Saturday 30th September – News at Cheltenham

 A Blog report from Bob today.
Dear Bill,
    A smaller work party than usual at the station today with many regulars having alternative employment, holidays or AWOL. The biggest loss was our “Billy Goat” leaf sweeper which is again in for repair. Its absence a “stark” reminder of how long it takes to sweep up the pine needles by hand.This morning Mike, Ben, Colin and Stephen were all involved in this activity. Here Colin was posing for me as 2807 ran in with the 2nd train of the day.
    Before going on holiday Dave Tomlin left me with a small package of signs for our Platform 1 embankment to try and seek parental support in restraining their children from rockclimbing on the slag stone back wall. Stephen and I erected these on steel poles this morning and only time will tell if they will be heeded.
    Roger was continuing the painting of our iron spear fencing by the Ticket Office and luckily the expected rain held off for long enough for him to make progress with the preparation of another panel.


    Down by the signal box level crossing Pete Dickinson’s B&S team were working on the new Platform 2 retaining wall and the construction of an all weather new path from the end of Platform 1 down to the crossing – all preparation for the use of Platform 2 at future events.
    Earlier on in the week we “undressed” the station following a successful Thomas weekend and as Monday was wet and soggy all our bunting had to be cleaned, dried and folded before being packed away for its next outing. Today said decorations were returned to their storage area in the attic of the Ticket Office.
    Finally an image of Mike in his most popular role as the provider of tea for the thirsty workers.
    Bob Stark

Wednesday – Building Services at Cheltenham Racecourse Station

One of Building Services many current projects is to build a safe and secure pedestrian pathway between platform 1 and 2, at the northern end, via the road crossing. Jim Hitchen sent me a briefing of yesterday’s related activities :-

“We spent a lot of time in the yard at Winchcombe sorting out materials and loading the truck.  7 of us then went to Cheltenham to lay more of the brick wall, instal two gates and a length of fencing near the SB and start to clear the ground along the fence line on the P1 side.  It is intended to put a 1.5m wide path along this fence for when P2 is brought into use and a full standard footpath needs to be provided between P2, over the crossing and up to P1.”

Down in the jungle where nobody goes…..

There was something of an end of season feeling to start with at the Racecourse Station this morning – perhaps the overcast skies and cooler weather?  However, things soon brightened up with Thomas to the fore and his merry band of helpers including Bob and Ros on front line duties with the paying public, Dave G in charge of the Station and the rest of us (Dave T, Mary, Colin, Paul, Terry, Bill and self) joining in the songs from a distance.


Here’s the Young Controller and his assistant welcoming 4 of our early visitors – one of whom has fallen asleep listening to the brief!!  Only joking!!

Elsewhere Terry and I continued our battle to reduce the decades of invasive jungle at the top of Platform 1 bank – see left hand picture.

In the right-hand picture, under a metal cover for one of our water points, lurk several examples of the local fauna including, this morning, a rather sweet-looking vole.  Sadly, though he peered at me for a while he didn’t stick around to have his photo taken!  (I  have the same trouble with some volunteers.)  A nice cheerful sight and to ward off the occasional bouts of depression – when faced with seemingly intractable areas of overgrowth – I popped into the ticket office and reviewed the pictures of what it was like when ‘they’ started, viz…….IMG_20170909_110351

Elsewhere, since the billy-goat has been sent for repair, Paul and others were sweeping the platform by hand – which reminds you how big it is!  Later he was busy  gardening – as was Mary:IMG_20170923_095936

Colin and Steve were carrying out much-needed weeding tasks by the side of the slope down to P1.

Bill continued to rationalise what kit is left in our staff room so that we can open a small bar and drink beer have more space to sit and debate important railway matters!  Here he is considering what to throw away next and then contemplating how we will get the beer barrels into the loft space via the chair, worktop and then ladder using a pulley system.

Actually, it’s really all part of a gradual improvement to the facilities available to those who work at CRCS – both in the ticket office and the weekly volunteers – at minimal cost and of benefit both to the work done and to the people who do it.  I say not before time either!

Regards to all who read the blog,


Monday, 18th September 2017

It isn’t often we get a comprehensive report on the hard work of the Monday Gang and the following blog post from Bob helps put that right:-

Dear Bill.
    In the absence of a better scribe to chronicle the achievements of the day I offer a short report below of the Monday work party achievements today.
    Sadly I must start with the reported demise of two hard working members of our team. Our trusted (?) pine needle eater “Billy Goat” has again suffered a serious malfunction and will have to be returned to the workshops. Bad news chaps, it will be back to brooms and barrows for a couple of weeks. The second casualty was the Dyson vacuum in the Ticket Office. I was asked by Station Master Dave to have a look at the machine as it did not sound “right”. This was an understatement and the noise emanating from the machine approximated to that from a cold war “V” bomber about to take off on a mission. It now rests on my work bench for some investigative surgery.
    Back at the station we had a good turn out and the promised dry weather stayed with us. On platform 2 we had Ian and Chris collecting pine needles and cones. As the image below shows the old fashioned method is much more strenuous than using the “Goat”.


Further along the Platform Ros was removing some of the weed growth from the Platform 2 flower beds that had accrued whilst we were enjoying the sunshine in Canada.


    On the way over to assist Ros (and assisted by a drum of mains cable and an electric jig saw with a long blade) I cut up the branches that Ben and I removed from the Oak tree on Saturday and these are now piled up at the back gate for burning at a future location on a non-running day. Ben – please take note of a future task requiring your attention.
  Dave T was having a bonfire to try and clear some of the back log of collected pine needles at the burn area, but declined my offer of more contributions today from the Oak tree.
    Meanwhile at the top of the ramp Mary was weeding and de-pine needleing our entrance garden beds with assistance from new volunteer Colin.


    Out of camera range Roger was painting railings and Station Master Dave G having a Cinderella moment mopping Ticket Office floors and attempting to vacuum the Booking Hall – it was at this moment that the Dyson vacuum sounded its loud note of protest.
    It was not all work, however, and there was time for tea and a chat – here is half the Monday team enjoying a cuppa. Out of shot there were 5 more happy workers!


    And finally a strange thing happpened when I got home. I had barely opened the front door when our telephone rang. It turned out to be cold call from a member of Dyson vacuum servicing advising me that my home Dyson vacuum was overdue for servicing and would I like an “engineer” to call !

Saturday 16th September – from little acorns….

There were 10 volunteers in attendance this morning and Bob Stark, fresh from his sojourn in Canada, kindly sent me this report of the morning’s activities:-

Dear Bill,
    Being refreshed after 4 weeks in the coastal sunshine of British Columbia and in the absence of scribe Tim, my short report on some of this morning’s activities follows:
    We had a quick tidy up of the flower beds on Platform 2 cutting back the last of the Hollyhocks and deadheading the Marigolds. There is still some colour, but this morning it was mostly green! An inspection of the trackside by the signal box indicated that the special herbicide applied to the Mare’s Tail weed growth before I departed has been largely successful with most of this fast growing, determined weed now destroyed. We will have to be vigilant in the spring to ensure it does not effect a recovery. In this area this morning the B&S team were completing the foundations for a low wall to keep the  embankment back from the new access path onto Platform 2. When I left at lunchtime they were placing a row of concrete blocks on top of the new foundation.
    Ben had decided to take on the new task of trimming back the oak tree opposite the signal box that due to the weight of Acorns on its branches (does this signify a long, hard winter is coming ?) was coming close to striking distance of our trains. Between us we cut away the most offending branches, but a return visit will be required with a longer ladder to complete the job. For the moment, however, the pristine paintwork of our locomotives is safe.
Ben 16 Sep 17
As we were completing our clear up from this work we were approached by Robert, our “Bobby” today in the signal box and he asked if we could adjust the inner gate of the emergency access route onto Platform 1 as the latch was sticking on the striker plate. An apparent five minute job took considerably longer, but the gate now opens freely, so freely in fact, it may disturb the signalmen when it rattles in the wind.

IMG_0114IMG_0119 2IMG_0121

    In other areas of the station I noted John barrowing in some carefully nurtured “home grown” compost for his WW2 Dig for Victory garden on Platform 1 and Maurice continuing his hedge trimming activity between the gate and our storage container.     Stephen today was in charge of Billy Goat, keeping the access ramp and Platform 1 free of Pine needles for our visitors and suitable for the large Wedding party that arrived at Lunchtime for a champagne reception on our train. Sadly there were no free samples from OTC for the CRC workers.
A couple of important extras:-
Here Mary has discarded her gardening gloves and trowel, and is glitzed up to help on Wedding Party duties. (see above)
And here Dave chats to a group from the Bodmin and  Wenford Steam  Railway, enjoying a well earned day off. If you are ever in their neck of the woods it’s well worth taking time-out for a trip.
IMG_0131 2


A Busy Wednesday at the Racecourse Station

I popped in to take delivery of the wooden door for the proposed fog man’s hut, which is to be located on the new pathway between platform 2 and the crossing. The door had been languishing in the overflow carpark field  at Toddington and exposed to the elements. Pete Dickinson kindly offered to transport it over in the BS truck. It is now safely stored in the compound at Cheltenham. Thanks Pete and co.


The rest of the fog man’s hut remains in the field and will require some sorting out before being transported to Cheltenham. The BR Fog man’s huts were made, as a kit of parts, out of cast concrete. Shifting and reassembling the hut will be quite a challenge!


Hopefully it will end up something like this:-

B.R. Fogman's hut recovered from near Langford & Ulting Station, Maldon Branch, August 2015-s

Magic Wand anyone????

The main task for Building Services today was to lay the footings of a retaining wall along the rear of the new platform 2 footpath. Great progress was made and approximately  two thirds of the footing was completed.




My thanks go to Jim Hitchen, my old Broadway mucker, who sent me some WIP photos. Jim is currently working with Building Services.



Rain Stops Play……..

Turn out  of volunteers today was modest – perhaps some knew we were in for  a soaking later on! For those in attendance there was much to be done.

Early signs of said efforts came from Tim and Ben who were giving the wooden fence sections behind the spear fencing a coat of “witches brew” – a local preservative recipe I understand!


Down on Platform 1  and up the ramp, the Billy Goat was being put through its paces by Andy. The pine needles are ever present and a stint on the Billy Goat is a good formula for recovering from the night before.


The Building Services lads were in attendance during the week and completed the task of concreting the crossing on the Malvern side. Here P & O is approaching the crossing having completed the run round to take the second train of the day northward.


The sky is just beginning to look stormy here and within the hour there was torrential rain. If you’re a passenger with the opportunity to visit the Ticket Office at the top of the Platform 1 slope, its always worth spending some time (and perhaps money!) looking at the items for sale therein, which earn a modest amount for the Friends of the  Racecourse Station.


The photos are a record of the super efforts that were made to get the Ticket Office back in action. Many of you will recognise the reprobate below – such Trojan efforts.IMG_20170909_110315




The troops were slightly thin on the ground again – as holiday time continues – so the team comprised Mike, Bill, Steve, Paul, Dave G, Terry, Maurice & John (& Ben in the shop which doesn’t count really).

The big activity was all up on the Platform 1 bank.  For those not ‘in the know’ the Cheltenham Racecourse group leader, having planted a new hedge in the Spring, decided that we should reclaim the rest of bank top above P1.  Now this had been pruned in living memory – if you recall the 1940s that is – and, as such, had become ‘somewhat overgrown’ (another Racecourse euphemism similar to there’s ‘a few weeds on the bridge’).  So we have started at either end to cut back the vegetation – essentially blackthorn, hawthorn, brambles and nettles – so nothing difficult!!  In fact, when one comes across a stand of elder it’s a bit of light relief.  Anyway, we have made some good progress, uncovered a few lost relics of station infrastructure and raked up some massive bonfire piles for suitable, passenger free, autumn days of pyromania. Here is Terry getting stuck in with the loppers and the revealed fence post line from either end.

Another week or so of ripping and tearing and we should be back to the 1970s line!  Further back, Steve was busy keeping what we have already in good trim – it’s proved to be great summer to have planted a new hedge and the bonfire pile can be seen on the right hand side, so care will be needed!

Elsewhere, Paul did his usual neat and tidy job of lawn mowing and platform sweeping, whilst John was maintaining the garden plus the associated tools – sorry no snaps. Bill was in reflective mood admiring the new B&S concrete path at the bottom end of P2 and pondering on the future of the Fogman’s Hut base (suggestions welcome – with or without the Hut!).  My suggestion was a statue of ……………..the CRCS committee members!

………………………..and finally Maurice & Mike escaped before I could capture them whilst Dave G was safely kept behind bars!


Ready, steady…………………………………..rake!