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Volunteering in the Locomotive Department

The E4 with Victorian set - Steve Lee - 14 September 2014

Do you want to work on Steam Engines?

Members of the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society are eligible to volunteer to work in the Locomotive Department.

The Locomotive Department is broadly split into two parts:

Most volunteers opt for one or other of these, although there are many who do both.

Footplate Grades

Cleaners at work on the Q1 Left: A team of cleaners at work preparing the Q1 for the day's work.

All volunteers start as "cleaners", and as the name suggests, the main task is to clean the engines each day to a high standard, but many other labouring jobs connected with the servicing and daily maintenance of steam engines are also required.

Polishing the brass on No. 323
Right: Polishing the brasswork on one of the older locomotives.

There is a lower age limit of 16 years for footplate work and no upper age limit. We welcome applications from both sexes, one area of the past we don't recreate is the male-only loco shed and are proud to have females in all grades from cleaner to driver.

Operating a steam locomotive is a safety critical role and potential candidates should not underestimate the physical and demanding nature of the work. Volunteers must pass a regular medical examination to certify they are safe to carry out the role.

We would encourage anyone interested in joining to attend one of the regular "find out more days" where you will get the opportunity to tour the locomotive department and speak to existing volunteers.

Training and promotion

You need know nothing about steam engines whatsoever when you join. Full training is provided to NVQ level, and with this training and footplate experience, you can progress through the grades to become a fireman, and eventually a full steam engine driver.

Social Aspects

Working on the footplate of a steam engine requires you to be able to "do as you're told" as the most junior member of the team, and because we all work together and "live" together, this engenders a very close-knit social scene "after hours". To many volunteers, the Bluebell Railway is their second home.

How to Join the Loco Department Footplate Grades

  1. You must be a member of B.R.P.S.
  2. Come on one of our introductory "Find out more days"
  3. Be prepared to arrive at the Bluebell Railway Loco Yard at 7.00 am, dressed in overalls and steel toe-capped boots, and the "Running Foreman" will give you a job to do.
Simple, isn't it? Hope to see you soon.

Locomotive Works

If you have mechanical or engineering skills you can volunteer to help in the Locomotive Works on maintenance and restoration projects.

Attending to the steam reverser The steam reverser on "C-class" No 592 having some attention.

As well as weekday working, under our Works Manager, we also have a team restoring SECR P-class No.27, see their Project 27 Blog and Facebook page, which is a good way into working in the department.

To find out more, come on one of our introductory "Find out more days"

Remember however that you must not enter the Locomotive Works without permission.

The Locomotive Works has many volunteers who are retired and work both at weekends and midweek. There is no upper age limit as long as you are still physically fit with no serious impairment to sight or hearing.

splash The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service
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