OPERATING DEPARTMENT NEWS

January 2014

With the winter closed season upon us and few trains to run it we have been busy getting prepared for next season. There are always a myriad of little jobs to complete that we can’t find time to do during the running season that need to be done during the winter months. We have had well attended working parties at Rolvenden cleaning and tidying the field and various stores and a further working party at Tenterden cleaning and auditing Guards brakevans and tidying the yard. The opportunity has been taken to include some shunting activities in these days to help train new staff and sharpen the skills of existing staff. 

We’ve seen a lot of changes in 2014, both in personnel and infrastructure which have presented us with challenges that everyone has risen to. As usual, the department’s roster clerks have done a great job of making sure that the rosters are filled. This year has seen the Signalman’s roster entirely filled with volunteers and the Guards and Footplate rosters showing a good reduction in the amount of paid staff cover required. It’s nice to note that all the Santa Specials duties have been entirely covered by volunteers, which is great to see. 

There have been promotions in all grades right across the department. Congratulations to everyone who has stepped up the ladder and is now helping to fill the rosters. We wish you all a long and enjoyable railway career in your new roles. It’s been especially pleasing to see so many younger members around the railway, they are the future and it’s very important that we give them all the encouragement we can so they stay with us. It does make some of us feel old when we see applications to volunteer from Millennium babies though! 

Following Howard Wallace-Sims retirement, we have appointed Bradley Bottomley as Railway Experiences Manager. It is hoped that our volunteers will support Bradley to operate, expand and develop what is now an important income steam to the railway. The new carriage shed project at Rolvenden has had big implications for signalling in that location and it has been necessary to provide point winders for longer than we originally expected. The people who have turned up in all weathers to wind the points so that we can pass trains have played a vital role in running the Santa’s in particular. Without them we couldn’t run the advertised service so they really are the unsung heros, barely noticed by those on the train but essential to the operation.

It’s also been great to see the increase in crossing keepers which has made it extremely rare that Cranbrook Rd is unmanned, even Rolvenden is much more regularly manned these days. This makes a big difference to train crews and helps keep trains running time as well as making a saving on the coal bill. Every loco that stops for a level crossing requires several extra shovelfuls of coal, therefore every crossing keeper is helping save money! 

Training is planned ongoing throughout the year and as well as the Signalman’s and Guard’s courses, we will be running a couple of Trainee Fireman’s and Mutual Improvement Classes for new steam drivers. Trainee diesel drivers are not forgotten and there will be training courses for second men who wish to pass out for DMMU, Class 14 and 03.  Andy Hardy has also been working on new Virtual MIC pages for the Ops Website. This will go live early in the New Year and should be a valuable resource for anyone wanting to know how things work. 

A major project in 2014 has been the production of a “clean” rulebook. A massive thank you is due to the Rules Review Group for making this happen, it’s been no small task. We had become aware that some staff had slightly different versions of rulebooks and that not everyone’s rulebook had all the amendments up to date. In March 2015 everyone will be issued with a complete new rulebook, which for the first time we now have in a computerised format, so we can now easily re-issue pages or sections that change. The new rulebooks (and folders) will be issued at the various section annual meetings, so I hope you will all attend for the briefing and to pick your copy up.

Member’s Day on 7th February was a great success. It was good to see so many people turn out to have a look behind the scenes at what after all is your railway. Suffice to say that we will be doing something similar next year. In order to keep our loco cleaners busy and our engines shiny, we are in need of rags. If you have any old clothes etc that you can drop off at Rolvenden we would appreciate it. You are also welcome to drop of firewood but please make sure it is small enough to fit in fireboxes. Flatpack furniture and kitchen cabinets are not really suitable and are difficult for us to dispose of.

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With the winter closed season upon us and no trains to run it is the ideal time for us to get prepared for the next season. There are a myriad of little jobs to complete that during the running season we can’t find time to do. All of these jobs benefit you and the railway, from checking and preparing equipment to cleaning Guards compartments.

To get us moving in the right direction the Operating Department are holding Winter Working Parties on Saturdays throughout January and February:

17th Jan - Rolvenden Yard.
24th Jan – Guards Compartment clean and audit @ Tenterden.
31st Jan - Rolvenden Yard Running Store
7th Feb - Rolvenden Yard Running Store and Thomas prep.

This is not just for loco crews, everyone is welcome!

Days start at 09.30 and finish about 16.00. There are jobs for everyone and tea will be plentiful.

Please let Andy Hardy know so we have a rough idea of numbers to help plan work.

Keep an eye for further dates in February and March.

We hope to see you there!


December 2014

THANK YOU!

As we approach the end of the year I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has helped to operate the railway in 2014. We’ve seen a lot of changes, both in personnel and infrastructure which have presented us with challenges that everyone has risen to. 

As usual, the department’s roster clerks have done a great job of making sure that the rosters are filled. This year has seen the Signalman’s roster entirely filled with volunteers and the Guards and Footplate rosters showing a good reduction in the amount of paid staff cover required.  It’s nice to note that the Santa Specials have been entirely covered by volunteers, which is great to see.

There have been promotions in all grades right across the department.  Congratulations to everyone who has stepped up the ladder and is now helping to fill the rosters.  I wish you all a long and enjoyable railway career in your new roles.

It’s been especially pleasing to see so many younger members around the railway, they are the future and it’s very important that we give them all the encouragement we can so they stay with us. It does make me feel old when I see applications to volunteer from Millennium babies who are now 14 years old though!

The new carriage shed project at Rolvenden has had big implications for signalling in that location and it has been necessary to provide point winders for longer than we originally expected.  The people who have turned up in all weathers to wind the points so that we can pass trains have played a vital role in running the Santa’s in particular. Without them we couldn’t run the advertised service so they really are the unsung heros, barely noticed by those on the train but essential to the operation.

It’s also been great to see the increase in crossing keepers which has made it extremely rare that Cranbrook Rd is unmanned, even Rolvenden is much more regularly manned these days. This makes a big difference to train crews and helps keep trains running time as well as making a saving on the coal bill. Every loco that stops for a level crossing requires several extra shovelfuls of coal, therefore every crossing keeper is helping save money!

We now look forward to progressing on into 2015. We will gradually be bringing the carriage shed into operation as much as ongoing engineering work allows. We are being careful to make sure that we don’t extend crew days any more than we have to though.  Shunters can look forward to a nice new yard, complete with double slip, to shunt in before too long.

Training is ongoing and as well as the Signalman’s and Guard’s courses, we will be running a couple of Trainee Fireman’s and Mutual Improvement Classes for new steam drivers.  Trainee diesel drivers are not forgotten and there will be training courses for second men who wish to pass out for DMMU, Class 14 and 03. Andy Hardy has also been working on new Virtual MIC pages for the Ops Website. This will go live early in the New Year and should be a valuable resource for anyone wanting to know how things work.

A major project in 2014 has been the production of a “clean” rulebook. A massive thank you to the Rules Review Group for making this happen it’s been no small task. We had become aware that some staff had slightly different versions of rulebooks and that not everyone’s rulebook had all the amendments up to date. In March 2015 everyone will be issued with a complete new rulebook, which for the first time we now have it as a computerised format, so we can now easily re-issue pages or sections that change. The new rulebooks (and folders) will be issued at the various section annual meetings, so I hope you will all attend for the briefing and to pick your copy up. 

Thank you all for everything you have done for the railway in 2014 and wishing you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Andy, Graham and Pete.  

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Congratulations to Jasper Pryer who passed his firing exam on Sunday 7th December. In addition Chris Davey also passed his steam raising exam. Well done both of you!

Following Howard Wallace Sims retirement, we have appointed Bradley Bottomley as Railway Experiences Manager. It is hoped that our volunteers will support Bradley to operate, expand and develop what is now an important income steam to the railway. 

Santa Specials are now operating every weekend right up to Christmas Eve, scheduled motive power is GWR 0-6-2T 6619 and USA Tank No65.

October 2014

The weekend of 11/12th October saw two of our firemen, Jim Wilson and Matt Hyner achieve their goal of becoming steam locomotive drivers. Congratulations to both gentlemen, we look forward to seeing you both out driving trains very soon!

2014 has seen a few personnel changes in the Operating Department.  Matt Green departed to take up a post on the Swanage Railway where we understand he has settled in well. We have appointed in his place Andrew Hardy who, as well as previous K&ESR volunteering as a youngster, has more recently been involved with the Middleton Railway, National Railway Museum and the A1 Trust. Andy is gradually learning his way around the railway and has achieved the grades of Steam raiser, Fireman and Shunter in recent weeks.

Following Howard Wallace Sims retirement from his one day a week admin job in the Ops office, Graham Bridge has now taken on the role and is looking after medicals, BRS database and various other administrative functions. Howard has also announced his retirement from steam driving and RXD Co-ordinator at the end of the year. Howard has done a fantastic job in growing the railway experience business and expanding the range of products we can offer into a part of the business that now brings in around £85,000 annually. Thank you Howard!

In another staff move, one of this summer’s casual steam raisers left his employment a few weeks early to take up a post working on the paddle steamer Kingswear Castle and the Torbay and Dartmouth Steam Railway. Whilst it is always a shame to have our staff move on to other railways etc, it is a source of pride to us that our training turns out people that other railways hold in high regard.One of Andy Hardy’s first projects is the setting up of an online Virtual Mutual Improvement Class.  He is currently producing a range of downloadable locomotive theory documents which will be supplemented with short videos. The idea being that people who cannot get to Locomotive MICs will still be able to access plenty of good quality training materials online.  With Robertsbridge on the horizon, the training and passing out of steam and diesel drivers is a big priority.

Our locomotive cleaners have done a fantastic job this summer, many comments have been received praising the appearance of the loco fleet. However, to keep the locos looking so good requires an awful lot of rags, so if you gave any rags or old clothes that you would like to donate to a good cause, please feel free to drop them off in the rag store at Rolvenden. We don’t want the good work to stop!

On the evening of 18th July extremely high winds uprooted four willow trees which blocked the line in the Wittersham Road area. These were discovered by a light engine sent out in advance of the first train to inspect the line.  We do this whenever there has been exceptional weather or when the railway hasn’t run for a while. Thanks to the hard work of our small gang of chainsaw operators we were able to re-open the line in time for the last passenger train of the day to operate. 

To further spread the word about the Operating Department we now have a Twitter page @kesroperating which will be a good place to find all the latest information.  The latest happenings and photos will be uploaded as it happens. This is in addition to our existing online presence on facebook and the Operating Website www.kesr-operating.org.uk .

Finally a big thank you to all the Operating Department staff who have worked hard to deliver services this summer.  It’s been great seeing so many of our younger members making progress through the ranks and having a great time doing it. There is hope that the long term future of the railway will be in good hands with so many enthusiastic youngsters getting involved!

January 2014

We have recently had a re-shuffle of the Inspectors and have now appointed Mike Harman as Locomotive Inspector. Mike has been a K&ESR Driver and Footplate Inspector of long standing and also has a wealth of experience on a wide variety of locomotives from volunteering on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, in addition to being a driver on the “big railway” for South Eastern Trains. In addition we are pleased to welcome back Adrian Chapman as a Footplate Inspector and long standing driver Dick Dickson comes on board as a Footplate Inspector for the first time. Matt Green and Pete Salmon will carry on their current roles as Footplate Inspectors. We have also appointed Mark Stuchbury to the role of Firing Inspector, he is in the process of appointing two assistants to assist him with the training and ongoing assessment of our Firemen.

In connection with the above we are currently reviewing our Footplate Competence Management system to ensure that we have a system that complies with modern day competence assessment requirements and is manageable for a largely volunteer run operation.

With the likelihood of operating to Robertsbridge getting ever closer, we are working hard to progress more staff to Driver and Firemen to ensure that we can cover an increased amount of turns without putting too much pressure on existing volunteers. The promotion prospects are currently excellent for anyone prepared to put in the effort required to become a competent and professional railwayman. It’s a great time to join us if you haven’t already! There were several promotions through the department in 2013 and we expect several more this coming year. Well done to everyone who has gained a promotion recently.

When train services resume in March we will have a new look track layout at Rolvenden in the area of the new carriage storage shed. Prior to re-opening we will need to ensure that Drivers are briefed on the new layout and associated signalling changes. Once all the construction works are completed later in 2014 we will have some very welcome sidings and storage space to relieve the overcrowding in the sidings at Tenterden which we are extremely grateful for.

2013 saw the introduction of the HOPS system for footplate staff. This system has been developed by members of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway for use on their own line and subsequently made available for use by other lines such as ourselves. This is a powerful system which has many other possible uses such as record keeping etc, but currently our focus has been to get it operational for rostering.

HOPS has made it easy for crews to submit availability online and to offer cover for vacant turns. Crews now have the option to view their own personal rosters as well as an up to the minute version of the roster online. With some aspects of rostering pretty much automated, the Roster Clerk’s job has become much easier. Many thanks are due to Roster Clerk Terry Hannocks and also to Kev Goodsell for his work setting the system up. We are also very grateful to all the staff who submit availability and offer to cover turns for us, thank you!

In a more general Operating Department change of personnel, Graham Bridge has been appointed as Operating Administration Assistant following Howard Wallace Sims retirement from the post. Graham will be working in the Operating Office on one day a week arranging medicals, updating records, databases and filing all the necessary paperwork such as assessments and various logs and reports etc.
I'd like to thank Howard for his hard work during the 10 years he has held the post and for his help in smoothing the transfer to Graham. We all wish Howard well in his partial retirement, however we will still see him around the railway regularly in wearing his other hat as Railway Experience Manager.

Along with Matt Green and Pete Salmon, Graham Bridge is temporarily based in a temporary office at 142 High Street. This will be the case until the new offices at Tenterden Town Station are completed. Staff medicals are taking place in the new office until further notice.

The Santa season suffered a little from the stormy weather, however we did manage to run all our service, albeit on Christmas Eve some trains terminated at Rolvenden and Wittersham because of flooding. PW and Operating Dept staff went out at dawn on four occasions during December to inspect the line before services and removed several trees and branches from the line so we could operate. On Christmas Eve fallen trees damaged the overhead wires between signalboxes which caused failures of the Block Instruments, S&T staff worked hard to get this rectified and keep Pilotman working to the minimum. In wet and windy conditions none of this was pleasant work and we are extremely grateful for the dedication and determination of our staff doing this largely unseen work to keep the line operational.

News from the Signalling Department – Tony Ramsey

Members of the Signalling Department continued to work hard during the closing weeks of 2013 to ensure that all required turns were covered. We congratulate those Crossing Keepers who passed out during this period: David Houghton (Cranbrook Road); Freddie Drayner, Ray Hollman, Rowan Jackson and Dave King (Rolvenden Gates).

In October, ten trainees sat the signalling exam and all ten were successful. We offer them our congratulations. The next Signalling Course begins in March 2014 with nine new trainees. It will be led by Joel Pearson, whom we are very pleased to welcome as our new Signalman’s Training Officer. Joel brings to the role his experience working for two train operating companies and also as a Signalman with Network Rail and the North Norfolk Railway.

The Rules Review Group has been busy behind the scenes and, this Spring, we plan to issue revised versions of the Rule Book Glossary and Section K, the General Instructions Sections 6, 8 and 10, the Local Instructions, the Signalmen’s General Instructions, and the Electric Token Block Regulations, together with a new Periodical Operating Notice. At the same time, the title of the compendium of operating publications will be changed from “Rule Book” to “Rules, Regulations and Instructions”. This is to avoid confusion between the compendium of operating publications and the Rule Book itself. New cover sheets with the new title of “Rules, Regulations and Instructions” will be issued accordingly.

Finally, we would like to express our thanks to the Catering Manager and his team for the excellent post-Christmas lunch which over 30 of us enjoyed in the Tenterden Buffet in January.

News from the Guards Department – Bradley Bottomley

2013 was a busy year for the Guards department; we have managed to cover the vast majority of turns, with a little help from the Operating Manger and his Assistant to make up the difference. In 2013, we worked through a rather cold spell at the start of the season, then into a very long hot summer and finally a stormy end to the Santa Specials. I would just like to take this moment to thank the Station Staff and Guards on duty on Christmas Eve who worked through what can only be described as a challenge day.

Since last year, the Guards and Shunters roster has been on HOPS, which has proven popular with many in the department. Congratulations to Robin Collett, Martin Macfarlan ,Kevin and Ben Goodsell for receiving General Manager’s Awards at the AGM in October.

We also welcome back Nathan Tutty to the Guards department.

Last of all we welcome four new Trainee Guards: Nick James, Tim Hall, William Elsdon and Freddie Drayner. We wish them all the best with their training in the coming year ahead.