A Day in the Life on the Platform

Volunteer Ian Carrington shares his experience of working on the platform

A Day in the Life on the Platform

A Day in the Life on the Platform 2000 1333 Isle of Wight Steam Railway

The platform staff, generally, arrive bright and early to sign in and prepare for the day. The team can be anything from three to six people depending on whether we have two trains or one in service and whether it is an event. We all have titles Porter, Ticket Collector and Foreman but in practice we swap roles during the day. We are aged fourteen to…… well quite a bit older than that!

The main task, first thing, is to unlock the compartment doors on both sides of the first train, clean the windows and check the floors are clean. We are very proud of our rolling stock at the railway and want to present it in its best light. At the same time there are signs to be put out and provisions to be checked so the day runs smoothly.

We then prepare tea for the morning briefing which takes place at 9.30. The Duty Manager is in charge and the meeting is attended by the Signalman, Guard, Guard Assist, Booking Clerks, Platform Staff and on Event Days the person in charge of the event. We will all be working together through the day so it is important we all have the information we need. For example, this is when we learn about coach parties that are expected and any changes to the timetable.

As the meeting finishes we organise people to deal with the gates and check tickets whilst the others will be on the platform to ensure the safe departure and arrival of the trains. We start to load the first train about 9.45 for a 10.05 departure. The locomotive comes from the siding at 9.50 so there are gates to be opened and closed to allow it through. With that train despatched it is usually time for the arrival of the first coach party. The Foreman will greet them in the station yard and explain what will happen, what they can see, how long it will take and, I always finish with, “there are no toilets on the train. The Ladies …… and the Gents….” Whoosh….

After the second departure its time to put the kettle on, first, for the station team and then just after that we serve tea to the footplate crew and the Guards. You may have the impression that the railway runs on coal. I can assure you we do use coal but it actually runs on tea – gallons of it!

In between trains we are still around either by the gates or the porter’s hut. We play a big part in fronting the railway during this time. We answer questions; we help visitors to get the best out of their day; we offer advice; we take photographs; we pose for photographs (its our natural good looks!) and we keep the place tidy.

For me it is the interaction with the public that I really love. I have met hundreds of interesting people from all over the world. Many have a story to tell. “I was at school on the Island….” “I used to come on holiday as a child….” “My Dad used to drive one of those….” Our visitors are here to have a good time and it is our pleasure to help them do that.

We rapidly arrive at lunchtime when the footplate crew have a short break. That is the chance for us to sweep and mop the floors of each compartment. Vacuum the carpets in first class and collect any litter and lost property – sunglasses and mobile phones are popular!

We often swap roles in the afternoon because it gives variety to the day. Whatever the role foremost in our minds must be the safety of everyone on site. For those actually on the platform we keep an eye out for those visitors who need assistance. Some only need a helping hand but others need to use ramps to access our special compartments. Platform staff and Guards are trained for this.

After yet another round of tea making we start to wind down to the end of the day. One of the joys of this time is that as people wend their way home we receive their feedback. Some people have been before, some many times, others are first time visitors but overwhelmingly the feedback is positive. I wish everyone could hear the glowing comments that we hear.

Platform staff often travel on the last train and with the guard and guard assist, sweep and lock compartments that are not being used. Those of us that remain behind empty all the litter bins, put away the signs from around the yard and try to leave things ready for the next day. When the last train arrives the last few compartments are cleaned, windows shut and doors locked. It only remains to sign out and say our goodbyes before going home to put our feet up. There are, of course, days when it rains all day but that, as they say, is another story.

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