Back to the Future!

Dear Bill.

    What a weekend of contrasting weather for our Cotswold Festival of Steam event over the Bank HolidayWeekend. Some of us had somewhat “soggy” duties to perform at Cheltenham Racecourse Station on Monday, but the event seemed to have something for everyone and the returning passengers in the late afternoon were full of praise for the Railway’s running of the event  – despite the period of torrential rain around lunchtime. For me the highlight at Cheltenham was the return of the dininutive little Great Western tank engine 1450 which I understand was the first standard guage steam engine to visit Cheltenham Racecourse Station since Clun Castle pulled out the last steam hauled special in 1976.
    As part of the fund raising scheme: “By Rail to the Races”, to assist with the underwriting of the extension to Cheltenham some 200 yds of track was laid adjacent to the old Platform 2 at Cheltenham and 1450 was brought onto this short section of track by a low loader along with a guards van. The intent was to offer brake van rides to the public, but Railway Inspectorate approval was not forthcoming and only a lucky few of the Railway’s members were able to enjoy this glimpse of what was to come – I was one and have a video shot from the brake van and from the footplate of 1450. The image below was taken on 18 June 1998 and when the visitors went home I volunteered to baby sit 1450 until her evening security detail arrived some 2 hours later. 1450’s owner, Mike Little, told me to have a little drive if I wanted to, but being totally ignorant of the technicalities of driving a steam loco, my younger son, David and I decined this brave offer made do with sounding the whistle and enjoying standing alone on the footplate. How things have changed over the years! The sharp eyed readers will see that there is activity on Platform 1 and here we had a minature raised track on the platform and a small steam locomotive offering rides to children and adults – another of our fund raising scemes.
98-6-18 Return of steam to Cheltenham Racecourse Station (but the

During the Steam Gala this weekend 1450, this time with her autocoach, returned to Cheltenham Racecourse Station and we tried to recreate the scene from nearly 19 years ago. The before and after shows how far we have come in this time which covered the demolition of the old Platform 2 due to an inward lean of the retaining wall, the rebuilding and surfacing of Platform 2 by the “boys” from Broadway and the installation of reproduction GWR furniture in the shape of lamp posts and running in board. At this moment on 29 May 2017 Platform 1 is playing host to the next departure to Toddington
    It was a pity that at the moment of 1450’s arrival at the bottom of the platform 2 access ramp the heavens opened as can be seen in the final image below. Raining stair rods come to mind!


Bob Stark

Short and Sweet!

A short blog post today, with many of my Volunteering Chums away on other parts of the railway or carrying out bank holiday duties at home. Of course it was the start of the Cotswold Festival of Steam and it was very tempting to sit back and watch the sights and sounds of the trains arriving and departing from CRS. It was a magnificent scene and  I’m sure it will be well reported on other blogs and Facebook.

Here 2807 sizzling in the sunshine on Platform 2 ready to take one of many trains departing from the new platform 2 today. It caused me to recall overseeing in the 20,000 bricks that were eventually used to construct the platform wall. What a lot of hard work has happened in between!


And an early double header arrives in the form of Dinmore Manor and Formarke Hall.


Now down to the nitty gritty. There was good deal of last minute sprucing up first thing, with Mike on the broom and Stephen on the Billy Goat. Ben and I passed some useful time shifting the nuts, bolts, screws and washers from the Work Room in the Ticket Office, down to the Container. Three barrow loads later (Ben doing the barrowing, me looking important) and the job was done.


Our main task of the morning was to unload the component parts of a shed, recently surplus to requirements at Broadway Station. This proved a challenge as Stephen, Ben and I handballed all the parts from the back of the Building Service truck parked outside the boundary fence, over the POD roof and into storage. Unfortunately I was a vital link in the chain and did not get chance to photograph the antics.  (Anyway a shed  is a shed for all that!) Nevertheless our thanks go to BS for their work and patience and to Ben in particular as he stayed on to make the whole activity doable.


Off to Join the Circus….

The Moscow State Circus were pitched up near the Station today. The stormy skies quickly turned into heavy showers. Why did we keep saying we need rain for the fresh planting!IMG_1085

However the weather forecast did not deter a good turnout for the first train of the day. They all looked thirsty, all planning to slake their thirst at the Real Ale  Event at Winchcombe and Toddington. It was tempting to join them!


The travelling public would have been less  happy if they new something resembling a North Korean missile was being transported in the train. Enquires with the lads from the Loco Department established it was the old water softener canister on its way to Toddington. If it looks heavy, its because it was – I had to act as banker pushing it up  the ramp into the train.IMG_1089

Prior to the arrival of the first train  Terry, Maurice and Stephen were erecting barriers on the Platform 2 slope, in anticipation of next weeks Gala, when we should see  operational trains in this platform for the first time. Brilliant!


Finally I’m struggling to find a clever caption for the final photo. It looks as if a game of hide and seek is going on! In reality a team was in the process of moving two newly acquired (very heavy!) GWR lampposts to a safe location. Is there an osteopath in the house?



Monday Monday!

Dear Bill,
    Having been absent due to grandfather duties this weekend it was an early start (for yours truly) this Monday morning to address the problem of the leaking pipe joint on the water supply to the platform 1 building. The leak was only recently discovered when we tried to use a tap connected to this old GWR/BR supply pipe and we found water coming up out of the ground. The tap had been connected via a “TEE” joint onto this “heritage” buried 3/4inch copper supply pipe that serviced the original GWR toilet blocks on Platforms 1 and 2. These buildings were removed by BR in the early 1960s although the base of the one of the buildings is still intact on Platform 2.
    Last Saturday (13 May) Tim, Ben and Stephen excavated the area of the pipe on the top of the Platform 1 embankment on and identified the source of the leak as being on the supply side of the “TEE” joint. It was not a major leakage, but enough to fill their excavation to overflowing by this morning. Good for wildlife, but not helpful in preventing embankment slippage.
    After turning off the water supply to this part of our estate, Tim baled out the hole and after some rather “gloopy” further excavation we were able to get at the “TEE” joint and undo the compression nuts on either side of the joint. We could then see that the copper olives that had been used were metric and had not compressed down into the joint correctly.
    Fortuitously I had found a couple of imperial 3/4inch  copper “olives” in my box of plumbing bits (yes sometimes it does pay to keep junk for decadess) since these now seem quite hard to come by locally. The first task was to clean up the pipe work to prevent any dirt getting into the supply and following a certain amount of  brute force the “TEE” joint was disassembled and the errant olives split off the pipe ends. After rubbing down the pipes a new “TEE” was put onto the joint and the whole assembly tightened down ensuring this time that the olives were bedded down into the faces of the joint. Finally we put a pipe reducer into the third arm of the TEE to take a smaller diameter copper pipe and inserted a length of 15mm pipe with a stop valve on it. With everthing tightened down the supply was restored – and the leak was gone! The rubber glove on the image wrapped around the 15mm pipe contains the parts of the stop valve that will be needed when we connect this to an above ground  plastic pipe and supply tap for the gardeners. For the time being the stop valve is capped to prevent dirt ingress.
    Ros came down to assist with the next task (Platform 1 sign) and ensure that the Platform 2 garden was not in need of irrigation. The heavy showers this weekend have worked wonders with our garden and the first Foxgloves of many in the centre garden bed are now starting to bloom. This water has unfortunately encouraged some minor bramble growth on the back edge of the new Platform 2 asphalt surface and this was treated to a mixture of weed killers to discourage further tresspass.
    Our final task of the morning (other than washing the “gloop”of the tools)  was to hang the Platform 1 sign under the WAY OUT sign at the bottom of the Platform 1 ramp. This now compliments the sign on Platform 2 and will allow our station masters during the Festival of Steam to announce “the train now arriving on Platform 1 (or 2) will be the ……)
    While this last activity activity was ongoing Tim was staggering up the ramp with wheelbarrows of ballast to weatherproof the worker’s access path to the PODS and Dave Griffin wasfinishing of the painting of the Ladies Toilet in the Platform 1 building.
    Now over to the afternoon team report——————————



There is, I suppose, a slightly masochistic pleasure in physical labour for it’s own sake. The GWSR at Cheltenham Racecourse Station certainly provides more than its share and should be a very happy place as a result!  Mainly, at the moment, it seems we are digging; whether it is digging out broken taps, digging up ballast to replant it elsewhere or digging our gardens.  Perhaps it’s digging season? My colleagues were hard at it this morning with Bill, Steve, Dave T, Paul, Andy, Ben, Mike and John all putting in shifts in one form or another.  Here are some highlights.

First up is Ben with a broken tap (it was me that broke it but it just came off in my hand – honestly) on the bank above Platform 1.  A little digging in the glorious mud revealed a leaking supply pipe in any case.  Time for some plumbing repairs and, hopefully, a more substantial chamber fitting around the new system.

Second it the further adventures of path building – the sort of work they get convicts to do in the USA!  Here Bill and others are working to extend our all weather path from the container side through to the slabs and placing the exhumed stones between PODs – recycling again!

Third, some results of digging: our new hedge line and the vege plot.

Fourth the results: well earned rest for the weary in and around the staff office – which is beginning to looks more spacious and tidier as we transfer our materials elsewhere.

Fifth (no photos) Mike was buy sweeping, Paul was busy sweeping and mowing whilst Steve was busy helping everyone else out – as usual.

And, finally, see what Dave T has dug up from far afield: a couple of genuine GWR 10 foot lamp posts.  (Just what we need after all that digging is to move these 2 monsters into safekeeping.)IMG_20170513_111533

See the full story at  The lamps are destined for the slope on Platform 2 – so that’ll be a long term investment then!

However, if rumour has correct, we may see passengers on P2 in the very near future – watch this space.


The Monday Morning Crew

Dear Bill,
    There was early morning activity at the station today – all in advance of the normal afternoon staffing levels. Before Ros and I arrived Tim was already moving barrowloads of sandy ballast from the “mine” down near the signal box up to the narrow confines of the worker’s path outside the the assorted containers.
     Tim briefly stopped for a photo call from Platform 2 – grimacing all the way to the mountaineering challenge that lies just  ahead – but as you can see below Tim achieved another few feet of pathway (that sounds better that 1 metre!) Well done Tim just a few barrow loads to go to reach down to the bonfire area.


    Meanwhile down in the ladies toilet Dave Griffin was showing his penitent side and was moving forward with the redecoration of the last of the customer facing rooms in the Platform 1 building. The results Dave are super and we have received accolades from our visitors on how bright and sparkling our “facilities” are.

    Over on Platform 2 Ros and I continued with the weed and stone (some boulders !) removal from the final section of the garden beds we are reworking this year. Sadly we did not complete the task as planned this morning so this remains body damaging Work In Progress. We did, however, manage to erect the platform number sign on the lamp post at the bottom of the Platform 2 access ramp in preparation for the use of this platform later this month at the Steam Gala.


    Before anyone comments: The weed growth on the ramp in the background of this image is already showing signs of damage from spraying with weed killer and is due to be strimmed in the next week or so.

Long and Winding Road (well long anyway!)

Wheel barrows were the order of the day this morning – either shifting garden waste or shifting ballast.

The most challenging perhaps was shifting ballast from the very end of Platform 1 (by the crossing), up to the container/pod site.

Here Andy and Terry pace themselves up the platform, and at the ramp, each goes his merry way – one up the ramp  heading for the container, and the other further up the platform to pick up a load of fir cones.

The ballast is being used to make a volunteer friendly footpath from the pods  to the front of the container.

The finishing touches were made to the approach path to the container entrance. Ben and I consolidated all the good work carried out by Tim and Mick and I have to say the end result was pretty pleasing.

On Platform 2 Team Stark (Ros and Bob) continued with the gardening work.

Here Bob maintains a good pace with his full barrow, having walked it from platform 2, across the crossing and up the ramp. I must find out what he’s having for breakfast!


More of this later!


Today on Pl 2 

Dear Bill,
As promised a short update and an image on the progress being made on bringing the environs of Platform 2 up to an appropriate standard for its opening at the Festival of Steam later this month. Our aim had been to bring the garden bed between the old toilet base and the Platfrom 2 access ramp to the Evesham Road under control during this summer as well as preventing the vegetation coming down off the embankment behind the new platform surface. This aim has had to be brought forward and given some urgency with its planned use this month by passengers.
The two sections (out of three) dug over last year and planted out with flowers have survived well over the winter (did we really have one in garden terms ?) which left us with the final section (see below) up to the base of the ramp to deal with. This section was well invested with weeds, clay from the rebuilding of the platform and a goodly selection of stones, both large and small. It also had considerable amounts of root infested soil piled up along the base of the old slagstone wall resulting from the collapse of some it. Earlier this year we “recycled” many wheelbarrow loads of sand left over from the platform building and placed the sand into this untouched section of future garden bed to suppress weed growth. Over the last week Ros and I have dug out most of the section – and the spoil against the wall – levelled off the area and spread the sand back from the platform edge into the future growing area. The barrow loads of  recovered small stones were moved to fill in holes on the upper surface of the embankment, most caused by rabbits. Another day of toil will see this section of garden bed finished and our plan is to leave it neat, weedfree and unplanted until the Autumn when decisions on the plants to be laid out can be made. During the summer we intend to add top soil and fertiliser and rotovate the bed. As you can see below most of the unwanted vegetation has now gone. Elsewhere on the embankment it was apparent today that the weedkilling spraying we have carried out over the last month has had the desired effect of knocking back the weeds and unwanted brush wood saplings.
Bob and Ros