Saturday, 2 February 2013

Youngest Fireman

For this the second in the series of interviews of the 'great & the good' of the GWSR's steam loco dept, I picked on chose Ben Evason. Ben has just given up his job as a Train Manager (Guard in old money) with Cross Country Trains to become a trainee driver with First Great Western.  
Ben with an early GWSR DMU, he'll soon be driving more up to date examples
 I understand that you passed out as a fireman on the GWSR at the earliest possible opportunity, your 18th birthday, how did that come about?

I passed out on the GWSR the day after my 18th birthday, yes the earliest opportunity to do so. I had been involved with the GWSR ever since the visit of Kinlet Hall a long while back. After the engine left I stayed. Got to know a few people and got stuck in with the work. After proving myself I was asked to begin my fireman training, but advised I couldn't become qualified until I turned 18. Needless to say I got the bug and 8 years on I'm still as passionate about steam.

You have subsequently passed out as a guard and only last year passed out as a driver on the GWSR. Are there any other roles within the railway that you aspire to?

I think for the time being I'll stick to the operating side of things. Its was a big year last year for me. Finally being trusted and privileged enough to drive a steam locomotive is such an amazing feeling, especially as I had to wait until being 25!  In my previous job I was a train manager, so becoming a guard was just another way I could help the railway. I am interested in signalling but over the next year I have a massive career move so I need to focus on that really.

Congratulations on having been accepted for driver training with First Great Western. What are your ambitions in your new job?

I loved my job as a Train Manager / guard, but have always wanted to be a driver. I have been chasing this dream for a couple of years, being prepared to move anywhere to achieve this. Then suddenly it was my time, a stroke of luck. A phone call on 21st December revealed I was offered a post at Bristol, I'm sure you can imagine my reaction!
I have worked through the ranks to get this driver's role and have a tough year of training ahead. I can imagine that when I have the controls for the first time on my own it will feel much the same.

You have an active role in the support crew of Kinlet Hall, what does that entail?

Kinlet Hall is the nearest I will get to calling an engine mine! Being a relatively small share holder, I may have claim to a bolt or two! I got involved with 'Gertie' 9 years ago now when I used to be a cleaner at the West Somerset Railway. I guess some might say I was poached! I then gained my PTS and was allowed to go mainline. There's something about an engine doing 60mph mile after mile after mile that makes me keep wanting more, a kind of addiction. Although we don't do a huge amount there is still an awful lot of work to do, and a lot of minding when she goes on her gallops. So 9 years down the line we have been many places and I have learnt so much but my thanks also goes to my best mate and fellow 4936er Andy Beale. Without who I wouldn't be where I am today or have had such a fab time 'on the road'.
Ben on the footplate of Kinlet Hall
For anyone that is interested on March 23rd come see Kinlet,  double headed halls  up the Lickey!
Kinlet Hall departing Williton on the West Somerset Railway
Kinlet Hall at Minehead
 You are part of the organising committee of this year's  Cotswold Steam Celebration Gala   in May. Tell us more about what is being planned, and your specific role on the committee.

GALA = STRESS. When you go to a gala you think oh that's nice engines going choo choo, lots of things to do and oh look they're running late! Now being part of the organising committee for the Cotswold Steam Celebration I know how much has to go into a gala. My personal role is to create a timetable that is useable, look after Winchcombe site and sort out loco diagrams. Plus anything else that is thrown my way! It has been challenging at times, but we have a good team and we work well together. Highlights will be trains passing at every station, freight trains, brake van rides, steam to Laverton and of course our high profile visiting engines. It's not long to go now and things are coming into place nicely. Not going to lie, I'm a little excited already. I strongly feel that this will put the GWR firmly back on the map with the big boys.

You have just taken on the role of roster clerk and instigated online rostering. How is that process working out?

Bringing the steam department into the 21st century..... Sounds a little ironic to me. But yes I am now wearing my roster clerk hat! Fact, no one likes change. But online rostering will make things so much easier. It will take time for everyone to adjust including myself. With my new job I thought I could take on a role that would not require me to spend extra time at the railway. I can completely work from home. So having now posted the March roster, when I next go to Toddington I can see if people are happy or not. As one department member said to me ' you will be the most hated person at the railway'. My response was eeekkkk, I hope not. I am very much looking forward to challenge that rostering will be!

Ben is wrong on that last note, the most 'hated person on the railway' will always be the fool that edits the blog, whatever you say you will offend somebody, and quite possibly everybody.   Trawling through my own archives I have turned up a couple of photos of Kinlet Hall during her visit to the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway in 2005, which is quite probably her visit to the railway that got Ben started here.
Kinlet Hall at Toddington
Kinlet Hall between Winchcombe & Toddington on a demonstration freight

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