On Saturday 16th September the Park played host to fourteen children who were taking part in the National Traction Engine Trust’s South Eastern area Steam Apprentice day. The children’s ages ranged from 8 to 18.
To start their day they all had a ride on the ‘Apprentice Express’ which departed from platform 9 ¾ of The Great Bush Railway promptly at 10:00am. They were then allocated to their different steam engines and crews for a full day’s activities.
To start with the young apprentices had to clean the smokebox, tubes and fireboxes of their respective steam rollers or traction engines. Then they were shown the correct way to light a fire after, which it was down to cleaning and oiling up whilst waiting for the engines to raise steam.
By this time the apprentices had started to look like real steam engine crew having transferred soot, oil and ash to their overalls and faces! Time out was taken to enjoy tea and cakes and then it was down to the serious business of learning how to steer and drive an engine.
Two things stood out to those watching the proceedings. The willingness of the participants to listen and learn, and the confidence and enthusiasm with which all approached the various tasks. It was also good to see the mix of ages and the fact that at least half of those taking part were girls, thus finally disposing of the myth that steam engines were merely ‘toys for the boys’!
A|t the end of the afternoon 14 tired, dirty, but very happy apprentices went home having learned a good deal, whilst having fun under the safe supervision of our engine owners.
Thanks must go to Claude Jessett Trust trustee Adrian Vaughan for organising the day and to volunteers from Tinkers Park and the Sussex Steam Engine Club for allowing use of their steam engines and for making it all happen .
The NTET steam Apprentice scheme is vital to ensure that our steam and engineering inheritance is in safe hands for the future.
NOTE: if any attendees took nice pictures and would like to see them here. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org with a short description. Thanks.