Steam Locomotive Department

article by: SJO 



steam locomotive departmentThe Steam Locomotive Department (SLD) is tasked with providing both locomotives and crews in order to meet the timetabled needs of the Railway. As a member of the Steam Locomotive Department, volunteers will be expected to work in the Department on a reasonably regular basis. Volunteers who aspire to become enginemen can progress from being a Department Member, to Cleaner, Fireman and finally onto Driver. However, the Department also welcomes volunteers whose only passion is maintenance or restoration.


Roles and Responsibilities

Member - Training will be given in routine tasks involved with the preparation, disposal and basic maintenance of steam locomotives. A record of attendance and work carried out will be maintained in their Activity Logbook. There are three areas of the department which members can work in:

  • Footplate Work
  • Maintenance
  • Restoration

Members can choose to get involved in any or all of these three areas.


Those members aspiring to footplate duties will have the opportunity to fill vacancies in the cleaning roster and carry out cleaning duties under the supervision of the allocated fireman; if operational circumstances allow, they will be able to join the crew on one of the journeys during the day in order to be introduced to fireman's duties. During the rest of the day the member should expect to assist with other duties around the yard. Members who wish to become enginemen will be required to pass a medical examination with the Railway's doctor before travelling on the footplate on a regular basis.



Promotion to the grade of Cleaner will be by selection on merit. Consideration will be given to commitment to the Department and the Railway as a whole, reliability, fitness for engineman duties, aptitude shown when on the footplate. There is no age limit for promotion to cleaner but a degree of physical fitness is required as a day out on the footplate can be quite arduous. Trainee Cleaners will undergo formal classroom teaching covering the workings of the steam locomotive, rules, signals, fireman's duties, failures and emergencies. At the end of the training they will be required to pass a written examination. Cleaners will also be required to undertake a Shunting and Yard Safety course and pass the associated written examination.


Other Information

The typical day on-shed as a member of the department is a very varied one. Your day all depends on how much you want to get involved and what you want to progress with. For example, if you want to get on the footplate you may be starting at 6am and finishing some 12 hours later, committing yourself to a day on which you have been rostered; whereas, if you're a restoration fanatic, then you may be starting at 10 am on any of the department's working days, normally Wednesdays and Saturdays. Duties and tasks can be absolutely anything which helps with the running of the Department. So, one day you may be going out on the footplate or you could be helping to clean an engine, changing a grate, breaking up some firewood, moving sleepers, some fencing or even making the tea! It all just depends what is happening on shed the day you are there.


Working around steam locomotives can be dirty and potentially hazardous; for these reasons you will need to wear appropriate clothing: cotton overalls, safety boots and 'riggers' gloves. The Railway will provide specialist PPE such as ear defenders and face-masks.



Our Steam Loco department is looking to recruit new volunteers who are prepared to get their hands dirty. Previous railway experience or engineering skills, whilst useful, are not essential as long as you are keen and willing to learn.  Younger adults are also especially welcome. Please see here to learn how to become a volunteer, 


For a day-to-day view of our activities, please go to the Steam Loco Department blog here.


You can read about one new volunteer's experience out on the footplate here


October 2019