Written by Steph Woolvin, Part 1
We tried that….
DARTMOUTH STEAM RAILWAY FOOT PLATE EXPERIENCE
In this feature we send our reporter Steph Woolvin to try a variety of activities around Dartmouth and Kingswear. She discovers how challenging, exciting or relaxing they are and reports back! This month she donned her overalls, popped on some suitable footwear and helped drive the Dartmouth steam train......
The half an hour train ride between Kingswear and Paignton is classed as ‘one of the finest heritage steam railway journeys anywhere in Europe.’ It takes in some of Devon’s most breathtaking scenery. Slowly rumbling alongside the River Dart, passing through the famous Greenway tunnel and woods, stopping at the picturesque Churston station and then taking in superb views of Tor Bay from the nostalgic resorts of Broadsands and Goodrington. I’ve enjoyed all these sights many times from the comfort of 1940s rolling stock, but today I’m volunteering for standing room only.
The company offers the ‘Footplate Experience’ seven days a week, throughout the year. You go one way on the locomotive and enjoy the journey back as a passenger in one of the carriages. After signing my life away on the health and safety form I’m introduced to the crew – driver Andy and fireman Jack. These two have been working together since they joined the company three years ago and you can tell they’re perfectly in-sync as they go about their tasks getting the 220 tonne train ready to pull out of the station. Jack’s job is to ensure a steady supply of steam to provide power to the engine. This is more difficult than it sounds as the engine's steam requirements vary according to the load it’s pulling and the gradient. Jack has to think ahead and load more coal onto the fire accordingly. “People say driving is a skill and firing is an art,” he says.
To be continued.....