Volunteers needed to get on board and keep the trains running

PUBLISHED: 10:02 23 February 2015 | UPDATED: 10:02 23 February 2015

Volunteer Doug Boyd at the Wells to Walsingham Light Railway. Picture: Ian Burt

Volunteer Doug Boyd at the Wells to Walsingham Light Railway. Picture: Ian Burt

If you have ever wanted to feel the breeze whistling through your hair, hear the chugging of a steam engine and shout “all aboard” this is the job for you.

Railway enthusiasts on the Walsingham to Wells light railway. Picture: Ian Burt Railway enthusiasts on the Walsingham to Wells light railway. Picture: Ian Burt

The Wells to Walsingham Light Railway is recruiting volunteers to help keep the trains running on time.

As well as drivers and guards, the railway needs people willing to get their hands dirty in a variety of roles, from gardeners to mechanics to general dogsbodies.

The railway was founded by Lt Cdr Roy Francis, an arctic convoy veteran, in 1982 and has become a familiar sight for holidaymakers heading to the port town.

Now run by Nick Champion, who is married to Lt Cdr Francis’s granddaughter, the railway has a team of around 30 volunteers, but is looking for some fresh blood.

Commander Roy Francis was awarded the Arctic Star Medal in recognition of his part in the Arctic Convoys during WWII. Picture: Ian Burt Commander Roy Francis was awarded the Arctic Star Medal in recognition of his part in the Arctic Convoys during WWII. Picture: Ian Burt

Mr Champion said: “We are looking to do more than we have before. Last year we held events for Halloween and Christmas which were fantastic, so I want to do more of that sort of thing.

“We need guards and drivers in the summer, but in the winter there is an awful lot of maintenance to be done.

“We have to inspect the track, put up fencing, tidy up the banks and all sorts of things. I want to make it a really friendly place to visit, so we want people to greet visitors and have a chat with them.”

From March 28, the railway will be open every day, making four trips each way along the four-mile track.

One man’s passion

The Wells to Walsingham Light Railway was born from the passion of Lt Cdr Roy Francis.

It had long been his dream to run a steam railway between two towns and when the opportunity came up to construct it on the track bed of the old Great Eastern line he jumped at it.

Lt Cdr Francis also constructed the Wells Harbour Railway which he twice had to repair after it was washed away by flooding.

Lt Cdr Francis died in January aged 92 after leading an extraordinary life which saw him torpedoed four times before the age of 21.

He was one of the survivors of the HMS Edinburgh which sank while carrying four tons of Soviet gold during World War Two. His son, Rowan Francis, said: “This was pops’s project, he always wanted to build a railway between two towns.

“When dad did this he was here most of the time, we didn’t see much of him.

“He used to live in the signal box.

“It is a really great legacy that he has left behind.”

Mr Champion said: “We are not a huge operation with a lot of money, but we are a friendly bunch.

“Everyone offers the skills they have and we help them to learn new skills. While we do need lots of general bits done, if anyone is interested in being a driver or a guard we don’t stand in their way and are more than happy to train them up.”

Guard Doug Boyd, 72, travels from Norwich to help out when he can, usually at least once a week.

He said: “I got involved nine years ago because, like so many others, I have an interest in railways.

“It is just an interesting thing to do and you meet so many friendly people.

“There is a lot of nostalgia to it, seeing the steam train in action.”

Model railway enthusiasts head for Norwich to see an unusual attraction at annual show

It was a case of full steam ahead for model rail buffs at a popular annual event.

Dozens of enthusiasts young and old packed into the Norfolk Railway Society’s 21st annual show.

The event, held at the United Reformed Church Hall, Ipswich Road, Norwich, celebrated the region’s rich railway heritage and featured a number of displays.

One of the more unusual attractions was a 16mm live steam model called Baby Sivok.

The model, believed to be one of only three in the world, is based on a train which was bought by the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in 1882.

Keith Froom, of the Association of 16mm Narrow Gauge Modellers, said the model had “caused quite a bit of interest”.

“We have been very pleased,” said Mr Froom, who was at the show for the first time as an exhibitor.

But it was not just exhibitors who turned out on Saturday.

Michael Ottaway, 49, from Salhouse, was one of a number of visitors to the show.

Mr Ottaway, who brought along his children, Rose, nine, and William, seven, said it was great to “relive his childhood”.

“I’m interested in model railways and I think it’s great. I’ve never been to this show, but I would certainly come again.”

His children also gave the event the thumbs up with both of them enjoying the garden layout and Lego train.

Peter Willis, one of the organisers of the show put on by the 1955-formed Norfolk Railway Society, said there was something for everyone.

He said: “What makes this different from anything else is the atmosphere and the whole idea of railways – it’s not just models – we have the whole lot here.”

As well as 11 model layouts and live steam models the show also included archive railway footage and pictures.

There were also a number of other railway groups in attendance including Bure Valley Railway, Barton House and the Norwich Model Railway Club.

The well-established Norfolk Railway Society hosts regular meetings in Norwich, ranging from the informal to presentations with slides or film from guest speakers.

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