Train DriversSteam Footplate Experience Courses

Some people get a train set; fewer people get a chance to enjoy the real thing - but you can do just that.  A Fire & Drive course on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway is something that is sure to thrill and certainly makes a brilliant Christmas, birthday or anniversary gift!

The 'golden age of steam' is something that is but a distant memory for some of us while, for anyone aged 50 or less, it has become the stuff of legends. The feats accomplished through the teamwork of driver and fireman; man and machine perfectly in harmony and up for the challenges of the 'road ahead'.

While the trains on the Honeybourne Line aren't taking travellers a hundred miles or more at speeds in the upper 70s, driving and firing still demands skill and teamwork. Under the expert guidance of the railway's own experienced footplate staff, those enjoying a footplate experience course will most certainly have one of the most memorable and rewarding of days.

The railway offers two courses, the Gold, operating over the 10 miles between Toddington and Cheltenham Racecourse, and the Silver, which runs for seven miles between Winchcombe and Cheltenham Racecourse. Both of them travel through the long, dark, curved Greet tunnel.

 

The Silver Course

 

The Silver course runs from Winchcombe on selected Fridays, costing just £275. Each participant can be accompanied by up to two guests at £10 each who may travel in the brake coach during the course. Please note that participants must be over 18 and all guests must be over the age of 16. We are unable to accept children.

The course includes:

  • Welcome tea/coffee and cakes on arrival at Winchcombe station for participants and guests
  • Explanation of the day's events and safety briefing
  • Three round trips between Winchcombe and Cheltenham, a total of around 42 miles, during which you will fire and drive your steam locomotive over part of the line, hauling up to seven heritage railway carriages, under expert supervision
  • Signal box tour (participants only)
  • Free year's membership of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway for the participant, including member's benefits (worth up to £20)
  • Free GWSR Guide Book
  • Commemorative certificate signed by your driver and fireman
  • For more information on the Silver Course click here

 

The Gold Course

 

The Gold course runs from Toddington on selected Thursdays, costing £475.  Each participant can be accompanied by up to two guests at £20 each who may travel in the brake coach during the course. Please note that participants must be over 18 and all guests must be over the age of 16. We are unable to accept children.

The course includes:

  • Full English breakfast on arrival in the Flag & Whistle for participants and guests
  • Explanation of the day's events and safety briefing
  • Two and a half round trips between Toddington and Cheltenham, a total of 45 miles, during which you will fire and drive your steam locomotive over part of the line, hauling up to seven heritage railway carriages, under expert supervision.
  • Packed lunches for participants and guests
  • Signal box tour (participants only)
  • Free year's membership of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway for the participant, including member's benefits (worth up to £20)
  • Free GWSR Guide Book
  • Commemorative certificate signed by your driver and fireman
  • For more information on the Gold Course click here

Book Course

Book Course

2017 Silver Dates (Fridays)

  • 5th May - sold out
  • 19th May - sold out
  • 2nd June - sold out
  • 16th June - sold out
  • 23rd June - sold out
  • 30th June
  • 14th July
  • 21st July
  • 8th Sept
  • 15th Sept
  • 22nd Sept
  • 29th Sept

2017 Gold Dates (Thursdays)

  • 9th March
  • 23rd March
  • 30th March - sold out
  • 6th April - sold out
  • 5th October
  • 12th October
  • 19th October

 

 

It's a gift!

GWR footplate courses are popular as gifts and indeed they make an absolutely fantastic present, which the lucky participant will remember for the rest of their lives.

Prerequisites

Steam EngineOperating a steam locomotive can be physically demanding and while our staff are there to offer help and guidance, it is important that those taking part are able to ascend and descend from the footplate unassisted; this involves a vertical climb of about six feet up widely-spaced steps.  It is also important that participants don't suffer short-term memory loss, have reasonable vision and hearing (glasses and hearing aids are OK) and are otherwise reasonably fit.  Participants should wear stout shoes or safety boots and cotton outer clothing or overalls.  Leather or cotton gloves are also a good idea.  Footplates are often open and exposed places so make sure that you dress for the weather. Participants must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Booking and Terms & Conditions

Your tickets will be sent to you in the post shortly after your booking. No discounts will be given on footplate experience courses.

We reserve the right, for operational reasons, to vary the dates of these experiences and, should this become necessary, we will contact you by phone or e-mail, giving at least two weeks' notice if possible. If we have no suitable alternative dates we will refund your payment in full.

Should you wish to cancel your booking you should email admin.assistant@gwsr.com no later than eight weeks before the date of the course and a refund will be made, less a £10 administration charge.

Should you need to cancel within that eight week period, we will only make a refund subject to our being able to find someone else to take your place.

Please note that we cannot accept bookings that specify any particular locomotive. The engine to be used depends on the maintenance needs of our operational locos and this can change at very short notice.

The interactive footplate!

So how do you operate a steam locomotive?  You can get a sneak preview here of our interactive footplate and find out what all of the mysterious controls do!

Finally

Here are a few comments from one lucky participant, Graham Radband, who was presented with a steam 'Fire & Drive' course as a 60th birthday gift from his wife.  He says: "The course was a truly great day and I would strongly recommend anyone to try it who has the slightest interest in either the steam engine or working a railway. It also really does highlight the skills and knowledge needed to operate and run a steam railway by all the team."

You can read his full story by clicking here.

 

The Silver Course

Main Line LocomotiveA great way to get a taste of life on the footplate!

  • Courses run on selected Fridays
  • Firing and driving a large, main-line locomotive
  • Tea or coffee and cake provided on arrival
  • Visit to signal box
  • Up to two guests can travel with each participant at £10 each

Courses run on selected Fridays. Participants get the chance to both fire and drive a large main-line locomotive, pulling a rake of passenger coaches. There will normally be twelve participants on the course. Please remember that this is not an exclusively male pursuit; ladies are also very welcome.

Courses start at 09.30 when you will be met at Winchcombe Station and will sit down for tea or coffee and Danish pastry. Before you join your locomotive, your course supervisors will tell you about the day's activities and then give you a tour of one of our signal boxes (participants only). You will also meet your locomotive crew who will give you a short brief on the workings of a steam engine and your duties on the footplate.

The first two participants will then join the crew on the footplate to undertake the role of driver and fireman under the supervision of their two instructors for the journey from Winchcombe to Cheltenham, while the rest of the participants will join the guard in the coach. At Gotherington the train will stop and the next two participants will take over. We will then repeat this for the return to Winchcombe when lunch will be taken (you need to pre-book this at least two weeks beforehand if required). After lunch the train will make two further trips to Cheltenham before returning to Winchcombe, with new participants taking over at each stop. In this way each participant will enjoy two sessions on the footplate, acting once as driver and once as fireman, giving a total distance of around seven miles.

Throughout the day a knowledgeable railway member will accompany you to assist and to answer questions.

The day will end back at Winchcombe, when you will be presented with certificates to mark your achievement.

Adult family or friends (over 16) may ride in the train subject to a maximum of two guests per participant. Details of the extra passengers must be included when booking. Please note that we are unable to accept children.

Our Silver Courses operate on days which are otherwise non-operational but where possible we will provide light refreshments on the train as well as packed lunches for those who have pre-ordered them.

Prerequisites

Please note that to take part in these courses participants must be over 18 years of age and be reasonably fit and agile with normal intellectual abilities, with reasonable hearing and sight (glasses and hearing aids are acceptable) and without any memory impairment.  Bear in mind there is physical effort needed, as well as climbing unassisted the 6ft or so on to and off of the footplate: this is a vertical climb using handrails and widely-spaced steps.  Participants must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The footplate can be hot and dirty and time spent there can be arduous.  Appropriate clothing and footwear must be worn; a 'T' shirt, shorts and trainers are definitely not acceptable.  Overalls or boiler suit are preferable but in all cases it is recommended that clothing made from cotton should be worn next to the skin.  Man-made fibres can melt onto the skin if inadvertent contact is made with any of the hot boiler fittings.  Stout shoes and boots are needed with safety boots being preferable.  A pair of gloves (Canadian rigger style) will be needed when firing and handling the controls.

 

The Gold Course

Main Line LocomotiveAn intensive full day hauling up to seven heritage railway carriages behind the engine!

  • Full day courses run on selected Thursdays
  • Large, main-line locomotive pulling a full rake of coaches
  • Two sessions each of firing and of driving
  • Signal box visit
  • Inclusive of cooked breakfast and packed lunch
  • Up to two guests can travel with each participant at £20 each

Courses run on selected Thursdays in March, April and October. Unlike the experience offered by most other heritage railways, our Gold Course participants will get the chance to both fire and drive an historic, large, main-line locomotive pulling a full rake of passenger coaches. There will normally be seven participants on the course. Please remember that this is not an exclusively male pursuit; ladies are also very welcome.

The course starts at 08.30 when you and your guests sit down to a 'full English' breakfast in the Flag & Whistle café at Toddington and meet your instructors for the day.

Your course instructors will give you a short talk about the day's activities and then you will join the train. The first two participants will step onto the footplate to be briefed and then undertake the role of driver and fireman under the supervision of the two instructors. At each station on our two and a half return journeys between Toddington and Cheltenham the train will stop and the next two participants will take over. In this way each participant will enjoy four sessions on the footplate for a total distance of about 14 miles. The day will include a trip through the Greet tunnel.

You will also be able to spend some time with the guard who will explain his role and you will be able to visit a signal box and discover how the trains are controlled.

Throughout the day a knowledgeable railway member will accompany participants and passengers riding in the train to assist and to answer questions.

The day will end back at Toddington, when you will be presented with your certificate and membership pack to mark your achievement.

Adult family or friends (over 16) may ride in the train subject to a maximum of two guests per participant at £20 each. These guests will also be provided with a cooked breakfast and a packed lunch. Details of the extra passengers must be included when booking. Please note that we are unable to accept children.

Our Gold Courses operate on days which are otherwise non-operational, but the Flag & Whistle café at Toddington will be open for breakfast and for pre-ordered packed lunches. Where possible we will also provide light refreshments on the train. The shop at Toddington station may also be open for a short while during your visit, subject to staffing.

Prerequisites

Please note that to take part in these courses participants must be over 18 years of age and be reasonably fit and agile with normal intellectual abilities, with reasonable hearing and sight (glasses and hearing aids are acceptable) and without any memory impairment. Bear in mind that access to and exit from the footplate is via vertical steps with a handrail, about six feet high. Participants must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The footplate can be hot and dirty and time spent there can be arduous. Appropriate clothing and footwear must be worn; a 'T' shirt, shorts and trainers are definitely not acceptable. Overalls or boiler suit are preferable but in all cases it is recommended that clothing made from cotton should be worn next to the skin. Man-made fibres can melt onto the skin if inadvertent contact is made with any of the hot boiler fittings. Stout shoes and boots are needed with safety boots being preferable. A pair of gloves (Canadian rigger style) will be needed when firing and handling the controls.