The things some people do to visit the railway!

I first became conscious of the FR when I was three and my father, a cleric, returning from a weeks volunteering. Something he had been doing since the year of my birth. He had been introduced to the railway by the current society chairman's father-in-law.

At the agreed age of eleven I accompanied by father on what was my first weeks volunteering on the FR. Initially I worked in the shops and car parks before migrating across to the Lodge, qualifying as a fireman in 1976. I volunteered regularly as a fireman up until 1983.

I had four years earlier joined the Royal Air Force as an Apprentice Engineering Technician. On completion of my training, where I had been blessed with plenty of leave, I had subsequently been commissioned and in 1984 I started aircrew training and opportunities for visiting the railway became very rare indeed.

However training as aircrew was not without its compensations and on a number of 'self planned low level sorties' I transpired to devise a route with maximum 'loiter' time over the railway at 250 feet. It was during these that I carried practice-bombing runs on Garnedd Tunnel and my pilots took the opportunity to practice straifing runs on FR trains around Tan y Bwlch.

However it was not the only time I over flew the FR. My last flight as aircrew in the Royal Air Force was in a maritime patrol aircraft on a practice in-flight refuelling sortie off the Cornish coast involving a transit down and back to our base in the North of Scotland. Yet again reasons were provided as to why we should include some low level transit as part of the overall sortie. I have to say the view from the Cob is magnificent but the view of the Cob from a few hundred feet is equally stunning.

I worked with and for many people, some are still around whilst others are no longer with us. My life was and has been all the better for making their acquaintance for many reasons, without the railway and it's unique engineering this would never have happened.

Married life and a civilian career further limited opportunities to visit my favourite railway, but now the children have grown up, I am now a grand father to three grand daughters and my wife and I are now lucky enough to be able to spend plenty of time in North Wales as we count down on the fingers of one hand the years to retirement and the luxury of having the FR at the bottom of the garden of our retirement home.

Why would I go to such lengths to want to be near the FR? I recognise the faces on the people on the railway, some I have known for decades, and I feel at home. It's a community, a railway community, one who we have already introduced two of our grand daughters to, and we look forward to when they can take part in Kids Week as our elder daughter did.

And yes I think I do know who the bemused drivers were on the engines and trains we straifed to you a much belated apology for the shock we must have caused. But it was jolly good fun and how many other volunteers have done this?

Peter George is a long-time Ffestiniog Railway volunteer who lives local to the railway.

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