Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Peak Rail 1940s Weekend: 2008

The Peak Rail 1940s Weekend has become a very important feature of the year. Not everybody is in favour of re-creating scenes from wartime. My own view is that the educational benefits to people like me, who didn't experience the Second World War first hand, justifies the attempt.

This year, just a few days before the event, the coaching stock suffered a graffiti attack, the second such attack this year (see report), creating even more work in the already-major build-up to the weekend.

The poster above shows all the attractions but, since I was the driver on Sunday 3rd August, I saw very little of these other activities. An intensive service of seven round trips during the day left the loco crew with little free time. The battle re-enactment was deliberately scheduled to occur when the passenger train was safely out of the way 'down the line'. Peak Rail stalwart 'Royal Pioneer' (click for lots of detail pictures of this locomotive) was to work the service train throughout the day. Because of the heavy expected loading on this weekend, we were to run with a seven-coach train (the maximum that the run-round loop at Matlock Riverside can accommodate). Arrival at 7.45 a.m. gave me time to 'oil round' and examine the engine, so as to be ready to come off shed at 9.30 a.m., although the morning fireman, Robin, had to make an earlier start to prepare the fire. We travelled 'light engine' to Rowsley to pick up the stock and were ready to leave with the first 'Up' service at 10.15 a.m. A stop was made at Darley Dale in the 'Up' direction but all 'Down' trains ran through non-stop. We ran very close to right time all day. At lunchtime, Robin was relieved by Chris, who fired during the afternoon.

Jan models the ubiquitous 'tin helmet' - rather heavy and uncomfortable after a while. It's sobering to consider the privations that civilians, let alone service personnel, endured during the war. Uncomfortable protective equipment was the least of the problems. Because of food rationing, many people were permanently hungry but were still required to work long hours. Additional work, like Fire Watching, was commonplace. Because of air raids, there was the continual worry of eventually returning home to find your house destroyed and family injured or dead. All this, on top of families being torn apart to provide the fighting forces overseas and left with only sparse and intermittent communications.

Chris, who was fireman in the afternoon, wearing a respirator similar to those issued to railwaymen. It was thought that there was a real risk of gas attack and the civilian population was issued with a simple design of gas mask. Servicemen and workers like railwaymen were provided with a slightly more sophisicated form of protection. Imagine the problems of carrying out your duties encumbered like this. In the event, gas was not used - fortunate, as the effectiveness of the respirators, particularly the civilian version, has been seriously questioned.

It was a satisfying day, but I always find the war weekends very thought-provoking (as, indeed, they should be).

I took a few pictures. Click to view them.

In 2007, I took a few pictures of the battle re-enactment. Click to view them.

There are more pictures from the 2006 event. Click to view them.