The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway Preservation Society

Volunteer driving

The Society and Railway Company offer the opportunity for volunteers to train for various driving roles, including shunting, diesel driving and steam driving. Training positions are offered following a formal application and interview process.

Each year an application process is run, commencing in December with a deadline usually towards the end of January. Selection is made in February following interviews, and training then occurs throughout the season.

The number of positions available varies each year depending on the needs of the railway and the size of the current pool of volunteer drivers. For the 2018 season, there is 1 position available for diesel driver and 1 for shunter. Availability will be reviewed again next year.


Applicants must be able to satisfy the following criteria for shunter or diesel driver (the requirements are more onerous for diesel driver)

  Shunter Diesel Driver
Minimum age[2] 18 21
Operational experience[3] 2 years(i.e. passed out as guard in 2015 or earlier) 5 years(i.e. passed out as guard in 2012 or earlier)
Preservation Society member For last 2 years For last 5 years
Commitment Minimum 10 days volunteering per year for any role
Medical fitness Must pass a safety-critical medical


[1]        These criteria have been made as generic as possible.  If there are doubts about how these criteria apply to a particular set of circumstances then applicants may attach an explanatory covering letter or seek clarification from the selection panel via the Secretary.

[2]        Although there is no specified maximum age, current Railway Company policy is to retire staff from safety critical roles such as driving at 70.

[3]        Operational experience specifically relates to traffic duties such as guarding, undertaken on the R&ER.

Application form

Please contact the secretary for an application form. The application process opened in December 2017 and the deadline is 22 January 2018.

Volunteer Shunting role: 1 position available for 2018

Formal training for the shunting role was a new scheme introduced in the 2011 season. The ‘time-serving’ requirements are less than the diesel driving role (2 years rather than 5 years) and so there is a logical progression from guarding to shunting to diesel driving (although it is not a pre-requisite to be a trained shunter before becoming a diesel driver).

The shunter is responsible for bringing coaching stock from the carriage shed into the station in the morning and shunting away at the end of the day. In addition, the shunter may need to modify the formations to suit weather conditions, booked parties or traffic demand.

The shunter will therefore need to be one of the first people on site at 08.00 (the guards cannot start cleaning coaches until the coaches are available) and will probably be one of the last to leave site in the evening. During the middle of the day, the shunter will be expected to be available for guarding turns or as spare person in case of operational difficulties.

It is expected that training will be carried out under the supervision of the duty controller. It will involve training on how to operate most of the diesel locomotives which are regularly used for moving coaches and training on operational procedures.  In addition, training will be given on servicing and fuelling the diesel engines.

A certain amount of experience will be needed before the individual will be competent to shunt unaided, and there are a limited number of moves with which to practice each day, hence a fair amount of time needs to be committed to the training.

Volunteer Diesel Driving role: 1 position available for 2018

Since the 2009 season, diesel turns have been driven by staff and volunteers during the daily service (March to October).

The turns typically involve an 08.00 start on site at Ravenglass to assist the duty controller and shunter in preparing the stock for the day and to fuel and service the locomotive. Usually 2-3 driving turns follow, with potentially a guarding turn in between.  The diesel generally operates the first and last trips, so finish may not be until around 18.30 (depending on the service being operated).

Training is provided on route knowledge, operational procedures, traction knowledge, locomotive preparation and shunting. This training is carried out under supervision of an experienced driver and will involve a sufficient number of round trips carried out throughout the year to gain competence in different weather and traffic conditions.

Route knowledge covers aspects such as the location of summits, gradients, permanent and temporary speed restrictions, train handling and station stops. Drivers need to learn the line twice, as driving down the line has very different characteristics to driving up the line.  The driver is responsible for the safety-critical radio communications which give authority to proceed into each section.

Initial training is expected to take place on the Society diesel locomotive, Douglas Ferreira.  Once competent on this engine, the skills need to be transferred to the other diesels since each is different.  It is important that drivers are familiar with the available diesel traction to provide flexibility in case a particular engine is out of service.

The driver is also responsible for preparation and servicing of the locomotive. This includes checking oil and water levels and if necessary topping them up to working levels.  Diesel drivers are also expected to be capable of shunting the coaching stock as required, and if not previously trained as a shunter, this will also form part of the training.