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.
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