31 Dec – Should Auld Acquaintance be Forgot?


I thought I had sent in the last blog of the year.  However………..

A note from Dave and Mary who enclosed a photo of some of their auld acquaintances (plus dog!) from Cheltenham Rambling Club.  They had just enjoyed tea, coffee and cake from the Station mess room (provided by themselves of course and not from Cheltenham Area Group funds) during a 6 mile walk along Honeybourne line, the Racecourse itself, Pittville Park and back into town.

Good for them – a lovely way to end the Station’s year (if not the season – one day to go)!


30 Dec – Last Train to……..Broadway!

Unusually for me I was at the Racecourse Station when it was going dark – about 1615 today – and this was pretty much as the last train came and went.  Of course it’s not really the last train to Broadway – just the last one this season which I am likely to witness.  It was, in fact, a glorious afternoon- sunny and mild; a pleasure to be out in the fresh air again.

I received a query about the last blog – 26 Dec – stating that I didn’t list the volunteers present that day.  There was a simple reason for this: there weren’t any!  However, today was different and I noted Bob & Ros (hard at work on the Platform 2 gardens), Dave G (renovating one of our original cast iron sign boards) and Dave T (digging out the ash from a fire place for re-cycling elsewhere).  Here’s the first mentioned, casting long shadows in the December sunshine:20191230_1347055569953303498411372.jpg

…and here’s some of the season’s last passengers with the usual shiny engine:


And later in the afternoon a trainless view from under the Evesham Road bridge looking north:


Could be Spring soon! (Famous last words)

And finally, a fond farewell was said to the duty Station Master of the day: Mr John Tiffney, retiring from the role after many years service to the railway and, especially, the Racecourse Station.  Sadly, my picture of the event failed to come up to my low standards of photography and you will just have to take my word that he was congratulated warmly by Messrs Griffin and Tomlin on our behalf: thanks John for all your efforts over the years.

Best wishes to all for the New Year!



28 Dec – Oh! Mr Porter…..

It seems that long periods of repeated activity, such a sweeping pine needles etc, cause the mind to wander.  In my case this results in idle musings on possible blog titles and related (or imaginary) films. Hence the above and, possibly later in the week, ‘Last Train to Broadway’ – to mark the end of the running season.  Of course the natural consequence is to wonder who would play Will Hay’s role as the bumbling Station Master, who would be the somewhat cheeky lad and who the toothless old bloke.  Hmm, I’d better stop speculating at that point; you can fill in your own nominations from the Cheltenham team!

Luckily, there was no resemblance to any fictional railway workers amongst today’s station or train staff.  On a relatively quiet morning I captured the fireman on the first train of the day shifting some of the ‘best Welsh’ to a more accessible spot.

20191228_1100091425877938234388333.jpgTough work I’d imagine but keeps you warm though!
There was also some canine interest in Dinmore Manor – I wonder what dogs make of steam trains?
20191228_1045524149992437390927308.jpgProbably another occasion when the dogs wonder what on earth humans are doing!  It is worth making the point that well-behaved dogs – like this one! – are generally welcome on the GWSR (see website for details).

Recently I observed, in that hallowed sanctum Station Master’s office (where mere mortals fear to tread), the distance chart for the railway from Honeybourne to Cheltenham (Lansdown Junction).

Which, if I am reading it correctly, makes the Racecourse Station 18.75 miles from Honeybourne and 14 miles from Broadway. Reassuringly, the first is what the distance market on Platform 2 states and, for the second, the GWSR website confirms that passengers will enjoy a round trip of 28 miles. Good!

Any suggestions for appropriate film titles which I could use would be gratefully received.


26 Dec – Banish Boxing Day Blues

I fancied a little fresh air and gentle exercise this morning – the gym was closed – so I repaired to the Racecourse Station for some light activity.

The Station was initially quite quiet but the presence of 2 coaches down by the ‘disabled gate’ heralded the arrival if the first train with a couple of parties disembarking – they must have made an early start!

Since the station facilities appeared to be in good order I chopped up a little more of the wood pile for eco-combustion in the heating of domestic dwellings, rather than the air above the Racecourse bonfire!

In the staff office a continuous war is being fought against field mice, delightful little creatures no doubt, but less attractive when they chew through our cables. In the latest skirmish the bait in 2 of our traps was eaten but nothing was caught – there must be natural selection process going on; the third mouse was less fortunate.

Station staff were unaware of this conflict and in fine fettle – perhaps relieved to be at normal passenger levels after the end of Santa Specials.  So it was an obvious delight for them (and yours truly) to interact with a very cheerful party of 8 from India:

Sacrificing some lovely sunshine for Gloucestershire gloom but seemingly happy to do so; good for you! (Sorry the picture doesn’t do either of these ladies justice.)

So all in all, everyone seemed to be benefiting from a little escapism (from turkey, crackers etc) and appreciating the health giving effects (physical and mental) of slow travel. 

Should be available on prescription frankly!



23 Dec – Christmas Reflections

It is, of course, a time of year when people reflect on the year and recall times past (well old people do anyway!). So, without downplaying the work being done again today in support of the Santa Specials I will see what I can recall from Christmases in the recent past.

Twelve months ago I have a vision of…….

A hut needing painting.  It still does – though we’ve removed the old layers and repaired the ‘skirt’) plus the needle raker-in-chief:

From Christmas 2017IMG_20171223_111043

Colleagues, present and former, enjoying a break in surprisingly mild weather and someone missing the barrow path…


And three years ago:20161215_113459

A rare shot of yours truly with Mick Best having just completed the new Klargester fence plus an aerial drop of some paving slabs over an unruly hedge.


Finally, it is a feature of the volunteer workforce that they are, on average, a bit longer in the tooth than most. So it is an all too frequent occurrence that emails from the GWSR in the winter months often start with “We are sad to report…..”. 2019 seems to have been an especially bad year in this regard so let me post a message of :

“Christmas good cheer and a toast to the railway’s absent friends.”

Regards to all for the festive season,


21 Dec – There’s more to running a railway than…..

It is, of course, the glamorous end of the business which is most in the public eye: gleaming engines, scenic stations and nicely uniformed, cheery volunteers. And rightly so since we have a product to sell and nobody would want to travel on grubby rolling stock manned by surly staff (we can buy that ticket elsewhere!).

Meanwhile, the endeavours of those less visible are regularly commended by the passing public with whom we exchange a little gentle banter.  Here’s some (I guess 200+) happy passengers waiting patiently on Platform 1 as the first service of the day arrives:

Departed slightly late I’m afraid as there was apparently a broken rail somewhere up the line (just what you need: a 22 ton P&O monster if you have a broken rail!).  However, things had seemingly got more less back on track (pun intended) by the time good old Dinmore Manor departed for the second service:

There was, need I say it, no shortage of rain over the past few days and, during a shortish visit on Thursday, I noted that we were (once again) receiving a torrent of water off the Racecourse parking area onto the level crossing.  Cursory inspection revealed that the modest cross-drain was ‘somewhat blocked’!20191221_0951585077516422594331861.jpg

So, ever willing, I dropped everything and took bucket and trowel to see what could be done.  The product:20191221_1000316236535644331873567.jpg


I don’t suppose it’s a permanent fix (must get around to seeing where this drain, drains to – when the weather improves and there are no passengers) but it will, I hope, be a slight improvement.   That task certainly didn’t count as glamorous or high profile!

In other areas Steve was attaching something to the concrete floor of one of the buildings – tough going, Maurice continued to trim the car park hedge and Mike swept the ramp and ticket office area.  Dave G was on Station Master duties, John O was on car parking and everyone else was on Christmas holidays or ‘elfing’ out elsewhere.20191221_0952048580108734675703302.jpg

The pile of laurel isn’t getting any smaller:



There’s more to running a railway than………….



16 Dec – Odds and Ends

During the festive season the Racecourse Station alternates between intense busyness and a ghost town, between all passengers, trains and station staff and none!  So, after Saturdays singing and dancing trainfest, I took the opportunity today to photograph some of the more quietly obscure elements which make up our ‘history’. And from these here are some alternative views from the ticket office:

Meanwhile, the workers were out in numbers – small but dedicated! They included Dave G, Chris, Ian, Roger, John L & Mike plus, on the way back ‘the North’, Dave T.

Much work was done to try and remove the mossy deposits on the P1 ramp – which is a perennial issue in our damp cutting at this time of year.  Also accomplished were further installments of debris removal and general maintenance plus some more selective laurel pruning. Here’s the desirable outcome………

…………..ie smallish, neat(ish) bushes which will allow sunlight through to Platform 1 and regrow into a less straggly version of the same plant!  And one of the reasons:

A rotten stump!

Elsewhere there were other casualties of recent high winds:

All good contributions to the 2020 New Year mega-bonfire.

Lots more Santa Specials to come before that!



14 Dec – Out of the Box!

I thought, when walking the dog at 0830, that I would be writing another damp and dreary blog from a sodden station. However, by the time I arrived I was cheered, first by the improving weather and second, by the super entertainment on display.

After a cold and damp start our resident singing group were in fine voice:

There’s Christmas cheer for you!

There were few workers about but Dave G was around to supervise and John O on car parking, whilst Steve and Bob called in briefly.  So it was mostly left to the Station and train staff to manage a full passenger load.

However, the pièce de résistance was the second train of the day departing as follows:

Sort of ‘Railway Children’ meets free advert for Dewalt drills! I did wonder whether I was going to emerge from the steam and the 2 workers had apparently been greasing the points.  Anyway, that was 4270 taking off with – I hope – another load of contented customers.



9 Dec – Election Special: APNEA Party Expected to Make Sudden Gains!

I have been asked to comment on the specific impact of the election on Cheltenham Area Group of the GWSR. By now almost 40 years of government service has taught me that political neutrality is by far the safest option, so please regard the following observations as very much not intending to show any political bias one way or the other!

I have mused on whether the green agenda – currently being promoted across the political spectrum – would be good or bad for the CAG? Clearly the tide against the burning of fossil fuels has the potential to play havoc with a steam railway and, as for the anti-diesel brigade, where will that leave our poor old DMUs? Electric vehicles on the GWSR? NEVER! Man the barricades!20191207_1042351468845637822122089.jpg

(From Saturday’s Specials)

Therefore, I have decided that, since none of the existing political parties are concentrating on the issues which matter to the CAG, very reluctantly, I have been persuaded that we must form the APNeA party (Anti-Pine Needle Alliance). I am hopeful that other Stations with PN problems may come on board and we can engage in some tactical voting.

The APNeA manifesto includes subsidies for Billy Goat fuel, tax breaks for companies which sponsor volunteer railways and a free issue of hi-vis jackets for pensioners!

Potential candidates will be obliged to burn, as an indication of good faith, 3 dumpy bags of pine needles. Unless sleep overtakes them first!

Back in the real world: at the railway today were 2 Daves, Roger, Ian, Mike and Pete.  I left early (having done the morning shift!) but not before ‘stealing’ one of the mince pies – kindly provided for tea break by Pete:20191209_1411585381791820249401156.jpg

Is that a face I can see in the mince pie – and angry face?!  Or am I paranoid?

I can only apologise for the early appropriation of the treat, note that it was jolly good and say that I was stopping the CAG mice getting at it!


A quick summary of what went on: there were no trains and everyone was busy tidying up the debris!

Don’t forget next Thursday – Vote APNeA for a steamy future.

Proper blog on Saturday!



7 Dec – Supporting the National ‘Elf Service!

In the political maelstrom which precedes a general election it is nice to know that all parties seem to share a common affection for the NHS. We at the railway do our bit by encouraging members of the National ‘Elf Service to assist with Santa Specials. Here are 2 splendid examples:20191207_1054481646694271081661580.jpg20191207_1055145930930509329148951.jpg

Ably assisted by another impressively festive and cheerful member of the team:20191207_105523-15871202064166819457.jpg

Elsewhere, the second train of the day was 9466 and the Christmas look doesn’t preclude the need for the usual hard graft and liquid refreshment:20191207_1049358727211509396538241.jpg

We, the Cheltenham Area Group, needed to put in a bit of effort on the ramp and the more shady end of Platform 1 – with aim of suppressing some of the moss which has been multiplying during the wet weather and presenting a potential slip hazard.  Here’s Steve hard at work:20191207_0953388285918154564296441.jpg

With that sort of brush speed he may yet make the Gloucestershire Curling Team!

As usual in December there wasn’t much opportunity for big projects with regular trains and hordes of passengers but also present on other tasks were Maurice, Dave T, Mike, Bob and Ros, whilst Dave G was Station Master and John O was on car parking; others elfs are ‘elping out elsewhere.