A Wednesday Special – How to Occupy your grandson

From a doting Grandfather !
Dear Bill,
    A little mid week snip-it for our blog. The new Platform 2 “ENGINES STOP HERE” notice has been under construction for several weeks and had reached the stage where all it required were new letters for the above wording. The old letters had been hand cut from hardboard and had definitely seen better days, so a search of the internet was initiated and a source of black 3inch acrylic letters was found in Ireland and they were ordered. A few days later the padded bag of letters arrived to be mounted on the new notice board. I had not ordered countersunk holes in the letters but as we could not find a local source of dome headed small brass screws we had to go for the countersunk variety. Why brass ? because eventually steel screws would rust and we would have rusty streaks down the white face of our new board.


    My 5yr old grandson James was looking for a job to “help grandpa” so he was recruited to ream out the countersunk holes by hand rather than perhaps break the letters with the electric drill. The image above shows the concentration required and the image below shows the final result.


    On Wednesday morning the backing fixture was treated, fibreglassed and painted and in the afternoon the completed sign was erected in location at the end of Platform 2. Job done.
Along the way James and Grandpa repaired and cleaned out a sad and derelict bird box which now has a new roof (also fibreglassed for a long life) and this is now in the station workshop awaiting a kind volunteer to paint it in a forest colour and erect it ready for a 2017 small bird family.


We try and cater for all our visitors!

Saturday, 27th August 2016

There  were 7 volunteers on site today. It was a humid day weatherise, but that did not stop good progress being made. Bob, in his usual  regular fashion, has sent the following report and I have added a short item at the end, covering our activities on the new container groundworks.

Dear Bill,

    As much of my family work today was on Platform 2 involved slashing and poisoning of unwanted weeds – the exception was Ros who was planting yet more newcomers into the flower beds – my BLOG contribution will be short for the sake of our younger readers. I will assume that you will cover the progress with the Shipping Container base elsewhere in today’s epic tale. [See below]
    Andrew and I continued with strimming the Platform 2 embankments . It is now almost respectable from the base of the Platform 2 ramp down to the shipping container by the signal box, with only a few patches requiring more drastic action. There are no images this week since repeat images of cut and dying weeds can be distressing for our younger viewers (and boring for their parents).
    In support of the Broadway Team a fourth weed killer spray application was made to the new weed arrivals on the rolled stone surface of Platform 2 – I do believe that we have now finally killed off the original crop. We also removed the latest “droppings” of pine cones and small branches from the surface, so that John Crawford’s contractor can start when he is ready.
    A second mix of weed killer was made up and the survivor weeds on the track bed were also attacked. This task was not as onerous as I had expected as it seemed that many of the “enemy” were already dying. I suspect that a weed killing train has been down the line – thank you guys. Strange visitors, however, were 8inch Tomato plants growing midst the oil and ashes in the 4ft of the down line where the coaches park.
     Please note dear readers – I am not asking for your guesses as to how they came to be there.
    Elsewhere: Dave Griffin painted the makers brass disc on the door of the Billy Goat Lamp Hut a regal GOLD. Following a 2nd application we will include an image in a future blog and John Leeson continued his repair work on the broken Platform 1 mid point rest bench seat. Sadly this image highlights yet another task requiring action as the brick paving stones to John’s rear are again sinking and require back filling – Tim you wanted a future task post the Shipping Container?
That is it for today. Tomorrow is for traveling with Grandson as a passenger and able to enjoy the labours of others.
Container Ground Work
This short piece starts off with an apology, but honesty is the best policy! I had a late start and so, by the time I arrived , Stephen and Tim were well on there way to laying the bases of the next two concrete pillars for the east side of the container. These will require bringing up to the final level next week.  The 3 of us continued until doughnut time, which came as a welcome break in quite humid and tiring conditions.
After the tea break I was required to attend a short CAG Committee Meeting and on my return, Tim was the last man standing, having removed a eucalyptus stapling (no Pandas were harmed) and a section of pyracantha hedge. Our final labours  laid the footing of the sixth and final pillar. Like Bob, my phone camera was not active, as you all must be getting weary of pictures of concrete blocks. Nevertheless Tim’s efforts did deserve an end of day shot.2016-08-27 12.37.22
It remains for the final work  to be completed next week,and then order the container – it will be a welcome sight!
PS I will get the hang of taking a selfie !2016-08-27 12.36.56

Saturday 20th August 2016

Not available for duty today  but work continues!
    A very useful and “normal” day for the team yesterday with a mixed bag of weather to contend with. As usual the Ledumun brothers and Tim were up with “Robin” who seems to sit in wait for us, then supervise our activities.
Tim, Mick and Stephen were working on the new foundation plinths for the long awaited 20 ft shipping container and progress is being made. We still await decisions on the funding however, but when this is in place we will be ready to purchase and install.
Following their completion of the day’s foundation work Mick and Tim turned their attention to the wiring in the 2 PODs tidying up some of the trunking and cable routing disturbed when the PODs were moved.


     Maurice continued with the trimming of our hedgerow at the entrance gate and this now looks much neater. This work along with the mowing and pine needle collection by Paul and Bob Ledamun meant we had as usual a smart appearance at the top of the ramp for our many arrivals. One lady I spoke to had a celebration party of over 25 “just coming for a ride” and they duly turned up just as we were leaving at lunchtime in their Sunday best.
   [ A couple of extras from Tim!]
    Smoke signals were emanating from the location of the Hunting Butts tunnel mouth, so we have to assume that with the movement of some of the old trucks in the headshunt, Andy Protherough and his team were at last able to gain access to the remaining few cess drain chambers on the north side of the cutting that had been eluding them.
John Leeson moved the broken seat that normally sits half way up the Platfrom 1 ramp up to the cover of the Ticket Office canopy and I gather that he and Dave griffin will now be preparing and painting the new planks that we purchased last week. Only then will the weary mountaineers of the Platform 1 Ramp be again able to rest their bodies at the half way point.
Finally Ros and I were once again working on Platform 2. Ros was weeding the flower beds and trimming, then putting stuimp killer on the brambles. I have at last mastered the programming of our irrigation system timer, but it took a session reading the instructions (and a chair so I could sit down by the programmer) to get to this happy state. This behaviour does not come naturally to an engineer!


    Keeping Ros company yours truly was again strimming the weeds on the Platform 2 embankment. There is still much to do there however and we can expect more challenges next year given the amount of thistle down that is blowing around.

A Mid Week Report

Two reports today, the first from Tim Winstanley, who continued with the container ground work preparation and  then a general roundup from Bob Stark.

Tim reports:-


I didn’t remove the offending stump but I did reduce it in height
sufficiently (I hope) – see attached.  The advantages of having Robin with
me were that I didn’t need to work alone and he always remembers to wear his
orange vest.

I did a few extra measurements – with additional planks, bits of string and
pegs.  There is a certain amount of height reduction required here and
there.  Should be set fair for Saturday.




Bob may also have snap or 2.


Bob Stark reports:-
    I doubt that the mid week report will become a regular fixture, but today Ros and I went up to the Station for some garden TLC on Platform 2 and found a veritable hive of activity.


    Tim was already beavering away at a large tree stump that might obstruct the level foundations for the long awaited shipping container. I suspect that he wished for some beavers to assist the removal of the ex black thorn bush root ball in the absence of a half kilo of SEMTEX. This looks like a saga that will continue for a little while unless some of our blog followers would like some exercise ?


    Pete from the Loco Dept was also on hand when we arrived tending to the Reverse Osmosis plant under the water tank, we hear that the treated water on our railway is paying great dividends in terms of  reducing the damage and thus the cost of repairs to the boilers of our steam locomotives. As you can see from the image above, Dave Griffin finished painting the door of the lamp hut on Monday, now if only we could also paint the galvanised sides of the water tank in matching colours it would really look the part.
At this point we get technical. I noticed that given some hard work by Andy Protherough and Malcolm Walker on Saturday, yet another of our signals has been completely refurbished and repainted. This time I sought the identity of the signal and was informed that it is titled the Up Line Neck Releasing Signal. The classical side in me wonders how the Romans would have named such a device ? Answers please to Bill Britton with a £20 note for station funds.
    Incidentally, the smoke in the distance is from Andy Protherough’s drainage maintenance team who have been cutting back the lineside vegetation to get at the drains we last looked at nearly 20 years ago. Lifting the covering slabs out of the drains where they have pushed in by unwelcome visitors has apparently not got any easier in the intervening years.


    As you can see from the image above Neil Carr was required to add the finishing (technical ?) touches to the signal this morning which after removal of the scaffolding is now revealed in all its new painted glory

P1060418 2

    Whilst Ros was planting more plants in the Platform 2 garden and cutting back and treating the roots of the brambles which seem keen to join our flowers, I went down the Hunting Butts cutting to visit Andy Protherough and his team who have been refurbishing all the upper level cutting cess drainage. In recent years due to the poor state of this drainage system water has been overflowing down the south embankment bringing earth and weeds onto the formation. A great job Andy and thank you for finishing a job I started 20 years ago. Here is an example of their work in the upper levels of the cutting at Hunting Butts.

    In case you wonder what I was doing other than socialising with all these hard working volunteers, I will claim a round 3 victory in the battle to suppress the weeds on John Crawford’s beautifully rolled stone Platform 2 surface. We are winning the battle, but there has been some fierce resistance.
Last, but not least,  a well dressed Cheltenham volunteer on his way to greet our visitors at Toddington hailed me from the window of the departing train.  Thank you Dick we hope that you had a good day also.

Saturday and the Summer Sunshine Continues!

Bob Stark has sent me the following report of the morning’s activities:-

Dear Bill,
    Like certain Rail Unions who are in dispute with management, I wish to have a better work/life balance, so these notes are written on the basis that I will fail to bring my camera next week so that I am not nominated as the duty scribe. Surely writing up the Committee meeting notes was sufficient for one week?
    Now on to the work of the day – a goodly volunteer workforce turn out, great weather and many, many happy passengers – what more can the scribe wish for?
    By the time I arrived this morning (somewhat late) the Ledamun brothers had already walked the platform with the “Billy Goat” vacuum clearing the pine needles, cones and leaves. The bits they did not cover were followed up by Mike, so as usual we had a smart station for the first passengers. Ros and I were working on Platform 2 so missed the unusual sight of Billy Goat being laid on its side for its first service.


    You and your small team of Tim and Mick moved the POD and container project forward, Mick wiring in the second POD to our power supply and you and Tim setting out the reference corner stone for the awaited 20ft shipping container. We will keep our blog watchers posted on  this acquisition when the order has been placed, but in the meantime can I point out the one corner stone doth not a base make!
    On the ramp John Leeson removed the broken seat plank from the half way rest bench. New planks are being machined by Messrs Bence in town, but John let slip to me this morning that he has a router and can machine an authentic “lip” on the replacement seat plank. Thanks John for that intelligence – as the cartoon character Dilbert found out ” If work is a reward, then expect a significantly increased reward next year”.
    Also on the ramp were Mary beautifying the flower beds with the assistance of a half price sale at our local garden centre and Dave Tomlin helping Stephen with strimming the vegetation that seems determined to encroach on our visitors from the ramp side walls.
    Over on Platform 2 Ros had also raided the half price counters at the garden centre and we managed to prepare the soil on the next section of garden bed with manure and compost and plant these out. This has required an extension to our automated soaker system which seems to be much appreciated by the plants we put in the first section of garden (See behind Ros how the marigolds are running riot).


    Whilst Ros was creating new life in the garden beds I applied a second dose of weedkiller to some of the more persistent weeds on the rolled stone surface (ROUNDUP 2 – the drama continues). Oh what I would give for some of the banned sodium chlorate to wipe out the survivors. After dealing with the platform weeds the remainder of the weedkiller was applied to the pathway from the end of Platform 1 to the signal box which is rapidly disappearing under greenery.


    Just to show we care for our volunteers the “facilities” in the sentry box (aka 1/4 of an Anderson shelter) have been enhanced. Mick has created a shelf for our volunteer ticket checkers to place their mugs of tea and sandwiches – oh yes and the odd leaflet or two. It has already been suggested that the shelf would be more useful if it had a power point for the electric kettle and toaster – perhaps even a heater?. These will have to wait – care, yes spoil, no.
Last but not least Dave Griffin continued the application of gloss top coat on “Billy Goats” home in the lamp hut. As at close of play at lunchtime Dave advised that the task should be completed by Roger in the Monday team with the application of top coat on the door of the lamp hut. No pressure Roger – or excuses!
    If I have missed out the efforts of anyone today – my apologies- but remember this is the missive of a pressed man.
And from Tim Winstanley  “How many Volunteers does it take to turn a Billy Goat over?20160813_103820
Answer : “at least 4 ,with 4 more watching to give good advice”
And should you  be tipping a petrol engine upside down to empty the sump – I don’t think so!!!

Saturday in the Sunshine

It was a glorious day weather wise at CRCS this morning and the  7 Volunteers on duty  made some great progress.

In no particular order  then, the first activity was the replacement of a wheel on the CAG trolley. Here John Leeson is about to give it a road test, having not only replaced the new wheel but removed the others, before  applying grease to the axles.  Having then taken the trolley for a spin,  John topped up the pressure in all the tyres and returned to base. It’s ready for  a Soapbox Derby now!


Back in in the sunshine Bob  and Mick were digging in a new duct for the power cable to the relocated pods.IMG_0560

Here Mick is toiling in the heat (look at that blue sky!), digging a trench for the  duct. It required a few gentle curves to reach the power source, but much perspiration saw the job done. Below is “Cobber” Stark sorting out the final section ensuring the draw string is in place.


By lunchtime the mains cable was in and power returned to the nearest pod. This was  a really determined effort on Bob and Mick’s part to completed this task. Brilliant!

My task for the morning was to tidy up the debris from Tuesday’s  pod moving exercise and mark out the  approximate position of the footings for the new container. This involved a good deal of dodging around the “workers” so as not  to impede progress. Nevertheless by the end of the morning this task  was completed also. Here the open ground ready for the footing to be  accurately set out.


Last but not least, its difficult for a GWR loco enthusiast like me, not to take a look at the inbound trains. Here Foremarke Hall basks in the dapple shade ready for the run around. Beautiful!



All credit to the gardening team who, with their careful planting (and weeding!) have made all of the  public areas of CRCS so colourful. The Ledamun Brothers with there weekly mowing of grass just sets this off nicely  – add the sunshine and its all a joy to behold!



Bob  Stark has sent me a post of his take on the day,  as follows:-

Dear Bill,

I attach below a summary of the morning’s activity at Cheltenham Station on a beautiful summer morning,. Blue skies, a warm breeze and happy visitors – perfect weather to move our outdoor projects forward.
    As usual the Ledamun brothers were up with the early birds “Billy Goating” the pine needles on Platform 1 then moving onto  grass mowing at the top of the Platform 1 ramp. We were a bit light on volunteers this morning so Mick and I decided to work on the underground infrastructure required for your shipping container project. With the two ex-Army “Pods” now successfully moved to their new positions we pressed ahead this morning with burying more underground ducting across the area where the new 20ft shipping container is to go. This task completed Mick and I pulled a new power cable through this duct and before retiring somewhat exhausted this afternoon we managed to reconnect Pod 1 to the mains electricity supply from the Ticket Office building. Next week we will seek to reconnect Pod 2 to the mains. While Mick and I were working on the power cable, with our young Robin supervising, John Leeson returned the now re-tyred wheel to our trusty 4 wheel trolley – another task off my list thanks to the internet and DHL! I have found that our Robin is somewhat spoiled and has very picky tastes. Yesterday during a short visit to the station I turned over a paving slab and Robin rejected the wood lice that scurried out. This morning I brought him a wild bird food mix containing grains, seeds and dried meal worms and he ate only the dried worms. At this rate he could be an expensive liability in the coming winter months if he continues to expect such an exotic diet.
    At about 1045am I received a crisis call from Mike advising me that a major situation was unfolding in our “catering department” in the workers room. There was no milk for the tea – now that is as serious a crisis as I have dealt with for some time – a REAL morale sapping crisis.
    Luckily we are fortunate to have a local shop within 5 mins of the station (by car) and our thirsty workers were I hope unaware of the disaster that had only narrowly been averted. With Andrew away doughnuts were also off the menu this morning and our workforce were rewarded only with biscuits except for the Ledamun brothers who bring their mid morning snack in the form of pasties or sausage rolls.
    Elsewhere around our station Andy Protherough’s team were again working on the higher level sedge drains in the Hunting Butts cutting where I understand that there are several issues with collapsed drainage pipes. In view of our own tasks I was unable to go down and view the progress of Andy’s team, but they have an excellent blog site of their own where the scale and success of their work can be viewed. During the week Pete Dickenson’s B&S team finished the repairs to the wall at the base of the Platform 1 ramp and have cleared all the excess slag stone away under the Evesham Road bridge for future use around the station.  Peter Parlett and Trevor Hobday joined us for tea and we gather that their project to line and insulate the Cheltenham water tank before the winter is progressing.
    On Platform 2 it seems that most of the weeds growing on the rolled stone surface of the platform are not looking as healthy as they were last week following the weed killer spraying. However, the fine weather is encouraging new weed seeds to germinate and grow so further applications of weed killer will be needed in the coming weeks to keep the surface clear.
Thanks Bob!

A Tuesday Special

Tim Winstanley and I were on site at CRCS today to organise the move of the Pods into their new resting place. The Vic Haines lorry with the HIAB crane  was behind schedule so the time was filled by further tidying of the site and placing the last piece of anti climb wire mesh on the boundary fence. The  rig arrived at last  and it was all hands to the strops to  proceed with lifts.


Here Ben the VH Driver is attaching  the strops to the lifting chains. Note the 2 pieces of timber on the roof  which when in place, were used to stop the roof line being crushed.


After a good deal of difficult manoeuvring ( the HIAB was at its limit of range) the job was completed. Here are the Pods in their new positions and the Vic Haines rig packed up and ready to go! My thanks goes  to   driver Ben Brotherton and Vic Haines for their cooperation on this exercise.


I noticed that S & T were preparing the  new platform 2 signal post for painting. It was coming along nicely!