The Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway is run by Volunteers. There are no paid staff, and every penny is ploughed back into the Railway. Its future depends on its Volunteers. Could you be one of them?
Here we will try to give you an idea of the range of activities needed to keep the Railway operational and explain how you can get involved:
We need people in all Departments, to run and look after the Railway, and to contribute to its projects. Whether you can come along every weekend, or some other days, or just occasionally, your help is needed. Without enough Volunteers the Railway would simply not survive.
Every Volunteer must first be a Member of the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway Association (C&PRRA). You can join online right now and it's easy to apply - please tick the box about Volunteering! The Railway runs an induction session for all new Volunteers, usually on a Saturday morning in Chinnor. Once we process your membership, we’ll be in contact to arrange a date. Please contact our Volunteer Coordinators at email@example.com for more information.
If you want to have a role which involves walking along the track, or is safety critical, you will need to have a Personal Track Safety (PTS) certificate. There is also a minimum age of 16, or 18 for operations crew. The PTS course and test are on the Saturday afternoon following the morning induction for new Volunteers. Once you have your PTS you can go ‘trackside’ by yourself. Beyond the PTS, the training you receive will depend on the Department(s) you wish to join and the jobs you want to do. Our public service days are when we need station staff, on-board stewards and train crew, and are usually at weekends. Much of the engineering and maintenance take place on specific days of the week. After the Induction Course and PTS training, Volunteer Support will match new Volunteers to one or more of our Departments – read on for outlines of what they do.
This is obviously the high-profile activity as far as our visitors are concerned. The Department provides all the crew for steam and diesel trains and the signal boxes and line. If you have previous railway experience, we can discuss how you will progress. You will start your training in Operations as a crossing keeper and in the signal boxes. This gives a chance to play a part and to see how the Railway operates, absorbing its safety procedures and culture. You will then be able to decide how you want to progress through the grades from there. For safety reasons you may be asked to attend a medical examination to make sure you are fit and safe for the job you are to do.
Steam Locomotive Crew
Starting in a ‘Steam Support’ role you can assist the Driver and Fireman in preparing and cleaning the locomotives, then look after watering and coaling through the day, and assist with the disposal of the locomotive when operations finish. At the same time, you will learn about the workings of a steam locomotive. You will also need to train as a shunter and a secondman, because you will need these skills to progress to the next step: Fireman. Managing the boiler and fire is just part of the Fireman's task; the role is also to assist the Driver in every aspect of the job. That includes learning the line, its gradients, locations and signals; and gradually acquiring the knowledge and skills you will need to pass your own Driver's exam on diesel first and then steam. Everyone who works as steam crew also has an important role in locomotive maintenance: regular boiler washouts are essential to keep a loco in good working order!
Diesel Locomotive Crew
Our diesels are double-manned. You will need to train as a shunter before you start on the footplate. This will give you the necessary safety background and training in the Operating Rules. As a Secondman you will assist the Driver as required in the preparation and operation of the locomotive and when coupling etc., but you will also have to demonstrate that you could safely bring a train under control if the driver was to be incapacitated, that you understand the Operating Rules and that you have 'route knowledge' of the line.
Guards and Shunters
Every train is controlled by a Guard, who is responsible for its preparation (watering the carriage tanks, testing its brakes etc) and safe operation. Shunters deal with movements of wagons and coaches around the yard at Chinnor, working points, brakes and couplings etc. All Guards have to have all the skills of a Shunter, as they might have to shunt vehicles into or out of their train during the day. They also receive training in emergency procedures such as train evacuation or dealing with brake faults.
Signalmen and Crossing Keepers
Our Crossing Keepers are essential as we have gates to open and close for every train that runs. The Signalman at Chinnor and Person In Charge at Princes Risborough control the movement of trains from their respective positions. The training as Signalman covers the Rules and procedures needed to operate the Railway safely using traditional methods, the operation of the signalling equipment, and what to do when things go wrong.
Other Roles in the Operations Department
We also need Dispatchers or Station Masters to safely see off our Passenger Trains and prepare the platforms for public use. The Duty Line Manager (DLM) is in charge of our Railway activity on a Passenger running day, while the Person In Charge of Possession (PICOP) fulfils a similar role when we need train movements on maintenance days.
THE INFRASTRUCTURE DEPARTMENTS
Broadly speaking, the Railway is divided into two parts: the things that move, like locomotives and wagons, and the things that stay put, the infrastructure.
This is the term used for track: the rails, sleepers and points. Essential work if the Railway is to stay running. Looking after it suits those with a fondness for the outdoors. It's not all about heavy lifting and shovelling: we have plant to do much of that these days.
Signals and Telegraph
The Signal and Telegraph team install and maintain all the signalling equipment, electrical and mechanical, and are also responsible for telephone and radio systems. It’s also responsible for the restoration of our Grade 2 Listed Princes Risborough North Box, PRNB.
The care and maintenance of our buildings, fences, gates, signs and greenery is the realm of the Tuesday Gang. They meet, no surprise, on Tuesdays, usually at Chinnor Station, although occasionally they journey along the line or if needed take more than one day for larger projects.
Although our terminus on Platform 4 of Princes Risborough station was opened on 16 August 2018, work there was and is far from complete. There’s still the independent line to reconstruct, customer and volunteer facilities to improve and a lot of signalling to install, and this work is being tackled by the Princes Risborough Station Forming team who meet every Friday.
PASSENGER SERVICES DEPARTMENT
Railway operations require staff to look after our Passengers: train stewards and ticket inspectors; station and shop staff, booking clerks and answering enquiries by email and 'phone. Special train services and events need additional support: Elves for Santa; bar staff and more. If you like meeting the public and can represent the Railway this might be for you. Training is available for all these tasks.
Everyone knows that railways run on tea! We need Volunteers to staff the Tearoom at Chinnor station, the Restaurant Car to serve lunches and cream teas, and Waiters on the evening dining services. Not only can they be fun, but these activities make a large contribution to the Railway's income.
From Marketing and Publications to posting on Social Media and websites, through running successful events and getting great coverage in newspapers and on radio - we need lots of behind the scenes help to ensure we get plenty of fare paying visitors throughout the year. We also need fund raisers and those who can help us diversify and increase our income streams from other activities. The list is not exhaustive of course. All the jobs are vital and many can be done without actually visiting the railway; we even have one volunteer who helps us from the other side of the Atlantic!
THE ENGINEERING DEPARTMENTS
Railways encompass a huge breadth of engineering skills, from construction through mechanical engineering to electronics. But don't worry if you don't yet possess skills in those areas; there is much more general work in de-rusting or painting for example.
Carriage and Wagon
This team looks after everything to do with our coaches, the seating, doors, toilets, braking systems, painting and more. It maintains our engineering wagons and also tackles restoration projects, such as our Shark brake van where woodworking skills are very useful.
Working with the Operations Steam Crew, this team maintains the steam locomotives, including carrying out boiler washouts and mechanical examinations.
Looks after the diesel locos and all our engineering vehicles and plant. It also supports other Departments with their projects when workshop skills are needed. It also oversees the continuing development of our Restoration and Engineering Centre or REC.
DMU Restoration Group
This team have recently restored our award winning maroon Class 121 Bubble Car W55024 to full service and are currently exercising the same perfected skills doing the same thing with our other Class 121, the green W55023.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
If any of this appeals to you and you can spare some time, you can easily get involved. First, become a Member of the C&PRRA via our online Membership application and please tick the box about Volunteering! Then, when your application is processed, we’ll be in contact. If you want to discuss any of this further then please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or write to C&PRRA Volunteer Support, Station Road, Chinnor, OX39 4ER and we’ll get back to you.
P.S. Through our Volunteers Facebook page you can also get a flavour of just some of the happenings up and down the line.
We look forward to hearing from you!