24 FEB – TATE MODERN HERE WE COME!

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Wire Tree with Poo Bag

I thought I’d start today’s blog with the CRCS entry for the 2018 Turner Prize – see above.  The sub-title is ‘Nature, Industry and Art – are they still relevant in the post-modernist 21st Century?’.  Could be a winner?  And I wondered if visitors should be encouraged to pick up their own wire and add it to the tree, and note the barbed wire addition as an allusion to the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1.  Hmm – shows what happens when you work too long at any task on this railway! Seriously though I wonder if we should create a small memorial area somewhere at the Racecourse Station – might be a nice addition? Blog readers suggestion would be welcome.

There was a healthy turn out from our team of volunteers with a couple of the faithful seeking some well-earned overseas sunshine.  No need to go abroad though as there was plenty of rays available at Cheltenham despite the temperature starting at an icy -3C when I arrived plus a bitter north-east wind.  Still Andys x 2, Bob, Ben, Steve, John, Colin, and Mike were all hard at it and I am indebted to Bob Stark for the details on who was dong what – he rightly supposed that I was preoccupied with my artwork!

Home team:

Andy Manley has managed to burn most of the pine needles and twigs down on the head shunt helped by the rare easterly breeze.IMG_20180224_110400John finished the workers’ key press – he is now looking for somewhere to put it, and was also painting the new timetable board that affixes to the middle small spear fencing gate at the entrance.  Stephen (amongst other tasks) was bringing the brush cutter into ‘compliance’ with recommendations made at the recent course held at CRC.  Colin and Mike were collecting twigs and pine needles from the ramp. Bob fitted a new neon mains indicator on the water heater, re-fixed the top bar of the fence down by the Signal Box gate that had come detached and took down the “T” in Cheltenham on the Pl1 running in board that was coming apart. A new one will be made in the next week.IMG_20180224_101714

Mind you I like it this way – it conforms with the local pronunciation: ‘Chel’nham, Chel’nham, this is Chel’nham Racecourse Station……………………………’

And Andy Bint has successfully reconfigured our security system such that the station CCTV can again be observed over the internet – a super job that reinstates our long lost remote access.

Whilst Ben and I tidied the P1 bank and roasted some more wood on P2:

Guest team:

Peter Parlett replaced the tap in the water tower that runs of our domestic supply (as opposed to the new supply for the locos) so that the jet wash team of Chris and Ian can connect to it and finish the platform jet washing without laying in 100 metres of hose pipe.  Thanks for that – much appreciated!

A good morning’s work and some progress towards operational readiness – only a fortnight away now apparently.

Best wishes,

Tim

 

20 Feb: Wiv’ a ladder an’ some glasses…..

There are certain tasks which have a legendary status – cleaning out the Augean Stables, painting the Forth Bridge and clearing the embankment on Platform 1  at Cheltenham Racecourse Station.  I dare say that it is a task which any decent lineside clearance team with the right kit would have done in a few days but for the Racecourse team – working on Saturday mornings and using hand tools only – it has been rather longer.

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Here then, are the fruits of our labours: above a relatively clear view (stand fast a few branches, scattered tools and remains of today’s bonfire pile) of the embankment from the wooden fence at the Signal Box end looking towards the Station Buildings.  From the other end it is similarly clearish looking down from the storage pods to the same Buildings:IMG_20180220_122848

And as the old song has it: ‘Wiv’ a ladder an’ some glasses ‘ you can now more or less see from one end of the platform embankment to the other.  Hurrah!

And in the process we unearthed nothing much that was useful but removed endless reams of wire (barbed and otherwise), took out 25 rotten concrete posts, inserted several lengths of weldmesh fencing, disposed of innumerable dog poo bags (plus contents kindly donated to the hedge by passing walkers), collected hundreds of race goers empty cans, bottles and crisp packets – plus all manner of other things.  Amongst today’s haul was a champagne bottle:

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Which wasn’t, I confess, resting in this position originally, though it looked like good stuff to me or had been in the 1970s!  Anyway, just one more shot of the woodland wonders now revealed (with based of bird-box visible):IMG_20180220_121400

There was, I understand from the gardening team, some question that the Crawshaw memorial tree had been denied light by the overhanging embankment vegetation; this should no longer be an issue:IMG_20180220_115435

The task now is, of course, to maintain it in the cleared condition – a good deal of strimming or brush-cutting required as previously mentioned in the blog.

Regrettably, I didn’t get to the Station yesterday – hence no specific blog – and as such my apologies for concentrating on this work.  However, I can report from the duty list that there was a good turn out and much was accomplished by way of station maintenance and gardening.

On to the next big task!

Regards,

Tim

 

 

17 Feb – New bulbs but did the earth move?

IMG_20180217_110155Volunteers are like plants really – most are perennials, some hardy annuals and others temporarily dormant for parts of the year!  And as such, in February, just when you begin to wonder whether or not some of your old favourites have made it through another winter, you begin to see certain of them sticking their heads back above ground!  There’s even the chance of a new bulb or two or maybe a cutting from old root stock?  Which is probably enough plant analogies for one Saturday when a nice crop (sorry) of 11 turned up to continue fettling the station back into condition.  With Dave G at the helm, I spotted Bob & Roz, Colin, Steve, Andy B, John, Maurice, Mike, Terry & Dick.  I hope I haven’t missed any but if there were others lurking in the undergrowth my apologies.

Dick was industriously removing the weeds from the flagstones on Platform 1 and then proving he could still stand upright – very impressive at any age !

John was working on one of our ‘next train is….’ signs – the old version having apparently flapped itself to bits in recent weather extremes (or earthquakes).IMG_20180217_103757                                   (I am assured the string is  temporary measure!)

Steve meanwhile had extracted the goat from brief hibernation in its winter lair and was taking the maintenance task seriously:IMG_20180217_103443

Various parties were clearing down the ‘grassy banks’ and shifting fallen debris (again!)

Whereas Andy B was wisely working inside and is seen here in a rare view ‘behind the counter’:

But naturally no blog would be complete without the mandatory pictures of……

…………………….clearance on P1 embankment.  Hard going today without my trusty co-worker.

And finally Bob had adjusted and oiled our main gate but Mike felt the need to add just a drop more lubrication in a critical spot:IMG_20180217_103740

Worked very smoothly when I left; let’s hope the earth didn’t move and cause it to jam up again!

Regards,

Tim

12 FEB – FIRE IN THE HOLE

IMG_20180212_133513The trouble with clearance work – at least on the Racecourse Station – is that one discovers all sorts of holes in the ground – some ‘man made’, some naturally occurring through animal burrows etc and some the result of the rotting of long dead tree roots.  And then there are the ‘self-generated’ hazards of tree stumps not quite levelled with the ground.  Anyway, whatever their origin these are all equally capable of tripping up the unwary volunteer and/or twisting their ankles and/or projecting them down the Platform embankments.   You might gather that this vitriol is borne of the bitter experience of the past few months and this afternoon was no exception – see above.  Anyway, no harm suffered to anyone or anything so just another Health and Safety  point to ponder; it’ll be a while before we can let the general public up there.

A great turn out of 10 volunteers this afternoon including Dave G, Dave T, Mary, Colin, Roger, Ian, Mike, John, Dick and Chris.  And the weather was kind with a lovely sunny afternoon, cold clear and ideal for a bit of railway maintenance.  Apart from the work (obviously) the highlight of the afternoon was the monthly CRCS prize draw.  Here is the boss man managing the process (like a proper accountant would):IMG_20180212_151016

And guess what no-one present won, hence the ‘cheerful’ faces:

Better luck next month!

The team were busy cleaning and clearing with, of special note, a very fine job being done on the jet washing the platform edge – much improved with all the grime and slippy stuff removed.

It was also a great time to have a burn up – with much bramble, hawthorn and unpleasantness consigned to the fire. And finally shots of a defeated hawthorn trunk and of conifer/lamp-post combination looking across P1 and P2 towards the Evesham Road.

Only another 4 weeks or so and we’ll be able to see some trains again………

Lots to do before then, regards,

Tim

 

10 FEB – A THINNET?

Of course I shouldn’t have tempted fate by wishing for a dry Saturday morning in last week’s blog, since the fates dictated otherwise and Cheltenham Racecourse Station was it’s usual dank self!  However, it was good to see Paul L back at the Station for visit, with Dave G, Mary, Andy B, Steve Ben and John putting in some shift time on various jobs.

The day didn’t much lend itself to outdoor photography – ‘cos people didn’t want to hang about outside much at all, let alone stand still to be photographed!  As such most of the snapping took place in the staff room at tea break where the volunteers enjoyed more of a chinwag than usual (and who could blame them) with jam doughnuts!

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John was exercising his carpentry skills building shelves in the indoor (disused!) phone booth.  Dave was overseeing what painting tasks need doing, Mary was attempting to take cutting from various elements of the garden and Andy was busy on electrical matters.

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Steve recovered the remaining benches for a brief spell under cover and some potential pre-season maintenance as well as assisting in putting some more weld mesh fencing along the Racecourse side of the Platform 1 Bank.  The task of clearing the overgrown hedge (hawthorn, blackthorn, dog rose, bramble and nettle) is – readers will be relieved to hear – nearing completion.  So you won’t have to hear any more about it or see any more picture of anonymous hedge or brash piles.  Well maybe just one or two!

IMG_20180209_110809 This is a thicket…………….

IMG_20180210_114416………and this is a thinnet!*

Regards and still hoping for a little sunshine – please!

Tim

* an old Gloucestershire term for a neat hawthorn hedge (colloq).

3 Feb: Training of a different kind – brushing up our skills!

Now regular readers may have observed that I don’t know much about trains but when it comes to training I am closer to my professional comfort zone.  So no apologies for majoring on today’s activities which consisted of a brush-cutter training day for Dave T, Andy B, Steve and myself.  Meanwhile Ben kindly continued to clear brambles ‘for real’ whilst John was fettling the garden tools and conducting early season prep.

However, the 4 trainees assembled at 0930 for a safety brief and introductions from John our trainer.  And, without wanting to sound patronising, a very interesting and entertaining day it proved to be; the key being that the content was practical, pragmatic and professionally  delivered – but with due regard to the aged and (in other fields) experienced participants!  Here’s the man himself engaging the audience:

And like all great skills-based courses we went from (just enough) theory to demonstration and then practice.  Of course, all proper health and safety requirements were both discussed and then observed but with the realism required for the intermittent nature of our duties at the Racecourse Station.

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There was a slight excess of dayglo orange on display!

After bit of practice and suitable explanation on such useful matters as fuel mixtures and how to sharpen the metal blade properly (as opposed to guessing or just not bothering – anyone else guilty?) we adjourned to the high bank behind Platform 2.

Some suitably wild patches of bramble and elder were reduced, and the result if not exactly bowling green standard is certainly much neater and more easily kept in check.  And of course it’s always useful to spend some time chatting to a professional in the business of keeping nature at bay – lots of ideas were thrown around.  The bottom line is we have a very considerable area of estate to maintain and much of it on steep slopes: never likely to be easy and inevitably labour intensive.  That said, the net result is that we are all better qualified to share some of the strimming/brush-cutting tasks which face us.

I should also report that the contractors hired to put the tarmac down on the splendid new path (thanks B&S) at the end of Platform 1 had been in action during the week – producing good results. Here it is just beyond the GWR notice:IMG_20180203_142253

Yours, still looking forward to a dry Saturday,

Tim

29 Jan: A hint of Spring?

Tempting fate to suggest a hint of Spring?!  Probably, but the mild sunny weather encourage a small crop of volunteers to emerge from hibernation and put in a few hours on Monday afternoon.  There was a small paint gang led by Dave G, the second instalment of the platform edge cleaners (Mary and co), and others on pine needle removal plus general clearance and gardening.  Here are the majority enjoying some January fresh air and well earned refreshments:

Someone (allegedly Einstein) said that the definition of insanity was to carry to carry on doing the same things and expect a different outcome.  So today I carried on cutting back brambles and hawthorn in the faint hope that the result would be a nice tidy fence line.

I did think of leaving the loppers hanging on the wire as a warning to any brambles thinking of making a come back.  And after that comment I’ll leave readers to come to their own conclusions about the outcome, and the implication for those carrying out the work.

It was a nice clear day for photographing things – the rain had finished just before we started – and the westering sun allowed a shot of one of the few hawthorn trees I haven’t yet felled (just joking!):IMG_20180129_154550 (2)

And finally a ‘no prize’ quiz question: from the shape and style what was the likely original content of this jar, found lurking under the debris?

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Clue: the word ‘Chivers’ is to be found on the side.

Regards,

Tim