Out of box thinking in the cab?


Las 0-6-0T after restoration by the Bieszczady Railway,
October 2006, photo BTWT

The 0-8-0T simmered quietly, a faint hiss of steam escaping from a faulty whistle valve that had failed to seat properly. The pressure rose slowly, 1, 1.5, 2.5, 4.5, 5 … . I rotated the reverser handle anticlockwise till the locomotive was in full backwards gear, kicked open the draincocks, open the regulator a crack, yanked up the weighted arm of the handbrake, yanked the regulator right over and pulled it back and we were off. I eased the regulator as we twisted over some ancient pointwork and then pushed it open again. All too soon it was time to shut off the regulator, apply the steam brake, and the repeat the exercise with the locomotive going forwards. This time I wound the reverse to approximately 20% cut off, gave the regulator a little more bottle and was rewarded with a nice bark to the exhaust.

My whole ‘driver experience’ lasted at the most 20 minutes and would, no doubt be greeted with a hoot of derision by the crews of the Wolsztyn Experience. But it was immensely satisfying and I went around with an enormous grin on my face for the next few days. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who would enjoy a short driving course if it was offered commercially. We don’t all want to take responsibility for racing across level crossings at speed with several hundred passengers behind us. Sadly, only a handful of Poland’s heritage lines still have operational steam engines. Those that do should seriously consider introducing such a product.

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