Retaining heritage skills for the future

In the first of a regular series of columns, The RM will be visiting the Severn Valley Railway (SVR) to look at life there through the eyes of its apprentices. The SVR set up its pioneering Heritage Skills Training Academy in 2013 to bring new blood into heritage railway engineering, and to future proof the specialist skills that are no longer part of mainstream engineering. This month we meet 20-year-old Barney Hill, who is at the beginning of his apprenticeship at the SVR.

“Like anything new, my first days have been a whirl of people and information. There’s so much to take on board, but I am getting a tremendous amount of support. The others don’t make me feel like a ‘newbie’ as such, but they do expect me to get stuck in and ask lots of questions.

“I’m starting with a six-month stint in the Carriage & Wagon Works at Kidderminster. One of the first things was a track-safety briefing. James from the paint shop took me through where you should and shouldn’t stand or walk, and what to do when a train is coming down the track towards you, and the hand signals you use to communicate with the loco crew.

SVR apprentice Barney Hill is getting to know the railway’s carriage fleet from all angles, especially from underneath.

This is knowledge I’m going to need every single day of my working life.

“Today, I’m on the team carrying out a routine mechanical maintenance check on our set of British Rail Mk1 coaches. As I went into the Carriage Shed, I was struck by the sheer size of it. It’s about a fifth of a mile long, and because there’s a curve you can’t see from one end to the other. There can be up to 56 coaches in here. You see the outside when you pass by on board a train, but you couldn’t possibly appreciate what’s inside.

Read more in the October issue of The RM – on sale now!

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