19 Jan – Skipping with Joy!

It was a dreich old morning that’s for certain; a chill wind blowing across the Racecourse, rain in the air and a certain mid-winter malaise. As such it was good to see Dave T, Mary, Bob, Andy B, Steve and John in sterling form and up for some heavy lifting.  And for once we were all focused on the very same task – clearance within the archway storage area to allow bridge inspection.

To that end our leader had procured us a skip – alongside the Ticket Office – and we simply had to decide what could be thrown out and get it up from platform level.  I say ‘simply’ when in reality there is nothing easy about barrowing metal, wood, plastic, wire, hardcore etc etc up and down the slope. Well perhaps it’s easy the first time but after the 10th – can I please start raking down the embankment again!

However, having got the slight whinge out of my system, there was definitely something cathartic about heaving stuff out.  Here’s Mary doing her bit:


And here’s the skip a little later in the morning:img_20190119_121143

Don’t worry – it’ll be gone long before 9 March!

And as a result of these Herculean labours we had to have an extra long tea break:img_20190119_111836

You might think, from the apparent solemnity of the expressions, that it was a wake – perhaps the volunteers shown were troubled by the thought that some of the things we have skipped might just come in useful one day!  I think I’ll just nip out and have a final look through……..


Sonny Hammond (you have to be of a certain TV generation and others may need to Google that to know who he is/was!)



12 Jan – Winter Warming!

There is, of course, nothing like a bit of vigorous exercise on a cold morning for a winter pick-me-up!  The only downsides are the creaking joints, strained ligaments and sore muscles – symptoms of an ageing workforce!

Anyway, whatever the consequences there was a turn out of 10 this morning including Bob & Ros, Dave T, Dave G, Wiley, Steve, Mike, Mary, Dick and self.  Slight variations in the team but the tasks remain similar – largely vegetation clearing and maintenance.  So whilst Mike and Dick were engaged in their usual sweeping up the winter debris, Mary was getting in some early gardening preparation.  Dave G had a meeting with GWSR Events Organiser to review the role of the Racecourse Station in the 2019 programme.  Dave T was engaged in some ivy removal – standing precariously half way up (or down!) the steepest gradient of the Platform 1 embankment.  Bob was on signage and then assisted Ros with the Platform 2 gardening tasks.img_20190112_113831

Steve decided bravely to burn off some more of the pine rubbish, stones, soil etc which had been dumped in a large pile.  The resulting conflagration was successful if somewhat smoky! Before:img_20190112_113720



However, I hope nobody was disturbed as the clouds were essentially blown in the Southam direction!

Unfortunately, Wiley and I were busy raking up barrowloads as fast (or faster) as Steve was burning them – leaving a clearer if somewhat bare bank!img_20190112_113919

All of which effort will keep up the progress to have Platform 2 as a potentially useful part of the Station rather than a liability.

At which point I leave you with a shot of wire in the barrow – if you stare hard enough you can make out a face! Salvador Dali surreal or am I just delusional after a morning’s exercise.





It’s not that the Monday gang have ever been away – it’s simply that no blogger has attended their activities and celebrated their achievements recently.  So here’s to all those missing Mondays – well done gents.

On show today were Dick, Chris, Dave T, Dave G, PeteW, Roger & Mike – plus motley crews from Lineside Clearance and others who were considering the detail of how to get the rolling stock (and I use the term rolling pretty loosely!) out of the way so that the Hunting Butts tunnel – amongst other structures –  can be inspected.  There is rumour that the various wagons will be parked alongside Platforms 1 and 2 at the Racecourse Station which will be a sight for sore eyes!  Look forward to that blog.

Dave G and Roger were painting, Mike was sweeping, Dave T was burning small stuff and stock taking in the Ticket Office whilst Pete, Dick and Chris were weeding.  Meanwhile, down at the end of Platform 2 embankment conditions were ideal for a real bonfire: modest West/South-West wind keeping the fire well supplied with oxygen but blowing the smoke away from the A435!  So, as a reward for numerous Saturdays of hard labour raking and bagging pine needles, pine cones, pine boughs etc etc there was a couple of hours of glorious flaming conflagration.

Here’s some of the pile before:


And here’s the during


And a lot later:img_20190107_154022

Also burnt was one half of an old sleeper, two fence posts, three tree stumps, four ……. – well, you get the picture.

If anyone feels they have missed out I only managed to dispose of half the massive pile of debris so there’s plenty left for the weekend, viz the other half of the sleeper etc:img_20190107_133409

Burn, baby, burn!




5 Jan – The Close Season

The close season for angling means the period when you can’t catch any fish and I suppose the close season for the GWSR means that you can’t catch any trains!

Hence the deserted platforms: trainless and passengerless.  And, after some graft by this morning’s volunteers, devoid of benches, bins and the other accoutrements of the active railway.  All stored away for maintenance or under cover from the elements.

Meanwhile my colleagues numbered about 10 with Bob and Ros, Dave T, Dave G, Andy B, Maurice, Ben, Wiley, John and Steve all in action on the programme of winter tasks. Some are hardy annuals (the jobs and the volunteers) whilst some reflect the current priorities.

So, after some heavy duty bench shifting, Ben and Wiley were raking where Platform 2 meets the slag-stone wall cum earth bank:img_20190105_113043img_20190105_113048img_20190105_113058img_20190105_113103

Frankly the edge of the platform can be a bit difficult to distinguish at times and, since it gets virtually no use as yet by passengers, we have greater priorities in the running season.  However, today was a chance to rake off, ditch the debris and retain the potentially useful elements.

‘Up top’ John was hard at work on carpentry (it being pretty much the close season for gardening as well as railways):img_20190105_115908

Here he was, I think, fettling the bottom of the main door to the staff office.

Inside Dave G and Andy B were consulting on electrical matters:img_20190105_115919

Only Andy could carry an extension cable like a six-shooter – he’s quick on the draw I guess.

Dave was sorting the compost heap, Bob was taking down the Christmas decorations and Ros doing some clearance on the P2 gardens.  Sadly, I didn’t work out what Steve and Maurice were about but I am sure it was very useful!

Only about 10 weeks and we can put it all back together again!

Pip, pip,


29 Dec – New Year Old Hut

There was a noticeable absence of volunteers this Saturday morning – despite quite reasonable weather.  Too much Christmas spirit or mince pies?  However, Dave G was Station Master, whilst others were busy with family commitments or seeking winter sun.  So it remained for just Steve, Ben, Mike, Andy M and myself to hold the fort.

There was good news to report down at thee hut end of Platform 2 – see below.20181229_123951


One side at least it is free from paint! Only the roof, the door and 2 other sides to go now!  Seriously though this has been real labour of love especially in recent weeks by Terry and today by Andy M (thanks for the photos).  Fingers crossed there will be a new coat of paint to refresh the appearance sometime in 2019!  Bill will be pleased.

Elsewhere, Steve was busy on the eternal round of maintenance, wheel fixing etc whilst Ben and I embarked on a new (or at least a new old) task.   We may be required to do some modest clearance at the very top of the Platform 1 embankment between the cleared area and our storage containers.  As such we decided to do some tidying and straightening!  Sadly (but not unusually) I forgot the before photos but here is the after:IMG_20181229_120239

Much improved – believe it or not!  And the results were: one dumpy bag of scrap wire:IMG_20181229_120245

One dumpy bag of general waste:IMG_20181229_120249

A much tidier work site and a general sense of satisfaction!  Anyway, we should now be able to see the wood for the trees if we are required to do any pruning back.

And by next Saturday another season will have drawn to a close.  Stand by for some bonfires!



8 Dec – Racecourse Christmas Spirits!

The Christmas spirits increase slowly week by week and so, it seems, does volunteer attendance at the Racecourse Station.  A full passenger load was apparent but the efficiencies of the ticket office staff and their elvish assistants in the car park seemed to make everything run smoothly.  And so it was on the tack with engines breezing in an out on a regular basis.  I noted that Dave G was head honcho on the Station Master front with a good quota of helpers elsewhere on the platform, in the shop and as always in the ticket office itself.  Customer satisfaction was assured or, if not it wasn’t for want of trying!  Well done all.

Meanwhile, lower down the food chain – so to speak – I spotted Dave T, Maurice, Colin, Bob, Steve, Dick, Ben, Andy and Mike – plus a small gang of visitors who, I think, were greasing the signal equipment and otherwise maintaining matters.

I did spot another ‘intruder’ on the far bank behind Platform 2:IMG_20181208_113908

Looks to me like an ent with an arm aloft – waving farewell to the 0940 perhaps!

Anyway, you might rightly  assume from the foreground that Ben and I were shifting  what our transatlantic cousins refer to as ‘pine straw’.  And here is the man himself filling the 430th dumpy bag of the season (or that’s what it feels like).  I dare say this afternoon’s gales will soon replace what we have cleared with another carpet.

As they say on the railway: ‘if a job’s worth doing it’s worth doing 3 times’.

Steve was, not unusually,  fixing things but this week I claim a world premier:IMG_20181208_112042

He’s reading the instructions first!  Before trying to put together what I believe is a salt spreader – for the imminent (?) icy weather.

I took a rare trip into the ticket office – normally full but with all the web-purchased tickets slightly less frantic than usual – where there was excellent festive atmosphere.


Guess who’s behind the screen? No, it’s not Santa!

And here’s an action shot of our leader Dave T working hard on his piles again.

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Don’t know why he’s so cheerful – bah humbug!

Only 4 trillion pine needles to Christmas.







1 Dec – Soggy Santa!

I couldn’t blame the majority of volunteers this morning for not turning up – it certainly was wet, wet and more wet.  However, a glimmer of brightness emerged by lunchtime and if we aged individuals were put off by the climate,  then the customers – young or old – were certainly not!IMG_20181201_120105

It could, of course, be that having bought your ticket, and wound up the children or grandchildren, you had little choice but to come along!  But, putting cynicism to one side, there was a great crowd in this morning to see the first Santa Specials and they seemed in great spirits.

Naturally, the engines were at the forefront in promoting the festive atmosphere and I think I spotted a dayglo elf in the car park too!

And look what was peeping up from the new hedge line on the Platform 1 embankment:IMG_20181201_104529

Not exactly Christmassy but a welcome sight in any case.

Most of our (Dave G, Bob, Steve, Ben and self) activities were aimed at preparing the  Station for the Specials and, given recent weather, there was plenty for the Billy Goat to get his teeth into.  Sadly some morsels proved a little too much and he had a slight bout of indigestion!  Luckily Steve was on hand to administer the mechanical equivalent of the appropriate tablets:IMG_20181201_102315

And lastly, if our workaday kit is a bit muddy and battered, I was struck by the comparison with the beautiful condition of the rolling stock:IMG_20181201_092703

A great credit to those behind the scenes who do so much to make the GWSR an impressive organisation.

More from the Winter Wonderland next week…..