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Winter in the Workshops

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Workshop scenes at Buckfastleigh, January 2012

Early Spring, from a railway point of view is not so much about crocuses and daffodils (even though lots of our beautiful heritage railways have loads of both!) as it is about blokes in overalls and woolly hats beavering away inside gloomy draughty sheds. Engines and carriages have been dismantled, lumps of metal have been degreased, cleaned, repainted and refitted.

And as those daffodils rediscover the desire to pop their heads out of the still frosty soil, the engines on our heritage railways the length and breadth of Britain are coming back together. Brake rigging has been adjusted, steam leaks investigated and boilers that have been emptied, descaled and examined cold now respond to the first warming fires that are the last part of the process of ensuring that they are ready to go for the new season.

The casual passenger may not be aware of all this as they head for the early March trains of a new season with their families and gaze happily at the gleaming locomotives, fresh with paint and polish, but it is all that close season work that enables it to happen.

So, huge thanks are due to all the folk who take part in the boring, difficult, dirty, unglamorous parts if being a steam volunteer in the winter months. And, strangely enough, it is enjoyable to be part of that, even when it is minus 5 outside and the metal is too cold even for paint to stick to it.

So, if you like seeing steam engines in action, get yourself a set of overalls, come down to your local railway and have a go. You will receive a warm welcome, whatever the temperature outside, you’ll have a lot of fun and you will gain a lot of satisfaction from knowing that it is your own efforts that have helped get that engine onto its train that day.


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