Weeting was back on the map again for another weekend of steam apprentice driving! We had 27 apprentices each day for our 2023 Steam Apprentice Club Driving Weekend and everyone was raring to go!
On the weekend of 1st and 2nd April, we started each day at 9am with apprentices taking off engine sheets, learning how to fold sheets, learning all about cleaning the engines out, sweeping tubes and emptying ash pans. 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, then the driving and steering of the engine could begin, along with many other bits of knowledge shared, and the day ending at 4pm. Even the rain on Saturday didn’t deter the apprentices from getting stuck in and enjoying themselves!
All apprentices, mentors and parents thoroughly enjoyed the two days and what a fantastic way to spend your weekend, with a group of like minded people having fun outdoors!
Apprentices were split into groups of three, with ages ranging from 5 to 16 years old, and depending on their varied skill levels, each team paired up with a mentor and a steam engine. Spending Saturday on one engine and then changed engine for the Sunday, giving each team a different experience than 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 safely.
There’s 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 various obstacles to help increase steering and driving skills including: a hairpin course, a garage bay to reverse into and a cone slalom, some apprentices were reversing around the hairpin course by the end of the weekend, and some gained the skill of solo driving and steering, some were towing a trailer about carrying other apprentices and their parents. And of course, the obligatory slow race and whistle up where held each day!
The weekend ended with all apprentices receiving a certificate for successfully completing the steam engine driver experience, and all were congratulated on their efforts.
It was lovely to see the apprentices make new friends, and reunite with friends they made last year, gain new or increase existing skills and see their confidence grow. Weeting Rally has a mission 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 this goal was achieved, even the parents had fun and all were very thankful for a well organised weekend. This year at Weeting Rally we are dedicating the small ring on Friday to apprentices, with a variety of activities to take place for under 21’s, including public steering and getting up close to engines and being able to chat with the owners (full details to be confirmed).
Steam engines used for the apprentice weekend were Richard Parrott’s Burrell traction engines Century mentored by Jack Douglas and Matthew Fuller, Princess Royal mentored by Rob Mason and John Martin, Lord Derby 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; the Charles Burrell Museum’s Burrell traction engine Aggie mentored by George Turner; Michael Moore’s Burrell traction engine Jane mentored by Alan Hines and Stuart Hines and the Fowler road loco Sir Douglas mentored by Adam & Angela Rist.
We are forever grateful to everyone who volunteers their time, along with their knowledge and skills, all helping to develop the next generation of steamers, to carry on this heritage hobby.
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 to Richard Parrott for the use of the land.
We now look forward to our own Weeting Steam Engine Rally, being held on Friday 14th through to Sunday 16th July 2023 and hope to see many of the apprentices return for more steam engine fun! For more information please visit www.weetingrally.co.uk
Weeting Steam Engine Rally & Country Show
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