The end of the year, well not really.

Last weekend saw the last public steam service until the end of December. Traditionally we don’t run public services during November but this year we are running the Swedish Railcar on the middle two weekends, I await with interest to see how busy we are. Hopefully we will be but it will depend very much on the weather.

The last weekend was a series of fits and starts with a number of people about, including those who had been given vouchers last Christmas for a steam ride who realised they ran out at the end of the year.

Now this is where I give my thoughts on the past year, please note these are my thoughts as a working member they are not my thoughts as a director/trustee of the railway.

All in all it’s been an interesting year with the good bits far outweighing the bad.

As in previous years the visitors have been a mixed bunch ranging from really interesting to downright socially challenged! But that said we have had some really nice visitors this year from all over the world and it’s always nice to see them enjoy themselves during their visit.

The main problems at the station are as always the lack of toilets and the lack of a train every five minutes to photograph. It’s fair to say that often this year the ones who have spent the least have caused the most work. Some people just enjoy their visit and we enjoy having them as visitors, but some are a challenge. One asked me the difference between a customer and a visitor. I explained that a customer is a visitor who has actually bought something. He went away having spent Zero.

In difficult economic times it has to be realised by the non-paying public that their viewing of the trains is subsidised by the people on the train who have actually dipped into their pockets and coughed up some cash.

On the subject of trains I never cease to wonder why those who are not travelling and don’t intend for any of their cash to see daylight are the ones who moan the most if we run late. Those who have paid normally make some comment along the lines that by running late we are being authentic then sit back to read the visitor guide. The non-paying public are the ones most likely to read the time board outside then come in and ask when the next train is.

Dog walkers don’t get any better with most having just a vocabulary of two words, and those are dog & bowl, they have not been on the advanced course in manners where they would have learnt such words as please, thank you and do you have? They are a regular irritation, especially those who butt in when I am chatting to a paying visitor or I am in the middle of selling tickets. Still at least I get rid of them some poor soul is looking forward to them getting home!

Their is no award this year for the idiot of the year or the best visitor of the year, there are too many contenders for both.

Special mention must be made of some of the non-working members of the railway. Please remember if you come into Orton Mere and want to travel the following things.

  1. We are not psychic, just because you look strange does not mean we will automatically assume you’re a member.
  2. The best way to start a transaction is not to just throw your membership card on the counter and stare at me.
  3. Just because you’re a member does not give you the right to walk in front of others waiting to spend money.
  4. In the case one one chap please remember we need to see your current membership card not one three years old. Because if you think that’s acceptable all that’s going to happen is that you won’t travel at members rate and I will think you’re an idiot.
  5. Also please remember please and thank you go a long way. In fact they will go further than you will if you have left your card at home.

Finally my thanks to the volunteers who have helped me run the station with special thanks to my ever suffering wife who has worked many more Sunday’s than she should have had to, mainly down to others who could not be bothered to get out of their beds during the cold and wet weekends. Special mention also to Tom without whose help I could not have opened most Saturdays this year. Also of course Rosemary who maintains the station garden and also nags me from time to time. To all the volunteers who have helped me in the past year you are appreciated.

I would also like to that the other working members who have through their actions made my year easier, even if in some cases their only action has been to stay away as much as possible. For those who do as little as possible but still call yourself a working member please give a thought to S&T, the civils, that chap who sorts out the phones and all the others who do the less glamorous jobs on the railway, without them you would not have somewhere to play at the weekends.

We will see you all next year no doubt.

Almost there…..

Well this coming weekend sees the final normal services of the year, except for a couple of weekends in November where we are running the Swedish Railcar normal services will resume just after Christmas, with of course the Santa Trains from the end of November up to Christmas eve.

So what’s this year been like then from the perspective of the station.

Well, I think it’s fair to say it won’t go down as the busiest! But that’s due to may factors out the control of the railway. But to end the normal running season on a positive note I have enjoyed the year and a full report will appear on here sometime next week.

You watch it rain this weekend!!!!!

 

 

Branching out, Railcam Invasion, A load of drips and a little ray of sunshine

Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday saw the railways autumn diesel gala. It was a mixed weekend with the weather and extra activities all playing their part.

From the point of view of my station Orton Mere Friday was the busiest day of the three. We ran brake van rides up the Fletton Branch with two brake vans hauled by the Deltic. It was extremely popular with the visitors, I almost got cramp from writing out all the tickets for each of the eight runs we did. We did not have one complaint, just comments about how they had enjoyed it. All in all a success I think.

Now Saturday saw an invasion by some of the Railcam crowd, and it was nice to put faces to peoples names and chat with them in person. Here is a picture of some of them awaiting the arrival of a service to Peterborough on my platform 2. I will not say who looks as though they are having a doze vertically, I will leave that to your imagination.

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If you want to learn more about Railcam then please have a look at their website at railcam.uk you can spend hours there being an anorak in the comfort of your own home. It is very addictive, you just ask Tom who was one of my helpers on Saturday, as soon as he was set up he gave his iPad battery a hammering.

Sunday was a day of two halves with the morning being very wet and the afternoon having some really nice bursts of sunshine. Here are a few pictures from Sunday, you can see how the weather changed through the day.

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Overall we had a good weekend at the station, and there were a nice number of passengers on most trains on all three days.

Certainly one of the most enjoyable ones I have experienced in my twelve years running the station. I only had three people all weekend ask why there was no steam running, that’s an all time low.

One other trend that continued was the lower number of visitors who wanted a copy of the timetable, most seemed to have it on either their table or their smartphone. Technology is overtaking the need for bits of paper, and I am sure the number wanting timetables on paper will drop each year, who know’s we may one day go paper free!!!!

 

Wot no blog?

The eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted that there was no blog last week, well there is this week so stop moaning!!

We are coming rapidly to the end of the running season at the railway. It all normally winds down at the end of October. But this year we are running a couple of weekends in November with the Swedish Railcar, it will be interesting to see how busy we are.

This year has been a quiet year at Orton Mere, one of the factors has been the parking charges introduced in the main park area. Although the car parking at Orton Mere is free I think many don’t realise that and think that if they have to pay then they may as well pay at the main park where there are facilities.

The other big problem this year has been staffing, with some of the previous regulars either being ill, moving away or not being as committed to the railway for whatever reason we have at times been hard pressed to staff the station at weekends. With no chance of being able to open in the week.

As I have often said in the past I have better things to do than spend a chunk of my week finding staff, contrary to what many may think I do work in the week running my business and I don’t just sit playing with a computer all day!

Over the winter I will be looking at how we can rectify the problem, but it is not one that can be allowed to continue. I can’t staff a station with fresh air, though it must be said that with the pumping station across the carpark the air is not always fresh!

At some stage in the next three months, most likely when we are not running at weekends I will be looking for volunteers to help with a one day major clean of the station, it is starting to look a bit unloved. This will be on a Saturday or a Sunday, this is advanced warning I will be looking for volunteers!

Right a busy week ahead then we will see what next weekend brings!

 

 

Getting all steamed up.

Last weekend saw the steam gala, and whilst not one of the biggest we have done, it was most enjoyable. Despite the rain on Saturday.

Comments received from visitors were good as well, and the two guest locomotives were popular.

Saturday was almost dead visitor wise at my station, the locals don’t come out in the wet. Sunday saw some people travelling but we had more of the none paying public than we have had in a long time, at one time the numbers along the fence made it look like last night of the proms, minus the flags and the smiling faces. It’s a problem that we have at Orton in as much as people can get good pictures from the other side of the fence rather than come on the station where they can be approached and relieved of money.

This coming weekend sees a Diesel service with the Deltic and the class 31, seven services each way with the middle one going up the Fletton branch to Fletton Junction, hopefully that will be popular on both days.

Here are a few pics from the weekend, the dull wet ones are from Saturday, the others are from Sunday!!

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An interesting Bank Holiday.

Well that’s August Bank Holiday out of the way, and most enjoyable it was too.

Largely all services ran on time and the weather across the three days was shall we say variable!

The main services were hauled by Tornado and a Deltic, so there was something to bring in both the steam and the diesel fans, though certainly at Orton Mere we got the impression that there were more visitors for the Deltic than Tornado.

Saturday was for the station the best of the three days, and by the time the heavy rains arrived the visitors were already with us.

At the time of final service it threw it down with rain, here is a picture of the clouds. Not what we expect in August.

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But looking on the bright side at least the rain was warm. One passenger passing on last service commented that the water was good for the station hanging baskets, their face was a gem when I pointed out they were plastic!!

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This picture of the front of the Deltic shows we were not exactly bathed in sunshine.

Sunday was a tad better weather wise and at least we had the previous days weather to talk about.

Here are a few pictures from Sunday and Tornado grace of Sue my wife.

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As you can see the weather was at least drier!!

Monday was the best of the three days with some really nice sunshine. I even managed to take a picture of the first service with Tornado arriving first service from Wansford.

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So overall how did the weekend go I hear you asking…

Well the answer is that it was excellent especially for the railway overall, and successful weekends certainly boost the funds of the railway which is what it’s all about after all.

It was also nice to meet almost a dozen users of Railcam, some were seen clutching their phones looking at the streaming action at both Wansford and Orton Mere. It also meant that we could see when the services left Wansford.

Grabbing the staff

Above is a picture from the Railcam showing the exchange of the staff when the Deltic arrived at Wansford last Thursday from the NYMR. Details of Railcam can be found at www.railcam.uk

 

Finally my thanks to Sue, Tom, Paddy and Rosemary for helping at the station over the weekend. Plus of course thanks to the many others across the railway for working together to ensure the weekend was a success for the railway.

 

 

It all depends on the weather.

Now one thing tourism generally always relies on and that’s the weather.

You can organise a super weekend event and if it rains all weekend then you wonder why you bothered. Then on the other hand you can have beautiful sunshine and the visitors come flocking in.

But of course the one thing we can’t control is the weather, and the one thing you can safely say in the UK in the summer and that is it’s a brave person who forecasts the weather a week ahead.

This weekend will be a bit of a lull before the excitement next weekend of August bank holiday. For some strange reason we always remember bank holidays where it’s rained rather than ones where the sun has shone for all three days.

This year we have two guest locomotives pulling the bank holiday services. They are the steam locomotive Tornado and a Deltic which of course is a diesel. So we have something worth looking at for both the steam and the diesel enthusiasts. All we need is the sun to shine. If we do then it will be a cracking three days, if it’s wet then how successful the weekend is will be in the lap of the gods.

Anybody fancy placing a bet on us having sunshine?

The sun is out, lets hope the visitors are as well.

This weekend we have a Thomas holiday event and I am looking forward to it.

Special events always make a change from normal weekends.

Special events bring to the railway both new and returning visitors, it’s nice to chat to as many as possible when they return from a day with us to find out what they think. When you have worked at an organisation for any length of time it’s always nice to hear how people view us with fresh eyes. They often mention things they have really enjoyed that we take for granted and that’s always nice to hear.

One thing the vast majority of visitors mention when asked what they liked is that the staff are so friendly. Now this I would agree with. We are generally a friendly bunch both to visitors and each other, it was the first thing that struck me when I joined over ten years ago, and in the intervening years nothing has changed in that respect. So if you’re visiting this weekend please pop into Orton Mere and say hi, but more importantly enjoy yourselves. That is actually the most important bit.

A typical summer weekend

Last weekend was typical of the first week into the summer holidays for schools.

Most of the regulars seem to be away on holiday.

Had some nice visitors in but quiet overall which is on par for previous years.

This coming weekend should be better and then improve from then on.

One thing summer does bring is a mini invasion of cyclists, many of which can’t read the signs on my platform 2. They ride past the Platform 2 only sign, then they ride past the way out side, pointing back the way they have come convinced the far end of the platform will come complete with an exit. In all cases they are disappointed and give a glare when we tell them not to ride on the platform. It’s the same every year, some in previous years have come into the station moaning that their OS Map or GPS shows a footpath at the far end and every time we shoe them that the ability to read a map is not one of the abilities they have.

Twice over the weekend somebody stood by the ice cream freezer and asked if we sell ice cream.

But 1st prize for idiot of the week is shared between a husband and wife. They were behind a customer who asked for a couple of teas, these were duly produced and he passed between the prize winning couple as he went to add milk, sugar etc. The couple then both asked me at the same time and in perfect sync the immortal words…. “Do you sell tea?” I was so tempted to say no!

Had a group of Canadians in, I think I made their visit by not asking if they were Americans, it is a question that seems to irritate most people from Canada it seems. Good job I spotted the keyring with a small Canadian flag hanging from it!

After this coming weekend we have a few special events culminating in our August Bank Holiday services, hopefully the weather will be on our side, as even at this time of year a small shower can mean the difference between a good and an average weekend.

So to put the weather gods in a good mood here are a few summer pictures at the station from previous years.

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Watch out, Watch out there is a blue thing about.

Last Sunday saw the first Thomas big adventure for a few years.

It ran late!!!! Due to numerous circumstances, and not helped by the fact that local great and good in the city centre had emptied the water tower so the first service before Thomas had to wait for it to fill before it could take on water.

Here are a few pictures of the event of Thomas passing through Orton Mere.

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Finishing off with a picture of the main service on second service.

It was an interesting weekend to say the least.