The first rung on the footplate department ladder.
As a cleaner you will learn how to clean the locomotives. Cleaning above and below the running plates, between the frames and in the cab; you will be taught how each area of the locomotive is cleaned and begin to learn about the various component parts and workings that go to make up an operational steam locomotive.
As a cleaner you will also be expected to assist with shed tasks such as fire dropping, smokebox and ashpan cleaning, disposal pit emptying, as well as keeping the lighting up wood store and rag bin well stocked. Fire lighting, steam raising and shunting duties may also form a part of your duties.
The cleaner’s lot can be a hard, and on occasion hot and dirty job, but bear in mind everyone in the footplate department ahead of you has done this job before you, and both Firemen and Drivers in the department continue to carry out these tasks on a daily basis when no cleaner is available.
As a cleaner you will be rostered and learn the basics of what is required to progress further in the footplate department. Completion of turns will earn you footplate rides with opportunities to experience what the job entails for the fireman and driver out on the road. These footplate rides will also offer you the opportunity to familiarise yourself with the locomotive in motion and the route of the railway along our branch.
Subject to seniority, frequency of attendance, aptitude, suitability and a training slot being available you will be invited to progress to trainee fireman, where you will learn all that is needed to qualify as a Fireman on the SDR.
A physically demanding, but highly rewarding job.
In addition to the duties of and engine cleaner, as a fireman you will be responsible for the fire lighting and steam raising of the locomotive; your responsibilities will also include ensuring that the locomotive is coaled, watered and is suitably turned out as part of the preparation activities.
The fireman is responsible for the management of the boiler ensuring the requisite amount of steam, fire and water is available for the driver to carry out the locomotives booked duties. The fireman is also responsible for the coupling and uncoupling of the locomotive from items of rolling stock or other locomotives.
When not otherwise engaged in footplate activities the fireman will act as a second set of eyes; maintaining a good lookout for your mate, the driver, along your side of the locomotive and train; paying particular attention to fixed signals and the public when approaching crossings and departing from platforms.
As a fireman every turn you cover and every year that passes will gain you valuable experience in working over the route in all types of weather with different classes of locomotive, different types and weights of train and occasionally having to overcome problems that can only ever be experienced on an operational railway.
At the end of your working day when you and your mate return to shed, no matter the class of locomotive, or the type or weight of train worked, you can be assured in the knowledge of a job well done! For without your expertise as Fireman, maintaining the water level in the glass and the boiler pressure up on the ‘mark’, the service would not have run.
Subject to firing competency, seniority, frequency of attendance, aptitude, suitability and a training slot being available you will be invited to progress to trainee driver, where you will learn all that is needed to qualify as a Driver on the SDR.
A mentor, a leader and a master of locomotive movement.
As a driver you will have the responsibility of preparing the locomotive for duty; working in a methodical manner you will ensure all oiling points receive the correct lubrication and check that the locomotive is in a serviceable condition.
The driver is responsible for the safe and efficient working of the locomotive and the safety and wellbeing of crew on the locomotive. From years having worked the branch as fireman you will be able to assist your own fireman in times of trouble with insights gained from your own prior experiences.
The driver is also responsible for the safe working of trains and the safety of the passengers on those trains when in motion. From your years on the footplate you will intimately know the route of the branch; from the positions of fixed signals and crossings, to the correct stopping marks for the varying lengths of trains at our branch line’s stations.
As a driver every turn you cover and every year that passes will gain you valuable experience in working over the route in all types of weather with different classes of locomotive, different types, weights and classes of train and occasionally having to overcome problems that can only ever be experienced on an operational railway.
Given the level of responsibility required, the role of driver is not a role for everyone. It will take you years of training and effort as you practice and hone your footplate skills in the grades of cleaner and fireman. You will need to pass a PTS and medical examination to allow you to commence work on the footplate, and you must also pass rules, theoretical and practical examinations in order to progress up to the next grade.
If you set your sights on becoming a driver, be aware that it is a long road from starting as a cleaner, progression will not happen overnight. However for those of you that stick with it, put the effort in through the years and finally make the grade; it is a most rewarding, interesting and enjoyable job!