Published 22nd March 2014
The award winning 100% volunteer operated Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and the season has started with a series of training sessions for some of Network Rail’s operational planning railway staff .
The line opens to the public on Mothering Sunday, March 30th with a Great Western Pannier Tank steam engine No. 1369 pulling trains all day from Chinnor station on a seven mile round trip through the Chiltern Hills. All Mums will not only travel free, but will also receive a posy of flowers.
The railway, like most other preserved lines, closes after the Christmas season for annual maintenance and looking at this this formed part of the training for Network Rail (NR) staff on their day long visit. This winter maintenance has seen track and signalling improvements made – all by volunteers of which many are or were professional railway staff.
The NR team were shown the new track layout, the revised signalling operation and they all operated the signalbox and drove a diesel locomotive. One of their toughest challenges was shunting, coupling up to a brake van and learning how to handsignal train movements.
Everyone had to give and receive instructions by radio acting out the part played by signallers, shunters and drivers thus learning how to communicate accurately. They now understand why it takes a few minutes to couple and uncouple a locomotive and that communication is absolutely vital in railway operations to ensure safety and punctuality.
They were all taught how to prepare a locomotive for service before being allowed to drive it. The one co-incidence was that one NR team member came from Wolsztyn in Poland – where hundreds of UK steam fans have visited over the last 20 years to learn how to drive and fire a steam locomotive at speeds up to 80mph.
The railway was asked if it could provide training facilities and so far has been booked for three day long sessions by Network Rail with the aim of developing and enhancing their collective skills. This facility can be provided at the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway in a safe and unpressurised environment, unlike the main line. The 17-strong team were presented with certificates at the end of the long day’s training. Several more NR teams will be trained at the C&PRR in April.
The railway will be repeating its driving experiences from just £5 for the general public for a short trip to a more expensive full day on a steam locomotive. On the first NR staff training day the train, a former BR ‘Bubblecar’ had to be halted to allow three deer to escape from the track and jump over a lineside fence, much to the amazement of the visitors. They were equally fascinated by the many red kites which glide above and around the length of preserved railway.
Again, the public can hope their luck is in when the ‘Wildlife on the move’ train operates on April 6. This is the same bubblecar which offers all round excellent views and operates at slow speeds to allow wildlife to be viewed as it passes over or around the train. Expert commentary is also provided by the Chiltern Conservation Board which is located adjacent to Chinnor station.
The Wildlife on the move train is repeated on Saturday June 7, July 26 and September 6 and it is suggested passengers bring binoculars. Trains depart at 1030, 12 noon, 130pm and 3pm on each day.
The C&PRR annual sponsored walk takes place this year on Saturday 26 April 2014 starting at Chinnor Station at 10am with a safety briefing with a free tea and coffee. Walkers follow the track as far as Bledlow Cricket Ground and return via the Icknield Way footpath which runs parallel to the railway. The total distance is around four miles and the objective is to raise funds for some badly needed replacement gates at Horsenden Crossing.
The majority of the walk is along the railway line so walkers should wear appropriate stout boots or shoes (and bring a waterproof just in case!). Dog walkers are very welcome to attend, but they should be well behaved. Back at the station after the walk, there will be complimentary tea and coffee and a welcome slice of catering manager Stephanie's delicious homemade cake!
Every walker who raises £10 or more will be offered a free ticket to travel on the C&PRR in 2014 and furthermore, the free ticket can be passed on to someone else to use.
Anyone who donates £10 or more has the chance to win a £20 C&PRR gift voucher to be spent in the shop. All they have to do is estimate the average time of the first 20 walkers and the nearest estimate wins.