A volunteer’s journey

Bob Greenhalgh shares his experiences of 27 years of hands-on involvement with the Bala Lake Railway and describes what the line has to offer a would-bevolunteer.

It started way back in 1991. I visited the Bala Lake Railway and had a long talk with the guard, a most friendly gentleman. Encouraged, I wrote to the Bala Lake Railway Society offering to volunteer and to join. A month later, in July that year, my journey began in earnest.

I was to start as afireman – the locomotive was Quarry Hunslet 0-4-0ST Holy War.The driver and my instructor was David Jones, now of the Talyllyn Railway – andnot to be confused with the Bala Lake Railway’s present manager who shares thesame name.

Bob played a pivotal role in the railway’sdecision to commence running Santa trains. He is proud to say the Santaoperation continues to go from strength to strength.

He was an excellent teacher, as well as being an inspiration. It wason my first day that I found out the guard I had been talking to was also therailway’s general manager. Being a single person and working shifts meant I hadplenty of time off to volunteer.

I did 10 days as trainee fireman and threedays at working weekends by the time 1991 ended. I soon found out the formerDinorwic Quarry Alice Class Quarry Hunslets are delightful locomotives to workon.

The author (pictured) says that 27 years on, healways leaves for home with a smile.

Working weekends were spent clearing lineside growth, renewing fencing and some sleeper changing. There were usually 10 to 20 volunteers at a working weekend. I learnt which way up sleepers go and about lifting and packing the track, ensuring a smooth journey for our passengers.

Not long after I started, I was named Bob Shell due to my overalls bearing the name of my employer and to distinguish me from two other people called Bob.

I took to the footplate like a duck to water. Every day was full of learning and each driver helpfully passed on their knowledge.

I qualified as a driver on April 24, 1993. That first season as a driver was a massive learning experience. I like to think that I have done David Jones proud.

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