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Author Topic: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending  (Read 380 times)

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Offline Railwaygun

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Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« on: August 23, 2019, 06:28:44 PM »
Trouble ahead as heritage railways 
face driver shortage
By Jessica Carpani (D telegraph )

BRITAIN’S heritage railways are in danger of running out of steam, as bosses revealed a “pressing need for new blood” and called for younger volunteers to replace drivers on the brink of retirement.

The Swanage Railway in Dorset – one of the biggest heritage lines in the country – needs to find 40 drivers over the next five years to fill the gap.
The majority of their drivers are aged 60 or above and are likely to step down in the coming years. While the retirements will be phased, the railway must act now, as training a new steam driver can take at least four years.
David Rawsthorn of the Swanage Railway said: “We have 42 drivers – the youngest is 27, and the oldest, still fit as a fiddle, is 79. We need seven or eight new drivers every year for the next five to ten years to cope with drivers retiring.”
The not-for-profit company has been operating since the late Seventies and has a small number of paid staff, more than 500 volunteers and attracts 200,000 visitors a year.
Despite the increased interest in steam trains, with heritage lines attracting over 13 million visitors a year, other services have admitted that they too are suffering from an ageing workforce. Michael Gough, managing director at Great Central Railway (GCR) in ] Leicestershire said that while “plenty of people want to drive a train”, wider volunteering positions, such as train guards and platform staff, struggle to attract younger applicants.
He said: “It’s quite often difficult to get younger people to train up as guards. There is no doubt that heritage railways have quite an old age profile. It’s the sort of thing that people come to do when they’re in semi-retirement or in retirement.”

Currently, GCR have 30 guards covering 52 weeks a year with the oldest in their 70s.
“Throughout the summer we run almost every day, and in the winter at least three days a week, and every single train we operate has a guard. It’s quite a challenge,” said Mr Gough.
Epping Ongar Railway in south-west Essex also said it struggles to fill support staff roles with younger people.
Dean Walton, general manager, said: “The real challenge is getting young people into volunteering in a whole host of other positions such as maintenance, engineering, permanent way, catering and other jobs needed to keep our wheels turning.”
To conquer the age gap, North Yorkshire Moors Railway has plans in place to develop volunteers and recruit 12 apprentices to ensure its continuation.
There are 156 steam heritage railways and about 30 steam museums and centres in Britain, and Steve Oates, chief executive at the Heritage Railway Association, has said that there is a “pressing need for new blood”.

Getting on track
How to become a steam train driver
Applicants, aged 16 and over, start as a locomotive cleaner, and will be expected to learn about the working parts of locomotives. This can take up to two years.
Cleaners then progress to fireman, with practical and written examinations. At “firing school” they learn how to fire up the train and keep it going with coal. They will also learn the rules of their heritage line and Network Rail plus water management. This may take several years.
Fireman then have to complete a significant number of driving turns before they are examined to become a driver. The whole process can take a minimum of four years.
This has been a public service announcement
It may contain alternative facts

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Offline class37025

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2019, 07:08:59 PM »
blame it on Brexit.

it gets blamed for everything else.
typed by fur box mechanic - dictated by brain on a chain

Offline crewearpley40

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2019, 07:39:59 PM »
for me its the lack of interest by today 's younger generation, and having grown up with diesel and electric , seen privatisation and now, having worked at a heritage centre and indeed heritage trains with steam , or diesels built years ago, vintage stock, spurred on by Charters and my late Grandfather, i began to appreciate the rich industrial past of this country. Its not politics but the lack of people 's interest unless we tell them. I know whole families ( 4 ) who work in different capacities at a preserved heritage centre in different capacities and encourage the young from the Grandparents to parents.

Online acko22

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2019, 10:50:13 PM »
Hi all,

I have to agree with @crewearpley40 there is a dwindling interest in steam and a part of it is down to the changing society, my dad loves his steam engines as he grew up on them but for me I grew up on late BR blue and beyond.

But in saying that and been a member of a preserved railway they maybe need to update things a little as to the culture! I know we say preserved railways and people will say they have to remain to the gospel methods of operation that worked in steam days but someone like myself I didn't grow up on steam and using the old methods don't mix with the people it wants to attract!
I am not saying take someone like myself straight off the street and onto the footplate but when you have someone doing the menial tasks every other weekend for a long period of course they are going to think sod this I am off!

Offline crewearpley40

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2019, 12:09:06 AM »

I have to agree with acko there is a dwindling interest in steam and a part of it is down to the changing society,


I grew up on late BR blue and beyond as well

But in saying that and been a member of a preserved railway they maybe need to update things a little as to the culture!


How do you achieve this ?

 I know we say preserved railways and people will say they have to remain to the gospel methods of operation that worked in steam days but someone like myself I didn't grow up on steam and using the old methods don't mix with the people it wants to attract!

Do you have resources probably not ?

You have Thomas tank weekend ?

A gala weekend ?

beer and steam or beer and diesel day ?

they market an idea or a dozen and sell - but its the recruitment ? time, costs, efforts and we all have different learning / training skills and methods. Some take ages to learn. some pick up skills like water off a ducks back. Time to reflect.

Online acko22

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2019, 12:42:26 AM »

How do you achieve this ?


Now as I write this it doesn't apply to every group, line or indeed individual but seems to be a trend that still exists amongst some groups that complain about been short handed!

When people join they are doing the same thing weekend after weekend and while they admit it needs to be done why can't these groups mix it up so people get to see the whole picture and actually maybe show a talent they have that is of use to the group and they enjoy.
It been a case of yes its a preserved railway and steam engine but there needs to be an appreciation of individuals skills and interests at the end of the day they are volunteers if these groups don't adapt to the interests of these volunteers then they won't stick around.

As an example we had a lad who joined a steam group who then moved to the Diesel group....why? He was interested in steam and mechanics but since joining the steam group what had he done in the 6 months with the steam group? Polish engines before they ran that was it it didn't interest him in fact he was questioning his membership to the railway full stop.

As I say it's not applicable to all steam groups but a good few need to realise that the 1930s career progression scheme that was found on the railways in steam day doesn't work with today's society especially when people are volunteers

Offline Bealman

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2019, 12:49:57 AM »
I agree.

Quite obviously these huge machines need to be cleaned and maintained, but to give this task to the newbies full time is absurd. They are not idiots, and would learn stuff very quickly if allowed to!!

Why not say, "Hey next weekend, how about you get on the footplate and give fireman a go?"

I'll bet me bottom dollar they'd be the first on site that day!
Vision over visibility. Bono, U2.

Offline crewearpley40

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2019, 12:54:08 AM »
Thanks for that. My local preservation society has a group of under 18s and under 25s. I have seen lads and ladies work under supervision learn engineering basics, platform duty, catering, shop, ticket office. One lad has even undertaken basic training as a guard and they are encouraged to try footplate, or helping shovel coal in the yard. Agree with acko. Its just having to have somebody to show and encourage them with skills and mentor and develop. And teach them history, then im old fashioned yts yes i went on that scheme

Offline PLD

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2019, 12:36:19 AM »
Speaking from a position of involvement in training drivers and guards for Heritage Tramways, there is no shortage of volunteers (mostly totally unsuitable!) wanting to drive, but mention the need to serve time as a conductor/guard first and two thirds of them vanish...

I would say it is absolutely ESSENTIAL to start with the basics, learn the road, show you understand the rule book and operating processes before moving up to the most safety-critical role. Trams and Trains are large machines that in untrained hands can be lethal. There is no such thing as a 'minor' incident - when things go wrong it is invariably serious as colleagues dealing with the aftermath of a couple of incidents in the last few days would attest.

Enforcing a ladder of progression helps filter out the 'Glory-seekers' from those with a genuine interest and who show commitment and dedication. That's not to say that those who show commitment and aptitude should be unnecessarily held back, or have to serve a rigidly fixed time in each grade before progressing, but you can not have people coming "straight in at the top" and unless they have that basic grounding and understanding of the rules, saying 
"Hey next weekend, how about you get on the footplate and give fireman a go?"
is really setting yourself up for some very awkward questions from the RAIB...

Offline crewearpley40

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2019, 04:19:29 AM »

I also believe it is ESSENTIAL to start with the basics, learn the road, show you understand the rule book and operating processes before moving up to a safety critical role. I started on the railways in the booking office, moved to platform duties, cleaning, posters putting up, carrying luggage, it was not for 2 years I could get onto dispatch. I was on traincrew at 24,8 years into the job, 26 a Guard. Well years later, still learning albeit in Management / Office / Training and still talking basics, I agree with PLD 's comments

However, new blood is needed, with the right training, skills and enthusiasm. But where does it come from ? advertise all one likes ? but word of mouth - speak to a friend, somebody at a heritage centre visiting, answer questions, make that person enthusiastic.

Offline chrism

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2019, 06:48:00 AM »
Enforcing a ladder of progression helps filter out the 'Glory-seekers' from those with a genuine interest and who show commitment and dedication. That's not to say that those who show commitment and aptitude should be unnecessarily held back, or have to serve a rigidly fixed time in each grade before progressing, but you can not have people coming "straight in at the top" and unless they have that basic grounding and understanding of the rules, saying 
"Hey next weekend, how about you get on the footplate and give fireman a go?"
is really setting yourself up for some very awkward questions from the RAIB...

When I worked at a preserved railway, granted in the days before the amount of work made it necessary to have permanent staff rather than being able to rely solely on volunteers, we had a progression path and that was, IMO, quite correct.

New volunteers started as cleaners, fitters or general rust and carp scrapers depending upon their skills, abilities or preferences. Progression to other non-operational roles (from cleaner or carp scraper to fitter, machinist, welder, etc.) happened as peoples' skill and interests became apparent - also as the work required.

At an appropriate juncture, sometimes quite quickly, sometimes after a year or two, depending on skills, attendance and operation needs, people were  invited to try their hand at trainee fireman and would probably stay at that for two, three or more years - bear in mind that we were only operating weekends and bank holidays so a year might only involve half a dozen rosterings. Depending upon how they got on, the trainees were then tested (skill, technique and rules) and, if good enough, qualified as fireman. The fireman tests were performed internally, by the senior drivers.
The more time-served firemen were then given the opportunity to become trainee drivers, again for couple of years, before being tested - again skill, technique and rules. An eyesight test would have been done early in their training so as to not waste time on people with inadequate eyesight, in particular colour blindness. The driver tests were done by external examiners - although I can't remember from where they came.

It took time, but no-one resented that, whatever we were doing was because we enjoyed doing it. All crews comprised four - driver, fireman and two trainees, which could be two trainee firemen or one trainee driver and one trainee fireman.

In my case, I was there for at least ten years spending both days of most weekends plus holiday time off work in the summer, but I never made it to driver. I started as a general cleaner and rust scraper, progressed to more technical work in the workshops (stripping, repairing, reassembling, machining and foundry work) as well as lighting up and loco sitting if a loco needed warming up for the following day and, at some point, became a trainee fireman.

I was eventually treated as a full fireman, despite never actually being tested - basically because the crew with which I was rostered comprised a very senior driver, a somewhat unreliable fireman and a couple of trainees, one of which was also not always reliable a attendee. I well remember the day I was first considered the fireman - I'd arrived first (well, I'd been there overnight), checked the loco over, lit the fire and started oiling up. The driver arrived on time and did what he needed to do so we were ready when it was time to go off shed. The driver looked at me and said "Ready to go then?" and I pointed out that we didn't have a fireman, because he still hadn't arrived. "Yes we do, it's you.", he replied ;-)
I then spent two seasons being treated as the fireman, sometimes with a(nother) trainee, sometimes alone - but never actually underwent the test.

I also never got invited to train as a driver (although my driver did let me have a go on the stick and brakes from time to time). I suspect that may have been because I had also made myself too useful in the workshops but I didn't mind, I enjoyed whatever I was doing.

I have no doubt that it's done differently now, because they operate six or seven days a week for a longer season so need to have permanent staff because, with all the willingness in the world, volunteers cannot be guaranteed to provide sufficient availability. Those staff will all need to be trained and qualified as operating crew so I'm sure that the training/testing will be more structured and formalised, as it should be - for the permanent staff at least.

« Last Edit: August 28, 2019, 06:52:17 AM by chrism »

Offline crewearpley40

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2019, 07:33:17 AM »
was that training you learned and retained from the more experienced chris?


for me, learning the trains, the equipment, brakes, couplers, signals, route etc was important and being graduall step by step
passed out and continual random questions being fired at me.


Offline Paul-H

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2019, 07:34:02 AM »
So they in desperate need for more drivers but still insist that a driver has to start at the bottom, then take years progressing through the antiquated system before they even set foot on the loco, then spend years as s fireman before they can even start training as a driver which also takes years.

No wonder they can't get enough drivers, they will never find a youngster willing to do that amount of hard dirty work for about 10 years just to become a driver.

Most will not have an interest in driving a steam loco and will not have an attention span that will last 10 years.

Then they wonder why all their drivers are approaching retirement, that's because it takes that long to train them, their average employee is middle aged before they start so by the time they are trained they are naturally about to retire.  If they want to fills the skills gap and shortage perhaps they should just employ and train drivers.  I know that's not how it was done, but that's not a reason why it could not be done now, heritage railways are not the massive employer that LMS, LNER, GWR or even BR were, they don't need to stick to the old way of doing things, especially if it means they are not going to survive if they don't change.

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Offline chrism

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2019, 08:07:08 AM »
So they in desperate need for more drivers but still insist that a driver has to start at the bottom, then take years progressing through the antiquated system before they even set foot on the loco, then spend years as s fireman before they can even start training as a driver which also takes years.

No wonder they can't get enough drivers, they will never find a youngster willing to do that amount of hard dirty work for about 10 years just to become a driver.

It doesn't have to take that long - my example was as a volunteer operated line.

I have little doubt that people employed specifically for training up can be "fast tracked", if only by the simple expedient of daily training rather than only half a dozen to a dozen hands-on sessions in a year.


Offline PLD

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Re: Want to train as a Steam Engine driver - UK shortage pending
« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2019, 08:21:11 AM »
perhaps they should just employ and train drivers.
Suggest you re-read my post above... There are many many good reasons not to bring in people direct to the perceived 'Top job'...

So they in desperate need for more drivers but still insist that a driver has to start at the bottom, then take years progressing through the antiquated system before they even set foot on the loco, then spend years as s fireman before they can even start training as a driver which also takes years.

No wonder they can't get enough drivers, they will never find a youngster willing to do that amount of hard dirty work for about 10 years just to become a driver.

Most will not have an interest in driving a steam loco and will not have an attention span that will last 10 years
No one is saying it should take ten years (or anywhere near) but from experience, it is important to have that grounding in the basics and it allows the potential trainee driver to demonstrate their aptitude and commitment, and the best candidates do stand out quite quickly...
Frankly, if they haven't got the patience to work their way up for a couple of years, they are missing one of the most important attributes for a driver so shouldn't be considered anyway and "natural selection" applies.

 

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