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Driver Training Courses

Driver Training Courses

"From the very start it was 'hands on' and after the initial checks, like water level, I was shown how to light the fire. As the pressure increased she came alive. As Siān warmed up, lots of Brasso, Mr Sheen and elbow grease ensured Siān was gleaming. With all checks completed and oil pots filled there was time for a mug of tea before the first run.

It was a beautiful Saturday in August, so lots of passengers, and I found it strange to be seen as a driver by awe-struck little boys. In reality of course at that stage I was a passenger too but on the footplate. I had already learned a lot and I could operate the injectors to add water to the boiler, shovel coal into the firebox, not forgetting having learned about the cylinder drain cocks and when to use them, plus loads of other details, including the very loud whistle.

The track is not miles long but that is one of the attractions. It has gradients and tight curves to keep the driver busy. At Lakeview Station at the far end, the guard uncoupled Siān. We then drove Siān around the rolling stock to couple up again on the other end. The tutor makes it look so easy to stop Siān in exactly the right place for coupling. I found this far more challenging when it was my turn later in the day.

After a brief stop we headed off again. On the incline the regulator was opened up and Siān made that lovely 'chuff chuff chuff chuff' sound. The evenness of each chuff ('square' is the technical term) shows she is now a well-maintained loco. We continued this passenger service every half an hour with a break for lunch. On each trip I learned more about the intricacies of steam engine firing, driving and maintenance with the tuition at just the right rate for me.

My turn to drive came when the passenger service finished. My first chance at the regulator was a huge thrill. To be actually driving a steam loco, albeit with instructions through each step. On the last run I was told "OK you're on your own now.". Scary or what? I managed it though. All too soon we were tucking her up for the night, technically 'disposal'. That was also fun and an education in itself. We were both looking like coal miners at the end of a shift.

We are grateful to one of our customers, Alex Wallis, for writing a short article about his experience on our driver training course. More photographs are available on Alex's website (see the link at the bottom) and Alex is more than happy to recommend us or answer any questions you might have if you are thinking of taking one of these courses.

It was a fantastic experience. One I will never forget. These few words can do no more than scratch the surface as a record of the day. I came away tired both mentally and physically having learned a huge amount and had great fun in the process. I would recommend to anyone who has ever wanted to drive a steam train, this is the course to go on."

 

SPG offer driver training courses to the public. The courses are intended for complete novices and make a great day out or an ideal gift for a steam enthusiast. Please contact owen.ryder@tinyworld.co.uk for  details of the next courses.