Overview of 2020
As 2020 finally drew to a close I am sure many associated with the railway will look back with sadness to the year many will remember but for all the wrong reasons.
Despite the terrible constraints placed on our volunteers by the Covid-19 pandemic, work continued on the railway whenever restrictions allowed, trains ran whenever possible, and some semblance of normality occurred between lockdowns. In view of the disrupted nature of the year we thought we would put together a brief summary of what C&M managed to achieve during the periods we could work on site. I can't believe it is so long since I did the last blog post.
C&M's year started with a major burst of activity on a number of projects, the rapid refurbishment of Churchward House, the transfer of office staff to the new facilities, the building work at Cheltenham Racecourse Station, the kerbs and paving at Toddington and the ongoing work at Broadway, which is covered in a separate blog.
Refurbishment work had started on Churchward House late in 2019, and continued through the closed season, but there was a period of frantic activity in early 2020 whilst a new walls were built, new electrical circuits installed along with IT, telephony, security systems and a total redecoration throughout and finally new carpets fitted in the offices and meeting rooms.
The junk left behind in the yard behind the offices by the former occupants was removed and redundant containers and sheds taken away.
The office staff all relocated from the portakabins at Toddington to their plush new home in Churchward House on 4th February. The move went very smoothly due to the meticulous planning from C&M's project manager Jim H.
|Churchward House in early Autumn sunshine|
Since then there have been a number of jobs to do at Churchward House. The new messroom and workshop have been refurbished during the year and new heating and plumbing installed.
A major initiative that has taken place since Covid-19 has been for C&M to form a secure boundary between the office and meeting room part of the building to separate them from the workshop areas frequented by the volunteer departments that use the workshop and mess room. The plan is to have a separate operating zone so that the two parts of the organisation do not intermingle. This has meant a rush to bring forward the provision of new toilet and washing facilities, new services and the extension of the buildings central heating to keep the new washroom facilities frost-free. These activities were almost finished in the last weeks before the Christmas lockdown. We just need the cubicle walls to finish the job.
Work to deal with the springs that occur at the back of the building after heavy rain has been tackled, and a new catch drain and gulley is now in place to catch the seepage water and feed it into the storm water sewers that run through the yard, allowing the saturated ground at the rear of our workshop, and adjacent buildings, to slowly dry out.
Future work to create the carpentry shop and paint shop have been designed, but are currently on hold due to the financial position of the railway. C&M are now operating out of Churchward House, but our carpentry shop, paintshop and stores remain in the old buildings for now.
The team working on Churchward House included Dave B, Colin M, John W, Pete D, Jim M, Mike R, Phil M, Mike G, Roger J, Steve L, Barrie S, Rod W, Terry A, Keith S, Paul C, Austin S, Ken W, Rob W.
Toddington Station Kerbs & Paving
Work restarted on this project as soon as the Christmas break was over. Despite bitterly cold winds and driving rain the team carried on laying the new kerbs and paving slabs. Great care was taken on this project to make sure the work was done in phases that did not impact on the operation of the railway.
The work was planned around the major activities of Santa Specials, Christmas and new year running, and the Race Day Specials in March. Following the success of the Santa Specials it was decided that C&M should add a permanent pavement along the rear of the station building so that pedestrians could keep off the road and avoid walking over the poorly spalled brick paviours that were in that area. A new 900mm wide pavement has now been laid all the way across the back of the station building. Operations are currently arranging for a new pedestrian gate to be made and cut into the site boundary fence to the side of the large sliding main gate.
During the works most of the brick paviours at the rear of the station building and around the southern access gate were lifted, checked and re-laid to re-profile the areas to blend in with the significantly altered platform access paths. New disabled access ramps have been formed, and the areas around the red telephone box and platform fencing smoothed. A new drain has been laid under the southern platform gate so no water now runs off the path onto the platform.
Significant rainfall has now occurred since the new kerbs were installed. I am pleased to report that no flooding has occurred on the station platform since the new kerbing work was completed.
The team undertaking the work were Rod W, Terry A, Keith S, Paul C, Bob W. Others not shown were Mike S, John S and occasionally assisted by Rob W. Scheme design was by Rob W.
|The core Ace Kerb and Paving Team - Rod, Terry, Bob, Keith and Paul|
Racecourse Station Ticket Office (Versions 1 & 2)
The Board had requested an urgent start to this project - v1 as soon as the Race Day Special trains were finished. All materials was purchased, pre-prepared and loaded onto the trucks ready for a start the monday after the races. We had geared up to do the work by working Monday to Friday that first week.
Unfortunately Covid-19 intervened. We got as far as Wednesday and decided to abandon the work. By the Friday the nation was in its first lockdown. Some work was done after the lockdown eased to allow the shop to be handed back to Retail, but the remaining major building works could not be tackled safely within our Covid-19 constraints and so this project had remained on hold. The pictures as we left it can be seen further back in this blog. The team involved were Rod W, John S, Paul C, Keith S, Bob W, Barrie S and Rob W.
By September, after operating under Covid-19 constraints, the Board decided to alter how CRC is going to be run going forward. The original plan v1 is now cancelled and planning work is now at an advanced state for the combined Ticket Office & Station Masters Office - v2.
Detailed requirements are being collected with a view to a start as soon as building works can reasonably start. This is going to involve changing doors and windows, dismantling two walls and building one new one. The shop will go and its space replaced with a booking office cum waiting room with drinks vending machines. Access to the booking office will then be through a new disabled width access door which is being cut into the end wall of the building facing the ramp down to the platform.
|CRC Station as it is today. The shop area will change|
role when Version 2 of the new Ticket Office gets built
Winchcombe Station Footbridge
Painting the footbridge has been a major undertaking for the C&M team this year. As the first lockdown was over Jim H and the team swung into action. This has been a very difficult project to work on due to having to work at height and integrate our activities with the operational necessities of the railway. If Covid-19 constraints were not enough the team had had to juggle with varying weather, lockdowns on and off, and adjusting our working days so that we could get the necessary track possessions.
Unfortunately the lovely sunny days of the lockdown had by now turned to somewhat showery weather. Just look at this photo - If you have a track possession and the volunteers are on site, a bit of rain was not going to stop the bridge getting painted !
|Colin braving the weather|
|This is how far the team got with the painting before the|
weather and temperature finally stopped any further work
The team working on this included Jim H, Colin M, John W, Ken W, Austen S, Jim M, Rodger J, Pete D and Mike S.
Platform Repairs at Three Main Stations
As soon as the railway was preparing to run trains in the spring, C&M were asked to deal with subsidence on the platforms at all three stations. Over the years the fill material under the platform had settled leaving a potential trip hazard where the tarmac met the platform edging slabs. Pete D led this team, who have worked away at this whenever the platforms have been free of trains. The old tarmac has been removed and new applied to give a flush finish. A significant number of bags of bituminous macadam have been consumed in rectifying this problem at the three older stations. The C&M team was led by Pete D and included John W, Ken W, Colin M, Austen S, Jim M.
Winchcombe Station - New Bay Platform
Throughout the year C&M have been overseeing the construction of the new bay platform by the Heritage Team. Please see the Heritage Blog for more details of the work done so far. They have made great progress and have now got the long platform wall and coping blocks in place.
C&M have designed and built the retaining wall by the buffer stops as this needs to be strong to support the access track that will be re-graded in order to give a second vehicular access to the west side of the yard.
The arrival of the salvaged bricks from Swanbourne and Verney junction was very timely. Some of these engineering blues have been used immediately in the new end wall being built by Bob W.
Unfortunately the weather has not been kind to either team working on this project in the last three months. Both rain and overnight frosts have curtailed the work so we were not as far forward as we had hoped to be by now. The plan for this project early in 2021 is to get the end wall and return completed and the access track reinstated using good ballast or Type 1 road stone.
|Bob W pointing up the days work - Getting these levels right is critical|
To cap it all the latest batch of reclaimed bricks are ether 3", 3.25" or 3.5" thick so it takes time to select which bricks can and can't be used in each part of the wall.
The Heritage Team includ Jim G, Paul, Jules, Dave and Jo R to name but a few, the C&M Team included Bob W, Paul C, John W, Pete D and Rob W.
Pershore Running-In Board
Some months ago I mentioned that C&M were producing a new running-in board for the Friends of Pershore Station with the blessing of GWR. This has been built from scratch by Bruce W to fit the exact dimensions of the posts from a previous board. This has been in C&M workshops for many months waiting for collection by their volunteers. Unfortunately, one setback after another prevented the group from collecting the item and so Barrie S used our truck to take the item to Worcester Parkway where it was stored and then sent on via train to Pershore.
The group were delighted with the new board and sent us photos of their local MP, the Rt Hon Harriet Baldwin, doing a formal un-veiling ceremony at the station just before the Christmas lockdown came in.
|Photograph courtesy of Phil Ralls|
Friends of Pershore Station
I'm sure she is pointing out Bruce's handiwork in the second photo.
|Photograph courtesy of Phil Ralls|
Friends of Pershore Station
Brick Salvage Activities
In September, and with support from the P'way and Lineside Drainage Departments, we spent five Saturdays on block recoveries at Swanbourne on the East-West Rail Link Project. In all some 800 blocks were recovered, Some of these are now built into the new Bay platform at Winchcombe.
Following on from Swanbourne the same team spent three Saturdays at Verney Junction recovering approx. 4000 standard blue engineering bricks from the old station platforms at Verney Junction which is also on the East-West Rail Project. Please see the Heritage Blog for the interesting shots of the dismantling work and all the procedures the teams had to go through to get access to the Network Rail sites, even though there were not any trains in the area.
Toddington Ex Garden Centre Building
Finally in December some time was spent in inspecting the former Garden Centre at Toddington to see what works are required to prepare this building for future special events. The plan is to use this building to save the expense of hiring a marquee.
Upcoming Work in 2021
Our future work book is full of tasks that are in urgent need of attention, some are new projects, and some critical maintenance activities that continue to get pushed backwards by the pressures of new higher priority jobs or the availability of suitable manpower or skills to deal with them. Some of the station buildings are not coping well with storms, or the ravages of time.
Dave Bowie, Head of C&M Department and Alan Miller, Projects Director are continually juggling the demands from various departments with the resource availability and skillsets available to the team. This is a continual challenge for the department, but it does give an interesting variety of projects for us to work on.
Here is a brief summary of the main projects C&M are hoping to deal with in 2021 when we finally get allowed back on site :
- Construction of CRC combined Station Masters Office/Ticket Office v2.
- Refurbishment of Toddington Ex Garden Centre building.
- Construction of new carpentry shop & paint shop in Churchward House (dependant on the availability of funds).
- Completion of the Winchcombe Bay Platform and access drive.
- Painting of the final panels of the Winchcombe station footbridge.
- Completion of spear fencing and paving the barrow crossing at Broadway Station.
- Completion of Broadway footbridge.
- Repair work to Winchcombe and Toddington Station canopies.
- Replacement fencing at Winchcombe Station.
- Winchcombe Station access path repairs.
- Additional platform repairs at Toddington Station.
- Lifting and re-setting of paving slabs at Cheltenham Racecourse Station.
- Flag & Whistle doorway repairs.
Finally, and with great sadness we have to announce the recent death of our colleague Mike Risdale.
Mike was famous for his love of painting, and his reluctance to be photographed at any time. Luckily we managed to find one shot of him in action earlier in the year at Churchward House.
We all send our sincere condolences to Mike's family.
That's all for now. Let's hope we can get back to our respective projects in the near future.