Written by Steph Woolvin, Part 2
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......
As we pull away the smell of engine smoke fills the air and our famous whistle echoes across the Dart valley – only this time it’s my hand pulling the chain! The train gathers momentum and soon we start chugging along the familiar line, waving to people queuing for the Higher Ferry as we pass. “Green” shouts Jack, with his head sticking out the side of the engine! There’s limited visibility out the front windows, and it’s Jack’s job to check for signals - if they’re green we’re good to go, if they’re yellow there’s a chance the next one maybe red. They say they’ve only ever had to make one emergency stop - when a tree was down by Greenway station; “it’s not easy stopping a train of this size quickly, but we managed it and no one was hurt,” says Andy. As the river fades out of sight we get to the bit I have been looking forward to – the tunnel - and it didn’t disappoint! For a few moments it’s excitingly noisy, dark and a little smoky – all that can be seen is the brilliant orange fire and the silhouettes of Andy and Jack as they continue to move about the plate. Far too quickly we are out and pulling to a halt at Greenway - a request stop.
During this pause I ask Andy and Jack if they played with train sets as children. “Oh yes, I had a Hornby one,” says Jack enthusiastically. “Little did I know I would grow up to drive one!” Andy says they both volunteered at railway stations before getting the role here: “I think you need a true passion for this job. You wouldn’t do it unless you loved it. It’s hard work, hot, dirty, and can be long hours. We do a 12 hour shift at the weekend, as the firebox has to be lit a good few hours before the train’s first journey of the day.”
To be continued.....