Retaining heritage skills for the future

For our latest catch-up with the Severn Valley Railway’s apprentices, we head over to the S&T department and talk to 21-year-old Bradley Windridge about his experiences over the past 18 months as a trainee heritage signal maintenance technician.

The RM has been making regular visits to the Severn Valley Railway to meet members of its pioneering Heritage Skills Training Academy. This was set up five years ago to bring new blood into heritage railway engineering, and to future proof the specialist skills that are needed. This month we join 21-year-old Bradley Windridge, the SVR’s apprentice signal maintenance technician.

“There’s very little indoor work in this job. The only time you’re inside is when you’re working in one of the signalboxes. The outdoor aspect was part of what appealed to me. Before I came here I worked as a carpet fitter and in warehouses, and I was keen to get out in the fresh air.

“Visual inspection is the key to finding faults before they become a problem. We walk along the length of each wire, checking it all out. Everyday maintenance involves oiling different points and cranks, and checking signal wires for snags.

“Each wire is made up of seven individual strands, twisted together.  If one gets rusty, it weakens the overall wire. When we spot that one has deteriorated we simply splice in another length. The wires are exposed year round to the rain, the snow and the ice, so you have to be very vigilant. We do our checks monthly, a station at a time. Every bit of wire gets looked at least twice a year.

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