Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Volunteering - One year on

I have now been a volunteer at Bressingham Steam Museum for one year, and thought it would be good to look back and reflect on my first year.

When the idea of writing a blog dawned on me that very first day whilst I was cleaning the cranks, I didn't think that I would have much to write about and that my entries would be limited to a handful given my time on site would be limited as my skills were more "back office".

As it happened, I found that the distinction between family and volunteer visits blurred as I got to know some of the staff and volunteers, and was able to report on other things happening in addition to what I was up to. This provided me with a lot more to write about and kept me busy.

In order to get a rounded experience I put myself forward for two days of track repair work in early 2010 and found that whilst hard work, it was extremely satisfying. Normally I drive a desk all day doing IT related work, so shovelling several tons of track ballast (for me at least) was quite therapeutic!

With a photographic interest, I tried to attend as many of the events as I could in order to start building up some images for future website, newsletter and marketing use, as well as providing archive material going forward.

The highs

It is quite hard to put a finger on it, but the whole experience from meeting new and interesting people to getting involved in essential maintenance all give a great sense of satisfaction and achievement.

When on the two foot line I can proudly say to my four year old son that, "Daddy helped to repair this bit of track."

Although I have many hundreds of images from Bressingham, they are only generally used online, so it was nice to be able to produce some framed prints for display in the ticket office. I hope that I have managed to portray a little of Bressingham's character and characters within them.

Being asked to help get Bressingham's collection of exhibits online gave me quite a buzz, and I hope that my enthusiasm will be evident when the website goes online next year.

The lows

Fortunately the lows are far out-weighed by all of the good experiences I have had, but there were a couple and they deserve to be mentioned.

I would like to have been around when Bevan was put into steam after being rebuilt. As I work Monday to Friday it can be hard trying to juggle things and it just didn't happen. Bevan was running during this year's Thomas event, but again due to other commitments I didn't get along and as a consequence I still haven't seen Bevan in steam. Hopefully next year Bevan will be in service more regularly and I will get my chance.

Presentation and meal
Last week a number of staff and volunteers enjoyed an evening meal at the Park Hotel, Diss to saying good bye to long time volunteers Christine and Dick. Both have been Bressingham stalwarts for over fifteen years and have given so much.

I am sure that I am not alone in saying that I will miss them both very much, and wish them peace and happiness in the future.

Christine and Dick

It was sad to learn of the departure of No. 1643 Bronllwyd a few months ago. Although I never met Alan Bloom, I always felt that a little of his spirit lived on in Bronllwyd.

Doing battle with the M25 on a daily basis means that I spend around four hours driving each day and as a consequence have a lot less free time than I would like. There are lots more things I would like to get involved in, but unless someone can work out how to add an extra day in the week I will just have to be patient, but it's very frustrating for me.

What I have learned

My knowledge of trains in general was very basic, but now at least I have half an idea of what everyone's talking about!

The Online Collection project has introduced me to Virtual Reality photography and I am having fun learning the techniques involved. I did do a further test sequence inside one of the Royal Coaches but I still have to schedule the shoot proper as I want to ensure that they are looking their best which entails replacing blown bulbs and some vacuuming and cleaning beforehand. Hopefully I can complete this over the winter period.

I can now appreciate just how it takes all sorts of people with a broad range of skills to keep a place like Bressingham running. From laying track to painting fences, from weeding to helping in the shop, from cleaning to researching, it's all part and parcel of what makes things run smoothly.

People I have met

As well as "just helping out" there is a very good social aspect to volunteering. I have met some wonderful people.

It was great (and pure luck) to be there on Carl's first day of driving and Ian's first solo drive.

It is nice to see that Seymour is a regular visitor, I quite often hear people saying how much they miss him on the Gallopers.

I would like to thank the drivers and guards for their friendliness and time, both as a visitor and as a volunteer. Without their help I would not be able to always provide as much background information as I would like.

Brian in the workshop works miracles with the horses on the Gallopers and I would like to thank him for the access and information that he has given (and continues to give) regarding the renovation of the Gallopers and also during the building of Bevan.

It would be remiss of me if I didn't mention Dick and Christine again - two nicer people you would be hard-pressed to meet. I am glad to have had the opportunity to work with them both, and hope that I bump into them again from time to time.

The future

The Blog

Apparently the key to a good blog is to have interesting and engaging content. I hope that I can include some new ideas to keep things fresh over the next twelve months. Watch this space as they say.

Online Collection website

This continues as a background task. I spent a day back in September making a start on photographing the smaller exhibits. A lot of the website is there, but adding the content is time-consuming as it needs to be written carefully and in a lot of instances, researched. Phillip, Bressingham's Curator is contributing greatly to this.

Hands On

Although training and committing to a position on a regular basis is not something I can do right now, I am hoping to train as an assistant on the Gallopers so that I can help out if needed. This I am told should take a day, but as ever it's finding a day on top of the other things I have to do. Hopefully I will be riding the Gallopers next year with some of you.

Thank you

I will sign off by saying that I've had a great first twelve months, and that I am looking forward to the next twelve. I hope that you have enjoyed reading about some of the things that go on behind the scenes at Bressingham and found it informative.

I know that I have enjoyed writing about them, even if some like the Dad's Army day take me over ten hours to complete by the time I sort photographs and do some research!

Hope to see you at Bressingham soon,


  1. Well done James on your first year of volunteering. I am sure that Bressingham really appreciate the efforts of people like yourself who put in so many hours of work behind the scenes.

  2. It's obvious how much you enjoy your work at Bressingham. Hope the second year will allow you more opportunities.


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