In the year 2000, at the age of 51, I retired from the Engineering Manager’s job on the Snowdon Mountain Railway, the famous narrow gauge Rack and Pinion Railway up Snowdon, due to ill health. By 2007 I was able to retire permanently and, having regained my health, I was looking for voluntary work to make use of my time. Snowdon Mountain Railway were unable to take me as a volunteer as all staff working on that railway are paid employees. It was at this time that Phase 4 of the rebuilding of the Welsh Highland Railway was well under way so I joined the Tuesday Gang and spent many an hour track-laying as well as installing the signage and anti-trespass grids at the many level crossings. On the evening of 27th February 2009 I even helped to install the penultimate fishplate at Harbour Station by the light of a mobile phone prior to the Golden Bolt ceremony when the line between Caernarfon and Porthmadog was completed. I still work with the Tuesday Gang nearly every week.
For the last three years I have led one of the teams that lubricate the axle-boxes of the carriages, an essential job which has to be carried every week once the train has returned from service in the evening.
In 2012 it was acknowledged that much of line-side vegetation was getting out of hand. I therefore joined most of Wednesday evening line-side clearance trains that went out after the last service train had finished for the day. In 2013 I acted as ‘Chipper-in-Chief’, operating the rail mounted chipper unit.
Over the last two years the fleet of nearly all the ex-South African freight wagons has been restored to operating condition and I have been instrumental in ensuring that the axle-boxes are properly maintained, thus enabling a number of photographic charters to be operated.
The economic success of the Railway depends upon the funds provided by members of the Welsh Highland Railway Society. For the last four years I have helped the recruitment process to the Society by distributing membership leaflets on the trains, and at the stations and halts along the route. This means that once a fortnight I have to travel the length of the line and back topping up the leaflet racks as necessary. A terrible imposition, but somebody has to do it!
The Santa trains generate a significant amount of revenue for the Railway, just when it is needed. For several years I have helped out on these trains either as an Elf or in giving out sherry and mince pies.
All of these activities bring me into contact with many special people that I am proud to include as my friends.
Martin Kressman is a former Engineering Manager who has been volunteering on the Welsh Highland Railway since 2007.