The Racecourse Station echoed to the sound of chainsaws rather than steam engines today (Monday) as the long-awaited tree work began in earnest. The work, as regular readers of the blog may recall, was initiated after the heavy snow storms of the winter and basically involves making the line as safe as possible, whilst maintaining the aesthetic appeal of the this stretch of the line. The pines (several varieties) have a dense needle structure and, at their current height and age (about 100 years old) are beginning to be vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather. Moreover, and I suspect especially at Cheltenham, there is a tendency for everything (buildings, trees, platform etc!) to lean in towards the track bed. After careful consideration and a in-depth survey, the decision was taken centrally by the railway to do work up and down the line on some of our ailing conifers – essentially to remove or reduce dead, diseased or damaged trees.
The work, being rather beyond the internal capabilities and capacity of the railway’s volunteer workforce, was contracted out and above are our colleagues half way through one example. Their expertise was well in evidence as, wherever possible, trunk sections were carefully lifted out by the extending crane:
Elsewhere, work was less dramatic and simply consisted of trimming the lower branches and removing the obviously dead limbs. Considerable care was taken to avoid dropping anything onto the track itself, and to ensure the signal wires remained clear etc.
That said there is plan for some of the trees closest to the track and with the worst ‘leans’ to be removed entirely at a later date.
I am certainly aware of the need for the safety of passengers (and volunteers) to be balanced with the requirement to preserve the appearance of the line – and so, I think, is the Board. As such an agreement was readily entered into to plant at least as many new trees as we are removing – possibly ones which don’t drop so many pine needles on to the track (please!).
I left at lunchtime but there will be more pictures at a later date of the final appearance; my money is on us not really noticing the difference after a week or two.