September 2021 Open Event

For four days at the end of September, the LTMR was open to support the Museums ‘Underground Uncovered’ open event. Unfortunately, we have a small pool of volunteers and many of those were unavailable, meaning we had to think hard about whether we would be able to run or not. With the event running during term time, we came to the conclusion that many children would still be at school and passenger numbers would be low enough to cope with. Thankfully we were right about this as the Thursday and Friday saw only 2 or 3 volunteers on the railway and we only carried 196 passengers over those two days with one train in service.

Saturday was our best day in terms of volunteers with 6 of our team and a 7th volunteer who we hope will join the team soon. The day started slow and steady, our two trains could easily cope with the demand. Mid-afternoon, the queue began to grow, and grow, and grow until it was out into the road – this hasn’t been seen since the autumn event in 2019. We were kept busy with both trains doing their best to keep your waiting time down. Eventually the rush did begin to slow and we began to relax. We know the batteries on our Sarah Siddons have only a year or two of good use left and this was confirmed as it was taken out of service due to low power towards the end of the day. The train register shows that Sarah did around 30 trips and there is a thought that we can keep track of future trips and prepare a relief locomotive in good time – of course we will replace the batteries when we’re able to.

Sunday was an interesting day. We started with a panic that we wouldn’t be able to open as we were low on volunteers. We managed to struggle though with no more than 4 volunteers on the railway. In anticipation of high demand, and aware of Sarah Siddons impending battery problems, we stabled Sarah, with train, on the departures platform and we ran Michael Faraday from the arrivals platform. During quiet times, passengers were asked to carefully cross the track to board the train on the arrivals road. We’re not entirely happy with passengers crossing the track, but it was necessary to avoid unwanted delay – we’ve had ideas for a crossing at Depot Approach for a number of years. During busier periods, we could simply ask passengers to board the train on departures as normal. Once the train had departed, the station master could shunt the next train from arrivals to departures and load passengers ready for the train to depart once the driver had returned. This allowed one driver to take two trains and for 2 hours in the afternoon this intense method of working was in constant use! Sarah performed 25 trips with no signs of low power, we’ll aim for around this number before beginning battery checks in future.

The demand was strong enough to warrant our usual three train service, something which has been a very rare sight for two years now. Unfortunately, our class 20 is still unavailable (the controller has been returned now but we have not had time to fit and test it) meaning we only had two trains available. Low volunteer numbers meant that we also had no driver for the third train.

We carried over 1000 people across the 4 days, more than 800 of those were on the weekend which gave the feel of past open weekends; a good sign that things are getting back to normal. It was very clear that we are very short on volunteers, if you are interested in joining the team and giving us a hand, please do reach out to the LT museum, we hope to start a recruitment process soon. It was difficult getting volunteers for weekdays, and those that could make it had to take time off work. With very few people riding on the weekdays, it is highly likely that the railway will only be open the Saturday and Sunday of future open events. As you can imagine, we had no time and no spare people to get any good photos of the event.

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