Training steam drivers?

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by infobleep, 8 Apr 2015.

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  1. infobleep

    infobleep Established Member

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    There is talk of WCR using retired drivers. As time goes on, will it be harder to get drivers and fireman for mainline steam duties, given that current mainline services don't run on steam so people won't be trained in it?
     
  2. mtbox

    mtbox Member

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    DBS train up steam crews from their existing drivers, usually working as fireman first then promoted to steam driver (The latest has just been in the news).
    WCRC must have a scheme in place of some sort, although the line of promotion to steam driver (as DBS) is not generally available because most firemen are not qualified mainline drivers, but come from competent members of heritage railways/support crews and as such cannot become drivers.
     
  3. infobleep

    infobleep Established Member

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    Could they train to become a driver, like the old days where fireman would train to become a driver? I guess it would be harder as no one really drives steam trains any more on the mainline so one would have to go away and learn on non steam engines.

    I think it's great that the 30 something year old became a steam train driver. Living his dream.
     
  4. mtbox

    mtbox Member

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    The only way the WC firemen could become steam drivers is if they become (or already are) mainline drivers, then WC could probably do as DBS do. West Coast are not able to train drivers from scratch as do the tocs/focs and for them to do so would be massively expensive.
     
  5. Tracky

    Tracky Member

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    I may be wrong but I seem to remember a year or two ago with much joyful press, West Coast Railways trained and passed two mainline drivers in house. One being Ian Riley, and the second being a chap from the North Yorkshire Moors.
     
  6. G0ORC

    G0ORC Member

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    Training drivers, even those with a basic railway operating background, is a phenomenally expensive exercise and is usually the province of the large TOCs and FOCs.

    Its my opinion that the likelihood is that these drivers were seconded to an FOC or TOC (still at considerable cost) for the major part of their training. For a tiny organisation like WCR it would be virtually impossible for them to give them the full range of training necessary.

    Either way, it must have been a major drain on their resources.
     
    Last edited: 8 Apr 2015
  7. Tracky

    Tracky Member

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    November 2012 - Road to the Isles newsletter

    http://www.road-to-the-isles.org.uk/westword/nov2012.html

     
  8. Darandio

    Darandio Established Member

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    And both are people that own locomotives and aren't short of a bob or two, it even strikes a large chord with the 'boys and their toys' comments near the start of the thread.

    Including those two as examples of replenishing steam drivers isn't really relevant IMO.
     
  9. Tracky

    Tracky Member

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    Indeed. And apologies for going further off relevance for the thread.

    It supeises me that WCR were able to run a training course. I can't see two busy businessmen with a wide range if commitments giving full attention to a long and intensive classroom based training course and then the hours that follow. The driver qualification is network wide, but it looks as if the training was completed on a single track branch operated under RETB so experience with the many and varied complexities of the network will be limited.

    Interesting link too, the DCR driver at Stafford had NYMR connections.
     
  10. G0ORC

    G0ORC Member

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    Hmmm - maybe I'm overly suspicious but it seems to me to be a bit of an incestuous arrangement.
     
  11. mtbox

    mtbox Member

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    I think they are only passed to drive on the route used by the Jacobite trains, so it must be a similar arrangement to what the NYMR has for the Whitby branch, unless they passed the psycho tests like everyone else then were seconded out to a TOC/FOC for full driver training as mentioned before. I know a bloke who does a bit for IR, out of interest I will find out.

    The problem is training mainline drivers on steam so, with required route knowledge, they can operate anywhere In the UK.
     
  12. Darandio

    Darandio Established Member

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    I don't really think it's off relevance, if WCR get their house in order and continue as before, then surely the issue of available drivers will become more and more relevant down the line.

    I may be completely wrong, but given that there was so much fanfare a couple of weeks ago for a solitary driver passing through, then surely it doesn't happen very often? Or was that a special case, wasn't he the son of a retiring driver?
     
  13. G0ORC

    G0ORC Member

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    Neither can I - there has to be some smoke and mirrors to me, but them I'm probably just an old cynic.
     
  14. Tracky

    Tracky Member

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    He was a full time driver for DB though, already qualified to drive modern traction, so it was more a traction conversion after gaining experience as a fireman.

    In the above example it is West Coast training people from an off the street starting point (as far as rules and regs) are concerned. I don't see how they have the resources to do it.
     
  15. E&W Lucas

    E&W Lucas Established Member

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    Those working for WC perceive what they are doing as being totally legit, and no private railway can be held responsible for what their people do by way of further employment elsewhere, especially, as yet, nothing has been said re the legitimacy, or otherwise of WCR's training.

    By way of context, I will list some of what a normal mainline driver will have in place:

    A full time, 12 month, training programme. Of particular relevance, approx. 5 weeks of classroom based rules training, and 260 hours driving time. The latter typically takes about 5 months full time to achieve.
    A further two years, full time, of intensive monitoring and supervision. Downloads, cab rides, etc, with a number of restrictions in place, such as there being no other person, inspectors notwithstanding, in the cab at any time. Driving the same routes, same traction, day in, day out, gaining the proficiency that comes from such repetition.
    Only after this, are you a fully qualified driver.

    Steam is a technology alien to anyone of working age today, except those of us who have sought to learn it in our spare time. Familiarity with it takes many years to learn. However, the same is also true of the mainline railway environment. It cannot be learnt on a preserved railway. I know; I have worked for one for nearly 30 years.

    There may well be very serious consequences for the individuals involved with the Tangmere SPAD. I hope no one has destroyed their life, in the pursuit of their passion for steam. They are certainly lucky to still be alive.

    If anything needs to come out of this sorry business, then it is clarification as to what is an acceptable route onto the footplate on the mainline. Personally, I feel that completion of a mainline driver training programme should be a prerequisite.
     
  16. redbutton

    redbutton Member

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    At the risk of being pedantic, I can offer my own recent experience: Rules and traction at my TOC takes about 5 months, not weeks.

    The point still stands that there's no way you can go from a non-footplate role to fully-competent to drive over NR routes in your spare time on a "zero-hours" basis. It's just more evidence of the failure of WCR's safety management system.

    Personally, I'm in my thirties and might consider learning steam traction, but then it would just be a conversion and some route learning.
     
  17. 34D

    34D Established Member

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    But surely, as long as these 'amateur drivers' comply with all safety processes then that should be okay?

    I mean, as long as people have genuinely passed rules exams with no cheating/falsification etc?
     
  18. redbutton

    redbutton Member

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    Well, if it's WCR we're talking about, then their safety and competence management system is suspect according to Network Rail. Ultimately, all it takes is for a designated manager to sign and date the appropriate form to say someone is competent, and that paperwork doesn't get audited unless there's an incident. That's what happened with D&CR at Stafford recently.

    In addition, qualifying as a driver isn't just a one-time thing, it requires continuous management and monitoring to maintain competence. Yes, there are initial exams required to get your key, but then ideally there would be regular route and traction refreshers and random OTMR (black box recorder) reviews. It's hard to fathom how someone driving on an occasional, casual basis under a zero-hour contract can do that.
     
  19. jamieP

    jamieP Member

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    Am sorry I don't see how you can just have a conversion onto steam. Steam takes years to learn.
     
  20. merlodlliw

    merlodlliw Established Member

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    LLangollen Railway Society run training courses for steam driving,
     
  21. mtbox

    mtbox Member

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    Driving modern traction (including locomotives) is a completely different ball game to operating steam locomotives, some people have absolutely no idea how different it is. You can get yourself into extremely serious trouble in no time at all on a steam loco.
    It takes years of experience to learn to drive (and fire) them safely and competently, even in the relatively controlled environment of a heritage railway, also you cannot become a steam driver by doing some 2 minute "course" on a preserved railway.

    I drive freight trains full time, and previously drove passenger. I've also been on the footplate in the preservation scene for over 30 years, so I do know what I'm talking about.
     
    Last edited: 10 Apr 2015
  22. E&W Lucas

    E&W Lucas Established Member

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    It's not just another month traction course. Steam technology is alien to anything you've encountered in your life so far. No fail safes, no cut outs, etc.
    It does have to be learnt by experience, over time, as it does not always behave in the same way (for want of a better, simple description, for the uninitiated).

    You still need the basic mainline competence to underpin this though. As others have pointed out, managing zero hours staff will be most challenging too. To catch every driver/ fireman, over every route signed, plus when driving every class of traction signed, within defined period of time..... It's tricky enough, with a fraction of the routes, when following a regular roster!

    Much trouble could have been saved, if drivers had been employed on annualised hours contracts, and if they had been willing to recognise ASLEF.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Seconded, and pretty much ditto to the competence, only high speed passenger, not freight.
     
  23. glbotu

    glbotu Member

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    Can anyone highlight any key differences for the uninitiated, but curious?
     
  24. Jamesb1974

    Jamesb1974 Member

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    Is it not the case that WCRC use(d) a mainline certificated driver, but the fireman was someone either from a preserved railway or part of the loco owning group? Therefore, only 50% of the crew is actually mainline certified. Much like the DCR 'driver' involved in the Stafford SPAD, who (it subsequently turned out) had only ever fired on the mainline under instruction and had little or no experience of working trains at speed, on the mainline.

    When DBS work steamers, both driver and fireman are current mainline drivers and they are accompanied by a traction inspector as a minimum. Sometimes there is a fourth man to act as another fireman. The problem with WCRC is that the majority of their drivers are on zero hours contracts, which begs the question, how do you maintain certification and competence in the driving role when you are on a zero hours contract? And how does the management monitor that you are keeping your required competences up?

    Three of the seven points raised by Network Rail in the suspension notice were directly related to monitoring driver performance and/or competence.

    ** Apologies, I have realised that the Zero hours/competency thing has already been mentioned above **
     
    Last edited: 10 Apr 2015
  25. notadriver

    notadriver Established Member

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    A coach driver colleague of mine who incidentally did work ferrying passengers to and from the Jacobite trains can't understand the big deal here. He is a zero hours contract coach driver so why can't he be a zero hours contract train driver ? I tried to explain to him but wasn't having any of it.
     
  26. RPTC

    RPTC Member

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    Probably more to do with his perception of the skill levels required between operating a coach and a steam train, and the role of maintaining skills. I've not operated either, but a non-working coach driver is still maintaining basic skills by driving their car on the road, skills probably first learnt at 17 and used pretty much every day since. Unlike a part time train driver who doesn't just jump in his train and pop down the mainline to the shops each day.

    Some jobs need constant repitition to maintain skills, and where arguably casual/zero hour labour is not best suited. Driving steam trains probably falls into this category. Although the coach driver probably has to deal with considerably more numpties on the road than if he was a train driver!!
     
  27. notadriver

    notadriver Established Member

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    I don't know anything about steam engines but I'm pretty sure I could safely conduct one on the routes I sign.
     
  28. Jamesb1974

    Jamesb1974 Member

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    It's scary really and I can only assume that this part of the Network Rail suspension notice refers, in someway to amateurs on the footplate. If it isn't in relation to amateurs, then implies that there was/have been unauthorised persons on board some of WCR steam charters.

     
  29. TDK

    TDK Established Member

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    I personally feel that the only 2 people on the footplate of a steam engine should be the fireman and driver also anyone driving any train on the NR network should have the relevant competence in all fields this can only be done with qualified current drivers due to the training and competence management and this also needs to be addressed with the company that the driver works for so for instance a driver working for say ATW will have competence on rules, traction and routes and all up to date and this information must be shared with the company operating the steam train to ensure the driver hs their competency, if this has not been done or is not done then there is a huge flaw in the current system.
     
  30. sbt

    sbt Member

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    I'm not skilled in any way but I used to be allowed to drive a 'Live Steam' model as a teen so I'll start things off with:

    Water management in the boiler. If you let the crown of the firebox become uncovered you have what is now potentially a very large bomb on your hands. Even if you don't kill anyone you have very likely taken the locomotive out of service for years due to damage to the firebox crown. However if you mistime topping the boiler up with water you can reduce steam production because you are adding cold water to hot, which leads to less power, which you might need.

    This is what can happen:

    [​IMG]

    Look at this video. It shows what happens when an inexperienced crew overfills the boiler, then allows wheelslip to develop, followed by mishandling the Regulator so water is carried over into the Regulator Valve ('priming'), meaning that the Regulator couldn't be closed. When the driver tried to bring the Reverser into Neutral to deal with this that in turn ran away into full forward gear, injuring him. The engine was then stuck in a full forward power wheelslip until the cylinders and motion all came apart.

    https://youtu.be/YjsNbzg1UaI

    Finally, get it wrong with the fire and the Regulator (or a few other things wrong) when going under a bridge or into a tunnel and you can get a 'Blowback'. Its a bit like what firefighters call a 'flashover' and can fill the cab with flames. The consequences can be very serious, In 1965 Driver Wallace Arnold Oakes received the George Cross posthumously after he received fatal burns whilst remaining at his post to close the Regulator and apply the brake to bring his express passenger train to a stand after a blowback.

    PS: More qualified people, please comment!
     
    Last edited: 10 Apr 2015
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