The wonders of a steam locomotive operated railway- the unique sound,smells and atmosphere - will be yours when you take part in a Footplate Experience Course on the East Somerset Railway.
The basic theme of the course is to take the participant through how a Steam Locomotive works, preparing it for service,firing and finally driving the Locomotive please note ALL TIME IS SPENT ON A LOCOMOTIVE .
There are two types of course available ; the full day course and the half day course. Courses are
normally available only at weekends although special arrangements may be available on other days for a small extra charge. It is sometimes possible to arrange " Driver Experience Courses" where the participant simply has two rides on the footplate one of which will be at the controls. These are held at the end of the working day.
The full day course starts with an introduction to your Course Leader for the day. You don the overalls provided by us and then the leader will tell you about the East Somerset Railway and explain safety procedures. You will be taught how to prepare a locomotive for service( much oiling to do here), and how steam is created and controlled to give power to the locomotive. Then there will be shunting trips around the Engine shed yard so that you can get the feel of a working locomotive.
In the afternoon you will have a footplate ride on the locomotive of the last train of the day to Mendip Vale and back to give you an appreciation of the route. The next train is the "FOOTPLATE EXPERIENCE SPECIAL" and YOU are in charge.
The train from Cranmore to Mendip Vale awaits departure time from the platform at Cranmore. You are sitting in the driver's seat of a steam locomotive attached to the train . Your hands are expectantly resting on the locomotive's controls.
Your fireman has been busy shovelling high grade coal into the firebox to give you the steam pressure that you will need. The water level in the boiler has been checked . The fire is burning evenly over the huge grate in the firebox. With the steam pressure gauge needle creeping up to tell you that you now have enough steam to power the engine up the gradients ahead.
The minute hand on your watch is approaching the departure time. You look out of the cab back along the train . With a loud blast from the Guards whistle as he waves the green flag. Its time to go. You sound the locos whistle to warn everybody that the train is about to move . A tug at the regulator to allow the power of steam to move the train you are now on the move. Gently over the points just outside the station (over the 5 mph speed restriction here) and then pull on the regulator to increase speed. After stops at Cranmore West and Merryfield Lane the train proceeds down the steep gradient to the terminus at Mendip Vale. Here the locomotive is detached and you take it via the loop line to the other end of the train ready for the return journey.Your fireman will have made sure that there is a good fire for the 1 in 56 gradient to come Then its off back to Cranmore station
We suggest you wear old clothes (steam engines are dirty !!!) and strong boots. A old hat or cap to protect the head . You should be fit and healthy for operating a steam locomotive is hard work. You have to be able to climb into the cab and shovel coal whilst turning the body at the same time . It is also hot and noisy on the footplate.