Saturday, 30th April 2016

Report from Bob Stark:-

Dear Bill,
        It was definitely early bird weather today with pleasant sunshine first thing giving way to light rain showers after lunch. We had a good turnout of volunteers and a few tasks have been  seen through to completion.
      Billy Goat was out early eating up the pine needles, cones and small branches which have come down in high winds this week. Mike having been relieved of pine needle brushing duties by said “Goat” took another brush in hand this morning and was continuing the preservation painting of the fencing alongside the workers steps down to the platform with our cocktail of old engine oil and creosote substitute.


Dave Griffin was also on paint brush duties today and finished painting the roof of the lamp hut with barn paint. There is just the walls, door and interior left to do!


    “Up top” near the entrance gate Stephen was further modifying our new signage that give our visitors an easy to see summary of the day’s services. The recent high winds, however, have shown a minor flaw in the plan – the signs have been “flying” horizontally in the predominantly westerly wind. This morning Stephen by cunning use of Velcro has reduced the aerodynamic properties of the signs and hopefully that will make them more readable to our visitors. We have all looked at these signs many times, but only this morning was the deliberate (?) mistake on the text of the sign seen. That is our puzzle for today, but sorry there is no prize for spotting the error.
   Out on the gardens we had John on Platform 1 tending his wartime vegetable plot and Maurice on Platform 2 continuing to clear the space between the edge stones and the sometimes hidden remains of the original slagstone walls. The donated wildflower plants are doing well potted up in Ros’s greenhouse along with other plants destined to go into the areas Maurice and Terry have already cleared. In the next month we shall have some plants ready to go into small starter plots of this cleared area.
       Also on Platform 2 Andrew Lewis and Bob continued the excavation of the trench to take the new service chamber beyond the Evesham Road end of the platform. Today we completed this work with the new chamber installed and the trench backfilled.
Now for some tarmac – any wealthy bloggers out there with a load of tarmac that they could donate and lay for us???
    While we were working on the platform we enjoyed the heritage run rounds that are part of the Cheltenham experience. This will be a new image position for future passengers once the platform becomes operational.
    Our work was rather rudely interrupted by the sight of several youths down in the Hunting Butts cutting climbing onto our stored wagons. We have had many such incursions and in the past fires have been set on the rolling stock and sometimes heavy items levered off the wagons onto the trackbed where they can cause stock movement problems. We went down the track towards the tunnel, but the miscreants saw us and were long gone by the time we reached the wagons. Andrew checked for damage, but this time nothing obvious had been done.
 Over the other side of our boundary with the Racecourse North Coach Park a small party of travellers have arrived and given the past problems we have had with rubbish being dumped onto our property we are keeping a weather eye open. The Racecourse management is aware of this trespass the third time they have been targetted in the last year, but each time they have to wait for a court order to have the trespassers removed. P1060236
    This will the last report from this scribe for 10 days. I look forward to reading reports from the deputies whilst we languish in warmer climes.
Thanks Bob,
Enjoy your break – Im sure we will get some interesting posts in your absence (not that your are not interesting!)

Wednesday 27th April

A quick but no less welcome  post from Tim Winstanley today:-

There’s some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that:
         We shifted all the Cotswolds at War “props” into the loft of the Ticket Office for you thus saving your ailing body.
         We fixed a suitable length of capping to cover the Platform 2 telephone cables and firmly attached it to Platform 2. It is clear of the new signal draw wire.
         We removed all 4 old concrete privacy screen posts from the area of the foundations of the old Platform 2 toilet block and cleared them plus a fair amount of other debris down to the pile by the Signal Box.  Obviously, there is some stuff left in the ground, but this is not visible and can, I suggest, be removed when P2 building ‘renovations’ take place.  Anyway it looks a lot neater.
         Mick measured up the wood for his P2 tap cover – by the time it’s finished this will be the finest anywhere on the railway!
Sadly, the bad news was:
–         The post we intended to dig out was snapped off at ground level (not by us).  We have kept it for the moment – though you may decide we can manage with a photographic record and it too can be consigned to the heap.
–         Uniquely both Mick and I forgot to take our phones!  So we have no record for the blog.  I’ll write something anyway and either include an existing picture or drop in and take a couple tomorrow when walking the dog.
The coiled black cable on P2 which, if you recall, was wrapped around one of the concrete posts is now more neatly coiled in the hole where the post stood! Happy to be directed to enpipe (have I just invented a new (but useful for CAG) word?). 



Cotswolds at War – Saturday

Dear Bill,
    What a fantastic day you missed at our station. With fine weather, enthusiastic and period costumed visitors and the lure of steam today at our Cheltenham Station the atmosphere was brilliant and smiling faces everywhere. This is the real reward for being a volunteer on a heritage railway.
    The day started early for some of us (dawn had just broken) and the “car parkers” were out and about. Just as well, because so were our early bird guests as the image below shows.
    In the station environs the Ledamun brothers, Paul and Bob were also up and about and by the time the first guests were entering the station they had, with the assistance of our “Billy Goat” vacuum cleared the pine needles. branches and fir cones from Platform 1 and the access ramp – happy bunnies indeed – albeit by the afternoon there were enough new cones to satisfy the needs of one of our younger customers. Her father declined the offer to go onto the embankment and collect a few thousand more.


    My first duty this morning was to ensure that power was available to the staff from the Flag and Whistle at Toddington for them to get their wartime soup kitchen up and running. Breakfast was a bit early for soup, but I understand that they did do quite well at lunchtime. I heard a rumour however that the roasted whole pig on offer to hungry passengers (at Winchcombe ?) had been quickly devoured and that there was anxiety that another could be procured to meet the gastronomic needs of tomorrow’s passengers. Something about the early bird getting the early worm???
 Whilst on the subject of birds, first potentially some sad news. I went into the compound under the Evesham Road Bridge to see how the Robin’s nest was faring and it appeared that something had disturbed the plastic sack in which the nest had been constructed. There were lots of small animal footprints around, but no sign of Mum Robin. We must hope that she has not abandoned the nest and I will keep a discrete look for any progress, for the meantime here is a view of the, I hope not abandoned, nest.
    And next the good news. John Leeson’s plastic hen has appeared in its hen house in his Dig for Victory garden – no eggs, plastic or otherwise, have been observed.


    As the visitors arrived it seemed that among the well dressed and patriotic servicemen and women, we had managed to attract a small, but vocal minority of less patriotic and distinctly “shady” characters. The gentleman, or so I believed him to be, offered me a wide selection of time pieces at extremely attractive prices AND without purchase tax.P1060212
    Also on the platform we had entertainers from ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association – set up I believe in 1938) keeping morale high during those dark moments on Platform 1 when passengers realised that they had just missed their intended train.
    Other colourful characters that arrived at the security (revenue protection) checkpoint at the top of the platform 1 ramp were a troupe – if that is the correct term – for a group Morris dancers and their wives. who were apparently travelling along the line to entertain the troops. This jingling group crowded the barrier whilst we ascertained their bona fides and well outnumbered the security staff. Having assured us that their only intent was to dance for our visitors and gain access to the beer tent they were allowed to pass.
    Today was a first for this retired soldier. One of our visitors dressed as a Sergeant  presented himself to me with his 37 pattern webbing in distinctly bad order. It turned out he had only just purchased it from an internet source – what happened to the QMs stores??? He had no idea how to connect it together correctly so in full view he had to be undressed and his webbing readjusted and clipped together correctly.  Even worse was to follow when he admitted that he had no Blanco. I had to advise him that it was probably a first: a Sgt being dressed by a Col. In the interests of privacy there is no image available for publication of this incident.
    And finally an image of the camouflaged Anderson Shelter and the security detail for today’s event. You may note the sign inquiring whether our visitor’s journey was necessary. Whilst and authentic sign from the 1940s this was perhaps unfair given the fact that our guests had already parted with their money for travel on our trains.


    A super day and a great event. The happy smiles and good comments from our returning passengers were a wonderful end to the day.
Bob and Ros

Friday 22nd April 2016

Bob Stark reports:-
Dear Bill,
    Not a great deal to report today, but some small steps forward for our infrastructure and for our preparations for the Cotswolds at War event this weekend.
    Our electrician Ben met me at the station just before lunch to install the new circuit breakers in our electricity power supply. These units replace two RCDs that have in the past given us problems when a relatively minor event, such as a light bulb blowing, has plunged the whole station into darkness  Given that they are currently located in a power supply cabinet atop the embankment on Platform 2 and on the wrong side of our boundary fence this is a difficult event to deal with in the dark.
    Neil Carr advised that occasionally the signal box had suffered the same fate, so we decided to remove both RCDs at the same time and replace them with less problematic circuit breakers. This is quite safe as each building on the station has its own consumer unit fitted with volunteer protecting RCDs. In the image below Ben was just tightening up the final connections on the new Signal Box circuit breaker.
    Whilst we were working on the electricity supply Dave Griffin was finishing his Booking Office preparations for the event tomorrow and electric hotplates, pans and other catering equipment for the refreshment stall on Platform 1 tomorrow arrived from Toddington.
    John Leeson was also on site making the final preparation to his Dig for Victory garden and I am pleased to announce that the plastic chicken has taken up residence in the garden’s small hen house.
      Finally I collected the primroses donated by Vic  Smith following my appeal for wild flowers for the embankments of Platform 2. My thanks to Vic for bring them down from Broadway yesterday and to Mary Harris for receiving them at CRC and putting them into temporary survival “accommodation”.
    Now lets hope for dry weather for the weekend and the opportunity for some really newsworthy images for our followers to enjoy.
(Aka: CRC ARP Warden tomorrow – “Put out that light”)

Ready for War?

 Todays report from Bob Stark:-
Dear Bill,
    With the weather forecast for this morning fine a small team of us managed to decorate the station for the forthcoming Wartime in the Cotswolds event this weekend. Ros and Maurice erected our strings of bunting around the station environs – could this be described as buntifiying the estate?
We also erected the various props, such as the unexploded bomb, (UXB) that David Miles and his colleagues had prepared for our station. The collapsed section of wall for most of the year is an eyesore, but it does come into its own for the wartime events.


David had been busy earlier in the week bringing down straw filled sandbags and erecting a protective gun emplacement on Platform 1. This morning David finished painting the Anderson shelter and this will be surrounded by sandbags and covered with a camouflage net during the event. When we left David at lunchtime he was busy placing sticky tape crosses on the windows of the Platform 1 building to prevent flying glass in the event of a “near miss”.


The station was not entirely devoid of steamy action this morning with Dinmore Manor and a trainload of Firers, Drivers and friends with us for half an hour before departing back to Toddington. We hope that they enjoyed the decorated station and that they realise that we do not do this for everyone.


As can be seen from the image below John Leeson’s “dig for victory” garden is doing well and has been enhanced for the weekend event with a small hen house. We anticipate a that said “house” will be occupied during the weekend with a reproduction hen.
All we need now is fair weather for the weekend and a good turnout of visitors to make this popular event a great success for another year. Watch this space for action images from the event in the days to come.

Fire and Drive Experience Day

Today was a day reserved for the Fire and Drive  experience  run by the GWSR

GWSR Quote:

While the trains on the Honeybourne Line aren’t taking travellers a hundred miles or more at speeds in the upper 70s, driving and firing still demands skill and teamwork. Under the expert guidance of the railway’s own experienced footplate staff, those enjoying a footplate experience course will most certainly have one of the most memorable and rewarding of days.


Taking water onboard


Starting the run round


Completing the run round – Dinmore Manor has the Driving Experience Headboard in place


And for those who fancy such brilliant day out here is a starter with

the GWSR Virtual Footplate

The ‘Checks’ in the Post

A report from Tim  Winstanley,

Another fine morning for fence painting!  That’s 44 ‘panels’ done and only 23 to go – so we are well past the half way mark.  Happily it was jolly busy with passengers – a school party and several coach-loads of pensioners.  I collected a few more witticisms along the way, and answered a few questions (including: “How do I get to B&Q?” for which I provided alternative directions to Screwfix).

As a bit of relief from the tedium of black ‘paint’ I took a spade and had a dig around one of the posts which we wish to remove from behind P2.  You will recall the suggestion that we extract one whole as a heritage exemplar of what they look like, for possible future reproduction.

Whilst we established on Saturday are fairly easy to demolish with the sledge hammer I found out today that they aren’t going to be easy to dig out!  I have another suggestion – Semtex and launch them into a low earth orbit! I am afraid 15 minutes digging produced a small hole and very little play in the leaning post – maybe I was unlucky but I think they are buried deep.  Perhaps we need to recruit younger, fitter, stronger assistants? However, I did take some photos for the archive – see below and attached!

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Neither Mick and I will be up one day next week and complete this task.  Hopefully before the rubble pile at the end of P2 has been removed – there is plenty more detritus to add to it.







Saturday 16th April — Snow and Sunshine!

Dear Bill,
    With the snow falling heavily when we arrived at the Racecourse Staion this morning Ros decided to do some indoor spring cleaning of our 1936, K6 telephone box. When I purchased this box it was in a very sad state without windows, door, or any fittings and over the years we have restored it to its current complete, but unworking state. 1935 the K6 (kiosk number six) was designed to commemorate the silver jubillee of King George the Fifth and it was consequently sometimes known as the “Jubilee” kiosk. It went into production in 1936 and our K6 has a foundry mark showing it was made in Scotland in January 1936, so it is one of the earliest ever produced.


    While Ros was de-cobwebbing the box and polishing the shiny bits and the glass for next weekend’s Cotswolds at War event some of our visitors asked if they could go inside and have “selfie’s” taken The family below were Ros’s first interruption and left with their images. (We did tell them we would like to put them on our blog and they were quite happy about this)


    On Platform 2 Mick and Tim were completing boxing-in the new water stand pipe installed a couple of weeks ago. There is just a roof to go on the little house and then that job too will be complete.
    David Miles was with us for the morning erecting our Evesham Road signage for the Cotwolds at War event and next week the serious business of decorating the station will take place. This morning I recovered some of the “stage props” from the Ticket Office attic which will be deployed for the event. Sadly given the security issues at the station we have to take everything of value in each night or it would disappear. Mick installed a hook in the roof of our Anderson Shelter for one of these “props”  – a Tilley lamp I had found cheaply on eBay.


    Pat Green and Ken from Building and Services (B&S) brought back our Platform 1 running-in board this morning and with help from Tim, Mick and myself they unloaded the refurbished sign and we bolted it back into position on the posts.
    Following a bit of a struggle the five of us returned the board to its rightful position and Platform 1 is now once again properly announced to our incoming passengers. Pat noted that the posts also needed some TLC and repainting. That will be a job for the summer. As you can see from the image above the snow had gone and patches of blue were showing.Our thanks to B&S for a great job.


With all the rain in the last day or two the pine needles were very wet, but Stephen exercised our “Billy Goat” leaf vacuum and cleared the worst of nature’s litter from Platform 1 and the ramp.

    Back on Platform 2 Tim and Mick flushed with their success in erecting the Running-in board on Platform 1 decided to reconnoiter the difficulties that would arise from removing the decaying privacy screen supports adjacent to te foundations of the old GWR toilet block. These artifacts sadly have not weathered well and have suffered from concrete cancer. Their various degrees of lean and spalling of the concrete away from the internal reinforcing bars means that they cannot be used for their original purpose and their removal will tidy up the appearance of the platform. We will try and remove one of them as a complete item so that we have a future pattern, but that is a long way ahead and not currently on our project radar.
    A final good news story. While I was in the compound under the Evesham Road Bridge looking for Osma drainage items to complete the ducting on Platform 2, I disturbed a Robin who seemed to fly out from a bag near my feet. I looked around and found that down at the bottom of a large clear polythene bag containing 4″ pipe joints, one of these joints contained a small nest filled with eggs. I beat a hasty retreat in the hope that the Robin would soon return to this very secure and unusual location. The compound has a high weldmesh fence so the Robin(s) have found a “des res” location secure from many predators. The CAG members have been warned not to approach this area during the next few weeks, but we will keep a look out and try and update our readers of progress of this visitor family.

Put that Light Out!

A Friday Report from Bob Stark
Dear Bill,
    Mick, Tim and I had a very useful morning today resolving issues with the unsteady mini Anderson shelter that apparently is due to become a permanent feature at our station.
    We also received an unexpected visit from the Chairman, Alan Bielby, and the Manager of the Racecourse, David Mackinnon, who were discussing our northern boundary fencing issues.
    When the Anderson shelter first arrived at Cheltenham Racecourse Station a couple of years ago for our Cotswolds at War event, it was a 3 section structure and was rather intrusive at the top of the ramp. Subsequently David Miles reduced the size of the shelter to be erected at Cheltenham to 1 section, but now lacking the original mild steel ground frame the Shelter adopted a non conformist base outline (a definitely non military shape) and became somewhat unsteady.


    Yesterday I constructed a base framework for the shelter (but ran out of suitable plywood) and this morning after raiding the wood pile in the compound Tim and Mick completed the base and we moved the shelter over to the ticket office canopy where we could continue to work if the promised rain arrived. Luckily it did not.


With the shape of the shelter now held firmly by the new wooden base we deconstructed the shelter removing the back and front and cut the vertical sheets of corrugated iron into a profile that allowed them to be slipped inside the roof corrugations. This makes the structure relatively weather tight. Needless to say this was an antisocial, noisy activity, but as can be seen appropriate PPE equipment was in evidence and we had been reinforced by cups of tea prepared by Tim.


     After reassembly the shelter was returned to its intended location using traditional  GWR techniques and equipment, except that in days of yore I doubt that the porters would have moved such large structures on sack barrows, or had access to hard hats!


    The rebuilt, remodeled shelter is now awaiting the arrival of David Miles tomorrow armed with a tin of camouflage paint to ready the structure for its starring role in the Cotswolds at War weekend event in 1 weeks time.


Job Done!

Wednesday, 13th April – Risk Assessment Briefings

CAG Member Tim Winstanley kindly took time out to compile the following report on a GWSR  “1 hour General Risk Assessment briefing” that he attended with two of his CAG colleagues. The content represents Tim’s “take” on the briefing, but probably represents the pragmatic view that most volunteers would share.


Dear Bill,


Earlier today 3 members of the CAG attended a GWR Health and Safety brief at Toddington – albeit, in my case, slightly reluctantly (I was reminded of the quote about ‘creeping like a snail to school’).  I was almost balked by the first hurdle since the station gate refused to open (was this a sign?) but Neil Carr – our friendly neighbourhood Ops Manager – was there to open it personally  for me.  There were 6 trainees plus 2 ‘trainers’, GWR had kindly provided the Board Room for the brief and, for the record, it was a very useful hour.

Since you don’t want the whole presentation, how would one sum up the advice and guidance without sounding patronising!?

In no particular order I can draw out 3 main points, none of which will, I suspect, come as any great surprise:

–          First, common sense applies.  Nothing in the presentations suggested that we (CAG) should be overly concerned about our day-to-day practices though it certainly doesn’t do to be complacent (see below).

–          My second conclusion is the reminder that Health and Safety is the responsibility of all – volunteers very much included – but that it need not be bureaucratic or burdensome.  Given that we largely manage ourselves, are generally experienced and have a wealth of common sense, I think we can draw our own conclusions about where we need to consider hazards, assess risks and adjust our actions accordingly.   All in accordance with the overall guidance laid down by the railway, of course.

–          Third, our responsibility to keep the paying public safe is most significant but closely followed by the need to make sure we ourselves not exposed to unreasonable risk.

So much, so obvious I hear you cry!  What about an example?  As the blog (Saturday 9 April) indicates Mick and I were engaged in our usual activity of digging holes and filling them in again.  We were quite conscientious about keeping passengers away from the hole and well aware that angle grinding can be both noisy and dusty – so restrained ourselves until we had a window between services with virtually nobody on the platform.  So far so good.  After that we could perhaps have done a little better and to name but 3 sins of omission/commission: I didn’t wear any gloves when shifting the paving slabs, didn’t wear a mask when angle grinding was taking place and wasn’t especially careful when we were heaving a 60+kg (?) sack of subsoil over a  low wall.  No accidents occurred and, since I don’t do these activities all day or every day, I don’t think I was exposed to any undue risk.  So, on reflection, ‘satisfactory but could do better’ –  as my school reports probably should have said!

Most of the time I don’t think we need to carry out too many formal risk assessments to do our normal Saturday/Monday tasks – just being sensible, planning ahead a bit and not ‘managing without’ (typically because yours truly can’t be bothered walking back up the slope yet again back to the tool stores).  Occasionally, on large projects such as wiring the Platform 2 lights, we do have a proper project plan – including the appropriate risk assessment(s) for all the work involved.

However, for myself, I could certainly be a bit more careful – and sensibly Health & Safety conscious – without detriment to enjoying a Saturday morning’s work.

For the record I can certainly recommend doing the one hour brief provided by the GWR – it’s always useful to be reminded about these things.