The delights of working for a steam railway

My new driving job with the Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company has brought me into closer contact with steam locomotion, another one of my heritage interests.


I have always followed the progress of this, my local steam railway, with interest but now that I am employed by the same company I am enjoying a closer look. A few weeks before I joined, the bus operation had to move its base from Totnes to Churston as the lease on the rented land it used previously was not renewed. Now it has a (rather basic) yard right next to Churston Station at the halfway point along the scenic railway line from Paignton to Kingswear.

I will go into more detail another time but one of my rostered duties involves a morning run from Torquay to Totnes via Paignton and then back to base at lunchtime to dispose of the bus. While I am re-fuelling the bus and cleaning it, I quite often enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of two trains passing in the station, as seen in the photo above.

I have been quite surprised by the youthfulness of the steam loco crews. A few days ago, one of the two locos in use was ex-BR(W) 2-6-0 7827 ‘Lydham Manor’, currently wearing BR black livery. I walked towards the platform past the Paint Shop, where some of my colleagues were outside painting a repaired panel from one of the buses. I watched the Manor stop in the station to await the arrival of the train from Paignton. The crew, two young chaps in their twenties, sat chatting on one of the station benches while their loco sat simmering quietly nearby. Not long after, the sound of another loco was heard, plodding up the bank from Broadsands Viaduct. The train drew to a halt with the ‘Devon Belle’, an ex-LSWR observation saloon, at the rear.  7827-at-ChurstonThe crew of the Manor climbed back onto the footplate and the driver put on the ejector to begin blowing off the brakes in readiness for the green light. After sounding the whistle, the loco eased the train forward, tender leading. As it crossed the pointwork beside the Paint Shop the Driver and Fireman leaned out of the cab on the Fireman’s side and waved to their colleagues working there. Suddenly the Driver darted back to his side of the footplate and, as the front of the loco drew level with the Paint Shop the Driver opened the cylinder drain cocks briefly, knowing full well that this would cover his colleagues in a cloud of wet steam. I can just imagine the curses of the painter who had just put a fresh coat of undercoat on the repaired panel!

The next day I had the same duty and, with a feeling of déjà vu, saw the same loco and crew in the station. This time the Paint Shop was not being used but the loco crew wouldn’t discover this until the loco was leaving the station. However, in a bit of obvious showboating, the driver this time left the station with the train brakes partly on and the regulator wide. In contrast with the usual soft exhaust beat as the train headed for the downgrade section to Goodrington, this time the loco barked loudly as if to say “Okay chaps, I’m leaving the station and I’m going to make sure you notice me!” Sadly, I was the only spectator but, as I stood in the bus yard, I smiled widely as the Manor passed by noisily.

One comment on “The delights of working for a steam railway

  1. Ray Bounsall says:

    john, you must now have one of the best jobs in the world!

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