Charity worker Sarah continues family’s long steam railway tradition

By Geoff Courtney

TO SAY Sarah Tagart has steam railways in her blood would be akin to describing The Shard as a fairly tall building, or Lewis Hamilton a reasonably good racing driver.

An archetypal British understatement. The 22-year-old charity worker has become the third generation in her family to qualify for working on the footplate, following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather – and for good measure, the footsteps of her partner George and his father.

Testing times: Sarah Tagart, 22, on the footplate of the Kent & East Sussex Railway’s Austerity 0-6-0ST No. 25 Northiam after passing her fireman’s exam and thus following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather.

Sarah, who lives in Ashford and is a volunteer on the Kent & East Sussex Railway (KESR), is celebrating passing her guard’s test in May and her firing test at the end of June, dressed in her grandfather’s treasured railway overalls and greasetop cap.

Sarah’s family roots are on the Isle of Wight, from where she moved to Kent four years ago to study for a degree. She soon found herself volunteering on the KESR as a locomotive cleaner, progressing to steam raiser and then joining the guards’ department, leading to her recent successes in the guard’s and firing tests.

Her grandfather Ken West was a BR driver on the Isle of Wight in the steam era, and she often heard stories about him and her grandmother doing much of their courting on the footplate.

“Since he passed away in 2012 I have always aspired to be like him,” she said. “When I am around the railway and on the footplate, I often feel him with me and can hear his voice giving me pointers or taking the mick.”

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