Anyone who has ever considered becoming a volunteer heritage railway worker or maybe fulfilling childhood ambitions of getting actively involved in the romantic world of running steam trains will find a warm welcome awaits on the West Somerset Railway (WSR) at the end of this month when the 20-mile line holds an ‘Open Morning’ for prospective new workers.
As the WSR nears the end of what has been a very busy summer holiday period, and one in which volunteers have played a crucial role in the railway’s slow recovery from Covid 19, the WSR is now seeking new people who might be interested in volunteering on the line to come along to the ‘Open Morning’ at Bishops Lydeard station, near Taunton, between 10:00 and 14.00 (2:00pm) on Saturday 30th October.
The ‘Open Day’ presents a great opportunity to find out about volunteering on the WSR in general and to speak to some existing railway volunteers in different departments and organisations about their many different roles along the line. Volunteers have kept the WSR going for the last 45 years since the line re-opened as a heritage railway in 1976, and there are almost 1,000 regular workers today but more are always needed.
As the ‘Open Morning’ is being held on the last Saturday of the 2021 regular season, visitors will be able to watch steam trains leaving and arriving at Bishops Lydeard during the day, and so share some of the excitement which visitors experience on a popular steam railway, as well as gaining an insight into what happens to make it all work behind the scenes.
The West Somerset Railway is run by a veritable army of men and women of all ages and almost 1,000 strong, who work as a family in different roles and teams all along the line. These teams provide the wide range of skills necessary to run, rebuild and maintain the line’s infrastructure, its locos and rolling stock, and everything involved in running a heritage railway.
Volunteers guide, inform and look after the WSR’s 170,000 annual visitors and customers; run and staff the ten stations and two museums on the line, and also run the support organisations that make up the railway family. New volunteers are always needed, especially now as the railway is steadily building back to a full service after lockdown and as the 2022 season beckons.
All new WSR volunteers will need to undertake some basic training of course before undertaking their duties. For example, for some customer facing roles such as station staff or museum stewards, there is a relatively short safety training programme. And, at the other end of the scale, certain safety-critical technical roles, such as engineering, engine crews, guards or signalmen, need many years of development and progression as well as medical examinations.
But, above all, volunteering offers people a great chance to build new friendships and companionship within groups; do a satisfying job and learn new skills, or continue to use their existing skills once they have stopped formal work or retired.
WSR volunteers come from all sorts of social and work backgrounds, age ranges and interests but, whatever role they choose on the railway, they will be with like-minded people who are there too because they enjoy it!
Potential volunteers who cannot attend on 30th October can contact West Somerset Railway Volunteer Coordinator on [email protected].
Commenting on the WSR’s ‘Open Morning’, event organiser Roger Ellis, the Station Master at Bishop Lydeard said:
“Volunteers are the very life blood of the West Somerset Railway and always have been during our 45-year history – it’s a simple equation: No volunteers = No railway. So, we need you!
“Whilst we have a good, dedicated support volunteer base already of almost 1,000 people in the WSR family who support us regularly in almost every role and department, we still need to recruit new volunteers every year to replace those who have moved away through work, education or have changed family commitments, or those who have retired or stopped working through ill health. We need to attract about 100 people a year if we can in order to keep going.
“Every new volunteer we recruit will not only help us to offer visitors a good heritage railway experience, but also provides volunteers with a truly valuable personal benefit too. WSR volunteers gain from their own satisfaction and working within a team doing something useful which is valued.
“Running the WSR has always taken a lot of planning and effort, but none of this is achievable without the continuing help of our amazing team of volunteers and staff.
“So, we’d like to invite any new prospective volunteers to come along on Saturday 30th October and see whether WSR is right for them, now or in the future.”
Manor Class loco No. 7828 ‘Odney Manor’ pictured at Bishops Lydeard hauling coaches into the station on 28th September 2021.
For further information about this press release please contact: Roger Ellis, Bishops Lydeard Station Master, ([email protected]), Rodney Greenway, West Somerset Railway Volunteer Coordinator ([email protected], 07932 475675) or Andy Mayson, Open Day Coordinator ([email protected], 07920 925658)