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Standard minimum number of footplate turns - Could it improve safety

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by burnettsj, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    Rightly or wrongly, there is a sense that to be Footplate Crew is a privilege, the alpha job, the one everyone wants. There is a further sense that to come along, drive a loco for a day and then leave is in some way not pulling the weight of, say, a volunteer working in the maintenance works. I'm not advocating or rejecting this sense, just noting that in some quarters this attitude may be found. Consequently, I am not surprised that some may expect a member of loco crew to, at times, join in the maintenance and restoration side of operating a railway - to 'muck in' as opposed to doing the 'glory' job.

    A consideration that I would advocate however is the usefulness of all volunteers to have a sense of what goes on in the different jobs on the railway. I'm now a Signalman 9 times out of 10 when I work on the SVR, but when I arrived I was put onto platform staff. As well as introducing me to the highs, lows and mundanes of railway life, I would suggest that with that platform experience I am a better equipped signalman. The few times I have had a footplate ride for one reason or another, it has always been an education to see the work that goes on there - just as I think a fireman may be a better fireman for spending a day watching a signalman at work.

    That being said, one always has to take care not to get involved outside of one's specific, qualified field. It is too easy when there is an incident of any magnitude for a variety of volunteers to come and offer 'helpful' assistance, regardless of their specific duties at that moment in time!
     
  2. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    From what you have put, I doubt very much that this particular line has lost a 'dedicated volunteer'. Dedicated volunteers do whatever needs doing that is within their capabilities. They take the rough with the smooth without complaining. It sounds very much as though that this particular parson is one of those running season people who miraculously appear as soon as th first fires are lit and disappear as soon as the last fire is thrown out to hibernate over the winter. They are miraculously available if there is a footplate job needing covering but always have work or other pressing commitments when the nitty-gritty of washing out boilers or cleaning down fireboxes needs doing.

    As for spending £20 to pursue his hobby, I bet many a football fan would think that is was a bargain price. Indeed, most hobbies cost money to partake in and often an awful lot more than £20. An awful lot of volunteers travel many miles to pursue their hobby and accept the costs incurred in so doing. I bet there aren't too many Festiniog and Talyllyn volunteers who live within 100 miles of their chosen railway and a lot pay for accommodation on top of travel costs, as well.
     
  3. DJH

    DJH New Member

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    I'd agree with Steve on this. I'm a lapsed Festiniog volunteer, not for anything negative just been a mad 18 months for me, though hoping to return as time allows this year. When I was down a typical week would cost circa £100-150. The railway I am volunteering with in Manchester typically costs me a lot more these days. I'm now going from London up to Manchester rather than commuting into Manchester from the suburbs. This works out now at around £70 each weekend I am up in Manchester.

    The only hobby that works out cheaper, though not by much, is brass banding. This may be reversed when I have to replace the Euphonium. (new there about £2k!)

    To answer Freds point on shift work whilst that may be the case my experience from others I know is that those on shifts quite often have more free time to help in the week if its a so many days on so many days off. Being in a regular 9-5 ish job I am sadly unable to commit weekdays unless on holiday though happy to help in whatever capacity I'm required.

    Duncan
     
  4. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    I think you underestimate the degree of dedication that I am talking about.

    The particular volunteer I have in mind was so dedicated that after working late shifts he would get his parents to drive him the 100 + mile round trip to get him on site for an 06:00 start or collect him late at night after a shift to avoid the risk of falling asleep on the way home; spent many hours after shift finish helping to clean out the fire and smokebox then assist with locomotive maintenance such as changing brake blocks / springs etc; would "muck in" with any shed jobs that were required and do it in all weathers in all seasons; he is not a summer-only volunteer but is prepared to work throughout the year with a heritage line that not only appreciates his efforts - but shows it.

    He was so dedicated that whilst visiting one site as a member of the public - without being asked - he started cleaning the tender of a visiting engine in the early hours simply because he felt committed to "do something" to help. I agree that many volunteers will appear on a regular basis and at great personal expense but I still feel that some heritage lines do not appreciate this enough or value the efforts that some individuals make in order to support a particular line through thick and thin.

    THAT is the nub of my concern - that volunteers are only valued IF they appear and criticised for not appearing enough to suit the railway's convenience without any credit being given for the efforts they have to make to actually appear or appreciation shown for the commitments they have outside the heritage line which they also have to meet.
     
  5. ZBmer

    ZBmer New Member

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    While this may help keep death off the roads, I'm not entirely sure what this does for safety on the railway. I for one wouldn't be happy knowing someone was doing a possibly safety-critical job without enough sleep. Suspect that, if something went wrong, ORR wouldn't be happy either.

    Obviously any individual volunteer has to make up his/her mind as to being fit for duty. Many lines have a rule about minimum time off between duty turns - but that doesn't necessarily apply to volunteers who might be putting in a single railway day between late or early shifts at their normal work.

    Thus, if sleep-deprived volunteers were increasing their numbers of turns to achieve a notional minimum pre year, this might serve actually to decrease safety rather than the desired opposite.

    Roger
     
  6. Standard 4MT

    Standard 4MT New Member

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    On the NYMR when you sign on at beginning of your shift Volunteers and staff sign to say that they have had enough sleep and rested well, as well as no drugs or alcohol in their system etc. They are of course not alone.
    My trip to volunteer work is a 485 mile round trip!! I get there the day before and leave day after my working week or days.
     
  7. laplace

    laplace New Member

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    I see "footplate crews should/must also do something else" as covering two separate issues.

    One is as mentioned by guard_jamie, "the boring jobs also need to be done, so if you want the fun (driving), help with those too," which applies everywhere but in my experience is a "come when you can" request rather than a set minimum, and which I agree with. (At a rough guess, I did about 80 days last year of which 15-20 were footplate, but I wouldn't expect everyone to be able to do that many.)

    The other, and the one I'd suspect if it's a formal rule with a high minimum requirement, is closely related to the original topic of this thread: "if we let too many people become drivers, there won't be enough turns for them all to reach/maintain a safe level of skill." In this case, "losing" footplate volunteers is exactly the point: the line has more of them than it can use, and granting an exception to someone who can't meet the requirement would mean disappointing someone else who has met it. Only some lines (often, but not always, the big-name ones) have this issue.

    In either case, I consider it a line's right to make such rules, and a prospective volunteer's right to decline to volunteer there if they are unwilling or unable to follow them. I for example, am in a job where having to relocate is very common (Oxford to Leeds to Birmingham since I started volunteering), and prefer to switch lines when I move rather than cut back on volunteering or go to the expense of a long-distance trip every weekend, so I turned down two "must do several years in the workshop before starting footplate training" lines because I didn't expect to live in the area long enough, but I respect their right to have that rule, and accept that by making that choice I restrict myself to the less popular lines.

    On the issue of cost, while I agree that volunteering usually costs something, it doesn't have to cost a lot if one chooses a nearby line (map): 50 miles one-way is further than most people need to go.

    I also agree that one shouldn't drive tired, whether it's a train or a car: moving to a line with a 7am (common on smaller locos) rather than 6am start and nearer home (if one exists) could help a lot with that problem too, or if his availabilities allow he could do workshop after late shifts and footplate on other days, but if his only choices are go tired or don't go, I regrettably advise that he not drive.
     

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