The first in a series of interviews with our working volunteers - Matthew Harris.
Working volunteers are the lifeblood of heritage railways and without them we would not be able to operate trains or undertake the dozens of jobs necessary to operate a heritage railway. This is the first in a series of interviews with our working volunteers.
Interview with a Volunteer - Matthew Harris
What made you volunteer at Midsomer Norton?
I became a volunteer because the railways have been a part of my family for many years as my great-grandfather worked for the LMS in London. As a young boy, I remember many times seeing the steam trains at Bitton station and the HSTs at Bristol temple meads in the 1990's, so you could say I was hooked straight away. Then as a teenager, I started to volunteer on heritage railways which then lead me to join the Somerset and Dorset railway which I have loved every second so far.
What do you enjoy best about being a volunteer?
The best thing I enjoy about volunteering at the S&D is there is always something to do and get involved with, since joining the railway, I've trained as a qualified guard, shunter and I'm now helping our carriage and wagon department with restoration, painting and signwriting. Most importantly which makes this Railway very unique is everyone treats you like you're a part of one big family, even if you're doing sometimes the not-so-glamorous jobs you've always got a smile on your face knowing you're making a big difference.
What training did you receive when you joined?
The training I received when I joined was a very insightful introduction to the railway, the route, history, facilities and personal track safety. The training I received to become a guard was very professional and inspired me to get even more involved and emotionally invested in our carriage and wagon departments, which has led to the ongoing enjoyable tasks of undertaking restorations and cosmetic overhauls of our wagon fleet.
What's it like being a volunteer at Midsomer Norton?
The key thing about being a volunteer at the S&D is you'll always be valued whatever you do at the railway, being that we are still a small railway currently it's always exciting being a part of projects that will allow the railway to grow bigger. Whether that's extending the line further to Radstock or Chilcompton, upgrading the facilities at Midsomer Norton, building the new Somervale siding, or anything new that might unfold in the future. The main thing is you'll always be excited, engaged, and invested in what you do as a volunteer at the railway.
Why do you think other young members should join?
The benefits of joining as a volunteer are vast but key ones include getting outdoors, good exercise and expanding your skills. Even if you have no previous background on the railways that's never an issue as training will always be provided and working in any of the departments on the railway you'll be in great hands.