It was a fine clear day in Cheltenham, with the sun glinting off the slight snow covering on Cleeve Common to the east and the Malverns to the northwest.  The vast majority of tickets for the Specials having been pre-sold means that we are guaranteed lots of busy days from now until Christmas.  Hurrah for the income stream and our (mostly) happy customers!

The weather provided different challenges this morning, with a thin coating of frost adorning Platform 1 – very nice to look at but not great from an ‘elf ‘n safety perspective (Ho Ho Ho!) –  so a dose of salt was in order first thing (which was more than the roads in Prestbury seemed to have benefitted from!), especially on the platform edges.  Sadly, though the sun may never set on the Empire, it sun never quite gets high enough to shine on P1 at this time of year!  Nonetheless, I hope our customers enjoyed a skid-free and pleasant day out.

After providing  such small assistance to the Station Staff there was more concrete post pulling to achieve – to which the frozen ground added a further dimension of difficulty.  However, we appear to have finished this task unless there are any recalcitrant posts lurking in the nether regions of the station.

Here is the sledge hammer king himself making his way to the temporary tip with the last load.  Hopefully our friendly neighbourhood B&S colleagues will come along with their truck and remove the heap.

For the simple souls like myself that haven’t a watch and can’t reach their mobile, timekeeping on a volunteering morning is done by the periodic arrival of trains.  In particular the departure (1055) of the first train of the day usually signifies time for tea break.  Santa Specials disturb this local circadian rhythm so that, if not paying proper attention, one can find oneself scurrying up the ramp an hour early!  Anyway, it was great to see Dinmore Manor rolling majestically into the Station on time and (below) puffing impatiently as it awaits the signal for the return journey:

As last week many of our regulars were busy on the line as Santa’s assistants in one way or another so I won’t try to list all who contributed. However, in an adaption of the words of the 12 Days of Christmas:

one Bob was plumbing,

one Dave was painting,

one Dave was parking,

one Bill was lunching,

one Maurice gardening……………..etc etc

And just in case we have a fire, here’s the new assembly point sign:


Grid Reference: 51.923508, -2.069145; should you need to find it in a hurry simply put this into your smartphone!
Happy mince pies to all,


It always seems a bit of a challenge to ‘re-start’ the railway, even if we only seem to have been closed for 5 minutes.  With the Racecourse specials splitting the November break in two you wouldn’t have thought the points had time to rust up!  Today, therefore, the GWSR was busy getting steam up for the first of the 2017 Santa Specials.  Which, as ever, seems to induce a cheery mood amongst our customers, the Station Staff and last, by no means least of all, the Saturday gang.  Maintenance work took something of a back seat as the customer facing duties up and down the line quite rightly took priority – so if I fail to mention what all our volunteers were doing then please excuse me.  I saw Dave G, Dave T, Bob, Colin, Mike, Steve, Dick & Ben and there may have been others; I know some of our regulars are busy up the line being Santa’s helpers at Winchcombe etc.

The weather dawned dull and damp but the early rain desisted by about 1000, by which time the post removal team (Ben, yours truly and Colin) had achieved early success with some of the concrete monstrosities which have been disfiguring the bank above Platform 1.  Here are a selection of our efforts:


The posts are tapered and it is the dickens of job to pull them out ‘vertically’.  Sometimes the concrete breaks meaning the reinforcing bars needing to be chopped off and leaving  2 x 4 sharp spikes to impale oneself upon!  Much use of the sledge hammer, the bolt croppers and the lump hammer – and occasional recourse to expressions such as ‘Dash me that was a tough one’ or similar. Anyway, a bit like Fred Dibnah after felling a chimney, here is Ben declaring victory over another post:IMG_20171202_114730

I have to say that I never want to see another concrete post again or engage in any post hoc discussions! Ho, ho ho ……………

Meanwhile, everyone else on the Station was revelling in the general bonhomie and early festive spirit. I note, in passing, that it is often a grandparents treat to visit Father Christmas (perhaps they enjoy the nostalgia element as much as we do) – so there’s a marketing dimension to this blog!  Here are some of the crowds (of station staff!) waiting to greet our visitors and a new addition – live music.

I have to say that the all lady singing group was excellent – and so much better than the tannoy tunes!  I hope they managed to keep going all day?

Meanwhile we had another visitor (from South Devon I believe ) in the form of engine 5526:IMG_20171202_120455

Here, resplendent in its Christmas finery, and taking a well earned drink after the wheezy ride up from Toddington.

Keep up the good work everyone, only another 50 or so Santa Specials to go!





In marked contrast with last Saturday this working day proved as nice and sunny as one could wish for and certainly better than average for the end of autumn/start of winter.   Perhaps the weather was trying to make up for the past few weeks!  As such a baker’s dozen of volunteers turned out to maintain the Racecourse station – between last weekend’s busy Cheltenham November meeting and the beginning of the Christmas specials on 2 December.  I managed to count Paul L, Dave T, Steve, Maurice, John, Ben, Mary, Colin, Andy, Dick & Mike and I am indebted to Bob Stark for the first picture whilst I have incorporated much of his narrative in this ‘joint effort’.

Steve finished erecting the christmas lights on the Platform 1 building and tested them – and they all worked!  Bob dismantled the large entry gate catch which we had been advised had become too stiff for station staff to open. Using a very (very) large spanner, some brute force followed by cutting and filing out some of the steel support post, the catch was relocated and the lock is now once again finger tight; precision engineering at its best! Here’s the previously offending article now fettled:


The pair of them then removed into the relative warmth of the Ticket Office attic to lay in a new length of cable in support of Andy Bint’s re-wiring of the station PA system. This work was accompanied by some chiseling and muttered oaths resulting from the cramped confines of the working space.  Andy B has been left to finish the rewiring when he has finished at Winchcombe. Finally, Bob finished the morning by grinding out a potential trip hazard on the P1 ramp while Steve carried on in the attic placing more insulation above the Ticket Clerk’s office and relaying some of the floor boards to provide a level storage surface.

Elsewhere Mary, John, Maurice and Colin were doing more autumn gardening in order to shift much of the dead annual growth and prune back the perennials. And speaking of perennials our other Andy had the very tiresome task of removing as much as possible of the pine needle debris from the track bed – endless, mindless and generally thankless!!  Here he is with one of his smaller piles:IMG_20171125_120658 (2)

Likewise Dick, Mike and Paul’s work to clean the platforms and slopes went unrecorded but certainly not unappreciated.

At the top of the P1 bank Ben was busy improving the fence line (after bramble/nettle/hawthorn removal) and then tasked with extracting the line of disused concrete posts – another backbreaker of a job!  Sadly (or not) these don’t generally come out in one piece and despite our best efforts we won’t be recycling any of these 3 – only about another 20 to go!IMG_20171125_115901

This is Ben musing on how to get the rest of the post out – to which there is no simple solution.

Yours, looking forward to seeing Santa next week.






Wednesday – Building Services at Cheltenham

A report from colleague Jim Hitchen – thanks Jim – I will ignore the implication of being sent to Coventry!
 BS at Cheltenham
Sent to Coventry, sorry Cheltenham, today so not many photos of the Winchcombe activities.
The main jobs at CRC along with Barry and John, were to adjust the recently installed gates on P2.  Fit a gate restraint to the gate on the field side, install a section of fencing to fill the gap on P1 and then to complete the edging timber, cut a straight edge to the tarmac and dig out and level the footpath area ready for tarmac.
Barry had already dealt with the gates by the time we arrived.  The gate restraint was then fitted, looks like a bit of “pway knock off”.
We had to use the Kango to dig out the pathway and filled over 2 dumpy bags of stone in the process over and above that used to top up the SB end of the path.
Jim H


I should, of course, have known better than to use the word wet in last week’s blog title!  Today, Day 2 of Cheltenham Racecourse’s November meeting, must have been one of the dreariest on record weather-wise.  Rain, mist, low cloud and the resultant general gloom could have pervaded the station but no, your trusty hard core of CRCS volunteers battled through to make the punters’ days out extra special.  Well at least a few of us turned up (Colin, Steve, Dick, Ben, Tim and Paul) with fleeting glimpses of Bob & Ros on P2 plus Dave G (Station Mastering) and Dave T (level cross monitor).

The general aim was to make the place as tidy as possible for the Race trains and continue to prepare for the Santa specials which start in December.  I’m afraid it’s a brief exposition today since numbers were few and the rain rather prevented any reasonable imagery.  Anyway, here’s my attempt at an artistic shot of Dinmore Manor backing with the first special of the day.


Paul got a quick cut of the grass in before the deluge and then did his usual excellent job with Billy in cleaning the platform and slope.  Dick swept all before him and Colin continued the autumn garden tidying tasks.   By the time I caught up with them all 3 were watching Steve fettling the Christmas lights!

The rather more glamourous figure in the background was not a CRCS volunteer!

Elsewhere it fell to Ben and I to try to improve our fence line with the Racecourse by inserting some weld mesh where previous clearance has left some bare spots.  I have to say of all the intractable, heavy, cumbersome and downright ornery things to work with weld mesh is probably the worst.  So I am not really sure why we are still smiling?IMG_20171118_112419_1CSOr are those grimaces!

However, I am sure next weekend with be dry, sunny and fine – so thanks for all the hard work today and see you then.




11 NOV 2017 – WET WET WET!

A wet and muddy 11 November presented limited opportunities to make progress.  However, undeterred by the weather a modest turn out included: Dave G, Dave T, Bob, Colin, Ben, John and the undersigned.  However, we were especially pleased to see Mick back from Aus – looking remarkably well all things considered.

Despite the relatively mild weather Mick and his daughter seemed to find it a cool contrast to Queensland’s tropical coast!  Take it easy Mick and we will all be delighted to see you back in harness when you’re fit and able.

One especially nice product of their visit was 2 dayglow Aussie sunhats (compulsory wear outdoors apparently).  We hope the weather at CRCS justifies their use soon but Ben (bravely!) agreed to model one anyway:

Great stuff Ben – we’ll have difficulty ignoring you in that headgear!

Elsewhere, colleagues were busy on close season tasks:

Dave G up a ladder painting and Dave T stock taking in the ticket office. Steve was allegedly sorting out the loft and whatever it is he seems to be enjoying himself!!!


You can have too much excitement of course, and to restore the balance, here is a long shot of Ben (aka Red Adair) ‘monitoring’ the fire on the Platform 1 embankment.IMG_20171111_115902

Looking a good deal clearer down here – but we may have to do something about the drunken concrete posts.  The other older foundations visible in this shot are, I believe, part of the original water tank for the P1 buildings.

John and Colin were doing garden tidying jobs – and escaped my camera – although John did produce an example of rodent damage to some of the stores in the garden pod.IMG_20171111_124201

The mice certainly make nice neat round holes don’t they!  And finally Bob popped in to carry out his usual varied activities including making sure the rabbits were weren’t eating the plants on P2.IMG_20171111_115955Should be safe behind that weldmesh unless they’ve got blow torches with them.

Regards to everyone,


Saturday 4th November 2017

Dear Bill,
    Despite a dire first look outside the house this morning with rain teeming down, by the time we opened the gates of the station it was dry and we were blessed with by a great turnout of enthusiastic volunteers – twelve this morning.
    The main tasks of the morning were to install the new wiring in our underground ducts for our station Public Address system, erect the Christmas lighting on Platform 1 and the access ramp, finish rehanging the Larchlap fencing on the newly painted railings by the station entrance and to burn all the remaining cuttings from the trees removed from our fenceline at the back of the Platform 1 embankment. The goodly turn out enabled us to form teams to tackle all these tasks and as you will see below great progress was made.
    First on site this morning was Tim and by the time I managed to visit him he was already fire raising with kindling and some pretty damp twigs after the overnight rain. Despite my derogatory comments along the lines of “when will it reach V1 (ie take off speed) Tim soon had a useful “burn” going assisted by Ben.IMG_0063
    At that point I left Tim and Ben, but when Colin arrived I directed him in their direction to assist with the cutting up of all the trimmings that Tim had amassed over the last couple of weeks. They had a most successful morning and as can be seen from the next image below at the end of play there was only a pile of ash to show where a few hours before there had been mountains of branches. Great job Team Tim and thanks for the “after image”!
    Andy arrived with James and advised me he would be multi-tasking this morning, both supervising the installation of the Christmas lights and directing the many tasks that had to be completed to finish the rewiring of our station Public Address system. James picked up help along the way and by the morning he, Tony and Andy(s) had completed the erection of our “heritage” Christmas lights on the ramp and at the back of Platform 1. Sadly daylight images of low wattage coloured light bulbs do not do justice to their efforts, but once again we shall have a colourful entrance for our Santa visitors to enjoy in the weeks to come.
    The next task in this report concludes (well almost concludes) the long running refurbishment of the wrought iron “Spear” fencing adjacent to our station entrance. In my last report I reported on the loneliness of the long distant painter (Dave G). This morning Dave and Maurice finished rehanging the Larchlap fencing panels on the newly painted railings.

There is just the moving back of our signage storage bins against the fencing to do and it will be “task complete” Our thanks to everyone who has contributed to this long running task especially Roger who has had a period of ill health and not therefore seen the finished product.

    Meanwhile, multi-tasking Andy Bint was directing the support work of Stephen and I on the running in of new cables to support our Public Address system. For many years our “old” system had performed well, but perhaps due to old age, or climate change, it suddenly started throwing up faults and became very unreliable. Some of us volunteers know this feeling!
    The tasks this morning involved drawing 100ms of new cable through the underground duct from the Platform 1 building to the inspection chamber at the bottom of the ramp and drawing the cable from the inspection chamber in the image below through several small ducts up into the attic of the Ticket Office where it will be connected to our new Public Address amplifier.
    The first “all hands on deck” task was to draw the new cable through an already crowded 100m underground duct and remove the old cable. As you can see from the image below my task of ensuring the cables and draw cords moved smoothly into the duct was considerably less physically challenging than theirs of coercing the new cable to come to them. In my army communications days I would have used a small winch for this task, but two able bodies made an excellent substitute for technology!
With the cable successfully drawn into the duct, Stephen and I then set about rerouting the “ends” starting with the Platform 1 building. Here the cable was rerouted through our ducts and channelling into the attic where Andy could be heard worming his way between the low A frame beams pulling the cable through to the amplifier junction box. Having spent many hours in this uncomfortable environment in the past I can feel your pain Andy, but no sympathy!
    Leaving this end of the task in Andy’s hands Stephen and I set about drawing the new cable from an inspection pit near our entrance gate up and into the Ticket Office. With this accomplished we recovered some of the old Public Address system wiring within the Ticket office and rerouted it to a point where it can be joined to the new cable. This apparently simple task demanded that all our special events “props” be moved, tongue and groove chipboard flooring lifted and new holes drilled in the attic beams to permit the passage of the cables. A task for another day is to tidy the attic and put all the props back into their old locations. That was a task too far for us today – perhaps next week on a rainy day ?
     All in all a very successful morning’s work and my thanks to everyone, especially those who paused for a moment to let me take images of them smiling.