19 Mar 20 – Memory Lane 1

There being no trains to write about and suffering from a mild case of social isolation, I have been prompted to open the archives!

Mary Harris sent me the above photo and associated newspaper clipping – dating from 12 Mar 2012.  Since three of those featured (Bob, Mary and Dave G) remain stalwarts of the Racecourse Station I can only comment that they’ve retained their youthful appearance and enthusiasm.  I asked Dave T for a note on the fourth person and, I quote:

‘Wayne Finch was one of the founder members of the revitalised Cheltenham Area Group back in 1991. He served on committee for many years and was also a member of the GWSR marketing team back in the day. He earned a “retired” volunteer’s pass some time ago.’

‘I (Dave T) was also dressed up that day, supposed to be a rich race goer (it was actually a more modern wedding suit so luckily I’m not in the photo). As an aside two other supporters, brothers David and Tom Lyle, dressed up as race goers, much more authentically than I did. David was wearing his grandfather’s top hat, so that was genuinely pre-1912. They are both now Chelsea pensioners!’

I’d be very grateful if any other readers, Racecourse Station volunteers or otherwise, who have something historic or memorable and would be happy for me to blog it, would let me know.  All contributions gratefully accepted!

Tim

16 Mar 20 – Fire and Frenzy

We should start with a retrospective from the Festival. It’s a shot by Dave T of his beloved….

                   Yes, that’s P&O! Not who you might have been expecting!

The picture was taken last week as 35006 waited to depart with its race going (or rather race-leaving) passengers.  Lovely reflection of the late afternoon setting sun.

Monday is generally a quiet sensible afternoon of work with no trains or passengers to concern us. Today however was rather less assured as speculation mounts over plans for the railway in the near future. This is, of course, inevitable, if rather futile – and you can probably read about all this on other websites, but not this one!

So, let’s be positive, do what we can do, and keep our fingers crossed for everything else. The day was a handsome one after a cold start: bright, sunny and eventually warm; the grass is growing alongside the weeds!

As such Mary was out and about the bucket and barrow.  Dave T had a bonfire and so did I:

                        That’s the last of the laurel prunings disposed of.

Elsewhere the heavy mob were in tearing into our Station Shop with the aim of creating an on platform ticket office.

                                                   Busy having elevenses!

What role this will leave for our existing GWR original ticket office remains to be seen.

Also present were Dave G, Roger, Mike, Chris and Ian – though sadly I didn’t stay long enough to find out what they were doing! Finally, Steve popped in at teatime with a replacement hand driver for the staff washroom – more in use than normal I expect!

This is the less impressive side of post-Festival events: coach park strewn with litter awaiting disposal.  Hopefully before it blows onto the track!

I hope I’ll be blogging about trains and passengers at the weekend. If not we may get more opportunity for maintenance than expected!

Regards,

Tim

14 Mar 20 – The Day After

In the climate of impending crisis, which seems to be all too prevalent at the moment, it is perhaps reassuring that some things remain the same.  So the day after the Cheltenham Festival it was pretty much business as usual for the workers at the Racecourse Station.  If the volunteers were modest in numbers (Dave T, Mary, Dave G, Mike, Ben & Steve) then so were the passengers!  Quiet day all round really.

Anyway, we soldier on and fingers remain crossed that we will continue to operate fully as the running season goes on.  So with that in mind we carry on with the maintenance and upkeep tasks which are the usual order of the day.  As it happens, for a post-Festival tidy up, things were pretty tidy with very little litter around.

Mary was engaged in some serious pruning of overgrown vegetation and clearing up.20200314_104155947851419484294519.jpg

Elsewhere, we move the portable loos down Platform 2 – ready for collection, whilst others removed the Festival signage.  Things looked exccellent for the departure of the first train – dead on time.

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Meanwhile, the fence and path work got a stage nearer to eventual completion and the effect is to create a pretty good impression as passengers make their way down the ramp to the trains.  Complements the well trimmed laurel bushes as well!

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Looking forward to the busier, sunnier, warmer and drier days ahead.

Tim

12 Mar – Champagne Day!

A number of our stalwart volunteers have been busy supporting the Festival Specials. Notably Mary Harris has been selling gallons of champagne to thirsty travellers during their journeys to and from the Racecourse Station.  In between trains she took a few snaps and here’s a taster – residing against some pretty snazzy seat covers (I assume):

And, if we’re into arty shots, here’s the view from inside the Arkle carriage, nicely displaying the ‘ATTHERACES.COM’ Express logo against what looked like one of this morning’s showers. 

Anyway, Mary reports that, despite the rain and probably because of the champagne, they were all very happy and somewhat merry.  And still turned up in numbers:wp-15840499470067888624961983168467.jpg

This is the access road – leading from Southam Lane into the Racecourse and running alongside the GWR line, and by this time it was sunny.

And here’s Dave T, the level crossing king, resplendent in his full hi-vis regalia and apparently failing to impress the gent waiting to get over the line:

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Finally, the much admired but rarely used Platform 2, glistening somewhat in the late afternoon sun: wp-15840499813543401510633926112971.jpg

Note that the Platform sign isn’t actually quite that skew (as I only put it up on Monday!) -apparently the photo was taken when it was swinging in the wind!

Regards,

Tim

9 Mar 20: Coro-nation Festival

Well the situation can’t be that bad if the Cheltenham Festival goes ahead – can it?  And for the railway of course the Festival provides the season with a kick start, financially at least.  So preparations were reaching manic proportions this afternoon at the Racecourse. Not on the Station where naturally all was its usual serene self! Well more or less!

A small team assembled comprising Dave T, Dave G, Mary, Chris, Ian and a man from Gilders.  Nothing much exciting happened: no trains or passengers and pretty dreary weather from about 2pm!  However, Chris and Ian cleaned up Platform 2 ahead of the punters arriving tomorrow. Mary weeded the gardens and Dave G sorted the Ticket Office.

Dave T, the man from Gilders and I worked hard at emptying the big Klargester – the one that takes all the outflow from the Station loos etc.  I’ll spare you the unpleasant details but suffice to say there was a degree of blockage and much pumping required!  Ah well, all in an afternoon’s work.20200309_1417372510826738441844097.jpg

The view over the Racecourse, noting the nice grassy path where once we had dense thicket of hawthorn and other nasties!  See blogs of 2018.20200309_141732204055940130261254.jpg

The Klargester, Dave T and the man from Gilders!  Plus a lot of weeds. Luckily, you can’t see the blockage!

Fingers crossed I’ll be reporting on a successful Festival at the weekend!

Regards,

Tim

7 Mar 20 – (Running) Season’s Greetings!

Opening day always has a moment or two of trepidation: will everything work ok? It’s all very well sending an empty train up and down the line, it’s the passengers who worry us most. Or worry the Station staff to be specific since we low grade workers simply look on in awe as order appears from chaos.

Anyway, there’s no doubt that we’ve re-opened in style!  Dinmore Manor powering into the Station for the first arrival of the season.  Note the preparations for the Festival – when Platform 2 will be in use – so some portable toilets have been installed and crowd fencing placed over the old foundations.  Ideally, it won’t be as windy as it has been – the consequences of these things blowing over don’t really bear thinking about!

It was, probably usefully, a relatively quiet day for passenger numbers, so that the Dave G as Station Master, his staff and the train staff could get back into the swing of things.  For us, it was a bit more emphasis on the tidying up and a little less on long-term maintenance.  There to help were at least Bob, Dave T, Mary, Maurice, Andy M, Steve, Mike, Ben & John L.  And they, collectively and amongst other things: cut lawns, swept everywhere, tidied the top gardens, sorted the allotment, tended Platform 2’s growing areas, creocoted some more fence line and fixed the billygoat.  Here’s some of the action:

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I’m not sure the ‘paint’ was all that wet actually – but better safe than sorry I expect.

Here’s another shot I took elsewhere:

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Just teasing, it’s actually from the advertising poster for the Wartime in the Cotswolds event – coming up soon.

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As ever, book early to avoid disappointment!

Regards,

Tim

2 Mar – Phantom Spring?

This is not a real blog as I’m still not there! Hence some recent but, I hope, previously unused photos all courtesy of Mary.

Early flowers – frost proof I presume.
A winter remnant – I’d been wondering where I’d left my hat! It’s waiting there for its owner to return from warmer climes.
The teams have used one bag up so we must be making progress with the re-gravelling.

I gather it was a nice day in Cheltenham – weather wise – so I am sure the Monday gang have been busy!

More to report on Saturday I hope.

Tim

29 Feb 20 – Leap Day

There is something slightly unusual about the 29th Feb, over and above the fact that it only occurs every 4 years. There are certain rituals and traditions amongst which railway blogs are written by guest editors. So today I hand over to Bob, Dave T and Mary, with random inputs from others. If there are typos blame me as I am editing the text on my phone!!

A few images from the modest- sized but industrious gang today (Dave T, Mary, Ben, Andy, Stephen, John L, Ros and Bob). Bob & Ros were on P2 killing weeds and otherwise weeding the garden beds, as well as removing the fallen branches fromn the platform.

Andy and Ben were digging out the old gravel from the RHS of the ramp, Mary was tidying up and Stephen was cleaning the Ticket Office gutters and replacing the downpipe that always catches out the unwary who look for support from it.

We had a visit from Steve Long who has replaced the hand drier in the ladies toilet.

Dave G was attending another meeting, while Dave T spent his time finally fettling the obsolete broken bracket on the ladies loo tube heater – with a stout cable tie as suggested by an electrical wholesaler. After that, with the Festival racing coming up soon, he then dealt with the accumulated sandy deposits causing a slip hazard on the signal box crossing, using a hose connected to the tap in the Bill Britton Hut. Finally, At he “modified” the channel the race course’s surplus water takes, so that their sand doesn’t get continuously washed onto the crossing! Phew, I’m tired just reading all that.

The cloudy image shows the new Ferris wheel erected as an attraction for the racegoers.

Earlier in the week Mary took this shot looking down towards the Racecourse and Station from Cleeve Hill.

Great effort all round; thanks for the inputs which I hope I have reflected adequately.

Regards,

Tim

24 Feb – Sometimes, you wonder why……!

……you bother! Well, we don’t really wonder but it can be a mite frustrating when the hard work of one morning is undone by the weather of the next. That’s certainly how it felt this today when I surveyed the debris which, once again, is strewn across Platform 1. And that’s despite it having a decent billygoating on Saturday.  All these trees might look nice on a hot summer’s day but goodness they don’t half increase the ongoing maintenance tasks. I suspect other stations suffer to some extent but not, to my knowledge, to this degree.

Anyway, there’s not much for it but to buckle down and give it another sweeping. As they say at Cheltenham Racecourse Station: ‘if a job’s worth doing, its worth doing 3 (or 4 or 5) times’.  On other matters, I took delivery of some more gravel with which to finish our ramp edging task and did a little more clearance of the old stuff myself.  It’s not, I have to say, the easiest task to do, since the gravel is rather ‘cemented’ by soil and vegetation so that, at times, a pick would be more useful than a spade.  I ration myself to no more than 5 barrow loads before I have to do something slightly less physically exacting – like admiring the view or eating lunch.  At least I know that, whatever the weather, I won’t have to redo this task next week! Frankly, I’d hope for 10 years by which time it might be someone else’s turn.

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Above: a dug our section, with a good close up of the slag stone wall; I rather like the fact that you can see where the gases bubbled out of the molten iron through the slag crust in the furnace! Great credit to the materials used and, more recently, to Dave T’s walling skills.  Below: still to be done.  Nice and clear why the gravel is full of soil and plant debris from off the embankment!20200224_11195832134887076090612.jpg20200224_1120022620757835326744301.jpgAbove: progress so far; looking more promising  Below: the recycling pile.20200222_1055215283975250065354770.jpg

We were quite well placed with volunteers this afternoon – despite the poorish conditions.  Roger was on sweeper duties, John O continued his vigil as the cleaner of Platform 1, Dave T was grovelling in the loos, Graham helped me with dig out the old gravel whilst Chris and Ian backfilled with new gravel.  Dave G meanwhile was engaged in a task in the platform shop – accompanied by senior shop officials (I hesitate to call them stewards!)

I will be leaving colleagues to dig out the tiny amount of remaining old gravel and to fill in behind with fresh next weekend. It will be a really nice welcome home present if the whole task is finished by the time I get back!!

Regards,

Tim