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A view from the footplate

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They say once you have been exposed to steam, it stays with you forever. After having my great great grandfather being a railwayman on the now disused Waveney Valley branch line during world war one and after, then my late granddad working within Blooms garden centre, and  in the steam museum itself, it seems fitting that I carry on the tradition of being involved in steam engines.

Back when I was a young lad I remember visiting Bressingham Steam Museum most weekends with my grandparents and when my grandad was there I used to sit on a bench next to Nursery line and the watch the engine  ‘George Sholto’, working just to see what they drivers were doing and seeing them go about their duties. It was when I was about 7 or 8 yrs old and with a little encouragement from my parents that I wrote a letter to Alan Bloom asking (as every little boy wants) if I can become a steam engine driver at the museum. Lucky enough about a week later I received a letter addressed from Bressingham Hall to me,

Dan Woods AB letter                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

He had replied, on a green piece of paper saying that he’s glad that the younger generation like myself are taking an interest in steam engines and that when I was old enough I would be allowed to come in the early mornings when the drivers were lighting up and experience what its like to be a steam engine driver.

Needless to say I took Mr Bloom up on his kind offer and this only took my      interest further in thinking that I could, one day, become one of these amazing men who can command a steam engine. But that’s when things slowed down as I had to do the whole ‘growing up’ part, school, college university etc, but always a small flame in the back of my mind was there wanting to still achieve my dream.

Then about two years ago after finishing my time as Chairman of the Young Farmers I found an advert online asking for volunteers at the same steam museum I left behind all those years ago. I enquired about joining the merry band of volunteers and after a few weeks my first day was upon me, I remember being placed on the Victorian gallopers on my first day and memories came flooding back of me riding on these same colourful wooden horses years ago and here I was on the other side as an attendant. It must have worked as I went back the following weekend and the ones after that, working my way up as a guard on all three narrow gauge railways. Late last year I was put forward for ‘steam theory’ training in preparation for becoming a driver, I think it was then that I realised that my dream might actually become a reality.

Luckily I passed that and was then put under the instruction of an experienced driver as his learner, I had several days of driving experience with my instructor on ‘George Sholto’ until he thought I was confident enough to be put forward for ‘passing out’ or in other words my final test day. That day came round sooner than I thought and I was suitably nervous as anybody would be during a test. Throughout the day I was thinking if I had done enough to become a fully fledged driver at Bressingham, and those magic words were then spoken to me saying that I had passed and was able to drive that particular engine by myself from now on.

Dan Woods

It was at that moment and every time after that I get to light up, fire, clean, polish and ultimately drive George Sholto that my dream is a reality and I am constantly grinning like a Cheshire cat, so every time you see me, that’s why I am smiling so much. People ask me now that I have achieved that particular dream, what’s next for me? Well I do have other ideas brewing so you will have to watch this space……

By Daniel Woods at 11 Aug 2015, 00:00 AM