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
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?