The MPD is based in Cheddleton, and its purpose is to maintain and operate the Churnet Valley Railway’s fleet of steam and diesel locomotives. Despite being small in both size and numbers, we are able to perform both simple routine maintenance on our locomotives as well as assist in heavy repairs and full overhauls.
The MPD also provides the crews for operating the locomotives on the Railway’s various services. Many boys (and some girls!) dream of becoming a train driver, and the CVR offers the opportunity to do so. However drivers don’t become drivers overnight, and it takes a good level of commitment to eventually make the grade. To do this means starting as a cleaner where you are tasked with ensuring the locomotives are looking their best at the start of the day’s service, which on the steam locos also entails cleaning away ash and char from the ash pan and smoke box.
You are then taught to fire the steam locomotives if you so wish, which involves keeping the fire in the boiler burning, maintaining the water level in the boiler whilst also ensuring there is enough steam to allow the engine to move. Once proven capable as a cleaner you can go for your firing exam to become a ‘fireman’, which if successfully passed, means you will then be expected to fire on your own using the skills you’ve learned as a cleaner. As you spend time on the footplate you will learn all the various parts that make up a locomotive, and how they function, so much so that after a few years as a fireman you may well be given the opportunity to progress to the top job of driver if you want to advance to such a role. At CVR you are first taught to drive the diesels before steam, but once passed as a Diesel Driver you shouldn’t take too long to pass out on steam too.
However the MPD is not solely for steam enthusiasts. There is a small yet growing number of people interested only in the diesel side of things. Whilst still being required to go through the same training in rules and operating as the steam side, there is no requirement to be involved with steam if you prefer the cleaner environment of a diesel cab.
Whilst such tasks are rewarding and enjoyable, it can be dirty work and requires a certain level of physical fitness. Despite this our MPD volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, from time served engineers to office staff looking for something different to do in their spare time. The volunteers come down to the railway seven days a week to help wherever they can, with tasks varying from changing a locomotives spring to cutting up wood for use in lighting the fires plus much more. Those more skilled are also able to use our workshop machinery and tools when required to do so, but those not so skilled are encouraged to learn if they so desire.
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