Yesterday at CRS – Getting the Needle(s)

A select band of 6 volunteers turned out yesterday, most with the intention of clearing up the pine needles  brought down by the storms of the previous week.


Here Stephen using the traditional method (rake and barrow) and Paul with the Billy Goat.  A determined effort eventually saw most of the needles on the bonfire pile.


Here Mary captures the final pile – a ‘guess the weight’ competition may have been in order but I’m not sure, after all the hard work, that anyone cared! It’s soul destroying that the next lot is  probably already on the ground today!

On the basis of out of sight, out of mind, I hid away in the line-side hut, pop riveting the new corrugated skirt in place.


At the rear you can just see the water service pipe which will supply an internal tap, primarily for watering on  platform 2 and, of course local cups of tea!

Trains were generally fuller today, with Foremarke Hall and P&O in steam. Here the latter is swathed in a clouds of steam and black smoke waiting patiently for some late comers to board.IMG_0680

Finally it pulls effortlessly away, heading northwards.


Tim should be back soon on Blog duty.



The GWSR ‘Day out with Thomas’ Swansong

It’s likely that this weekend’s ‘Day Out with Thomas’ event will be the last on the GWSR for the foreseeable future.  The ever increasing cost of putting  on the event,  regrettably now outweighs the returns. It was  noticeable also that the trains leaving Cheltenham were far from full – maybe another  sign of the times.

From a volunteers point of  view there was a good turn out, mainly pitching in to make the station and and surrounds neat and tidy for the  Thomas  Fan visitation. The double D’s (Dave T and Dave G) were on car park duty directing the traffic to the correct spot and many brooms and barrows were in evidence, with the occasional bit of leaning on the broom to take a breather. Stephen was using the brush cutter to good effect around the site. As an aside I have to say what an impressive job has been carried out by the tree surgeons in tackling the overhanging dead and wayward branches on Platform 2.   Apart from looking smart it will reduce the amount of tree debris on the platform and trackbed.

For my sins I carried on with the rebuild of the line side hut. Not quite to the Standard of the Repair Shop Team (what a brilliant programme this is on BBC 2 – 6.45 each evening) but satisfying nevertheless. I was ably supported by Terry who continued with the monotonous job of paint scraping.


10 Sep – Treenewal?

The Racecourse Station echoed to the sound of chainsaws rather than steam engines today (Monday) as the long-awaited tree work began in earnest.  The work, as regular readers of the blog may recall, was initiated after the heavy snow storms of the winter and basically involves making the line as safe as possible, whilst maintaining the aesthetic appeal of the this stretch of the line.  The pines (several varieties) have a dense needle structure and, at their current height and age (about 100 years old) are beginning to be vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather.  Moreover, and I suspect especially at Cheltenham, there is a tendency for everything (buildings, trees, platform etc!) to lean in towards the track bed.  After careful consideration and a in-depth survey, the decision was taken centrally by the railway to do work up and down the line on some of our ailing conifers – essentially to remove or reduce dead, diseased or damaged trees.   IMG_20180910_095554

The work, being rather beyond the internal capabilities and capacity of the railway’s volunteer workforce, was contracted out and above are our colleagues half way through one example.  Their expertise was well in evidence as, wherever possible, trunk sections were carefully lifted out by the extending crane:IMG_20180910_100953

Elsewhere, work was less dramatic and simply consisted of trimming the lower branches and removing the obviously dead limbs.  Considerable care was taken to avoid dropping anything onto the track itself, and to ensure the signal wires remained clear etc.IMG_20180910_120552

That said there is plan for some of the trees closest to the track and with the worst ‘leans’ to be removed entirely at a later date.

I am certainly aware of the need for the safety of passengers (and volunteers) to be balanced with the requirement to preserve the appearance of the line – and so, I think, is the Board.  As such an agreement was readily entered into to plant at least as many new trees as we are removing – possibly ones which don’t drop so many pine needles on to the track (please!).

I left at lunchtime but there will be more pictures at a later date of the final appearance; my money is on us not really noticing the difference after a week or two.



8 Sep – Soggy Saturday!

Attendance was thin at the Racecourse Station yesterday (I wasn’t there and neither was Blogger Bill) but I have a short narrative report from Dave T

“I noted Bob and Ros, Mike John and self, plus Paul making his (very welcome!) first appearance for some time.  Andy Bint dropped in to deliver a replacement extension socket.  John tidied his tomato plants, etc and took away the umbrella stand to work on at home.  Bob and Ros were tidying their garden to make it an easier task for others to keep an eye whilst they’re on holiday.  Mike swept the laurel leave into piles and I did some car park attending, shop tidying and then, in between trains and at Dave G’s request, put the Billy Goat over the north end of Platform 1 – even moving the benches and dustbins in order to vacuum underneath!

There was a funny incident in the car park. Three Japanese ladies parked according to my instructions, then one of them leaned out the window and said they were lost and supposed to be going to Bath!  Staying in a hotel in Cheltenham they took the wring route out of town, saw the racecourse sign and decided to come in and have a look. They went down to the Platform to use the facilities, watched the first train leave and them promised to return for ‘Thomas’ next Saturday with some younger family members.


Back next week (or earlier) with some more news and photos.  Tim

01 Sep – Burning some Rubber!

There were unusual noises and a whiff of something other than coal and steam at the Racecourse Station this morning:  we (and our passengers) were ‘treated’ to a cacophony of sound and clouds of burning rubber.


These were not, as Bob suggested, passengers trying to make the 1105 departure for Broadway but some auto-sport event at the Racecourse itself. And, whilst my motto is live and let live plus great admiration for the drivers’ levels of skill, a more thoroughly unpleasant background for our services it would be difficult to imagine.

Ho hum, I expect all will be back to peace and tranquillity by next week (or even tomorrow hopefully).  So the assembled few plodded on with tasks only marginally varying from last week: tidying, gardening, major league strimming and shed fettling – featuring Steve, Bob & Ros, Andy, Terry, John, Bill, Mary, Mike and no doubt others who I couldn’t see for the blue haze!

Here’s a new angle on Bill plus shed:Picture1

The task of trying to remove 27 layers of hundred year old paint is clearly having an effect – hence the slightly manic gleam in the eyes! However, much progress was made in fitting more of the shed’s skirt – visible on the back wall at ground level.Picture9

Elsewhere, the growing conditions continue to be good for our vegetation – wanted and unwanted.


So the above can be carefully tended whilst below needs reduction:Picture6

At least the passengers got the chance to close the carriage doors an head off into the peaceful Gloucestershire countryside:Picture3

With grateful thanks and appreciation to Bob Stark for the loan of his excellent camera plus his work to edit and upload the pictures.



25 Aug – Dog Days of Summer?

I mused today on the origins of the Dog Days – only to conclude that this Saturday wasn’t one of them!  Or at least it didn’t fit the description of a hot lazy day in mid-summer.  In fact, first thing it was rather cool (9C by my car thermometer at 0745) and a quiet first half an hour allowed me to amble down to our Hunting Butts sidings/storage area.  Although it’s not exactly Barry Island there is something atmospheric about old rolling stock – a bit dog-eared and decaying ever so slowly but still majestic in scale. IMG_20180825_084908




Anyway, more prosaically, the volunteers were out in force by 0900 and I observed Dave T and Mary, Dave G, Andy M, Terry, Mike, Maurice, Ben, Bob & Ros, Steve, John and Colin – pretty much a full pack!

Today was also a red letter day in that B&S (now called something else which I haven’t caught up with) arrived plus truck to take away some of our detritus: most notably the old fence posts for Platform 1 bank and the associated wire.


Very well done gents – that’s tidied the dog’s breakfast up a bit.

They did also deliver a dozen Heras fence panels – for various purposes around the Station – so we were kept busy assisting and putting away (neatly).

Elsewhere, Mary, Colin and John gardened on P1 whilst Bob and Ros did similar on P2.  Steve and Bob were seen strimming, Dave G fettled the (new) gate to the car park, Dave T considered the design for a new canopy for the gents loo, Andy raked pine straw, Terry scraped paint off the hut, Ben moved stuff around as general dogsbody, Mike swept up and most importantly made the refreshments.   Dogged determination all round.

All was well at CRCS and from reading The Cornishman the railway as a whole continues to prosper.  I note from the latter publication that Broadway Station is to benefit from ‘footbridge steps and canopies’ so that the station will be ‘more aesthetically pleasing’.  Can’t be long before Cheltenham Racecourse Station gets the same treatment then – since, presumably, every dog has its day!?

Yours dog-tired and in the dog house,


18 Aug – Pine Nuts!

It is of course a feature of Cheltenham Racecourse Station that we have pine trees on the slopes of the cutting in which the track bed lies.  These are generally appreciated and (native species or not) lend a certain character to the place.   We would be sad to lose them and, as alluded to in previous blogs, the reduction in many overhanging branches and removal of some of the more vulnerable trees – for all our safeties –  will make a difference to the appearance of some parts of the Station.  However, I am assured that the process will be carefully managed.IMG_20180818_114214IMG_20180818_122816

Two views of the Evesham Road bridge as it is now and as it was when the Station was under construction:screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-14-55-51

The volunteers often joke that the pines are not universally popular for various reasons – but mainly because they distribute copies quantities of pine needles and pine cones across track, platforms and all the surrounding areas.  Normally, this is most noticeable in autumn and winter but this year we are being treated to an early deluge – probably due to the low rainfall levels. Here’s Andy in the middle of stint of raking and barrowing yet another load of pine presents off the track side and onto our bonfire site:IMG_20180818_114208

And here’s another hero of the hour:IMG_20180818_093337

I am not much of gadget man normally but Billy is invaluable and allows one man (me this morning) to sweep both platforms in roughly an hour – whereas it would probably take 6 volunteers the same length of time to do half as much – if you could find 6 willing to do so!  Thirsty work for man and machine!

Apart from making the place look untidy the pine debris is a fire hazard on the track running steam engines and, since the system by which rail and sleepers are connected contains a small plastic element, such conflagrations are not a good idea!  However, more promisingly the ban on bonfires has now been relaxed so that Bob and Ros could reduced our pile of debris to ashes earlier in the week:IMG_20180818_084227

Apparently the flames could be seen in Bishops’s Cleeve! (NB Gloucs Fire Service were informed and content).

Meanwhile, Steve, Colin, Andy, Bob, Terry, John, Ros, Mike and Dave G were busy about their tasks.  There was much strimming on the Platform 2 bank, some gardening on both sides plus other general maintenance tasks.  As per blogs passim it seems that this time of year we are keeping our estate in check and our (large numbers of !) passengers content – or I certainly hope so.