Can I travel for free?

Shortly we are holding an open day at the main Wansford station.

This is so people can come along, see what we do and perhaps see something of enough interest that they will become a working member. We did this last year and it was very successful.

But it amazes me that several people have asked me if train travel on that day is free? My reply is that if Stagecoach buses were having an open day at their Peterborough Depot bus travel would not be free for the day.

It is I suppose part of the something for nothing syndrome that people seem to want to adopt these days.

A few years ago a couple came into the station, saying they were off to Wansford to join, and therefore they should travel at members rates. I pointed out that they were not members when travelling there and actually until the paperwork went through they would not yet be members on the way back either. In the end they decided not to travel and I presume they never did join and become members.

Over the years I have had people ask if they can have a free “Taster,” as one person called it journey to see if it was worth spending money on, I had a man throw five out of date membership cards on the counter and want members rate. When I asked for his current cards he said “What you have to pay every year?” The cards he threw down were five years or so out of date.

One Wednesday a woman asked if we did discount for bulk ticket sales, I asked how many were travelling, her answer was her and her husband. To top it all they were only going one way into the city centre and that’s just one stop.

The general public never cease to amaze me!!

Two Monkeys and no nuts.

Today was shall we say a bit on the cold side.

Tom helped me today as he does the majority of Saturdays.

It was quiet, we had flurries of snow, sleet and a bit of rain, the temperature hovered just above zero.

You just know it’s an exciting day when the highlight of it is the civils coming in to eat their lunch. Mind you they were quite tame and one of them got apparent pleasure from slowly eating a banana.

Because it was cold Tom cranked open his wallet and kindly bought us both fish and chips, they were most welcome and helped keep us warm.

Had a couple of photographers on the platform who thought it was fine to move stuff round for what I presume they thought was an artistic photograph, I think my look conveyed my displeasure. Recently photographers have been neck and neck with dog walkers for the title of rudest none spending visitor. All we need is a dog walker with a camera and they would get first prize with very little effort.

Not opening tomorrow (Sunday) the weather forecast is worse than today and being at the station in the cold is no enjoyment, especially when the visitors stay away. The car park was almost empty when we left.

Oh well it will soon be spring and the rain will show signs of getting warmer.

3 deg colder and one day late.

Over the years I have noticed a trend.

If it’s a dismal miserable day, as it was yesterday and we are running a service then invariably the day after, which is today will be wall to wall sunshine.

Yesterday and today ware a good example. Yesterday saw me open with the assistance (I use the term loosely,) of Jason and Tom. It was a dismal cold miserable day and we called it a day after the third service went into the city. There was nobody about except for a few hardy souls taking their children for a walk, and taking a cheap option compared with going anywhere with shops and possibly having to spend money.

There were a number on the Swedish Railcar but it was by no means full. It was the type of day that the sensible stayed at home in the warm.

Still next week sees us back to steam services so hopefully that will drag a few people out to visit. It will be cold as my first ice cream delivery of the year should be arriving.

A new layout for the blog.

Well as you will have noticed the blog now has a new layout, I think the last one was looking a little dated.

The new layout also renders better on tablets and mobile phones.

As always comments are welcome on the layout. To comment please click on the title of a post, then you can enter your comments.

A funny day for a funeral.

Today was Greg’s funeral.

It would have appealed to Greg’s sense of humour to hold it on Friday the 13th. I can almost hear him chuckling about it.

The weather was cold and we woke up at 7am to light snow, which thankfully had disappeared by the time the funeral started at 2pm.

It was a biting wind across the crematorium grounds, I can never work out why a place that is supposed to be so calming and soothing to mourners can be so cold, desolate and unwelcoming in winter.

There was a good turnout of family, friends and others from the railway, and it was a good service. I was honoured that his sister in law had asked me if I wished to speak at the funeral, I hope my words did Greg justice, I received many positive comments on  my words from both the family and the other mourners afterwards.

The wake was held at Orton Mere station, which became almost a second home to Greg over the years. It was, considering the event a jolly occasion, with much chatting about Greg, it was nice to hear other peoples memories.

One thing I did realise was that Greg was a much liked and respected person, chatting to his extended family and people who he worked with I heard nothing but respect and love for the person we were remembering.

Greg will be missed by all the staff at the station, and he will be especially missed by me. My weekends will not be as enjoyable without him visiting the station.

The Loss Of A Friend.

Greg Burrows

I have known for the last couple of months that I would have to write this blog at some stage, but that does not make it any easier to do and it is far sooner than I would wish.

Last Saturday December 17th 2016 the Nene Valley Railway lost a Member. Orton Mere Station lost a regular customer and I lost a friend.

Greg is the person who helped me develop an interest in local history regarding the railway, especially the social history and impact the railway had on the area.

I was privileged that he gave me access to his collection of railway memorabilia, much of which is unique. For that I will always be grateful to him. He allowed me to photograph and record it for my personal use, and to enhance my knowledge.

Now I could sit here and write line after line about Greg, but I think to appreciate Greg you had to know him, you had to talk to him and you had to be trusted by him. Those who were privileged to be in that position will know exactly what I mean.

I have lost a friend who was supportive, helpful, kind, generous of his time and his knowledge.

In life you occasionally meet people and you know they are going to enhance your life and your knowledge. For me Greg was such a person.

Thank you Greg, in 2017 and beyond my life will be poorer without your friendship, support and help.



I did something different last Saturday.

Last Saturday I did something different, I did a day in Wansford Office, and I enjoyed it.

Working at Wansford showed me how hard they all work on the Santa trains, they were going round at full speed all day, it was like watching a well oiled machine with the odd small leak.

Answering the telephones proved to me what I have always thought, people don’t read! A good example was a woman who told me what she had read on the website then asked me if it was correct, I informed her it was. I was amazed at how many also thought we would still have first class compartments available. They were genuinely surprised when I sad they were sold out.

I was also witness to the disappearing poly cup of coffee, it decided it liked the stairs and wanted to spread itself all over them rather than make it to the office. You had to be there to witness the casual exchange between the intended recipient of the coffee and the fetcher of the coffee explaining that it did not survive the journey from the cafe. I await more from the Paul and Mark show at some time in the future!!!

Ah well it’s been a fun year and no doubt next year all being well will be more of the same…..



The Santa special and a dog with two trees.

Today Tom and I spent a couple of hours at the station doing some maintenance, tidying up and replacing bits.

Our work was interrupted a couple of times by the Santa Special. Here are a couple of pictures of it.

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As always it had steam on one end and diesel on the other.

It was nice to see it full of happy passengers, the Santa trains provide a good portion of the railways income and profit, so nice to not see an empty seat.

Tom was in a happy mood today, actually like a dog with two trees!!

Recently the microwave the staff use at the station was failed when tested, I am not sure if that was due to old age, dodgy curries that have been heated in it over the years or some other factor.

Anyway Tom who is a regular user was like a child who has just found out the burger they just enjoyed was made from meat off their favourite pony when he found he could not heat his lunch. I should point out at this stage that Tom likes pots of indescribable stuff that looks as bad cold as it does hot.

So he took the bull by the horns, or in this case the microwave by it’s mains lead and bought us a new one. Here is a picture of the said device after Tom had unboxed it, hugged it and switched it on.


Ignore the phone on the top it’s there because we can’t decide where to put it, it’s not there to order a takeaway when whats in the oven gets cremated. The new oven also has a grill so heaven knows what concoctions the staff will cook in it.

Still it’s very kind of Tom to buy it so we would not have to loose sleep over his Saturday concoctions having to be cold.

So there you have it, an exciting couple of hours at Orton Mere, which is not so much the heart of the railway, look on it more as a dodgy leg!

Before anybody asks yes it was a bit cool down there as always in the winter.


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!!!!!