On Tues 5th Apr, 2016, we at the Telford Steam Railway were proud to host staff and trainees from RAF Cosford who undertook a community project on behalf of the railway. This was a chance for the railway to rekindle a working relationship with the Royal Air Force that had proved fruitful in achieving combined objectives a number of years previously. Part of the training programme for all new trainee courses at RAF Cosford are that they are expected to undertake a project in the local community that offers immediate and realistic benefits. We are lucky in that our Commercial Director, Mark Paynter, has a contact on the inside and through his hard work and dedication, was able to make the necessary arrangements. After consulting the different departments at the TSR it was decided that the best quick gain project would be the replacement of the path leading from Railway House to the café.
The old path had reached the end of its life and was extremely worn and very slippery when wet. At the same time we were working on making our sleeping coach available for Youth Organisations to use to carry out their own community projects. This would need new, secure access via a landing with step and ramp access.
The day finally arrived and at 08:30 our bright eyed helpers arrived on site to begin the day’s activities. At the same time we were fortunate in that we had sufficient TSR volunteers on site who were staffing a Driver Experience course. This would pay dividends later on in the day. After a mandatory Health & Safety brief and a welcome introduction by the TSR team leaders, Chris Whitehead and Alan Jenner, our eager trainees set to with gusto. With a steady supply of drinks and cake, provided by our wonderful Catering Manager Jacky McCusker, good progress was made on both tasks and by the time we stopped for lunch we were well on course to complete what we had planned for the day. After a filling selection of bacon and fishfinger butties and more cake, we at the TSR sprung our surprise on the trainees.
We all headed down on to Horsehay & Dawley platform where Ian Loffman gave them a brief and they were all invited to board the train for a ride up to Lawley. We returned fifteen minutes later with them all thinking that it was back to work but here is where the real surprise was revealed. They were informed that they would all visit the footplate of our steam loco ‘Rocket’ in twos and each would then get to have an actual go at driving the loco. There were quite a few surprised looks and more than fair few smiles and as promised they were invited aboard the footplate by Andrew Fox, our driver, and David Wright, our fireman. So for the rest of the afternoon both staff and trainees took it in turns to drive while the rest of the team were busy finishing what they had started in the morning. Time seemed to fly by and the next we knew it was quickly approaching 4pm. As if by magic or brilliant planning, both projects finished on time as the last of our trainee drivers departed the footplate.
It was just left to tidy up and for everyone to gather their belongings. Then it was time to pose in front of the loco for a big team photo and an extremely sincere handshake and thank you to each and every member of RAF Cosford who so freely and willingly gave of their time. But not only were we thankful to the RAF but also to our own volunteers who once again gave up their free time as well. The TSR Directors would like to thank Barry Jukes, Fin Whitehead, Allan Oliver, Steve Halford and Brian Butler.
We then waved off our new friends from down the M54 and all agreed that this could be the start of a long and fruitful partnership. The Station Commander of RAF Cosford can be rightly proud of his personnel and the values that each and every one of them displayed throughout the day. On behalf of all at the Telford Steam Railway please accept our sincerest thanks.
All photos, with thanks, by Jacky McCusker and Alan Jenner.