The second of the Day Out with Thomas saw me being the Miniature Train Assistant. When I saw my name against the job I wasn’t looking forward to it, but thought the interaction with people again would be good and I could hopefully put some smiles on faces as they waited for a ride.
Getting to Kirklees Light Railway a little later today, I signed in and headed over to the Miniature Train. It was set out on the track already but the driver hadn’t yet arrived. No worries as there weren’t too many people around. The few people who were around were more interesting in spotting Thomas himself who was near the turntable being prepared.
We were ready by around 9:30, I met the driver, the volunteer I would be working with all day, and he said possibly the best thing I had heard all weekend – he asked me, “Do you want to share the driving”.
I admitted I hadn’t driven the train before and he said no problems, this was the way he started driving, being the assistant. He showed me the controls, of which there were few – an on/off switch and a dial to make it go faster or slower.
The train itself is one with a raised track and you straddle the carriages, not going too fast, but fast enough to cause some screams of excitement from younger riders.
We took it in turns all day to drive the train, and I loved every single drive. Every drive was different, with passenger’s reactions ranging from being forced to ride so their parents had an excuse to ride the train, to the really excited.
It took people by surprise to find out the train is battery powered, powered by 2 car batteries which became obvious when we had to change them around 2pm – the train had slowed by this time to a crawl with full loads. Most people thought it was a diesel train – would have been the worlds quietest diesel!
Even when I wasn’t driving, it was still an enjoyable day. I got to talk to the queue of people, asking then about their day. I am really conscious of when you go to Alton Towers the staff questions feel really scripted so I was always asking different things, and especially interacting with the children. At the front of the queue is an old fashioned train signal which I had children controlling thinking they were in control of when the train stopped – which of course was all pre-planned by me, knowing that the train always went around twice, so I could ensure that the children put up the stop signal just in time – which is a little awkward when the driver forgets what lap he is on and goes for another!
In the quiet periods of the day, of which there were few, I was talking to the other volunteer about his experiences at the railway. He had been there for a number of years and had passed his Train Guard exams and talking about it got me excited for the future and what I could eventually do.
The Day Out with Thomas was a really good event and a lot of people were a little confused as to what they could do with their ticket. A ticket for the main train enables a visitor to go on all the other attractions as many times they like, which was bouncy castles, playgrounds, the miniature train, Thomas himself and Mavis, as well as face painting and Donkey rides, while at Shelly station Toby was waiting for unlimited rides.
Both days were really busy, around 1,500 people on each day, but there was so much going on that queues were only 10 minutes or so at most. The next Thomas event is in July and details can be found at http://www.kirkleeslightrailway.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=102 and you can book tickets at http://www.dayoutwiththomas.co.uk/section.php/36/1/kirklees-light-railway – remember Thomas takes the very first train of the day, but then rides short journeys for the rest of the day to enable everybody to have a ride on Thomas, my thoughts were to either book on the first train and then work your way back, or go on the 1pm train which would give you a few hours in Clayton West to do everything there before heading up to Shelly.
It is going to be a few weeks before I am back at Kirklees Light Railway, when again they will try and kill me with manual work – more digging holes and what-ever jobs need doing – I am looking forward to yet another weekend building up my skills.