Easter can be a funny time of year, it’s success or otherwise is very dependent on the weather. Many say it always seems colder on Easter weekends.
Anyway, this year was different, we had four nice days weather wise and on all four days 92 Squadron provided hauling of all services.
It does no harm to be running a large locomotive on busy weekends. 92 Squadron did us proud. All services were almost to or on time.
For me personally it seemed quite strange not to be at a station, but circumstances dictate otherwise. So as with other running days we manned the Webcam and chat and we were busy there instead with people after anything from a chat to specific information.
The trains were busy and the visitors happy judging from the feedback we got on the cam. Nice to see smiling faces as the train passes.
Credit must be given to all the working members who were working over the weekend, the railway was shown at it’s best.
I could of course post some pictures of previous Easter holidays complete with a mixture of the following, rain, sleet or snow but that would not be fair. We had a super weekend on the railway and hopefully it will be the first of many in the future.
Here in the UK the first day of spring is Sunday 20th March, and if all runs as normal it will be a wet dismal day. In other words a typical British start to spring.
Spring also means the railway looks towards the years events.
So what do we have lined up for April?
As well as normal services we have:- Driver Experience (Sold out) with a steam locomotive Freight Driver Experience, your chance to drive a class 14 loco and freight wagons. The Jolly Fisherman (Evening fish & chips while travelling along the line.)
More events planned through the year, so pop along to the railways wed site at nvr.org.uk and see what’s planned. You can book on-line and that goes for pre-booking tickets for standard service days.
If you have any questions that are not answered on the web site then either ring or drop the office an e-mail.
Have a quiet and smooth first day of the 2022 season they said!
That was the response I got when the roster came out for February 2022, my first day back on duty at the railway was to be Sunday 13th, the first Sunday of the season and a standard 3 train timetable. I was aware Duchess of Sutherland was planned to be in the yard so expected some photographers visiting on platform tickets but then things changed, the railway was allowed to use for one of our services, cue the overdrive that week for the whole railway!, my day was certainly going to be different to when the roster came out.
Thankfully the day went well for all at the railway, the crowds were in, tickets were sold and the café was being run low and the tills ringing high. It was great to see such a buzz around the line, especially in the early stages of the season. Everyone got their photographs, those with tickets got their rides, some visiting the railway for the first time, we hope to see them and everyone else again, and importantly no paperwork for me as the day went smoothly and safely
So what is my role and the role of all of the Station Masters on the Railway, other than just wearing a big hat in a lovely office!?
Essentially we are responsible for the safety of all persons on the platform and the smooth and safe running of the running days including the dispatch and arrival of the trains into our respective stations (I am a part of the group that cover Wansford and Peterborough Nene Valley with the Youth Group and their Associated Adults doing a grand job of Overton and when open Orton Mere). This is done with huge teamwork with our own platform staff team, other stations, the train guard(s), the signalman, booking office , the duty fitter, the loco crews and the railway management, it really is a huge team effort to run the services!
A typical running day for us would usually go something like this for us:
Signing on 60-90 minutes before the first train departure of the day, there is always plenty to do before the trains even leave!. We will then meet our team of Porters for the day, depending on how may we have available and go around preparing the station for the days running. Jobs in this stage include filling the fire buckets up, writing out the train times on the departures board in chalk (a skill that’s dying out as sometimes it takes us a couple of go’s to get it to a presentable standard), making sure Museums and Toilets are open as well as checking the stations appearance as we are also responsible for that as well, first impressions count.
As soon as we have the Station ready then we will move onto the actual train service, before running we will take a time check with the guard on our pocket watches to make sure we are all aligned so we know when trains are at departure time. We know what timetables are running from use of the HOPS online system and if a busy event day or a gala for example we will have our information from the Operating Manager set up in the office so we know the day’s schedule. We also need to ascertain from the other departments whether there are any special or group bookings we need to be aware of
Then the public start to arrive and the day starts to come alive, the public ask all sorts of questions. Some of the visitors may never have been before so ask about the line and the timetable, some ask about the locomotive in use, some ask when they can board, you get all sorts of questions. We answer them as accurately as we can and make sure everyone gets what they want out of the day and most importantly that they feel valued and enjoy their time with them. You do also get the regulars who ask for more specific information around locos and plans at the railway, again we engage and answer these helpfully and friendly, keeping the NVR’s reputation as that sort of railway, where we treat individuals as such.
Around 5 minutes before departure we really jump into action stations, we do our final checks to make sure people are on the train, checking the booking office to see how may more to come, if any, and final announcements over the Tannoy with the train details and a boarding request. Then we go into our safety critical mode, we have to check all the carriage doors are shut securely in our respective areas of the train, that the tail lamp has been attached by the Guard and that the loco crew either have the signalling staff or know how they are getting it (i.e on the level crossing) before we even consider authorising the train to be dispatched.
When we are satisfied all is to standard and the guard is ready, only then will we signal to them that we are happy the train is safe for them to take, this is done by one whistle blast along with one raised arm to the guard who will acknowledge. The guard retains the final call as they are in charge of the train itself, but we have our part to play, this is teamwork at its finest. With the sign of the green flag and the sound of the whistle/horn of both guard and the loco we then watch the train until it leaves our station, making sure no doors are fiddled with and also for people making a late dash, I’m afraid the days of the 1950’s where you jumped on whilst the move are long gone. I then go and inform stations the train is on its way, especially if there has been a delay so they can relay that information to the public at their stations, people can accept things going wrong as long as they know what’s happening and it’s important we feed that information.
Now the trains gone, it’s not quite all tea and biscuits as some may think, we’ll chat amongst ourselves and take the chance to use the facilities but we wonder around talking to people visiting on platforms, ones arriving for the next train as well as other volunteers on the railway. We constantly look around to make sure everyone is safe and following safe practices as well as keeping everyone enjoying their visit. We will also be listening to the railways radio to make sure all ok and track the train service as well as fielding phone calls.
Even though we know the timetables, eventually we’ll get the platform bell ringing by the Signalman, then we take up positions watching the train safely arrives and for the risks that may crop up very similar to departure, notably doors being opened early, helping passengers leaving the train again feeding information of what they can see at the station/in the local area and reminding them of next departure.
Everything repeats itself throughout the day but the day is always varied and no one day is the same for any of us. Eventually the last train goes out, we can start shutting the station down slowly, including the bins which are a constant thing we check and we empty them at the end of the day, in readiness for next running day.
The last train arrives, the passenger start to leave, we say thank you to every one of them, after all they help keep the railway going and then we help the guard lock the train down, hopefully no paperwork to collect as they’ll have been no incidents and no lost property. A quick review with the railway management of the day, then it’s time to sign off and go home and look forward to the next one.
The platform staff team is a small team, comprising of males and females of all ages and all backgrounds. We play our part at the heart of the railway and such we get to meet lots of different people from in and out of the railway and work with lots of different areas of the railway. It’s a serious job involving some training but it has enjoyable opportunities, we always go home with a smile on our faces.
If you are unable to volunteer but support the railway from afar, firstly I hope this gives you an insight and secondly your support is crucial and invaluable and we all value it , so thank you!. If you’re already a volunteer and fancy a change/additional role, if you’re thinking of joining as a working volunteer and fancy it we’d be delighted to hear from you and we will more than happily take you on our team and guide you through the training (which includes turns at Peterborough). We’re a supportive bunch; we’ll take you through it step by step and make sure you enjoy it.
Tomorrow the 8th January marks the first running day of 2022 for the railway.
Let us hope that it’s not as difficult and unpredictable as the last few years when many things have happened that nobody could predict. They led to closedowns, disrupted & limited services and cancelled events.
To all those who have supported the railway through the difficult time and continue to do so. Thank You!
The railways biggest asset are it’s working members and paid staff. This has often been said. So if you plan to visit the railway then just remember that without the people working around you there may have been nowhere to visit.
Enjoy visiting us in 2022, you will be very welcome.
Over the years I have lost count of the number of people who would comment every autumn that except for the Santa trains the railway was dead in late autumn & winter.
This of course is far from the truth. In both November and January we are running services, yes it’s just the railcar but it’s still a service and the Swedish railcar is popular with many visitors. Not to mention we have some steam driver experience days.
But that’s not all that will be going on. Remember that it’s a busy period in the office with plans for next year. As well as enquiries and the normal work that has to be done to keep the railway running through the year.
No doubt down in the shed people will be working away at both routine maintenance as well as rebuilds etc.
The cafe will be open at weekends and Wednesdays, which hopefully will encourage people to visit on non-running days and help with both turnover and profit for the railway in the process.
Around the railway there will be maintenance along the line, the civils will no doubt be out and about making sure that the line is clear and safe for the trains that will use it.
As usual the monthly electronic newsletter for working members will be prepared and sent out on the 1st of the month.
So next time somebody says that the railway is dead in the winter point out those working members and paid staff that will be working to make sure that we have a safe, busy and profitable railway in the coming year.
The Fletton loop is an important part of the railway, it’s our link to the outside world railway wise.
From time to time we run trips for visitors down it, normally either with brake vans or the Swedish railcar. We even did a weekend of cab rides in a couple of class 31’s down there, they were extremely popular.
But it’s rare that we put the MK1 coaches down there, and when we do they are top and tailed as there is no run round at the far end.
So last weekend was the Three Peaks diesel gala, and one of the highlights on the Saturday and Sunday were two trips for the Mk1’s down the Fletton loop each of the two days with peak locomotives at one end and a class 14 at the other.
They were popular and I have seen lots of positive comments.
Here are some pictures sent to me by Harry Wheeler who was visiting the railway and he took them on the Fletton loop.
My thanks to him for sending the pictures they are much appreciated.
If you visit the railway and have any pictures you would like to send me for the blog then I would love to receive them. Please send them with full details to the email address for comments that’s on the right had side of the blog.