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All fired up - Alan Whitehouse begins a railway adventure

PUBLISHED: 00:16 24 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:21 20 February 2013

All fired up - Alan Whitehouse begins a railway adventure

All fired up - Alan Whitehouse begins a railway adventure

Meet Alan Whitehouse, a lover of heritage railways, who is training to become a volunteer fireman on a steam locomotive

Meet Alan Whitehouse, a lover of heritage railways, who is training to become a volunteer fireman on a steam locomotive



What is it about steam locomotives? It is now over 40 years since they disappeared as an everyday part of the railway network, yet they seem to become more popular by the year.
Your editor tells me that whenever she puts a picture of a steam train (or just a locomotive) on the front cover, sales of Yorkshire Life go through the roof. So there are clearly plenty of people out there who still enjoy the sight, sound and smell of coal, hot oil and steam.
When she asked me to become the magazines first Heritage Railways Correspondent, I jumped at the chance. I have spent a good chunk of my working life writing and talking about railways and how they work to a mainstream audience. And, when I told her
that for the past two or three years I have been a volunteer on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, she instantly exclaimed: Thats what you should be writing about! So I will.
To set the scene I should explain that I am a volunteer engine cleaner. Im working towards becoming a fireman, the person who keeps the engine fed with coal, but Im still a little way from getting there. I am one of a small army of volunteers who help to keep the railway running. There are about 400 of us altogether along with a full-time paid staff of just under 100.
That alone makes the railway a significantly sized business in North Yorkshire. The NYMR is also the most successful heritage railway in the country, perhaps even the world, carrying over a third of a million passengers a year. Not bad for a branch line that Dr Beeching thought was fit for nothing but the axe! Today trains run all the way from Pickering to Whitby again, run by the NYMRs own volunteer footplate crews. They are the only volunteers anywhere in the country allowed to run trains over Network Rails tracks and they do it most days in the summer between Grosmont, where the NYMR tracks make a junction with the main line railway from Middlesbrough to Whitby, into Whitby itself where the station is shared with the diesel trains of Northern Rail.
The idea of this column is twofold: firstly to try to explain a little about everything that happens behind the scenes to allow your steam-hauled train to turn up at Pickering or Grosmont station, and secondly to give you a listings service a guide to where you can get your steam fix this month.
Well look not just at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, but at
the other steam operated lines throughout Yorkshire too. We have plenty of them. Steam and heritage railways now play a big part in the regions economy.
Next month I would like to tell you a bit more about an engine cleaners life my life. We cleaners are the bottom of the food chain, but without us, your steam train wouldnt run.

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