30 Sep – Goodbye to All That!

Today saw the culmination of a significant effort on the part of the Cheltenham Racecourse Station team to reduce and rationalise our ‘holdings’ of materiel. Blog readers will be familiar with the story so far: we had largely emptied out the arches store, skipped those plastic etc items which were not reusable and plied up the scrap metal on Platform 1. We felt that this was very much in line with the sentiment of Health and Safety directives that we should not be keeping (hording!) large amounts of ‘stuff’ for the sake of it – and that we should be happy with the condition of what remained. As such, and still keeping a wary eye on anything which might have heritage value, the final stage was to ship off our excess metal to Winchcombe. There it can be sifted by the relevant Departments; retained, re-used or re-purposed where possible, and otherwise sold for scrap. All this, I hope, sounds like a coherent approach, compatible with the charitable objects of the GWSR!

And, of course, we were very keen that the removal was by train – since we were moving from a station to a rail yard! As such, we needed the help of the Operations Manager and a quiet, non-passeneger day. Below is the team who did the hard work: Neil, Dave G, Dave T and Malcolm….


….and of course an engine:


After a good deal of humping and dumping it was left to Neil to secure everything; here are views from the cab and the track-side:



And with that lot out of the way we could get on with cleaning up the Platform and the rest of the Station which, as is readily observed, was well-covered with pine needles again – despite Saturday’s efforts!


To achieve this the Monday gang were out in force comprising John O, Ian, Chris, Roger, Mike and Mary as well as the above. When I left (early) they were all hard at work making things look ship shape for the week’s passenger services.

With grateful thanks to Neil Carr for helping us achieve all this, regards,


28 Sep – Consciously Uncoupling!

With apologies to those savvy in current affairs – I took this picture and couldn’t resist the blog title above.


However, hopefully the following snaps of Dinmore Manor in fine fettle as this morning’s first service will make up for my weak attempts at humour.


Elsewhere, my colleagues Dave T, John, Mary, Steve, Bob and Roz were hard at the autumn jobs: strimming, weeding, replacing our summer pots, lawn cutting etc.  The initial sight of the ramp and Platform 1 had been pretty depressing – as the recent harsh weather had left an extensive covering of pine needles all over our passenger areas.  I did ask whether anything had been done during my 2 week absence – and got a very dusty reply.  Anyway, Mike and I with the billy-goat and brush got busy and the place soon began looking more respectable.  And that’s not to underestimate the efforts of the rest of the team in less obvious areas.  Here is the picture of P1 south end, mid-clean up:

A billy-goat is quite an expensive item of kit but I estimate that it would have taken 6 able-bodied people all morning to sweep up what the billy goat driven by one old bloke (self) achieved in an hour.  That’s assuming you could have found 6 able-bodied people at CRCS willing to undertake the task – which is unlikely! I dare say there will be another load by next weekend; it’s so good to be back in Gloucestershire!!




One advantage of writing the blog (perhaps the only advantage) is that one maintains fairly universal control of what goes in – subject, of course, to certain guidelines.  The main, self-imposed guideline is that there are very rarely any photos of me!  This allows me to maintain a consistent self-image of an energetic, relatively youthful, figure striding imperiously about the Station.  Mary Harris kindly provided this picture from this morning as an antidote to any continued self–delusion:img_25908550995767940367712.jpg

Thanks Mary!



20 Sep – A Bridge Too Far?

After reading the fascinating string of comments on last week’s blog ‘There in Spirit’ I am inspired by the time and effort people put into thinking about our railway and the future.  I don’t say that I would always agree with the content but the debate is surely useful.

And, in that spirit I take the risk of blogging from afar (again) – albeit somewhere that steam trains also run.  Pictured below is the first train into Goathland from Grosmont – puffing a bit after the 1 in 49 up incline – but still splendid.  Of course the village (and occasionally Station) is also known as Aidensfield of Heartbeat fame or Hogsmeade from Harry Potter – according to taste.


I was taken by the splendid footbridge – of which we are, of course, in sore need at Cheltenham if we are to see Platform 2 in regular use.  Do you think anyone would notice if we borrowed the above?  But it wouldn’t be a proper GWR bridge would it?

And the commercial use of the railway stations for filming etc is, of course, a great additional money spinner for volunteer railways.  Perhaps it is something we could put extra effort into doing?

Sadly the coal tender was so shiny that all I got was a mass of reflections!  Poor camera work as usual.


Anyway, before I incur the wrath of the CRC team for including holiday snaps I’ll finish and hope to be back next week with some of the genuine article.




14 Sep – There in Spirit!

I didn’t go along to the Racecourse Station today since I’m on holiday close to the NYMR.  However, I did pop in yesterday (no trains) and happened to take some pictures in the sunshine!

So, whilst I am sure good things were done by excellent volunteers there is no record of it!  I did however, misappropriate a beefsteak tomato from the allotment because it looked ripe (sorry John).  With a set of VW keys for comparison, and despite the slight flaws, ’twas delicious.20190913_134722316150066084422062.jpg



7 Sep – Make Hay While the Sun Don’t Shine!

A pleasant if not sunny morning greeted us at the Racecourse Station; autumn might be in the air but dry, warmish weather remains.  As such there was still some watering to do and garden maintenance, though the pace of growth is slowing noticeably.  We had another attempt at maintaining the Platform 1 embankment in a ‘useable’ condition – ie enough flat, grassy space for the workers to make their way down with a wheelbarrow. This picture below might not look much but it represents the outcome of much felling, clearance, strimming and even mowing – as well as the planting of new hedge.  All of which was described in numerous previous blogs. Today was mainly hay making which should give the compost heap (or the bonfire) a good boost later on.

Anyway, the passengers continue to arrive in reasonable numbers – this was the lunchtime DMU departure with a small group interrogating the train staff about return trips, time at Broadway etc etc.  All in a day’s work and very friendly.  Which, I think, is a feature of life on the GWSR: people are interested in what we do (and why), enjoy the experience and they do ask questions.  It is rare (though not unknown!) that people get irate – perhaps its the calming effect of the slower pace and attractive surroundings – maybe the NHS should prescribe steam train therapy?


And there’s more good news.  Andy, after a very long stint and much help from others, has declared the hut paint scraping task complete!  It now remains for our painting guru (Dave G) to declare his intentions as to the re-painting (primer, undercoat, top coat etc) and we can have an even more attractive, GWR original, hut at the end of Platform 2.  Indeed, it could be the combined P2 ticket office, waiting room, shop, toilets and Station Master’s Office.  I was, along with others, more than slightly sceptical, that the horizontal heap of rusting junk we picked up from a rail yard would ever be brought back to useful life.  It is a tribute to Bill Britton’s vision and determination – as well as Andy’s abrasive efforts – that we have got this far.   This is such an impressive milestone that it deserves 2 views:

For the close observer the lowest 6-9 inches may appear very rusty (and it is!) but there is a second strip of corrugating plate inside the original which is bolted in place.  Hopefully therefore, the hut won’t deteriorate any time soon – personnally I think we are good for another 100 years – and it certainly wont blow away!!

In addition to Andy’s efforts much other good work was taking place by Dave T, Mary, Steve, Maurice, Mike and ‘new’ (to us) volunteer John – enjoying a tea break.  Also present was ‘old’ volunteer Terry – just visiting for the morning and not dressed for work!


Others are away on holiday but back soon – I hope – for the autumn maintenance programme!