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Behind the Scenes26th March 2019

Railway Volunteers

Here at The Historic Dockyard Chatham, there are a variety of different volunteer opportunities, one of which is to work on the Railway that runs through the site.

There are over twenty active railway volunteers as of June 2023. A small number of them have a railway industry background in their working lives, but the majority don’t and are learning about the Railway through working with it.

We spoke to one of our volunteers, Andy…

So why do you volunteer?

“I volunteer on the Dockyard Railway because it enables me to keep physically active, with the added bonus that it offers the ability to carry out some quite unusual tasks and helps keep a valuable part of history alive.”

What rolling stock will the public be able to see at The Historic Dockyard Chatham?

“Of just under one mile of track still in existence around the Historic Dockyard, we are able to operate ‘demonstration’ freight trains for about one third of a mile. There are a number of historic freight wagons, and we are able to use our locos and steam crane to haul those wagons on railway operating days.”

What other things do you do for the Railway?

“As well as being qualified to drive both steam and diesel locomotives, I also do some ‘behind the scenes’ work, maintaining and developing railway operations documentation, co-ordinating training, and compiling the crew rosters for operating days.”

Why is it important to keep the Railway running?

“The locomotives, wagons and cranes are a valuable piece of history, but together, maintained and used within the Heritage Dockyard, they are a significant part of the Dockyard’s history and that of the surrounding area. Far better for them to be restored, maintained and used than just sit idle, deteriorating.”

How long do you spend looking after the railway?

“The Dockyard Railway usually operates one weekend per month on average, so although the normal working day for a railway volunteer usually starts at 7am and doesn’t finish until 5.30pm / 6pm, these long days aren’t so frequent that you get tired of it. Personally, because of the documentation, co-ordination and rostering, on average I spend a further half-day per week dealing with those issues. There’s always scope for new volunteers to help with other roles and tasks at the railway itself on extra days once they get settled in, as there is more that we could achieve if there were more of us.”

Find out more about volunteering at the Historic Dockyard:

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