Christmas at STEAM is here! We have asked Les Walker to celebrate and explain what it is that he does here at STEAM and why he continues to come back and volunteer on Saturdays and in our school events. Below he shares his highlights of volunteering with STEAM.
Les Walker – The joy of STEAM
Although never a railway worker I have always had an interest in both the construction and running of steam railways. I was born in London in 1942 near to Old Oak Common sheds and spent many hours pressed to the wire fencing watching the yard working, although surprisingly never collected engine numbers. I suppose that there were so many to see that it seemed pointless.
I was also near to Paddington Station and spent many hour with my father meeting or despatching his wartime friends from Cornwall. They used to come to ‘the smoke’ regularly and the Cornish Riviera was always a treat to see. I was often invited onto the footplate whilst awaiting departure of this iconic train, sometimes it would be a Castle or even a King, depending on the number of coaches, and occasionally would have a banker at the rear to help it on wet or frosty mornings.
Unfortunately we moved from London to Bucks at the age of 14 and although I still schooled in London, a young commuter, I lost easy access to the delights of the GWR mainline, but I still collected models and had an interest in steam. The school’s sports pitches were at Harrow on the Hill next to the Marylebone mainline and I had many reprimands for leaving the field of play, both football and cricket when a powerful locomotive was heard, I was not the only one.
When I eventually retired we moved to Shrivenham and, after we got the house and garden straight and constructed my first model layout. I volunteered to help at Steam in 2015, I have never regretted coming here and get great pleasure from passing on my varied knowledge to all, especially the children.
I regularly inform visitors the procedure for starting a locomotive on the footplate of City of Truro or King George V and help out wherever needed. I particularly enjoy the ‘We’ll Meet Again’ sessions where young school children learn what wartime life was like. To see the intense interest, interaction and hear the questions as we guide them round the various re-enactment scenarios is a joy.
I feel that this museum has a lot to offer visitors and hope that in some small way I can improve their experience and enjoyment.