Remembrance is, of course, the time to reflect on those of the nation’s Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice. As most passengers who have passed through Paddington Station in London will be well aware the Great Western Railway itself has a magnificent memorial to those 2524 of its employees who died in the Great War and 788 in the Second World War.
Presumably, some of those worked in and around the Stations now part of the GWSR; I wonder who, how many and what their ‘back stories’ were? Perhaps there is scope for someone to do some research in the various archives and find out?
In a similar vein I also note that, on the original Remembrance Days (then known as Armistice Day)s, all train services pulled to halt at 11am on the 11 November; a tradition I believe some nations still respect. Not sure what this would do to the timetabling of the UK’s commercial train services and we hardly need any more reasons for delay or disruption!
Fortunately, or otherwise, this is not an issue we in the GWSR face since we are a week into the short close season. That said, the imminence of the November Race meeting at Cheltenham is on everyone’s mind this week as we try to combine our maintenance and refurbishment plans with keeping the Station spick and span for the ‘Specials’ later in the week; no easy task this autumn. Therefore, we have put on temporary hold any tasks which might interfere with the rather singular requirements of the racegoer. Whereas our average passenger comes along to appreciate the experience of steam train travel, the race punters are rather more focused on arriving at their destination and getting on with the business of the day: watching the horse racing, placing the odd wager, eating and drinking etc. That’s not to say that some (hopefully all!) don’t enjoy the experience, its’ just that you are just less likely to enjoy a conversation with them about the boiler pressure in P&O or whatever! A good money earner for the railway though, so we’re not complaining.
Anyway, after that extensive preamble, what were the Monday workers doing this ‘fine’ day? Wait for it, wait for it – yes, sweeping up pine needles, pine cones, pine tree branches etc. This is, of course, partly a cosmetic activity since no-one wants the Station looking unkempt for our visitors. However, there are also practicalities and safety considerations. Steam engines scatter the occasional piece of burning coal and allowing too much debris to build up on the track bed risks the occurrence of small fires – exacerbated alongside the regular stopping places by the amount of oil residue also present. This again wouldn’t be likely to cause conflagrations of Australian bush fire proportions but even small blazes can damage the plastic elements visible in our current track:
(The orange coloured bits visible at the bottom of the of the picture.)
Moreover, if the amount of debris visible on the track at the moment were to increase proportionately over the next few weeks, the chaps at Toddington would be fitting snow ploughs to get through it! And I exaggerate only slightly.
Luckily, a team of stalwart Monday men (and woman) turned out in force and made a super effort to clear the tracks of the worst. So all credit to Ian, Chris, Roger, Pete, Maurice, Dave T, Mike and Mary for a lengthy stint amongst the pine straw.
The result of which hard labour was an increasing pile well out of sight of race going punters:
Is there a market for this somewhere? Possibly it might make good pet bedding or perhaps it could be air blown into cavity walls as insulation? Tied in bundles to make GWSR straw dolls? Consumed as a vegan alternative to cheese straws? I think something should be done!
Meanwhile our tenth volunteer of the day, Dave G, was in and about the Ticket Office – painting screens. All in all a good afternoon’s work and we should be in fair shape come race days.