1 Feb 20 – While the cats are away?

The most observant readers may have noticed that our leader (Dave T) is absent from duty – sunning himself in distant climes while his trusty team are coping with inclement conditions. As it happens Dave G was away this morning as well – at a slap up lunch for, I believe, Station Staff. So for a while it looked as if we were devoid of cat supervision, so what mice mayhem ensued?

The mice were in fact very industrious and the weather was kind.  With Ben, Steve, John O, Andy & Mike all engaged in pushing the fence/gravel project onwards and downwards.20200201_1044394325316791183026302.jpg

I guess we completed about 25m metres worth of work and we are now about half-way!20200201_10440242166403549220684.jpg

The sequence is: palings loosened, debris cleared, already painted gravel board is inserted and secured to the fence posts, fence is painted, fresh gravel spread and levelled up.  Job’s a good ‘un.

That is, of course, when all is running smoothly – which it rarely does for more than a few moments on this railway.  Today’s issue was a slightly collapsed/misaligned chamber, in which are various services such as power for the lighting, water supply to the platform etc.  The chamber need to be partially excavated, the concrete foundations ‘trimmed’ and then re-set.  And there was the outflow from a cross-drain to consider!

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At some point this ‘creature’ was located on the embankment:

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All suggestions as to what it might be are welcome!

Bob meanwhile sealed one of our leaking downpipes, polished off various other jobs while John L tended the garden/allotment.

A great morning’s work – for which my thanks to all concerned.  Only another 4 such mornings and we’ll be nearly finished.  Should make it by 7 Mar (opening Saturday of the season.)

Perhaps we can work without supervision after all!

Regards,

Tim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 Jan – Musn’t Grumble!

More nightmare than delight are the ongoing wet weather conditions across Gloucestershire.  I suppose we should be grateful that CRC has no projects which require a lot of labour on our embankments or lawn areas since they are pretty sodden at the moment.  At least the ramp provides a solid footing and much of the painting can be done inside.  But oh for some sunshine to dry the paintwork.

There was the usual post-racing customer-dropped and windblown debris strewn across the Station this week.  Not a huge task compared to the Festival but mildly irritating – why do people feel entitled to drop their fast food wrappers or throw them from their cars? 20200130_1258396708365276282657731.jpg Luckily our fairly harmonious relationship with the Racecourse allows us to put up with such things since they have been known to smooth out our (their!) car park and cut the grass!

Ah well, musn’t grumble as an older generation used to say (usually after grumbling extensively)!

Readers will be well aware of our ongoing path work by the ramp. All carefully estimated and costed in my best quantity surveyor style: 40 x 3m gravel boards, 10 x 800kg bags of gravel and 1 x 20 litre can of Creocote. And then other people decided to extend the task (path on the RHS of the ramp as well as the left) or to ‘borrow’ some Creocote (to paint the car park fence).  And guess what – we’re now likely to run out before we reach the bottom of the ramp!  Ah well, musn’t……..

To be removed and replaced by…

Fresh stuff, matching LHS and RHS paths. At least there’s no fence to paint on that side.

There has been the odd kind comment and question on the re-use of the gravel. Historically (that’s before I started work at the railway in 2014) the area around our equipment pods was a bit of a muddy mess in winter.  A couple of years ago colleagues from, I think, the Platform 2 build left behind a pile of loose hard core/gravel – parked in what was euphemistically called our picnic area.  After some months viewing this eyesore a guerilla band of volunteers barrowed it up the ramp – at great expense in terms of labour – laid some spare membrane and ‘lo’ we had some dry paths around our containers.  So it’s all been ‘free at the point of use’ as they say.  Younger and fitter in those days, I’m not sure I’d be prepared to move so many tons up hill again.  As such our current gravel delivery was placed by the Ticket Office and it’s all downhill from there. 20200113_1007158538949461128236866.jpg

Nice pink bags though!

This latest addition of used, slightly grubby gravel, is simply to bulk up the pathways a bit since, membrane notwithstanding, there always seems to be some losses.  Ah well, musn’t…..

Regards,

Tim

 

27 Jan 20 – Ferroequinologists!?

My classical education is pretty weak to be honest but I know just about enough to realise that ‘ferro‘ is related to iron and ‘equin‘ is about horses. Hence ferroequinologist or train (ie iron horse) buff or railway enthusiast, or even ‘anorak’ if you are feeling harsh!  I will suggest we rename our little shop area in the ticket office: ‘Ferroequinologist’s Corner’ – if we can find a sign board long enough.

My fellow ferroequinologists today included Dave G, Chris, Ian, Roger, Bob, John L, Pete, Mike and Maurice. Very healthy turn out for any day, never mind a Monday.  They were, in no particular order, painting, fencing, gravelling, posting and gardening.

Leading ferroequinologist, sweeper and chief tea maker!
Chris and a good load of gravel destined for the footpath.
20200127_145258719614527074075780.jpgGravel no longer good enough for the public facing ramp paths being re-cycled in a volunteer only area; a good green initiative.
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It must be a laugh doing the painting.
A decent rub down required prior to renewing the top coat.

Good effort for a bunch of practical ferrequinologists

All is well, all is well.

Tim

PS: Must look up the Latin for someone who is into gravel and fences.

25 Jan 20 – Oh yes there was! Oh no there wasn’t……

I did promise no more blogs on the subject of fencing. Trouble is there was nothing else going on at the Racecourse this morning apart from fence work!

Well that’s only true if you discount the rather busy race meeting and Bob’s ladder-free initiative to clean the CCTV cameras.

Here he is at attention/order arms – about to jog off with the brush in the trail arms position. (Apologies if this is inaccurate, we RAF types generally avoided drill).

Back on task were Steve, Ben and self reaching the 25m lamp post (see below) in our quest to revitalise the ramp-side path.

Steve hoping the Dewalt battery will hold out in the cool conditions.

A certain amount of fiddling was required (as per usual) but there’s not much you can’t fix with a power drill/screwdriver and a bit of imagination. Anyway, after the technical side was sorted it was down to the journeymen to do the basics.

Ben trying to avoid joining the gravel in sliding down the embankment!
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Self brushing at such a speed, everything is a blur……spot the new overalls! T4
Bob claims this shows Steve and I asleep on the job with only Ben working!  As if.

And that was it really, with everyone else on holiday or deterred by the hordes or hibernating.

Only another 80m to go, or 6400kg of gravel, 32 more boards and many many pots of creocote!

Pip, pip,

Tim

23 Jan 20 – All Quiet on the Fence Line?

There ought to be something peaceful about spending time at a deserted railway station – even one between a busy main road and a Racecourse preparing for a meeting! However, not today as no sooner had I spoken to the grass cutting contractor (access to verges required) than the Birdman arrived to restock our feeders. And he hadn’t been gone long when someone else turned up to see if ths railway was running (a polite ‘no’). Then the phone rang and then Bob arrived delivering something.

Never mind, I got some more gravel boards in, painted some fence and laid some gravel. which was not bad considering. The contrast between fence palings newly painted and those which have been exposed to the direct sunlight for 3 years is evident:

The gravel has however, taken slightly longer to disappear down the bank, leaving only dusty fragments and weeds:

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And refreshed:

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……… and no, I haven’t just covered the weeds up!

Which is about as much fence-related blogging as anyone needs!

Tim


20 Jan 20 – Don’t Fence Me In!

Most readers will be aware that I have a policy of minimising images of me in this blog – for understandable reasons: I don’t recognise the old bloke in the pictures as being me,  must be the camera angle, dodgy lighting etc etc.  Sadly, today I had little choice as I foolishly let Bob be in charge of the camera work.  My advice is just concentrate on the fence!

As per previous blogs we are renovating the path beside the ramp and someone, who will remain nameless, decided that we should fettle the fence first!  Which was a typical railway job – took 3 times as long as expected, required superhuman effort and could only be finished by the time it was going dark!

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The fence was leaning over considerably so it was necessary to dig out the posts, remove the concrete, straighten them up (hence the rope) insert concrete supports and then re-fix with new ‘postcrete’.  Easy really!

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And here’s one we (Bob and I) prepared earlier – now in the gloaming light.  At least it has solved our problem about what to do with the old gravel – shovelled into holes along with the postcrete.

Elsewhere, the moss removal team (Ian and Chris) were hard at work clearing the green stuff from our damper areas whilst Dave T carefully tended a laurel bonfire on P2 embankment, Mary tidied gardens and Dave G/Roger painted.

Another week is passing and, assuming other railway issues are resolved (landslips etc – see blogs various) we are on course to re-open by 7 Mar,

Tim

 

18 Jan 20 – Yellow Fever?

A glorious Saturday morning (for a change) and some cheerful colleagues made good progress on more of our winter improvements, through the sterling efforts of Dave G, Mary, Ben, Steve, Bob and Mike.

First off we continued our renovation of the ramp-side path.  Our production line starts with Mike who puts the preservative on the boards. Meanwhile, the second team (self plus Ben) removing any loose vegetation from the existing gravel, loosening palings, inserting boards, painting the fence itself and finally adding new gravel (another 300 barrow loads to go).

That’s the first 15 metres done, 105m left.

Mary, meanwhile, was clearing dead stuff and trimming live stuff.

Watching Mary (& at other times Maurice & John) is always a reminder just how much garden the Racecourse Station actually has to maintain. And that’s not including Platform 2!

With a sense of déjà vu, Steve was collecting wood and strimming overgrown areas of the embankment, Dave G did benches whilst Bob renovated car park fence posts.

Stage 1 of the fence repairs is now complete with the replacement of the new rail and resetting of some of the old ones with stainless steel screws.  Bob notes that: ‘it is important that we keep some of the original GWR wooden posts as seen towards the left of this image since they definitively mark our legal boundary with the Racecourse itself’. Just as well someone can remember these things!

Fancying a short break from the physical activity I strolled down the Platform 1 only to see some strange yellow markings and yellow posts:

What can they be?  No parking signs for steam engines? Gold sediment from a rain-washed Racecourse?  The railway equivalent of crop circles? Who knows – not me!

Regards,

Tim

BILL BRITTON

We were very much saddened to hear of the recent death of Bill Britton – founder and, for a long time, principal author of this blog. The condolences of all at the Cheltenham Racecourse Station, and no doubt from all of his many friends and colleagues across the GWSR, are sent to Bill’s family.

Bill and his beloved hut!

13 Jan 20 – Winter Works!

Time passes quite quickly at the moment – as the list of things to be done increases in length and the work days remain remain generally inclement. I have not been working at the GWSR too many years but, asking around, nobody cannot recall a season when we seemed to be ao hampered by the wet weather. The only saving grace is that my garden is equally waterlogged to there’s nothing outdoor to be done on the home front!

That said we always have space for more helpers and here’s the railway’s equivalent of Kitchener’s famous call to arms:

Still, there was opportunity today to take delivery of materials for off season work. As visitors may or may not have noticed there is an slight inclination for the Racecourse Station to slide gradually into its cutting. I suppose this is just nature re-establishing the status quo but it does throw up some issues – hopefully minor ones – and our latest challenge is to refurbish the gravel area beside the ramp which has gradually lost material down the embankment. There seemed little point in pouring good gravel after bad (as it were) so we have elected to insert gravel boards at the base of the fence first. Hopefully this will prevent/reduce further losses, unless the whole lot ends up on the platform! To this end we had delivered most of the necessary and a very helpful driver from Bence’s placed it all in convenient locations.

Nice colour these new dumpy bags!

Sadly, it wasn’t the weather (again!) for much outdoor activity and we had to be contented with trial fixing one board (of 40!) plus a little light creocoting. That said we have, I think, established that the boards fit reasonably well and that they should stop/reduce or gravel migration.

I’m acutely conscious that we should paint the fence as well so they are slightly closer in appearance. Hopefully, this and the spreading of new gravel will be recorded in future blogs.

Improvised painting station!

Apart from this the volunteers were thin on the ground so I spotted only 2 Daves, an Ian and a Roger. Between them they progressed bench painting, inspected Platform 1 toilet drainage and assisted me on the fence line.

Which, given the persistent rain, was about all we could manage. That it wasn’t cold is the only other positive thing I can find to say!

Regards,

Tim


11 Jan – Heavy Lifting!

Another Saturday in the close season, another excellent turn out of volunteers, including: John O, Dave G, Dave T, Mary, Bob, Andy M, Ben, Steve, Maurice and Mike.

The laurel trees had their final prune and these were the results:20200111_1207515933088431944094982.jpg20200111_1208198809533937929804278.jpg20200111_1207305449730682401204230.jpg(You are also treated to a distant view of Strimmer Steve.)

A little grow back required but hopefully this will be a neat and manageable array.  Without the height and bulk there should be both more air and sun on this length of Platform 1 – reducing the damp conditions, at least for a year or two.  There is a huge pile of brash to be rid of and numerous trunks for burning:20200111_1202135330306304199935242.jpg

Completing this task required Steve, Ben, John O and self – and we’re glad it’s done – fairly energetic stuff and probably at the limits of what we would want to undertake without ‘professional’ assistance.  That said the work also has the advantage of clearing the way for our next task in that area – fitting some gravel boards and re-gravelling the path beside the ramp.  More on this in future blogs.

Mary was busy tending the top of the bank where our recently established hedge is looking very good.20200111_1206084948640868277312355.jpg20200111_1206013363814108572036941.jpg

Two years of growth and entering their third season – so pretty fair progress towards concealing the effective but slightly unattractive fence between ourselves and the Racecourse.  Just need to maintain it now – must add that to the annual work list!

Other ongoing tasks included Dave G preparing the benches which needed re-painting, Maurice and his longstanding battle to keep our pyracanthas under control plus Bob and Andy M fettling the fence posts in the car park.  Mike meanwhile was as reliable as ever sweeping up and on ‘refreshments’.

As a matter of interest readers may recall that a number of conifers were felled on the Platform 2 embankment last year and several small replacements planted.  Sadly these haven’t fared too well – probably due to an ultra dry summer and despite some desperate watering efforts on our part.  Curiously, and more promisingly, a number of self-sown trees have appeared on the opposite side of the station:

These are about 6 inches high but in fine condition so I am left to muse over the relative failure and success of the plants.  Perhaps the open area of P1 embankment compared to the well-populated P2 means that they have much less competition for water resource? Alternatively there is nothing like a plant which ‘knows’ it likes this location for prospering compared to an ‘incomer’.  Anyway, Dave T is hopeful we will be able to use this as a ‘nursery’ to repopulate any losses. Another ‘green tick’ I hope.

Regards,

Tim