The loneliness of the Long Distance Mower!

The Station and approaches were looking resplendent  in  colourful Thomas bunting today. This was largely curtesy of Bob and Ros Stark’s efforts yesterday.


However, I can say I would prefer not to hear anymore Thomas and Friends music – at least until the next Thomas weekend! Glastonbury it wasn’t!

There were 8 Volunteers on site today, some at the forefront of the Thomas activity and others, like myself keeping a low profile in order not to frighten or disillusion the Thomas fans.

In Stephen’s case he decided to put some mileage on our faithful mower and cut every blade of grass on site!


On other fronts, Ben and I continued our Bodger and Fixit carpentry classes. We are hoping for our NVQ soon. Here Ben is practicing  his sawing a straight line technique.


By the end of the session, 4 walls had been erected on the ex Broadway Shed and a coat of varnish on the floor.


This was only made possible by Tim working on Thursday to lay a nice level base. Thanks Tim.


As they say on Loony Toons  –Thats all Folks! 




Well some may like it hot but I can’t say that today’s weather appealed to many of the 12 volunteers.  It’s all very well, of course, if you are strolling down the slope to take a leisurely trip to Toddy but less pleasant if you are barrowing ballast from the bottom of Platform 1.  Still, progress was made in several areas and I will do my best to credit those responsible.

Maurice, Andy and Dave (snazzy shorts) Tomlin were staking the new hedge – to prevent wind damage – however unlikely that felt today.  Seeing this rather ugly fence close up you can see why we felt we needed a hedge on our side!IMG_20170617_113616

Elsewhere, Bob was busy tidying the area at the bottom of the Platform 2 slope – where we had a fire yesterday (intentionally of course!) to burn the laurel removed from overhanging P1, plus other weeds.  The area looks a bit bare but much tidier – and it’s been directed that all we want growing there is easy cut grass, no brambles, no nettles.  Fat chance I hear you cry – but we will stick at it.


Mick and Ben made good progress with the shed base – levelling the frame and fixing the corners.  Another hour of ballast packing and we will be ready for re-construction assuming someone can recall how the parts go together!  I hope the final product justifies the effort involved.

Mary and John were gardening, whilst Steve assisted by unfurling an inordinate length of ‘leaky hose’ for the Platform 1.  Having said that I am not sure the veg plot (second picture) needs much encouragement to grow any more!

Speculation was rife amongst the Cheltenham gang as to the precise use of the rope work (picture 3) – are we planning to offer abseiling down to the Platform as additional attraction on weekends? Possibly just a safer method of cutting the steeper bits of the new lawn area.

Any finally, Dave and Bill were getting stuck in to the refurbishment required on the front wall of the ticket office:IMG_20170617_115859

It’s not just the volunteers that are showing their age at the Racecourse Station!

Regards to all,


A Sunny Friday!

Dear Bill,
    With a dry sunny day, little wind and no regular passenger trains running it being Friday, it seemed like a perfect day for a bonfire!
    Tim has been cutting back the Laurel bush at the foot of the Platform 1 Ramp which had started to intrude into the platform area and the “trimmings” (large leafy branches actually) had been moved onto the old Platform 2 ramp for future disposal. This morning Tim was again lopping off the last of the intruding branches and as Ros and I had been collecting pine cones and branches from Platform 2 and the garden beds we are seeking to cultivate, we decided to make it a combined effort. With a goodly pile of pine branches already stacked up on the upper reaches of the ramp from an old tree collapse a year or so ago, it seemed like a good place for our burn up.
   We soon had a super blaze going  that consumed all the old and the new small leafy branches. The larger branches have been piled up to be sawed up to keep the home fires burning next winter. The image below shows the ramp almost clear of debris and both Ros and Tim well smoked – “Finnin Haddies” come to mind. During the height  of the conflagration we were visited by a firing and driving course train and the locomotive stopped adjacent to our smoke. Their visit was brief – I wonder why!
    Thanks to the watering facilities installed by Mick and Tim last year fire control measures were on hand just in case our fire became too enthusiastic and before we left this afternoon the area around the fire was thoroughly hosed down. As you can see below on an image I took this evening there was not much left from the large quantity of wood that we disposed of this morning.
    Other activity we carried out on Platform 2 during the bonfire was some strimming of the grass on the lower reaches of the Platform ramp and on the embankment behind the new garden bed.  Earlier in the season this latter area was a large thistle patch which we subjected to weedkilling treatment. It is now a luxuriant area of grass where in coming seasons we will try and add some wild flowers now that the weeds and brushwood have been suppressed.

Monday Gang

Dear Bill,
    Tim and I arrived at the Station this Monday morning as the Circus was pulling out having been giving public shows in the car park opposite our station this weekend. It must be a hard life for the “roadies” as they must have been taking down the big top and packing up last night after their final performance at the Racecourse.
    Our first task was to address the problems with the flush mechanism and slow refill cycle in the disabled toilet on Platform 1, neither task particularly challenging. However, ensuring that there were no drips resulting from our endeavours took a little longer than I had anticipated. Tim is now a qualified cistern repairer, so I can look forward to retirement in this field of volunteer activity. Whilst we were replacing the cistern siphon unit a small road/rail vehicle drove past the platform on the running line spraying the luxuriant weed growth that has appeared between the rails after all the recent rain. Sadly as the signal box was unmanned and the points were against changing lines, the weeds on the line adjacent to Platform 2 appear to have escaped to bloom another day.
    “Flushed” (yes apologies for this pun) with success from our endeavours on Platform 1, Tim and I returned to address the small leak on the cold water supply to the new sink unit in the worker’s washroom. With the plumbing well concealed behind the new units there was no alternative but to disconnect the units (again) from the supplies and waste and move them away from the wall so that all the pipework could be inspected to trace the source of the problem. With all joints again sealed and tightened we reassembled and refitted the sink unit and reconnected all the pipework. This time we were rewarded with a non-leaking system and have completed the job by adding the doors and fitting and fixing the pelmet round the base of the units.


    This afternoon a goodly party turned up to work on the gardens around the estate. John and Evelyn worked the garden beds on Platform 1 and John started to reap the rewards from his “Dig For Victory” garden with a first basket of produce (see below).
    Mike, Ian and Mary were active sweeping, weeding and grass cutting alongside the Platform 1 ramp and Tim released from his plumbing duties continued the “long march” (ballast version)  bringing barrowloads of  infill up from the area near the signal box for the base of the new (ex-Broadway) shed.
      As can also be seen in background to this image Dave Tomlin took the opportunity, whilst we had no passengers and an almost wind, free day, to burn much of the mounting pile of pine needles and cones collected by “Billy Goat” in our bonfire area.
    As always apologies to those active in the station this afternoon whose valuable contribution to its maintenance I failed to record above.

Saturday 10th June 2017 – A Busy day!

Eleven Volunteers reported for duty today and there was much to be done. A great deal of snipping and clipping was required to keep the shrubbery in check and a good deal of weeding to try and keep the borders looking neat and tidy. The recent combination of wet weather and sunshine contributed to the speed with which mother nature is making her presence felt!

Much of my morning was spent cracking the whip at Ben, who put his hand up for barrowing ballast from the end of platform 1 up to  the location of the “Broadway Shed” behind the Pods. To give Ben his due,  he always has a smile on his face!


My main contribution was to point at the area where the ballast was to go!  I did however, manage, in between loads, to repair the broken shiplap panels on the shed.


Here is barrow load number 1 – only another 20(?) to go! I  will be pleased to photo the final load.

The one area that had benefitted from the rain was John’s vegetable patch.

IMG_1157 Potatoes, beans, onions and rhubarb are coming along nicely!


Of course a pleasant and compulsory part of any volunteers day is to have a chinwag and put the world to rights (that would take some doing this week!) Here Mick and Andy discuss the finer points of 3 core cabling…..

Finally my report finishes with a reminder to all  Cheltenham bound passengers to call in by and look at  the Friends of Racecourse Station’s stock of railway related items displayed in the fine and original Ticket Office at the top of the ramp, on platform 1. I’m sure something will catch your eye and all proceeds go to the ongoing maintenance of the Station.




And from Bob Stark:-

Last Couple of Days at CRC

Dear Bill,

A belated report on yesterday’s activities and a few insights into others undertaken this morning. Yesterday Mick, Tim and I worked on the plumbing in of the new sink unit and cabinets in the worker’s cloak room that was mentioned in an earlier blog report. By the time I arrived yesterday morning it had been decided that we should “go for broke” and remove the old wash basin and pedestal and have the new sink unit as the one and only washing facility in the cloak room. Once the old facility had been removed the pressure was on to ensure that adequate “services” were available for operations today. Despite our best efforts we just could not achieve drip free joints on one of the supplies yesterday so with both a hot and one cold tap in operation we left the task for another non-operational day (probably Monday next). This morning more plumbing expertise was being requested as the Disabled toilet on Platform 1 was reported as being out of order. A quick look indicated that the pump unit in the cistern was showing its age, so I increased the water level in the cistern as a temporary measure and restored flushing operation for this weekend. Monday morning will see another visit to Screwfix for a new pump unit and a quick (is any plumbing task trouble free and quick ? anyway plumbing was not part of my electrical engineering degree course half a century ago! ) installation job before returning to the sink unit.
The main task of the day was to tackle the rampant weed growth that is showing through despite my best efforts on Platform 2. This morning the now well germinated seedlings of the variety of long leaved prickly dandelions that infest part of the station were again sprayed as was a new crop of “mare’s tail” that has decided to take up residence on the edge of the trackbed. Though we are expecting a visit from the weed control train any day soon, the high winds have delayed their visit to the now weed infested area between the platforms, so a start was made controlling the new grass growth in the space between the new Platform 2 wall and the running line. Before the spray was exhausted I managed half the area, so we shall see in a week or so if success lies with the sprayer – or the weeds. Given our experience many years ago with eradicating the Bay Willow Herb between the platforms that took over 3 years of spraying to achieve success, I am not anticipating a quick win.
Another small win was the successful translation of the plans for the Platform 1 building which have eluded me for many years. Brian Mason kindly lent me his CAD drawing of the building on a memory stick and a piece of free software downloaded from the internet has allowed us to now have a PDF version of Brian’s drawing for our archive. A small win that might come in useful when we need to think about the need for an extension to the existing building in the years to come as passenger numbers increase.





The natural urge of the railway volunteer is, quite reasonably, to worry most about customer facing issues, such as what the station looks like and whether the trains are running on time etc etc.  Which is right and proper, since without happy customers we wouldn’t have anything to volunteer for!  However, I suspect we sometimes put up with very modest facilities and ignore things any normal employees simply wouldn’t expect in the 21st century.  And further to this, when we do spend a bit of time (and even a little money) improving our facilities and our lives as volunteers we tend to feel guilty!  Which is by way of a long introduction to the work ongoing at CRCS to provide a slightly better environment for the staff (both Station and other workers).

Hence our opening shots this morning of Mick and Bob installing a nice new (non-marble!) worktop and sink for the staff office toilet/washroom.

For info Mick was demonstrating his skills by doing the fitting with his eyes closed!

Elsewhere, Steve was deep amidst the nettles discouraging the rampant vegetation whilst Mary and Paul were trying to do likewise in slightly less drastic fashion!

As trailed last week the ongoing storage project has added a new dimension with a spare shed being donated from Broadway.  After much sucking of teeth we have decided to ‘kit fix’ (an ‘in’ term amongst enthusiasts I gather) and make the best shed we can in the space available, from the parts we have. Here’s the early stages of re-design!

Earlier Bill & Ben cleared up Platform 2 – from last weekend’s Gala events – leaving only the handsome (and very heavy!) benches in situ.  Hopefully, if P2 gets into more frequent use we can generate some permanent storage down there.

Finally, Mike and Dick spent some time making the tea whilst I found my new role as apprentice bin man! (It takes years of training to make it look this easy.)

And as ever, some people proved camera shy (Dave T, Andy and Maurice) but were active making sure our hedge planting continues to prosper and the weeds don’t.

All the best,  Tim