28 Oct – All Our Yesterdays!

I thought, as the season draws to a close, it might be interesting to reflect on what was going on at the Racecourse Station at this juncture in previous years. That said I’m afraid our blog diaries only go back 3 or so years so it’s not exactly a long historical perspective. It’s more a sort of short term ‘All our Yesterdays’ (and writing that certainly dates anyone who can recall the TV series of the same name). So, as an occasional feature I will reflect on what activities were taking place in late October 2018, 2017 & 2016 – compared to this year.

2019. This year, along side clearing up ‘aprés le déluge’ as it were, we managed to rid ourselves of some of the accumulated debris of the last quarter century or so!

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2018. At the same time last year I note that a glamorous and youthful team (Ben, Wiley and self) were busy raking acres of pine needles from the Platform 2 embankment, a task I’m not sure we ever entirely finished, nor ever will.



The thing which is most striking is that the ground looks so dry! And no, it’s not climate change, just a rainy autumn 2019.

2017. Twelve months earlier than that the emphasis appears to have been on scrub clearance as we made our way through 40 years of overgrowth on the Platform 1 embankment with bonfires aplenty.



2016. In 2016, I see we were busy laying paving slabs leading from the ramp to the storage container. Hard to believe now that we used to wheelbarrow across the grass/mud – primitive! (And it’s useful to note the location of that Osma pipe access point!)



The wheelbarrow is parked by what is now known as Ben’s chicane – intended to keep speeds down around the tricky tree section of the track.

It’s good to be able to stand back – if only slightly – from the day-to-day and see where we have made progress. I hesitate to draw any deep conclusions but it seems that we are doing rather less major new work and more general maintenance. The ‘big stuff’ is either done or being left to the specialist teams. I don’t think we are we in danger of ‘finishing the railway’, as one of my colleagues puts it, but we are perhaps evolving how we go about getting there?



26 Oct – Singin’ in the Rain (Again!)

Ah well I suppose it should no longer come as any surprise that a Saturday blog features rain and rail. Today’s efforts are merely an editorial effort on my part, with the inputs from Dave T (mainly), Steve and Bob.

It was race day at Cheltenham and they were also showing the rugby World Cup semi-final – amidst the murk and gloom. More brightly my colleagues, small in number but cheerful in countenance, were equipping themselves for the conditions:

Steve: from whom I gather a Gene Kelly moment was only seconds away – sadly it was not recorded for posterity.  Shame, but the blog title is a tribute!

Meanwhile, the passengers needed to peer out through the condensation:

Being in 1st class obviously didn’t help either!

Hmm, that said I can’t see too many faces. And outside the ticket office and around some benches, familiar issues developed:

More moats and puddles elsewhere on the Station as well I’m afraid!

And as for work it wasn’t really a day for outside action. Steve and Dave T sheltered under the ticket office canopy for a while, then contented themselves with finding and cleaning some more of the museum pieces to put in the display cabinet. Bob installed a new strip light in the loft whilst John O valiantly acted as car park attendant for the brave passengers who turned out for Steam and Scream!

Mary wasn’t present today but her flowers are still in bloom!

Which image just about sums it up really!


21 Oct – Press Button B!

I have walked past the old GPO phone box at the Racecourse Station times without number. However, it wasn’t until recently that I noted the mechanism therein was the old Press Button A & B type which, for those of my generation (or older!) is nowadays quite an evocative sight.

The phone box itself is, of course, an icon of British design almost a century old. There are several different variants but the fundamental cast iron style – by renowned architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott – remained very much the same for many decades, though I gather the gold crown was a marginally later addition.

One mustn’t, of course, allow too rose-tinted or sentimental a view of their functionality to develop. Younger readers may never have had the dubious pleasure of trying to find an empty, functioning call box on a busy railway concourse – only to discover one didn’t have the right change or that the kit wasn’t working! That of course wasn’t the fault of the box, rather the mechanism within. Equally, some of the more remote boxes were apparently used for activities other than phone calls though not, I am sure, any at Cheltenham Racecourse Station!

Assuming they were working, my distant recollection is that money was inserted first, then Button A pressed if you were connected and Button B only to retrieve one’s coin if the call was unsuccessful. Some readers may perhaps remember entering empty phone boxes simply to press Button B and see if anyone had left a coin in by mistake?!

Later these handsome structures tended to disappear from many railway stations to be replaced with more utilitarian concrete and plastic variants or, as we now have, virtually no phone boxes at all. The ubiquitous mobile – vastly more capable and flexible – has displaced almost all of them. But it is surely doubtful that many of those will remain usable in a 100 years time.

So perhaps then, the red phone box and its Button A&B mechanism is the steam engine of the telecomms world? Possibly, but it is difficult to imagine anyone running a charity simply to have them in use.  Anyway, since it is an attractive feature of our Station, and as it allegedly weighs in at over a ton, it should be a permanent fixture!

And as for today’s report: more rain and more pine needles!

No, seriously here’s an input from Dave T:

I don’t think a report of my (successful) efforts to unblock the urinal pipes in the gents are for the faint-hearted – yeucccch! I made up for it by having a ginormous smokey bonfire. Chris put the billy goat up and down the ramp and then did some platform weeding. Roger did some more paintwork rubbing down and at tea break provided us all with birthday cake! Mike swept a bit and made the tea. Bob came along to put more bulbs in the Platform 2 garden.



19 Oct – Still Training!

The short close season approaches (no timetabled trains for much of November) and thoughts turn to the more immediate tasks which need to be completed without passengers present – such as clearing the track bed and platform-side tree pruning.  That said, I am reliably informed that there are various specials services planned for our coming Saturdays so we will need to plan the maintenance carefully and await the long close season (most of Jan, all of Feb and early Mar) for the really big jobs. Is it my imagination or is there more to do and less time available than ever? The price of success perhaps?

For the moment, however, we are still ‘training and maintaining’ at the same time, which means that our tasks repeat somewhat from week to week! So take it as read that Maurice, Mary, Steve, Dave T, Mike, John O etc cleared pine needles, removed cones and tidied the gardens!

Personally, I was on light duties (gardening accident, non-railway, don’t ask!) and merely pottered about, drank tea and took photos; leaving the heavy lifting to colleagues. I noted in the news that somewhere in the UK it had rained every day so far in October. Could be in Gloucestershire!

More positively it was frantically busy this morning with folks making their way to the Food and Drink Fayre. Several of our volunteers were seconded to traffic duties as the car parking expanded back virtually to the Racecourse proper! Here’s a video of the second train of the morning departing with a (presumed) full passenger load:

Obviously I’ve photoshopped in the blue sky.   Spotted the red coach – presumably pressed into action as we were so busy!

And they were of course burning best Welsh steam coal:

Lastly, thank you for the kind comments and thoughts on recent blogs. It is perhaps opportune to issue a very gentle reminder that posting comments on the Cheltenham Area Group blog is not the optimum way to task us or seek volunteers for something! Much better to email Head of CAG direct.



14 Oct – Incidental Activities!

The thought occurs to me – though I am sure many readers will already be aware – just how much extra activity occurs in volunteers’ own time, over and above the hours they put in actually at the Railway.   This is, of course, largely a labour of love since there is no-one making the volunteer do it and there is often no reward other than personal satisfaction, save that of knowing that we do the Board’s will (to slightly misquote St Ignatius).

There are many examples and, without taxing the memory banks or thinking outside Cheltenham Racecourse Station, there are committee meetings to attend, items which are mended out-of-hours, kit purchased and collected, blogs written, stock taken, accounts balanced etc etc (!).

More strategically, many of our volunteers offer their time and efforts free of charge to help provide the operational direction of the GWSR, willingly serving in capacities which involve contributing ‘professional’ expertise which would otherwise cost a small fortune.

And that’s just the day-to-day running without the special events efforts which make the difference between an organisation which just about breaks even and one which (hopefully!) continues to have the capacity/capability to grow.

All this was prompted by the rather more practical – but equally valuable! – efforts of Mary Harris in support of a recent ‘cream tea’ special.  The visible headline was of course the numerous passengers enjoying delightful refreshments in comfort on a splendid train service.  One – and only one – of the back stories was that Mary needed to take home all the napkins, table cloths etc and load up her washing machine, then dry them:IMG_0425IMG_0426

Now I am quite sure that – given the ORR and all – in ideal circumstances all this would be done centrally, managed and paid for by the Railway.  However, the reality of a volunteer-run organisation is that it will always rely on people going the extra mile to provide that extra service so appreciated by our customers.

So this blog is a very small tribute to all that unremarkable and largely invisible activity: from writing the Board’s Management Plan to washing the linen, from taking one’s own matches to light a fire to donating books to sell and from maintaining websites to fixing wheelbarrow tyre punctures!

It all goes to make a railway.

Your garden looks splendid as well by the way Mary!




12 Oct – Diesel Do!

Sorry to start with another weak pun but I could hardly resist.  That said I’ve been encouraged to stick to railway matters this week – so no more bird-brained blogging! Sadly it was not a fair day – distinctly dreary I’m afraid – which may have deterred some of the potential attendees.  Never mind, our 2 trusty Station Masters plus staff were ready to deal with anything, whilst volunteers John O, John L, Steve, Dave T, Mary and I made further inroads into the autumn maintenance programme.  It is this time of year when we begin to yearn for the passenger-free months – not that we don’t appreciate the lifeblood they provide, it’s just that quite a few of our tasks are only possible if the line is closed.  So, for the moment, we remain in ‘tidy up’ mode with the pine needles still showing well and gardens/pots requiring some modest pre-frost clearance.

It was too wet even for Billy this morning so more traditional methods were require by Steve and John O:


I really can’t imagine why anyone would want to open up another ramp to another platform at CRCS – and that one with even more pine trees close at hand!

None of which trivial matters worried the hardy faithful who had made it to Cheltenham Racecourse Station for this morning’s first arrival Freightliner 1995:


There was a bit of steam vs diesel banter in the air with references to ‘kettles’ etc.  I will remain strictly neutral on the subject save for stating that today was diesel’s day in the spotlight rather than their sometimes perceived role of simply filling in the timetable.

Also in splendid nick was the Ark Royal . Now I’m more of a land or air person myself but one couldn’t dispute the handsome and powerful engine on display for our second departure of the day:


I did have a request for some more snaps of the less obvious aspects of the railway so, in an effort to please, more coupling and spot the man in the boiler suit tasked to carry it out:20191012_1021082140290946904521242.jpg

And here’s what railway compartments should really look like (less the reflection of the clot in the dayglo jacket – self):


A nostalgic reminder of (almost) forgotten journeys, long ago – but maybe that’s what heritage railways are all about?






Please note the following properties which Cheltenham Racecourse Station Estate Agents will be bringing to the market shortly.

A select development comprising 3 adjacent one bedroom apartments plus a small number of brand new, detached properties.  These have been entirely re-furbished (Leeson Developments of Cheltenham) after recent damage by a local family (G, LS or GS Woodpecker).  Interested parties should be aware that an ASBO (Anti-Social Bird Order) has been issues and reinforced entrances fitted to prevent further damage.

The one bedroom apartments, note the prefabricated construction and versatile location system:


Apartments in situ:


Detached property:20190928_1101127837454089252828370.jpg

The flexible internal space is well-suited to parents with access to their own soft furnishings and planning on raising a family; the area has excellent links to public transport and a plentiful food supply.

Please note these properties are available for rental only.

Full details can be found on www.rightnest.co.uk