Thursday, 14 April 2016
What a splendid day it was.
As an early birthday present a 'footplate experience' at the Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway was organised by my daughter and very good friend Nick Cook. This all took place at the end of the Easter holiday period.
Though I'd cottoned on to what was happening towards the end of last year I didn't realise that:
1) Nick and his family were going to be in Cornwall the same week as ourselves.
2) Nick had booked himself on the same day's driver's experience.
During the week there was much subterfuge in keeping myself away from the Cook family. It had been planned to be a total surprise for me that Nick was taking part in the day. My daughter and son had great fun in communicating with the Cooks, even meeting up with them during the week without me knowing. On the Thursday unbeknown to myself we were all on the Camel Trail. Apparently we passed each other on at least two occasions either on our bikes or while one group had stopped for a bite to eat. I was later informed that during the day my son was not texting a girl but texting the Cooks to keep them informed of our whereabouts. This was all to keep me in the dark until the Friday morning when Nick walked into Bodmin Station to my exclamation of 'What the **** are you doing here...!' to which he replied 'You didn't think I'd miss out on this day did you?' I've been told the look on my face was a gem!
After all the introductions we were soon taken to our steed for the day, a GWR Pannier tank number 4612. It just needed a top up of good Welsh coal before we were on the footplate for the first instructions. The experience of being on the footplate during the 1:37 climb from Bodmin Parkway to Bodmin General was awesome! Let alone with my hand on the regulator; shovelling coal into the firebox, plus keeping an eye on the pressure gauge; coupling & uncoupling the loco from the coaches during the tunarounds; pulling points at Bodmin General and Parkway; topping the side tanks up with water; along with listening to the driver and fireman passing on their knowledge. At the end of the day we had great pleasure in giving a modicum of help in disposing of the loco. I even got chance to have a very quick visit to the signal box. Much was learnt, and excellent memories made...
It all went far too quickly for us novices. The crew and staff at Bodmin were brilliant - very friendly and accommodating to us and our entourages. My heart-felt thanks must go to all who had a hand in organising the day. I don't think it is surprising that in most of the photos both Nick and I are grinning from ear to ear. I just want to do it again...
As a memento of the day both Nick and I walked away (after giving a small donation) with a genuine GWR standard 2 bolt chair, I wonder if the boss will allow me to collect a few switch chairs...just as a discussion point (no pun intended) with our cottage guests? :-))