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Quainton News Archive - No. 58 - Autumn / Winter 1985 / 86
The Year of the Visitor - Janice Uphill
In this 'Year of the Visitor' I have been mindful of our Chairman's words at the last Annual General Meeting, that it is through giving the visitor what he wants that he will return and thereby help make Quainton a success. In the last 'Quainton News' we read of the shortage of helpers with the children's birthday parties - and I was thinking how rewarding the parties can be when you see the happiness of the children involved. A few weeks ago I was firing 7715 with the up yard passenger train. The rain was pelting down and it was cold too when I took up my stand on the footplate - and within five minutes I was soaked, as the Pannier has such an open cab. I 'borrowed' Reg's duffel coat while drying my jacket on the backhead and prepared to get the fire and water ready for our first journey. Several very brave visitors appeared muffled up in raincoats - and we let them come in turns on the footplate for a warm-up and then sit in the carriages in the dry, even if they were not having a train ride (though, of course , we hoped they would!). The visitors were all very grateful and asked the usual questions as to how I got interested in the steam locomotive - and nodded understandingly when I said my husband was driving the train in the other yard. One man suggesting it was a case of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!" but I assured him this was not the case and that I had always been interested in railways.
Two birthday parties had been booked - the first party had their look round the footplate and the birthday child blew the whistle, but then trouble started with the fire. I was shovelling away and found I was putting clods of earth on, as this is what seemed to be filling the bunker; to add to our problems, the 'coal' was all soaking wet. We poked and prodded the fire, but to no avail, it all began to cake up and the pressure dropped alarmingly. While muttering rude things about those who drive our new coal loading tractor and ought to have L-plates on, my kind driver threw out the whole fire and started again, while the trainee fireman got in the bunker and threw out all the clods of earth and other extraneous ballast and cinders. The second birthday party was ready for their view of the footplate and train ride, so I was sent to do a public relations stint and entertain them in a carriage for half an hour while the fire was put to rights. The poor birthday boy kept asking if he would have his ride - and I must say the parents were most forbearing as I assured them that all would be well shortly. For having to wait, the boy and his father were given a footplate ride - and it was most illuminating to see the happiness of both of them when eventually it took place.
I suppose I could sympathise with the child, as I can still remember swapping a doll with a little friend for a clockwork green engine when I was about the age of four, then putting it in my sandpit. We children were quite happy with the arrangement, but the boy's mother was not - and I can still see the furious look on her face as she shook the sand out of the engine, while returning the doll!
On 24th April this year I helped with the Industrialists' Day as Chairman's Receptionist. This was very different from my paid job as a Secretary, where I am usually in the back room and only know people by their voices on the telephone. I hope I acquitted myself well - it was quite interesting meeting business people and a change from my work in a psychiatric out-patient clinic. One visitor was a Mr Beattie and we made sure he had his photograph taken alongside 0314! I think this must have paid off, as I believe his firm has since provided us with free paint. Being a receptionist also means being a chucker-outer, as we had to get rid of a gatecrashing gricer, who was determined to photograph Met. No. 1, which was not then in service, but being steamed up for testing purposes only. It took three of us to gently edge him off the platform and back to his car - and the notice at the gate said firmly that we were closed for a special visit!
After the Inspection Tricycle Marathon, on 24th / 25th August, I provided the Radio Oxford reporter with my No. 1 blues overall (which was clean, may I say!), so that she would not get dirty when making a recording on the footplate; she was very interested in our horse box, in which she changed. We hope she will return later in the year with her family, as she obviously enjoyed her visit to Quainton for its own sake, as well as just a job.
All steam locomotives are different, particularly the many types at Quainton - and they are like people: if you treat them right they will behave well (except when the wind is in the wrong direction in the yard when you are trying to light up, someone will say), which is all part of the fascination. On several occasions recently I have worked Frank's Flying Buffer Beam, which I call the Mechanised Platelayers Trolley, as the dropped footplate is so close to the rails you really feel that you could be scraping them. It always seems to be very hot when I am firing 1900, so I was glad that, during the morning, she was in the yard and I could get steam up while standing beside her most of the time. She was placed near the coal heap and I was able to fill the 'bunker' with coal found lying around on the tracks, presumably dropped by those larger beasties as being too small to bother with - I hope Bob, the Treasurer, will note this saving of money! The visitors were able to come right up to the engine and, apart from shooing a few children off the footplate when my back was turned, I was able to entertain a fair number of people, while, at the same time, getting the pressure up to 120 psi for her journey to the short siding and the freight train. I hope I answered the visitors' questions satisfactorily, though I must admit it got a bit wearying explaining for the umpteenth time why 1900 has such a low cab. The visitors were fascinated with this dinky engine and were sometimes quite helpful, e.g. telling me when the tanks were overflowing when I had been filling them. A young woman started talking quite knowledgeably and it turned out she worked on the engines at Didcot, so we were able to compare notes. Quainton seems a much more friendly place, even though we do grumble about it sometimes! A man in a wheelchair was able to be photographed right by the engine - and I was very touched when the photographer asked if I would mind facing the camera, so I appeared in the picture too; could not have been a gricer, as they usually want the human beings out of it! Great was the disabled man's pleasure when I told him he could have a train ride, on the passenger train, as the guard's van has double doors. I am happy to say that he availed himself of this opportunity, so thank you to Ivan, the guard, and the loco crews for lifting him in and out and making the ride possible.
People do not seem to be so startled at seeing a woman on a footplate these days, though I still hear occasional remarks, such as: "That man's coupling up", says one. "No, it's a lady, I'm sure it's a lady", says someone else - while I'm saying to myself "You could have fooled me!" I've also been told that the engine and me looked as if we had been made for each other - and some visiting friends once said that they had never seen me look so happy (nor so dirty, I shouldn't wonder!).
So, members, do come along and help us make Quainton a success. Even the foulest of conditions can be rewarding when you know you are making the visitors day worthwhile - the benefit can be mutual.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 18 November 2017