Railway museum trials Driver for a Fiver scheme

Rebecca Atkinson, 25.02.2015
Visitors given opportunity to crew 1950s locomotive
The Stephenson Railway Museum in North Tyneside has trialled a new scheme that gives visitors the opportunity to drive a train.

A dozen people took part in the Driver for a Fiver event last week, which saw them pay £5 to take a 1950s diesel locomotive for a quarter-mile trip accompanied by an experienced driver.

The museum, which is part of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (Twam) has previously offered full-day courses on how to drive a steam train, and also runs a passenger service every Sunday and on bank holidays.

Geoff Woodward, the manager of North and South Tyneside museums at Twam, said the idea for Driver for a Fiver came from its volunteers, who were aware of similar schemes being offered by a number of heritage railways as a way to generate income.

“The majority of our visitors are families, but there is also a key market of railway enthusiasts out there and this scheme aimed to attract them as well as families,” Woodward said.

“It takes a long time to learn to drive a train, so this was also an opportunity for people to try it out and see if they liked it – and we hope it might encourage more volunteers to get involved in crewing our trains.”

One challenge the museum faced was that Driver for a Fiver was only open to adults aged 18 and over, so families who had come with children were unable to participate. But Woodward said it hopes to repeat the scheme in the near future and possibly reduce the age limit to 16.

The train used in the trial was a former British Railways 03 diesel shunter, which ran from Newcastle Central Station.