June 2017

Well, 2017 has certainly got off to a busy start! As you will have read elsewhere, Bricks Britannia was an extremely busy event with a lot of involvement from Operating Department staff, both with the actual event and the provision of train services. It was extremely satisfying for train crews to run nice full trains, a trend that appears to be continuing on with a successful 1940s event and healthy bookings on ordinary trains.

Over the winter period we finally commisioned the “new” class room facility at Rolvenden. This is a secondhand portakabin that was originally earmarked for Loco Department use. After the closure of the meeting room at Tenterden, this was identified as a suitable alternative building for training and meetings and has seen a considerable amount of work to redecorate, adapt and equip it for its new purpose. There is also a small office which will be used to replace the old Running Foreman’s office which has now been re-allocated to the Loco Department. Thanks are due to Mark Singleton who donated a large tv screen and installed much of the internet and telephone equipment. Special thanks also to Nick Wellington and Dave Hazeldine who made big contributions to the project. The building is both hardwired for internet and has WiFi and conference calling facilities for meetings. Since commissioning the building has been well received and heavily used!

One of the prime uses for of the classroom is for training. So far this year it has seen several sessions of the excellent Signalman’s training course run by Joel Pearson and Tony Ramsey as well as the Loco Mutual Improvement Classes which are managed by Brendan Connell and Mark Williams. Mark is also now the Chief Running Foreman at Rolvenden. 2017 has also seen the removal of detonators (fog signals) from use on the K&ESR. This involved an immense amount of work re-writing large sections of the Rule Book by the Railway Rules Working Group led by Mike Harwood. The revisions to the Rule Book were issued at the annual meetings of the three sub departments, Guards, Signalling and Footplate, along with a briefing on the new system for train protection. There have also been training sessions on train protection specifically for signalmen and four more general groups where the new procedures were practiced using the Class 03 and Ruston locomotives on Tenterden Bank.

On the footplate we are continuing to attract new volunteers, including a healthy amount of youngsters. With the extension to Robertsbridge getting ever closer, we will inevitably be running more trains and will need more staff to crew them, so now’s a great time to join our team! We’re delighted that Ben Boggis is now passed out as a steam driver. On the DMMU Barry Smith and Richard Stone have recently been passed out as drivers.

Our loco crews have also recently had the experience of a larger than usual loco in 7822 Foxcote Manor, although sadly at the time of writing she has developed a fault preventing her from working, we are hopeful that by the time this is published she may have run for a few more days. To accommodate 7822, we had to look carefully at how a larger loco would fit the railway and as such have had to implement some temporary instructions for her use and make some timetable modifications to avoid fouling track circuits. Thankfully the knowledge gained from this experience will make it easier for us to host larger locos again in the future.

For the last few years we have used a system known as HOPS (Heritage Operations Processing) for rostering, you may remember it being mentioned in these notes before. In the past few months we have met with the HOPS developer Danny Scroggins with a view to expanding our use of this powerful software. As a result we are now looking at making far more use of it as a means of storing records and managing staff competence. Roster clerk Terry Hannocks recently attended a HOPS workshop at Kidderminster to learn how we can use the system better. It might seem a little bit at odds for a Colonel Stephens to use so much modern technology but so long as it stays in the background and is a useful tool it can only be a good thing!

In an initiative to improve the cleanliness of our carriages we have recently helped out with organising and running a couple of carriage cleaning days. On one occasion we had a charter with an extended mid-day break so took the opportunity to hold the train at Wittersham Road for a few hours while a happy band of volunteers had a good clean on the side of the train that is hard to reach at Tenterden. We need to ensure that our trains stay as clean as possible to present a good image to our passengers, so if you are able to help out, either as part of the gang on specially organised occasions or simply when a train is somewhere accessible at Tenterden please get in touch. Every little helps, so even a few minutes cleaning before or after the service can make a big difference.

Finally an appeal! To keep out locos looking clean requires a lot of rags, if you are clearing out your wardrobe and have anything like t shirts or other cotton based items suitable for our use, please feel free to leave them at Rolvenden. With many people donating clothes to charity shops etc, we have had to resort to buying in cleaning rags, so here’s a chance for you to save your railway some money!