The September roster came out and I must have been the very first to open it, sitting there watching my main inbox, in anticipation of my newly qualified Guard status, when would I have a chance to put my new skills into practice?
As I hoped, I was down for some Guard turns in September, the first being on the first weekend in September.
I had a mixture of feelings, mostly excited, but also a little nervous. I knew the driver, I had Guarded under him before while I was training, and he was training up a new driver, again, somebody I had worked with, indeed been trained by before, I was eager to prove to all that I had listened, had learnt and was a competent guard.
The night before found me brushing up on my hand signals, especially one which I forgot last time to much frustration to myself – a hand signal I won’t forget again as I found a short video on YouTube of a Day Out with Thomas Event somewhere in the country where there was a short pantomime going off – in this pantomime was three hand signals I would need, and indeed, that one I forgot. The tune is stuck in my head, I don’t think I will ever forget that signal now!
The morning couldn’t come soon enough. I had my KLR t-shirt all nice and ready, my new heavy duty work trousers all nice. I had my backpack all packed up, including a few sweets to keep me going – I had learnt that a single sandwich in the middle of the day simply wasn’t enough.
Arriving at Kirklees Light Railway, we were hosting a Classic Car Rally. A few cars had already started to arrive as I made my way to the workshop to sign in. My carriages were waiting on track one for me, and so I could crack on straight away.
I knew I could have the carriages ready in time, but that didn’t stop the nerves setting in just a little bit, would I be finished in time. The safety checks are quickly taken care of. Inspecting each carriage, each door, each connector. 30 minutes took care of that, and I was ready to start cleaning.
Cleaning took around an hour, and finally I could stand back with 20 minutes to go until we were due to depart, I could make sure I had everything else ready. My Guard bag with the flags had to be picked up along with a radio for communicating, should I need to, with the other trains and ticket office.
10:15, and 5 minutes to go. Tickets checked, a few last stragglers joined the train and we were ready for 10:20. I headed into the ticket office to get the all clear and there was a queue of people waiting to pay, all rushing to try and catch our train. As always, I had the option to wait for them, which I did, no point in disappointing people. We finally got out around 10:30. A little frustrating for me, I always want to leave bang on time, and this being my very first train on my own, I was eager to do everything 100%, but needs must and it all makes the customer experience that little bit better.
Our day consisted of 5 runs up to Shelley Station and back. The last run making sure that everything was locked away, playground closed up, emergency services entrance gate locked up, tea room staff helped. It is a manic last 15 minutes. We overran by around 10 minutes but most of the passengers were OK by this.
All day I had been trying different little variations on the script I need to read out over the PA system to inform the passengers about safety, events and other bits and bobs. I still don’t have something I am totally happy with, I am going for a personal touch, introducing myself and the driver, with a bit of humour thrown in for good measure. Bit of homework to practice variations, and to not to have anything too complicated that I start tripping over words.
At the end of the day, our train was the last to arrive back at Clayton West. The drivers went to fill the tender with coal while one of the members of staff came to help me shunt the carriages. We shunted some of the engines which were not in steam and so couldn’t power themselves. Then, the question came – “Have you driven the Diesel?”
Responding “no” – as I hadn’t driven it before, I was told to jump in and he would talk me through it – this was exciting, my first chance to drive a train!
Over the next 15 minutes or so I shunted another engine and the rest of the carriages into the shed. The instruction was simple, the controls I got to grips with quite easily, it was just a little jerky, but overall, I was chuffed to bits, coupling the trains felt smooth, not ramming the coupling plates, I was proud, indeed on the way home I was grinning ear to ear, running into the house to tell my wife, who didn’t share my enthusiasm. Her response being, “Its only the diesel, its not a steam”. This is all true, however, all in good time!