Have you ever thought about being a heritage railway volunteer? Do you have a deep down desire to do more than just read about or observe locomotives and trains? You may have considered volunteering at a heritage railway but been put off for some reason. You may even feel that you have nothing to offer and think current volunteers are unapproachable, extreme professionals. Do you think there is a clique and that a newbie cannot break into the ‘inner sanctum’? In society today there is a tendency for people not to offer their services. However, volunteering benefits both the volunteer and the railway. It is so easy just to come home and sit in front of the television instead. With a career of over 40 years, I’m well aware of work commitments and juggling these with a family and time for other activities can be limited.
Over the decades, I’ve been able to manage my time to help restore a former Barry wreck, BR 9F 92212. This was over a period of 17 years. During this time I also trained to be a locomotive fireman on the Great Central Railway at Loughborough. I really felt that I was contributing to railway history for the enjoyment of large numbers of people. the excitement of a live Steam Locomotive still inspires youngsters while keeping the child in us all alive. There is a sense of achievement when a project comes to fruition. I love to travel on a locomotive that I have played a part in keeping alive.
What’s it like to volunteer?
Volunteering on a railway is not just about engineering or operations, it is about the chance to mix with like-minded people with a common interest. It’s not like being at work and neither should it be. It’s about having great banter and sharing a common aim. In my experience I have come across ‘awkward’ individuals at heritage railways but that’s life and shouldn’t be a barrier to volunteering. The vast majority of volunteers are great and clearly want to make their heritage railway a success and that is why they offer their services for free. Clearly heritage railways have to have rules and regulations but these are generally common sense and should not be over-complicated.
Feel the Fear
There is a famous book called feel the fear and do it anyway’ by Susan Jeffers. The book talks about overcoming fears and finding the sense of achievement very satisfying. We all have something to offer so why don’t you ‘feel the fear and do it’ by volunteering on a heritage railway. What are your experiences?