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Steam is now cool – official!

It’s been a long time coming but this website is excited to announce conclusively that steam is now ‘cool’.  In fact real, live steam engines are the new ‘Playstation’.  Forget your smart phones and dull evenings spent gazing moronically at X-Factor, the coolest thing you can do these days is get yourself a ride on a steam engine.

Previously the preserve of old gents with long and rosy tinted memories of the happy days of steam on BR, footplate rides and involvement with maintaining and operating steam locomotives are now set to offer the kind of levels of excitement and interest that other, more modern, technologies lack.  Growing gangs of young people are now joining our heritage railways to get all dirty and oily when previously they sat in stupor all day long, texting and Facebooking their friends about how fed up they were.  Now, instead of late nights with too much alcohol followed by half the day in bed, it’s an early start as the sun comes up,book on at the shed and get cleaning that brass and copper before getting out on the road on a swaying footplate, engulfed with the smells and sensations of real life in the raw.

Hoardes of young people under 25 spend all summer camped out at Minnffordd hostel on the Ffestiniog Railway, guarding, driving, firing, building, painting, cleaning, welding, bending, cutting, signalling – all completely undeterred by the horizontal rain that is usual in those parts of Wales. It is said that the FfR would have no difficulty staffing the whole summer timetable entirely from under 25s.

Young women and men throughout the country are getting the bug for doing something that is demanding, responsible and motivating in a hi-tech world that offers none of these things either in employment or leisure.   Under 25s now regularly pass out as hugely competent steam drivers and firemen and successfully manage the satisfying responsibility of safely coveying passengers safely to their destination.  In doing so, they get fit, happy, enhance their personal self esteem and gain pride in themselves.  There are few other places than on a heritage railway where this sort of experience can be gained in a systematic way that is so engaging and fun.

A poll in this month’s Steam Railway magazine shows that  5 or 6 heritage railways already have 25% and above volunteers under 30 years of age and this is set to grow as others see the way things are going.  Apprentice schemes, work experience opportunities, junior family projects are all becoming more and more popular as young people start to realise how dull life in front of a screen actually is.  They want to feel alive, purposeful, engaged and is there anywhere better than on a steam engine to make you think, react, work hard and feel your pulse racing as you dive into a tunnel in a cacophony of noise and smoke?

So the days of whingeing about the ageing volunteer profile at our heritage railways are now well and truly over. Let’s throw that particular mantra out of the pram for good and get to work transforming our railways from places where a slightly embarrassed minority of nerdy old chaps like me pass their declining days to the vibrant, exciting and stimulating environments that anyone cool couldn’t wait to be in.

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