weeks or so.
    Thus……….we are pleased to advise that another long running project has now been successfully completed – that’s 3 this week and time for a rest !!
    My thanks to Mick and Ben for their specialist work this morning, to Brian Mason in the Booking Hall and Anne in the shop/waiting room for working around the unanticipated interruptions.
Bob Stark

Easter Saturday at Cheltenham Racecourse Station

Dear Bill,
After the brilliant sunshine on Good Friday the weather turned typically British for Easter Saturday with even worse promised for Sunday. The harbingers of doom advise another tropical storm with gale force winds is arriving from the Atlantic to bring down our pine needles – their warnings seem to be valid as this is being written. What with weather and the Easter holiday volunteer numbers were down, but that is the last of the bad news for today we moved a couple of long running projects through to completion.


The first good news story is that today Stephen put together our newly delivered “Billy Goat”, fed it with the appropriate fuel and lubrication and hey presto the days of brush sweeping may be over.

The Ledamun brothers took the “goat” out onto the platform and we have discovered that the manufacturer’s claims were well founded. Pine needles, sticks and pine cones all disappeared to be macerated and deposited in the bowels of the beast. The final part of this long running saga, housing the beast, was the proof – if indeed proof was needed – that the “goat” did fit into its lamp hut stable without surgery to that structure.
The second good news story of the day was down to Peter Parlett and Trevor Hobday who had an equally successful morning as the new Severn Trent Water dedicated supply for the water tank was turned on and connected.
This is another very long running project saga involving much blood sweat and tears to trench in the new supply pipe across the face of a steep embankment. After flushing out the new pipes, Peter connected the supply to the Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant and was delighted to see that for the first time he has the water pressure that the system requires for most effective operation.


The Cheltenham Area Group are also delighted with this success as the RO plant has on occasion taken water away from the station toilets and worse still, the coffee machine in the waiting room/shop.
Flushed with these successes and operating outside the security blackout measures imposed by the Plc, we almost managed to upset the carefully organised visit of HRH the Duke of Gloucester who was visiting the footplate of “Dinmore Manor”, our first steam engine arrival of the day.

We should have guessed that an extraordinary event was taking place when several members of the Plc Board appeared in “smart dress” on Platform 1, but as HRH was heading for the footplate our “goat” under control of the Ledamuns was heading down the platform towards the VIP party. A brisk sprint to the “goat” by Stephen averted a diplomatic incident (we think).

Tim, always up for an archeological challenge took up Bob’s request to excavate a long buried duct run on Platform 1 which contains a buried junction that has prevented the replacement of one of the station’s oldest communications cables.  In this he was successful and in due course we will insert an inspection chamber over the junction so that a new cable can be pulled through the ducts.
Andrew and Lewis were once again active on Platform 2 extending the underground ducting at the Cheltenham end of the platform beyond the rolled surface prepared by the Broadway builders. This will enable us to insert extra services into this duct in the future without damaging the final top surface of the platform when that is installed. We cannot totally future proof our work, but past experience on the station has shown that low cost enhancements inserted now will save us much work (and expense) in the future.


A great day in project terms and despite the awful weather it was very satisfying to see once again a full car park, well filled trains and very, very excited children.
AND finally, my thanks to all those bloggers at home and abroad who are following our work at Cheltenham. The number of you who have visited our website has surpassed all our (and especially mine) expectations.
Bob Stark

Good Friday, 25th March 2016

Bob Stark reports:-
Dear Bill,
    With the sun shining as if it was mid-summer, the scaffolders arriving as dawn broke to remove the Festival interview platform and a cry from our last station master, Terry Danter that the vacuum cleaner in the booking hall would not work,  it was an early start for some today.
    At 0750hrs the scaffolders arrived followed shortly by Mick and Tim anxious to get on with formalising the water supply arrangements on Platform 2. The temporary water supply pipe work installed by the “pioneers” back in the naughty nineties did not meet with their approval and today some of my historical short cuts were first criticised, then put to right.
    The Dyson responded well to some TLC and by 0845hrs fitted with new filters (is it really 4 years since they were last changed) a new drive belt and the removal of some small rocks from the carpet beater housing it was working almost like new. There is now no excuse for our booking hall carpet not looking immaculate (well almost)!
    The good weather brought out the passengers today and it was wonderful to see so many smiling and  excited young faces. By the time the first steam train arrived the car park was well filled. Ros was painting the Platform 1 ramp fencing and was stopped by several of our passengers, sadly we did not manage to recruit any of them.
    On Platform 2 Mick and Tim excavated the old water supply pipe and were somewhat disappointed that Bob had not fitted a stop cock on that arm of the supply. My excuse that funds were tight in those far off days did not cut mustard and as can be seen below yet another Osma drainage chamber had to be installed to house a new stop cock for the Platform 2 outside tap.


    As the first train arrived we discovered that the Public Address system that had worked well first thing this morning had given up and a flat battery in the desk microphone unit was eventually determined to be the cause. This failure robbed our travelers of the dulcet welcoming tones of our Booking Clerk, Pauline, but a quick trip home provided new batteries and a working PA system. In between these minor domestic issues I managed to bring down another car boot full of now unwanted electronic items from the ticket Office attic to go for recycling. Whilst in the attic I rediscovered the only complete surviving GWR sign board bracket that was left in place on the Ticket Office when I joined the CAG in 1994. We had several replicas made from which our station signs are now hanging, but I have attached an image of the original bracket alongside a yardstick for comparison and perhaps some of our bloggers may be interested in having copies made for other GWR project locations.
Tomorrow is scheduled to bring rain for some but perhaps “sunshine” for our leaf sweepers if the “Billy Goat” leaf vacuum is assembled from it’s packing case and put into action – watch this space.


Tuesday 22nd March 2016 an a Bone to Pick….

Bob Stark writes:-
Dear Bill,
So much has been happening to move things forward at CRC Station since the weekend that I felt moved to put digit to keyboard for an update. On Tuesday 22 March Severn Trent Water arrived to connect up the dedicated new water supply to the Loco Department water treatment plant at our station. This task has been “ongoing” for a long time and has been required as with lower summer water pressure in the mains we have had supply problems for both the loco water treatment plant and for our “facilities” on Platform 1.
P1060077Completion of the task involved much trench digging within the station and the excavation of  a fair sized hole adjacent to the very busy Evesham Road bridge, so was left until after the Cheltenham Festival was over. This morning (Wednesday) in the best of British traditions the traffic lights to control the traffic to single lane on our bridge were working, but not a single member of the contractors were to be seen. I hope we do not get the blame for this traffic congestion!
The good news is that the pipes have now been connected and a new meter installed. In due course we assume the excavations will be backfilled.
I was present at the station this morning to take delivery of our new “Billy Goat”, not the variety that provides cream cheese, but the mechanical variety that sucks up leaves and pine needles.
This much awaited new arrival could not be housed until we had an appropriate secure venue to contain it and will be pressed into action once it has been assembled, instructions read and operator briefings given. This should make the life of our pine needle sweepers less physical, but a bit noisier.
It was interesting today to see so many families with young children were traveling on our steam service, some schools at least must have broken up early for Easter. They were watched by Tim on his knees painting our wooden fencing on the Platform 1 ramp


And finally our mystery question of the day.  This large raw bone (ie NOT Jurassic) was spotted this morning at the bottom of the Platform 1 embankment. It seems too large to have been brought in by a wild animal, or even thrown over our fence by a hungry punter last week. It is well gnawed – any guesses??



“Twas the morning after the night before”

Bob Stark reports:-
Less than 12hrs after the last racegoers had been escorted from the final day of the Cheltenham Festival, the teams of “Wombles” had cleared away most of the mountains of litter and contractors were busy removing much of the temporary infrastructure, broadcasting vans, etc, that had been put in place for the week of jump racing that makes the Cheltenham Festival one of the greatest racing meetings in the world.
    Members of the Cheltenham Area Group were also up early and about as the somewhat careworn Platform 1 running in board had to be removed for collection by Building and Services for a much needed face lift for the new Railway operating season. Stephen, Tim and others were at the station to meet an early pickup time from the B&S collection team. When Bob arrived the board was patiently waiting for collection.


Mick completed the last small “tweeks” to our new Platform 2 electricity cabinet by replacing the supplied mini circuit breakers with new ones, more appropriate to the loading of the circuits they are protecting. All is now ready for inspection by our certified electrician and another significant project milestone will have been met. With this project now complete Tim and Mick set about tidying up the water supply pipe close to the new electrical cabinet on Platform 2 and installed a wooden support for the pipe and a future tap. This little task has only been waiting for someone to undertake since Bob installed the service manhole covers on Platform 2 in 1996! – It had definitely matured and come of age. As can be seen Tim was keeping his fingers well away from the sledge hammer wielding Mick. A subsequent image (not displayed here) shows Tim tapping the top of the post with less well known short handled grip of the hammer and Mick standing an even greater distance away.


     David and Mary cleared the gardener’s “glory hole” between the two ex Army containers which currently provide the limited secure storage available for our mtools, wheelbarrows etc. It is hard to believe, but before we started to lock up our wheelbarrows we would come down to the station and find that the wheels and axles had been stolen. Over the years and hidden by sections of fencing this little area has become a dumping ground for various horticulture related articles whose future use is seriously questioned. The area is now being cleared in advance of the Group acquiring a 20foot ex-shipping container to provide much needed new storage space
    Andrew and Bob finished the excavation of the hole for the new service chamber at the signal box end of Platform 2 and installed the new chamber and pipe work. With excavation back filled this is another job that can be removed from the Spring task list.
    Terry continued de-stoning the earth at the rear of the edging strips on Platform 2 and Bill was again at work with his wire brush on the spear fencing at the top of the Platform 1 ramp


Out on the estate the Ledamun brothers, and Mike were fighting the never ending battle against the pine needles and seemed somewhat doubtful that the promised “Billy Goat” leaf vacuum will ever arrive as they rested on their brooms today.  Have faith chaps we are awaiting a delivery date for the beast.


Gold Cup Day 18th March 2016

Bill writes:-

On the final day of the  Festival Meeting, it seemed appropriate to try and capture some the Cheltenham Racecourse Station action.  As with the other  Festival race days the challenge is to safely get two full trains in, unloaded and out again within the hour. It’s no mean feat and all the GWR Volunteers  on duty rise to the challenge of keeping the racing punters happy and safe.

gwrcagcctv.ddns.net_09_2016031811244162711.27 Here 5542 brings the first train (Chocolate and Cream rake). The challenge is then to encourage the  merry (some literally!) racegoers off the train  and away to their afternoon’s racing.

The picture  below  gives an indication of the numbers involved.


11 42 Here  7820 (Dinmore Manor) arrives  (below) with the second train (Maroon rake)

gwrcagcctv.ddns.net_05_2016031811394650011:43 Dinmore has a clear road into Platform 1, the first train (now  hopefully empty of passengers!) having been move on to the South Head shunt, beyond the Evesham Road Bridge.


12:13 Having unloaded the racegoers from the second train , Dinmore  Manor couples up to the first rake  and heads off to Toddington. 5542  then runs around the  2nd rake and similarly heads back to Toddington , both to get ready for the return trips at the end of the day.


In the meantime the Crossing Monitors need eyes front and back to ensure the safe movement of racegoers across the tracks.




Platform 1 with the 2 returning trains – not quite fitting in!




Day 1 at the Cheltenham Festival

Dear Bill,
    I am grateful to Mick Best for the content of this report and for his work on Platform lighting in between marshaling the crowds passing over our busy level crossing at the Cheltenham Signal Box.
    Tuesday morning saw the first of our Railway’s special “At The Races” trains from Toddington to the Racecourse. This is what our station was built for and in years to come we will no doubt see even more arrivals coming via this road friendly alternative transport means.


Mick’s image above shows Great Western locomotive 5542 in charge of the 1st morning special train coming into the Racecourse station the driver having just passed the “staff” to the signalman.
    After the last morning incoming train of passengers Mick left his patrol duties and carried on with the installation of the final piece of the electrical jigsaw in the Platform 2 control cabinet  successfully completing the connection of the mains power supply to the cabinet.


As can be seen from the image above, having first tested the operation of the protection RCD inside the right hand side power supply consumer unit we tested the connection of the new supply by plugging in a recently tested piece of equipment – it all worked as it was supposed to – thank you Mick.
    Mick then tested the resistance of the lantern circuits that have been installed over the last 3 months and replaced all the supplied Halogen lanterns lamps with low energy LED bulbs. The system was then powered up and the Platform 2 lighting switched on for the first time. The culmination of recent weeks of digging, wiring and rock moving and the earlier installation work carried out by the Broadway builders is there for all to see in this final image below taken as the last train pulls out under the watchful eye of the Station Master Dave Griffin.

    The Platform 2 Lantern circuit was then switched off and is scheduled for safety testing in the near future by an NiCEIC certified electrician. For the time being the Platform 2 lighting has been isolated from the station lighting, but will be reconnected following this certification.



Sunday 13th March 2016

Bob reports:-
A short offering today. Chris Howl who has cut down the undergrowth (and some substantial trees) from one end of our line to the other, very kindly agreed to come to the Racecourse Station today to cut up the fallen tree on the Platform 2 ramp. We reported this wind damage in an earlier entry to our “blog”.
Chris’s very sharp blade made short work of the tree and it was quickly reduced to a pile of kindling and logs. Thanks Chris, that is another job promptly removed from the CAG volunteer “action” list.
As we were enjoying a cup of tea Stephen Wilson arrived with his car and some of the logs are already “off-site” and heading for his wood pile. Another visitor entertained to tea was Jo Roesen who collected our cast iron letters (H,E,L and a small S) to assist with the production of the Hailes Abbey halt Running in board. I have repeated this item here to ensure that we do not forget to nudge Jo in due course if the letters do not return to Cheltenham.

Chris Howl in action (DMU in the background)

Saturday 12th March 2016 and a Great Turnout of 18 Volunteers!

Dear Bill,
Today’s report.
With sun shining it was a case of many hands making light work – and I am not referring to the platform 2 illuminations. With Spring warmth in vogue today we had many passengers for the first steam train and 18 volunteers on hand to tackle the new, enhanced and totally free at point of delivery, Spring project list.
On  platform 2 Mick and Tim were once again pushing towards completion of the wiring of the electricity cabinet that controls the platform’s lights and will also provide a source of mains power on the platform. It had been hoped to install and connect the second isolator switch box today for the mains power (the empty space in the lower right hand corner of the cabinet), but the promised delivery from Amazon did not materialise as promised on Friday.
The good news is that the errant item was delivered to Bob on Saturday afternoon, so next week we may see Mick testing all the circuits in readiness for certification before the end of the month.
We had two smaller projects also running on Platform 2, with Terry removing the smaller stones that were left behind the edging strips at the rear of the platform during the construction phase. The longer term question is what to do with the “dead” strip of platform behind the edging strips and the remains of the old slagstone wall that is mostly buried with earth that fell from the embankment over the years.
At the signal box end of Pl 2 Andrew and Lewis excavated the 11th lantern wiring chamber and dug a trench for an extension of the underground duct to an area of ground behind the edging strips where a new chamber will be installed to permit the addition of future services – such as CCTV and Public Address. We are again working on the principle (hard learned over the years on our railway) that it is easier to install the platform underground infrastructure now before an all weather surface is added.
On the maintenance front Bill started wire brushing the GWR spear fencing adjacent to the crush rails that have faded over the last few years and Ros applied a preservative mixture to the 1st section of the Pl 1 ramp wooden paling fencing. Another task that requires revisiting every two or three years.
Maurice and Stephen removed the CAG fridge freezer that for several years has been located in the Pl 1 Station Master’s office, making an already small space even more cramped. This was relocated in the worker’s room in the Ticket Office and our old fridge/freezer was retired to the Council recycling centre along with an unwanted old style CCTV monitor.
The second railway arrival at CRC this morning was the DMU sporting its newly and beautifully painted centre car with 1st class accommodation. I thought that an image of it with today’s Station Master John Tiffney deserved a place in our blog. In presentation terms, both do our Railway proud.
Under the canopy our own Cheltenham Station Master, Dave Griffin, was (unusually for a Saturday) not on duty and was practicing his old art of painter and decorator. Dave is seen here trying to remove the glues and tapes used to fix posters to his once lovingly painted notice boards – beware poster stickers – your actions are being recorded on our CCTV.Out on the estate Stephen and Maurice lit a bonfire and burned some of the old plywood that has graced the hidden area behind the fencing panels atop the Pl 1 embankment. With Bill Britton starting the sizing and clearing operation for the acquisition of a shipping container for secure storage of our flammable materials and large tools – a collection that has long since outgrown the worker’s room in the ticket office – clearance of the area becomes more urgent. With a good blaze going Stephen and Maurice also took the opportunity to burn branches and the pine needles brought down by the gales earlier this week and collected as usual by Mike and the Ledamun brothers. In advance of the Cheltenham festival Bob (Ledamun also gave the grass in front of the station a last minute haircut.
In the “gardener’s world” area of this report John and Evelyn Tucker arrived with a barrow filled with spring flowers to grace our Pl 1 garden bed.
And finally: After a long hunt the cast iron letters spelling out “Cheltenham Racecourse” were located in the attic of the Ticket Office and not where Bob swears he left them. We received a request from Jo Roesen to borrow some of the metal letters so he can have reproduction GWR letters produced for the new Hailes Abbey Halt. I was able to tell Joe that we could give him HEL ! – the 3 letters he required.
Thank you everyone.