29 Jan: A hint of Spring?

Tempting fate to suggest a hint of Spring?!  Probably, but the mild sunny weather encourage a small crop of volunteers to emerge from hibernation and put in a few hours on Monday afternoon.  There was a small paint gang led by Dave G, the second instalment of the platform edge cleaners (Mary and co), and others on pine needle removal plus general clearance and gardening.  Here are the majority enjoying some January fresh air and well earned refreshments:

Someone (allegedly Einstein) said that the definition of insanity was to carry to carry on doing the same things and expect a different outcome.  So today I carried on cutting back brambles and hawthorn in the faint hope that the result would be a nice tidy fence line.

I did think of leaving the loppers hanging on the wire as a warning to any brambles thinking of making a come back.  And after that comment I’ll leave readers to come to their own conclusions about the outcome, and the implication for those carrying out the work.

It was a nice clear day for photographing things – the rain had finished just before we started – and the westering sun allowed a shot of one of the few hawthorn trees I haven’t yet felled (just joking!):IMG_20180129_154550 (2)

And finally a ‘no prize’ quiz question: from the shape and style what was the likely original content of this jar, found lurking under the debris?

IMG_20180129_150334 (2)

Clue: the word ‘Chivers’ is to be found on the side.



27 Jan – And then there were two!

IMG_20180127_084805Perhaps it was an overdose of Burns Supper haggis, or the inclement weather, or the ‘flu or the fact that it was another day of racing.  However, something induced our volunteers to stay away in droves this morning – so that the attendance is easy to list: me and Ben!  But Dave T turned up a bit later and we had a small crowd of visitors (4!) and a healthy batch of racegoers flooding down the Evesham Road.  So it wasn’t really quiet.

We did manage some work – putting up another section of ‘temporary’ weldmesh fencing (see blogs passim) where the hedge line has been reduced to a few wonky posts and a bit of pig netting.

But since the weather was best described as dreich (a small tribute to the recent anniversary of Robbie Burns) I didn’t worry about working pictures on this occasion – you’ve seen them all before.  I thought I would reflect on overall progress and remind us where the Racecourse Station started – many years ago.

Here’s a couple of shots of the ticket office building after many years of neglect and more than a little vandalism:IMG_20180127_084746 (2)IMG_20180127_084700

Not a pretty site. Here’s a couple of more up-to-date shots of the inside of the building this morning:

We are, of course, all wrapped up for the close season (hence the ‘shrouds’) but the warm, well-maintained and (normally) inviting ticket office – plus friendly staff – are a great tribute to the pioneers who worked tirelessly to get the station back in business.  I reflected that, during the period of Santa Specials, very few customers needed to go to the Ticket Office since they had bought on-line and received tickets through the post.  And I suppose we will eventually allow people to print their own paperwork.  Very convenient: no queuing, no cash transactions etc etc – but you’ve missed the magic of the ticket office!  We certainly can’t stand in the way of this progress but may need to re-think where we conduct business and how we display our heritage – at least at Cheltenham Racecourse.  Food for thought.

Our station visitors arrived to look around and consider what new innovations could be brought in for the next annual GWSR Wartime in the Cotswolds: 28-29 Apr 2018 weekend.  Regular readers and visitors to the railway will probably recall that this is becoming ever more popular in the Cheltenham area with pubs, local societies and all sort of people joining.  I wont spoil the surprises but suffice to say that our 2018 event looks likely to be bigger an better than ever.

Anyway, to finish a reminder of the past and a trailer for the immediate future:

Keep warm and dry and hopefully I’ll see you in the coming weeks at the Racecourse Station.




Today a short tribute to the Monday Gang  – unsung heroes amongst the Racecourse Station maintenance team. On the whole they perform regular and much needed tidying and cleaning tasks leaving the ‘Saturday Specials’ to the heavier and (allegedly!) more glamourous work.  That said, some familiar names appear in the cast list and today numbered 10: Dave T, Dave G, Ian, John, Mary, Chris, Dick, Mike, Roger & self.

Dave G (happily restored to action) was busy in his painting gear and John appears to have enjoyed putting up a new calendar – perhaps its those racy pictures of trains!

Mary, ably assisted by Chris and Ian, was takling the messy task of jet washing the edge of Platform 1:

(They were helping – honestly – not just standing and watching her do all the work!)

Roger was, I believe, carrying out painting tasks in the Station Buildings, whilst Dick and Mike swept up and Dave T dug out some compost at such speed the camera couldn’t keep up with him:IMG_20180122_153316

And finally, I continued the project to reduce the vegetation atop Platform 1 embankment to a single neat line of immaculately trained hawthorn:

Hmm, I think we are making progress but there seems to be some way to go yet!

Pip, pip and a happy Monday to all,



20 Jan – We’re singin’ in the rain, got a glorious feelin’ we’re happy again…

Well there might not have been too much singing but there was life at CRCS this morning. And where there’s life…………..there’s jobs that needed doing.  It wasn’t, for all those who thought the better of coming along, actually as bad as the forecast suggested – pretty much ‘one spot’ rain or a fine damp drizzle.  Which didn’t deter Dave T, Bob, Steve, John, Ben and AndyB from a couple of hours or so of travail – though it did stop me from wandering around snapping the workers.

As the final stroke of our post-Christmas tear down Andy (apparently assisted by DaveT) was removing the lights and what we might reasonably term light poles (as our American colleagues refer to lamp posts) from the station.  Here he is in action and accidentally creating a potential graduated 100m hurdles down the Platform 1 slope:

Could be a bit risky I think!

Talking of risk elsewhere on the Station Steve Ben and I were engaged in further clearance work on Platforms 1 and 2.  Felling the overgrown hawthorn trees should be a straightforward task but there are pitfalls for the unwary; I managed both to roll down a short stretch of the banking and chop a tree down onto a wheelbarrow.  That’s despite carrying out an informal risk assessment and exercising considerable care.  Just goes to shown that Health & Safety does need to play a part – no matter what task you are undertaking!  Anyway, no damage done to anyone or any equipment.  Here is part of the area concerned:

And before the eagle-eyed post a comment: yes we did remove the bird box before our lumberjack activity.  In fact here are 2 of said items waiting the attention of resident carpenter  (John):IMG_20180120_104644 (2)

After a modest refurbishment we will be re-locating them in a new, less-exposed position.  Also awaiting our attention is another patch of significant brambles which, when removed, leave not much behind – more weld mesh fencing called for I suspect!

John was active in the staff office – remedying some of the wood work – in the absence of  Dave G (off sick).  Best wishes to him and any other colleagues or readers who are suffering from the dreaded ‘flu bug – and I gather there are several!  Keep your finger crossed for a dry week.



13 Jan – Pining for the Fjords

Alas I was not at CRCS this morning to record the day’s workout.  However, my trusty informants Bob And Dave (T) (& Mary) relate that more clearance was achieved and I have combined their narratives plus a picture or 2 with some notes of my own from mid-week.  Overall I understand that 14 hardy souls braved the cold wind to start on some of the close season tasks including the above plus John, AndyM, Steve, Mary, DaveG, Ben, Mike, Dick, Ros, Colin, Terry & Maurice.6             Above: our platform benches under cover to protect them from the weather.

Dave (T) himself was bonfiring on the Platform 1 embankment ‘burn patch’ – getting rid of the remaining detritus whilst Mary was raking out the pine needles from the top lawn and tidying up the gravel either side of the ramp.  Maurice went round looking for windfall branches, pine cones etc whilst Mike was clearing sticks and pine needles from the concourse area plus keeping a watchful eye out for an expected visitor, then retiring indoors to commence the very important preparation of tea.

8Dick and Colin on the un-enviable ‘Forth Bridge’ task of removing the pine needles from the track bed

Hidden from view John Leeson was recovering materials from the compound for his next project and Dave G was continuing the marathon paint job in the worker’s room plus the Platform 1 Station Master’s office.

Meanwhile, Steve and Ben were keeping up the good work on ridding us of the pine branches on P2 embankment through the medium of fire.




After: you’ll have to pay us a visit in the new season!

Not sure what this is what Mr Bosch intended the jigsaw to be used for but needs must and I expect any native Americans who happened to be passing felt right at home!  Luckily the wind was in the right direction to keep the smoke away from the traffic and horses.  If you drive by one day and see a huge pall of smoke it’s only us burning the pine straw – so please don’t call the fire brigade!  Seriously though thanks for the great efforts on this task.

Possibly controversially, I now understand that these trees are largely Corsican (or Black) Pine and not Scots Pine – which, I understand, make them a non-native species for those who take an interest in these things.  However, they do have a high resin content – so no wonder they burn well.

Dave T concludes that ‘together with track clearing and 2 platform burn gangs we all got a lot done today before the weather (allegedly) turns wet again next week’.

And after that composite effort: “we’ll be back next week with a brand new show”.  (Can anyone recall the cartoon character whose strapline this was – answer in due course!)



6 Jan – I Fell in to a Burning Ring of Fire!

The first Saturday of the new year always raises mixed feelings: the finishing of a season and ‘putting the railway to bed’ combined with an opportunity to do those jobs which are impossible when trains and passengers are around.  The list of tasks is considerable and, although we don’t see another regular service until mid-March, there always seems to be more to do than time and resources permit!  However, today we (Ben, Dave G, Bob, Maurice, Dick, Steve and John) made a start.

First, some clearing of the debris.  One of the rewards of having spent weeks cutting and carrying is to set fire to the lot and having made sure wind directions were suitable (ie  away from the A435!). Thus Ben and I had a great ‘bonfire day’:

Warm work but satisfying and helps to cauterise a further section of the still weedy Platform 2 embankment.

Second, clearing up Christmas – it is Twelfth Night after all!  Steve was removing the various strings of lights (a forlorn sight somehow) from our Santa season:

Third, John was busy helping to preserve the shrubs and bushes battered during the wintery conditions by staking existing specimens and then doing some early prep on the ‘Dig for Victory’ allotment area. (Sorry no snaps!)

Fourth, Dave G was painting the staff room and preparing for his busy close season activity of ensuring that all our painted fixtures and fittings are in good nick for March – so that’s all benches, the signs, inside the Station buildings, the lamp posts and the platform edge – to name but a few!  Easy stuff like the paling fences he can afford to leave to amateurs like me!!

Last, an acknowledgement of the weather which, once again, has provided challenges in the last week.  Storm force winds brought down even more detritus onto the Racecourse Station so tidying up was a priority, with Maurice and Dick to the fore in sorting out Platform 1 and other associated  areas.  A side benefit is they get to consume anything drinkable or eatable found in the process:IMG_20180106_095030

Looks happy – was it a nice beaujolais maybe?

Kind regards,


PS: And Bob was busy in the loft fixing stuff!