TEN DAYS ON A STEAM LINE
Crowds throng the platform at Shelley on ‘Thomas’ day. PETER BRYANT
time for a warm drink before I headed off back home to dry out and warm up.
DAY 5: After the previous day’s outdoor activities, I had a day in the office. School group visits are popular at the KLR and my job was to organise the tickets for parties of children. I was again surprised by just how much work goes into preparing such outings. In the afternoon, I worked on the visitor database, which Graham had shown me how to use. This is essential for a business and enables them to know how many visitors are coming in and what they are buying.
DAY 6: Today, I continued my work with the visitor database and also learnt one of the most important jobs on any railway – how to use the tea machine!
DAY 7: I was with the operations manager today, together with some of the volunteers, preparing for the ‘Thomas’ event. I collected the locomotive faces from the workshop and gave them a thorough clean. Then Hawk, which was to masquerade as ‘Thomas’ for the weekend, had a second body fitted, which goes over its boiler and side tanks, to represent the
world’s most famous tank engine. The transformation of Badger into ‘Percy’ was not so drastic and simply called for the application of lining on the tank sides (redpainted strips of masking tape), and fitting of the number 6 to the locomotive.
DAY 8: I spent most of today painting a yellow line along the edge of platform 1, to help with crowd control. About one quarter of the line had been done already by someone else. After using masking tape on each side for accuracy, I was surprised and impressed to learn later that the section that had been done before had been painted freehand!
DAY 9: It was raining hard again but I was able to finish the platform painting and go over a few bits that had been washed out by the rain. I then went up the line with Matthew in Jay to Shelley, taking a flat wagon containing a 7¼in gauge steam-outline locomotive that is used on a portable track at ‘Thomas’ events. After this we returned, stopping en route at each set of points, and I watched Matthew grease the levers in preparation for two-train operation at the forthcoming event, which is one of the busiest in the railway’s calendar. On
return to Clayton West, I was asked to empty the litter bins and put some anti-corrosive powder into a locomotive boiler. This turned out to be my busiest day so far.
DAY 10: The final day of my work experience was the big one: the ‘Thomas the Tank’ event. A lot of hard work is put in by volunteers and staff during these galas and I was put straight to work, cleaning carriage windows, inside and out. After the engines had emerged, and ‘Percy’ (alias Badger) had taken the first train up the line, Graham asked me to deliver some posters and poles to Shelley. For this, I was able to travel in the privileged position on the footplate of ‘Thomas’. For the rest of the day (apart from a chipbutty lunch), I helped supervise the footplate rides at Clayton West, with volunteer Michael. After a while, it was clear that ‘Toby’ (tram engine No. 7, albeit powered by a petrol engine) and ‘Thomas’ were far more popular than ‘Mavis’ (diesel Jay with cow-catchers). Steam locos are still the big attraction, even for the very young. My dad came to collect me at about 4pm and after saying my farewells and thank-yous to Graham and his team, we returned to Sheffield. Thankfully, I had the Sunday off before returning to school on the Monday.
How would I sum it all up? Being able to get hands-on with tasks and then see the results of my efforts in use on the railway was very rewarding. I also enjoyed getting behind the scenes in the office as it enabled me to see first-hand how the business side of a major tourist attraction is run. I would like to thank Ian Screeton, Nathan Bentley, Matthew Rose, Emma Rodgers, Richard Smith, and the many other volunteers and staff for being so welcoming and kind. Also, thanks to The RM’s Peter Nicholson for help and encouragement in writing this article – and a special big thank-you to Graham Hurd for making it all possible. I will definitely consider becoming involved as a volunteer in the future – and perhaps ultimately will be able to run my own miniature railway . . .
Since writing this article, Peter Bryant, who founded a miniature railway website (www.miniaturerailwayworld. co.uk) several years ago, has become an advisor to the recently-formed Miniature Railway Museum Trust. ■
KIRKLEES: THE BACKGROUND
THE origins of the Kirklees Light Railway as a tourist line date back to the 1980s, when Brian and Doreen Taylor were running a 10¼in gauge miniature railway in Shibden Park, Halifax. They wanted to move on to a bigger project and came across the ex-Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway standard gauge Clayton West branch, which the local council had bought with a view to developing into a public footpath. The Taylors decided this would be a good location to establish their ‘dream line’ and after obtaining the necessary permissions, the trackbed was leased to their Kirklees Light
Railway Company. Construction began in 1990 and the first passenger train ran on October 19, 1991, from Clayton West station to the then terminus at Cuckoo’s Nest. An extension to Skelmanthorpe opened in 1992 and work on a further extension commenced in 1996, to the present terminus at Shelley, near Shepley, which included laying track through the 511-yard Shelley Woodhouse tunnel. This extension opened on May 31, 1997. The railway was put up for sale in 2005 when the Taylors wished to retire and it changed hands on January 1, 2006, being taken over by the Hurd family.
34 • The Railway Magazine • April 2009
A Kirklees Light Railway service headed by ex-Sutton Miniature Railway Atlantic No. 2 Sutton Flyer, a visitor from the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway. PETER BRYANT