Sunday, 28 February 2010

All Tickets, Please!

Ever since I discovered the Nene Valley Railway last summer, I’ve kept on being drawn back there like a moth to flame, or a disaster to Gordon Brown. I particularly enjoyed working on board the Christmas Santa Specials with some of the volunteers who run the line, and earlier this year I bit the dust and joined up as a working member myself. Thus it was that I found myself reporting for my first duty today, in a new role as Travelling Ticket Inspector (TTI). Why TTI? Well, my employment as an automotive logistics facilitator (car-transporter driver to the uninitiated) means that I come into contact with few people during the working week, and those I do talk to either sell cars, buy cars, repair cars, race cars, rally cars, scrap cars, tweak cars and generally talk cars until I either fall asleep or hit myself over the head with a spare half-shaft (don’t try this at home: it hurts).

Consequently, I favoured doing something totally different and the role of TTI seems perfect. The NVR caters primarily for tourists and visitors to Ferry Meadows Country Park, so the role involves ticket sales and checks along with answering questions and acting as an informal tourist guide to the line and facilities. As an enthusiastic regular user of Ferry Meadows I’m well qualified in this respect, and being able to offer advice and answer queries makes the trips up and down the line more interesting.

I began the day by meeting David who runs the ticket sales side of things, and after an introduction to the job we joined the first of the three trains that run during the off-peak timetable period. Loco was 73050 City of Peterborough on the 5 car MK1 rake, off at 10:30 for the first trip to Yarwell. The train was lightly loaded because of the appalling weather and time of year, so there was plenty of time to get to grips with the job and have a chat to the mainly family groups who were taking the trip.

A cold and damp Wansford at the end of my first trip as TTI.

After the first return trip was complete David let me get on with it as the trains were very quiet, and I had a fair idea of what to do. We met up at intervals during the day to compare notes; otherwise I walked up and down the train generally chatting with the passengers on board. It was an enjoyable experience, and all that walking helps offset all the sitting I do in a lorry cab for the rest of the week!

As I enjoyed the day, I’ve planned to join the staff roster for more duties in the coming months, starting with next weekend’s Diesel Gala when every train will packed – nothing like a baptism of fire. The Diesel Galas bring in a lot of revenue to the railway, but a great many problems come with them - I've witnessed the antics of these so-called enthusiasts at many places over the years, so can understand the need to have as many staff available as possible to keep an eye on things. Previous military experience is preferred, and a couple of tours of Belfast or Basra are extremely useful. Apparently the class 66 brings out the worst in this crowd as they'll do anything to get a bit of haulage or photograph of one in unfamiliar surroundings ... watch this space!

One or two people turned up when a GBRF 66 was rostered for the diesel gala last year.

I’ll also be getting inducted to the Booking Office at the end of March; this will then enable me to switch roles and cover any position if required, as well as provide more variety to the role.

City of Peterborough runs round at her namesake city.

During some quiet spells throughout the day I was able to try out a spontaneous gift to myself that I purchased yesterday – a new Panasonic TZ6 camera. I got it primarily to replace the Samsung that I use for video shooting, as it offers good quality widescreen WVGA filming capabilities with an impressive smooth and quiet 12x zoom and 25mm wide angle lens – all in a pocket sized compact. I’d been looking for a video camera for some time, and got bogged down in reviews and specs and prices and ever more conflicting information until my overtaxed brain hurt. I spotted the TZ6 quite by chance in e-mailshot that Argos sent out, and after seeing some cracking film on YouTube made with the model I went out and bought it. The photos here were taken on it - well, 2 of the 3 were. Can you guess which is the odd one out? - and my initial handheld test video shots were also impressive; I may load one up as a demo later on. As it fits comfortably into a pocket, it is an ideal camera to take around to most places – so could be very useful in my new weekend job.


  1. Nice one mate - they need help from folk like you and you get to enjoy yourself. A very symbiotic relationship! Don't foget to tell all them lovely passengers about the treats that await them at Ferry Meadows Country Park. Things like err, oh I don't know, well I suppose, err boat trips and so on!

    Have fun

  2. Yes, good for you, Martin. I volunteered regularly many years ago on a certain Welsh narrow gauge line and really enjoyed myself, as well as having that inner glow of satisfaction from doing something worthwhile. Good luck with the great unwashed though, I look forward to reading of your adventures with the hard core gricers!
    As a Panasonic camera owner myself I can only agree that they are superb. Look forward to seeing more results!

  3. Thanks to both of you; it was an interesting experience and looking forward to more.

    I have indeed been recommending to yesterday's passengers that they pop down in the summer, barbeque or default setting regardless, to try out a river trip - and I've also got flyers to give out as well. It makes sense for all the activities in the Park to promote each other; the railway gets a lot of business from FM Caravan park, even in winter.

    Next weekend I might don a bobblehat, not shave all week and chuck my deoderant away. Then I can go as undercover lineside security! Watch this space .....


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