20 Sep – A Bridge Too Far?

After reading the fascinating string of comments on last week’s blog ‘There in Spirit’ I am inspired by the time and effort people put into thinking about our railway and the future.  I don’t say that I would always agree with the content but the debate is surely useful.

And, in that spirit I take the risk of blogging from afar (again) – albeit somewhere that steam trains also run.  Pictured below is the first train into Goathland from Grosmont – puffing a bit after the 1 in 49 up incline – but still splendid.  Of course the village (and occasionally Station) is also known as Aidensfield of Heartbeat fame or Hogsmeade from Harry Potter – according to taste.


I was taken by the splendid footbridge – of which we are, of course, in sore need at Cheltenham if we are to see Platform 2 in regular use.  Do you think anyone would notice if we borrowed the above?  But it wouldn’t be a proper GWR bridge would it?

And the commercial use of the railway stations for filming etc is, of course, a great additional money spinner for volunteer railways.  Perhaps it is something we could put extra effort into doing?

Sadly the coal tender was so shiny that all I got was a mass of reflections!  Poor camera work as usual.


Anyway, before I incur the wrath of the CRC team for including holiday snaps I’ll finish and hope to be back next week with some of the genuine article.




14 Sep – There in Spirit!

I didn’t go along to the Racecourse Station today since I’m on holiday close to the NYMR.  However, I did pop in yesterday (no trains) and happened to take some pictures in the sunshine!

So, whilst I am sure good things were done by excellent volunteers there is no record of it!  I did however, misappropriate a beefsteak tomato from the allotment because it looked ripe (sorry John).  With a set of VW keys for comparison, and despite the slight flaws, ’twas delicious.20190913_134722316150066084422062.jpg



7 Sep – Make Hay While the Sun Don’t Shine!

A pleasant if not sunny morning greeted us at the Racecourse Station; autumn might be in the air but dry, warmish weather remains.  As such there was still some watering to do and garden maintenance, though the pace of growth is slowing noticeably.  We had another attempt at maintaining the Platform 1 embankment in a ‘useable’ condition – ie enough flat, grassy space for the workers to make their way down with a wheelbarrow. This picture below might not look much but it represents the outcome of much felling, clearance, strimming and even mowing – as well as the planting of new hedge.  All of which was described in numerous previous blogs. Today was mainly hay making which should give the compost heap (or the bonfire) a good boost later on.

Anyway, the passengers continue to arrive in reasonable numbers – this was the lunchtime DMU departure with a small group interrogating the train staff about return trips, time at Broadway etc etc.  All in a day’s work and very friendly.  Which, I think, is a feature of life on the GWSR: people are interested in what we do (and why), enjoy the experience and they do ask questions.  It is rare (though not unknown!) that people get irate – perhaps its the calming effect of the slower pace and attractive surroundings – maybe the NHS should prescribe steam train therapy?


And there’s more good news.  Andy, after a very long stint and much help from others, has declared the hut paint scraping task complete!  It now remains for our painting guru (Dave G) to declare his intentions as to the re-painting (primer, undercoat, top coat etc) and we can have an even more attractive, GWR original, hut at the end of Platform 2.  Indeed, it could be the combined P2 ticket office, waiting room, shop, toilets and Station Master’s Office.  I was, along with others, more than slightly sceptical, that the horizontal heap of rusting junk we picked up from a rail yard would ever be brought back to useful life.  It is a tribute to Bill Britton’s vision and determination – as well as Andy’s abrasive efforts – that we have got this far.   This is such an impressive milestone that it deserves 2 views:

For the close observer the lowest 6-9 inches may appear very rusty (and it is!) but there is a second strip of corrugating plate inside the original which is bolted in place.  Hopefully therefore, the hut won’t deteriorate any time soon – personnally I think we are good for another 100 years – and it certainly wont blow away!!

In addition to Andy’s efforts much other good work was taking place by Dave T, Mary, Steve, Maurice, Mike and ‘new’ (to us) volunteer John – enjoying a tea break.  Also present was ‘old’ volunteer Terry – just visiting for the morning and not dressed for work!


Others are away on holiday but back soon – I hope – for the autumn maintenance programme!





31 Aug – Oh Yea!!!

Saturday was a good morning to be at the Racecourse Station, with a hard core of local volunteers:  Dave T, Dave G, Steve, Bob & Mike.  And the activities were traditional as well with Dave G painting, Dave T sorting, Steve strimming, Bob gardening and Mike sweeping.  There’s a song in there somewhere : ‘On the first day of autumn, GWSR said to me………………..

Ah well perhaps not!  However, there was much entertainment to be had on Platform 1 ahead of 2807 departing with the first train: namely the Cheltenham Town Crier!

A regular visitor apparently and great supported of the railway he was in full cry celebrating someone called Philippa’s birthday.

Elsewhere we were being ably supported by teams from ‘railway central’.  First were B&S filling in the gaps between platform edging slabs on the Platform 2 – well done gents, that’ll reduce the space for the weeds to grow.  Second S&T who were conducted some regular maintenance activities on the signals side of the house.  This specialist support is very much appreciated – especially so since the days when local groups could do this sort of activity have faded into the past.  Best left to the ‘professionals’.

There is an increasingly cool feel to the air as we progress into what is technically autumn – though thankfully followed by some pleasantly warm days.  All signs that we are approaching the end of another season – the GWSR season!  The list of potential jobs to be done in the short close season (ie November!)  is growing.

And finally another chance to see the best dressed man at the Racecourse:20190831_1042367142773653294114286.jpg




26 Aug – Volunteer Meltdown!

Phew – hot again,  This summer seems to have been either on or off – with little middle ground.  Just a perception I expect, since there have probably been as many mediocre days as usual but it was certainly a little warm for anything to vigorous on Saturday and most volunteers were (I believe – since I wasn’t there!) absent.  For anyone who did attend – thanks and bravely done.

Today was Bank Holiday Monday and by mid-afternoon it was almost equally warm.  So our work period was transferred to the morning and for those hardy few who turned up (self, Mary and Dave T) it was pleasantly misty and cool ’til about 1100.  (I am sure I will live to regret this sort of comment when the first frost arrives.)  I did a little restoration work in the loft – after last weeks electrical repairs: restoring the grab rail and re-stacking the kit we have up there.  After that a session of billy-goating on Platforms 1 and 2 – just to keep everything tidy.  There I happened upon Mary – watering and weeding – when the King arrived!  Edward II, in this instance, looking ‘blue’:




Died, aged 43, in Berkeley Castle, buried in Gloucester Cathedral – so a good local connection!


Here’s the happy crowds awaiting the Red Dragon’s departure at 1105!  Or just after, since the station staff try very hard to make sure even late arrivals can get down the ramp in time.  And there’s no rush really!

Dave T was re-stocking the small area in the Ticket Office where we sell railway-related stuff – books magazines etc – most of which are kindly donated by well-wishers and the income from which helps supplement the maintenance of the Station.

I had the privilege of trying out the new lawn mower – life has few greater excitements after a certain age – and do a bit of scything (or was it sickling) – with a newly sharpened sickle!  And the outcome looks more or less like it did after using the old lawn mower and a blunt sickle:20190826_121120

But with less effort!




17 Aug – Snakes Alive!

Another day – another wildlife experience.  This week (actually Monday) I lifted one of the metal ‘lids’ we have at various places on the embankments and was rewarded by the following:20190812_143053

And in case you can’t see it amidst the debris, here’s a closer up:20190812_143103

A lovely young slow worm – in a delightful metallic bronze. But of course it’s not a snake at all, or a worm for that matter; it’s a reptile or legless lizard (Anguis Fragilis apparently) which has the ability to autotomize or shed it’s tail to escape predators.  Luckily, on this occasion, I wasn’t hungry and it scuttled off semifossorially (ie burrowing) into the undergrowth.  Surprising what one learns at the Racecourse Station!

Another memorable event which occurred this week was Saturday’s completion (more or less!) of the fence at the bottom end of Platform 1 embankment (known euphemistically as the ‘picnic area’).  This work was carried out by Pete Dickinson & team – and very splendid spear point fencing it looks too!  Bob was on hand to offer a celebratory bottle to the workers. (Note: not to be opened there and then or consumed on GWSR premises – see HSW guidance.)

Well done gents and many thanks!

(Note: better add that to the list of things to paint!)

Elsewhere, Dave G was in action with the refurb to the end of the ticket office, ie the bit facing Malvern Road.  This is a difficult place to work as the traffic is both incessant and heavy.  And, trying the patient of a saint, any activity it regularly interrupted by cars pulling into the ad hoc ‘lay by’ just beyond the buildings to ask how to get to the Station.  Sage advice is then followed by these customers pulling out into the traffic which is rushing unawares over the bridge; I have to to say this is not the safest of circumstances!

John was in the garden planting the latest crop and, working adjacent to him, I was the beneficiary by 3 onions and 2 small lettuces.  Thanks John!  Steve was busy strimming (again) and hoping that the vegetation growth can be kept under control during the last month or so of the growing season.  At least we haven’t had to do so much watering this year!  Maurice was also engaged in garden maintenance but the two of them escaped my roving camera.

There have been some minor problems with the lights the back office so Bob and I were up in the loft rearranging the junk stored items to get access to the cabling.20190817_095833

Apologies for the quality of the imagery – the light wasnt too good up there either.  Of note is the charred nature of some of the roof trusses and beams – the product of a fire lit by vandals in the years before the Station re-opened.

And finally, I cleared the Klargester pit of weeds (the big one, not the one which was lost).  This is a perennial task (like the weeds!) since the shale surrounding the digester itself has proved to be an excellent growing medium.20190817_091325

Before, and….



Finally, we (the team) were mildly amused to see this picture of a pile of pine needles 90cm high from the Broadway blog:Capture

This is the equivalent pile at Cheltenham:20190817_114803

Approx 1.5m x 3m x 3m!

All I can say is that we empathise with you Broadway!











10 Aug – Signs are Good!

It was a record low for volunteer numbers on Saturday morning – just 4 being Ben, Steve, Bob and myself.   Dave G was Station Master, whilst Dave T & Mary were away on holiday.  I assume everyone else was deterred by the weather which was mainly cool, rainy and very windy.  Not much fun for the passengers who nonetheless turned up in considerable  numbers for the ‘Bricks’ weekend.


As such, it wasn’t the morning for major activities and we confined ourselves to a bit of gentle maintenance.  Steve fixed various bits of our kit – in preparation for better conditions.  Bob maintained the Platform 2 gardens with some dead-heading etc (there was no need for watering for once!) whilst I tidied some (more!) fallen pine cones and plums off the passenger areas – a pointless activity this really as new ones were falling off as fast as I removed them.


You see P&O in all her glory – I see a platform covered in ‘pine straw’!

When Ben arrived we turned out hands to the erection of some new signs – of the ‘Keep Off’ variety!  I am never sure these are the most welcoming aspect of our Station but sadly necessary – from a practical viewpoint as well as Health and Safety.  You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) where some of our keener visitors get to in order to have a better view or a better photo of the trains.  We can’t have middle-aged men (sorry to be ageist and sexist but it is invariably this category – into which I fit) climbing up the steep embankments of the Station.  At least not unless they are volunteers!


After that we engaged in some highly topical drain clearance – another old favourite! On finding a ramp cross drain totally blocked we dug out the ‘drain’ pipe from the embankment and found it full of compacted soil and roots:20190810_115619

I thought this looked alarmingly like a giant insect – a 2-foot earwig or something!?Actually, it’s just comprised of debris which has washed off the ramp. Here’s another snap including Ben’s boots, the ‘insect’, the offending drain plus a drain rod:


Yours hoping for better weather and more help next week,