Have you ever wondered what it is like to volunteer on a steam railway? Maybe you are thinking of signing up to start working at a heritage railway. In this article, Daniel Wyatt provides an insight into what life is like for a cleaner based at Loughborough on the Great Central Railway.
It’s 5:00 AM, and we are the first people on shed. It’s very quiet, and the locos are sleeping, only to be awakened into life in a couple hours’ time.
I’m joined on shed by one of my fellow cleaners, Oliver Brailsford, who is showing me around as it’s my first cleaning turn.
The loco we are cleaning this morning is ex-LMS Black 5 No 45305 ‘Alderman E. Draper’.
We started by getting some car wax and some rags from the stores, Oliver dry-wiped the loco, and I applied the wax. We let it set, and then we wiped it off, this was quite relaxing and enjoyable.
The loco had been cleaned by Nathaniel Parker and Oliver two days before, but it had picked up a considerable amount of dirt since it was last cleaned.
After we had cleaned the boiler, it was then the job of polishing the brasswork. For this, we used Brasso, which you apply to the brass with a clean rag. This was quite enjoyable, too, as it made it shine. After you have applied it, you wipe it off!
We then had to collect coal and firewood for the crew to light up. For lighting up, Welsh coal is used, whereas the coal used on the mainline comes from Doncaster I believe. We collected it in two wheelbarrows and then placed it alongside the loco’s cab, along with the firewood.
The loco was lit, and pressure built, and then off it went for the day’s service, and that was our shift finished!
There is a variety of different roles for volunteering at a heritage railway, be it a cleaner, driver, guard or a member of staff in the station shop. To find out more about volunteering at the Great Central Railway, please click here. If the Great Central Railway is too far, make sure to speak to your local railway, I’m sure they would welcome your help!
Photos and article text supplied by Daniel Lewis Wyatt – please see his YouTube channel by clicking here.
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