A Little Off Base: A chance to drive that train
Calling all grown-up kids! A number of tourist railroads sell special — meaning expensive — opportunities for people to actually “drive” steam or diesel locomotives.
Most require that participants be at least 18 and in good health.
The Bodmin and Wenford Railway near JMF St. Mawgan offers one- or two-day steam and one-day diesel locomotive driving lessons.
Membership in the Bodmin Railway Preservation Society is required for anyone wanting to take lessons and runs 12 pounds a year for an individual annual membership.
All courses start with an introduction to the railway, and a health and safety lecture, followed by railroad theory and information on the locomotive the person will drive, followed by actual hands-on experience in the engine.
The cost for a one-day diesel course is 140 pounds. One-day steam courses cost 160 pounds, two days cost 250 pounds.
The Nene Valley Railroad, north of RAFs Alconbury, Molesworth and Upwood, offers a handful of different driving options, ranging from single steam engine operation to multiple diesel units in tandem.
Their starter steam course, which includes instruction and one hour of driving, runs 175 pounds while their advanced course runs 650 pounds for one person, or 325 pounds if two people are taking the course.
Two diesel courses run from 95 pounds to 150 pounds.
The Northampton and Lamport Railway, west of Alconbury, Molesworth and Upwood, also offers different options, ranging from a short few hours of driving to a full day’s worth.
Prices range from 155 pounds for a few hours of driving a diesel locomotive to 500 pounds for a full day’s worth of driving and coaling a steam locomotive. Participants can bring along up to 10 people to ride on the train.
For those with a smaller pocketbook, the railway offers a 10-pound footplate pass which offers a short journey in the locomotive in which the driver’s and fireman’s duties are explained.
The Swindon and Cricklade Railway, south of RAF Fairford, offers either diesel or steam driving experiences at 55 pounds for diesel and 95 pounds for steam.