Kate Plant reports on the 2022 Steam Apprentice Club’s Driving Weekend, held at Weeting, Norfolk, for 25 enthusiastic new apprentices.
Having not been able to hold the event since 2019, due to Covid, the 25 apprentices were raring to go and the sunshine made it all that more enjoyable. All apprentices, mentors and parents thoroughly enjoyed the two days and what a fantastic way to spend your weekend it was.
It was held over the weekend of 9-10 April 2022, starting each day at 9am where apprentices began with taking off the engine sheets, learning how to fold sheets, learning all about cleaning the engines, plenty of Brasso and rags were used to clean all brass-work before learning about lighting the fire and the process of steaming-up the engine.
The apprentices were split into groups, with ages ranging from 7 to 19 years old and varied skill levels, they were teamed up with a mentor on each engine. They spent the day on one engine and then changed engines for the second day, giving each team a different experience to the day before. Everyone gained knowledge and increased their skills over the weekend, learning all about how a steam engine works, how to maintain fire and water levels and all the necessary skills required to operate the engine, and some learnt about the history of the engine they were working on and what it had been used for.
We have plenty of space on the Weeting Rally site for engines to drive around, good for those who have never steered an engine before and may be a bit nervous, those nerves were soon gone when they were taught what to do and fear soon became fun.
We created cone obstacles to help increase steering and driving skills including a hairpin course, a garage bay to reverse into and cone slaloms, some apprentices were reversing around the hairpin course by the end of the weekend, and also gained the skill of solo driving and steering, and some were towing a trailer.
The weekend ended with all apprentices receiving a certificate for successfully completing a steam engine driver experience, along with a Weeting Rally glass and Steam Apprentice keyring, a great way to end a superb couple of days.
It was lovely to see the apprentices make new friends, gain new or increase existing skills and see their confidence grow. Part of the Weeting Rally mission is to educate on the history, use and maintenance of steam driven vehicles, which is why we hold a driving day for the Steam Apprentice Club, and to encourage the next generation of steam enthusiasts. I think we can say with full certainty that goal was achieved, even the parents had fun and all were very thankful for a well organised weekend.
Richard Parrott was very disappointed he missed the weekend and sent his apologies, he had been unwell in hospital but is now home and doing much better.
Steam engines used were Richard Parrott’s Burrell traction engines Century mentored by Alan and Stuart Hines, Princess Royal mentored by Sam Ellerton and Spitfire mentored by David Blackburn; the Cole Family’s Burrell traction engine Betty mentored by Paul ‘Sooty’ Coupland, Roger Adams’ Burrell roller Jeanette mentored by James Collin and the Charles Burrell Museum’s showman’s engine Queen Mary mentored by Richard Stock.
We are forever grateful to the mentors who volunteer their time, along with their knowledge and skills, all helps to develop the next generation of steamers.
A big thank you to Sam Ellerton who sponsored the lunches provided for all apprentices and mentors over the weekend, to Kate Plant for organising the driving weekend alongside the Steam Apprentice Club, and Jack Douglas and Matt Stroud for additional help throughout the event.
We now look forward to our own steam engine rally, being held on Friday 15 – Sunday 17 July and hope to see the apprentices return for some public steering around the main ring!
This feature comes from a recent issue of Old Glory, and you can get a money-saving subscription to the magazine simply by clicking HERE