Leading British heritage railway welcomes third intake of apprentices

North Yorkshire Moors Railway Apprentice Scheme. Picture Credit Charlotte Graham Picture Credit Charlotte Graham

Often regarded as volunteer outposts for retired railway staff and enthusiasts, the image of heritage railways has always been one of tourist attractions and nostalgic trips down memory lines. In fact there is much more to the industry, which, in Britain, holds an important place in the economy, bringing visitors to far-flung parts of the country and boosting the viability of communities.

The North York Moors Railway, one of the most successful businesses within the sector, has proved its economic viability for many years, and, contrary to popular belief, operates on a commercial basis. That’s why the railway has just embarked on its third intake of apprentices – crucial to the future running of the business and providing local employment opportunities in communities where otherwise there are limited avenues of employment.

Classroom learning into practice

The registered charity and heritage attraction has taken on two new apprentices as part of its Yorkshire’s Magnificent Journey Project (YMJ), funded by the UK’s National Lottery Heritage Fund. Cameron Ross and Jacob Swinburn, both 19 years old, have joined the NYMR team as mechanical engineering apprentices as part of the railway’s apprenticeship scheme. They were selected from 25 applicants, thanks to their passion and enthusiasm for heritage railways, again disproving the stereotypical image.

Apprentice fireman hard at work on the North York Moors Railway (NYMR)

This is the third year of the project, which features a combination of theory and hands-on experience. Apprentices are required to study part time in technical college, and are given the opportunity to put their classroom learning into practice four days a week at the NYMR, working alongside fully qualified staff and volunteers.

An incredible opportunity

The heritage railway sector is a highly successful part of the British landscape. The sector’s representative body has over eighty members, and examples are found in all the four nations of the United Kingdom. The skills required to run heritage railways range across all aspects of business, from engineering to customer service, and the sector provides learning, employment and career paths for individuals in many disciplines.

“We’re really excited about this new intake of apprentices. This is an incredible opportunity for anyone willing to get stuck in”, said Nick Simpson, Motive Power Department Manager at the North York Moors Railway. “With the right enthusiasm and willingness to learn, you can really progress into a fantastic career here. Having started out as an apprentice myself, and now 17 years later I manage the whole shed. I know how beneficial this opportunity can be for young people which is why I’ve worked with over 20 apprentices at the NYMR and try to take on at least two new apprentices each year.”

Engineering, administration and countryside management

“During this program, Cameron and Jacob will start by visiting and learning from all of the departments at the NYMR and get to work on everything from the diesels to the boiler shop and everything in between. It’s a proper apprenticeship. We celebrate getting mucky and teaching them how to swing spanners.”

Getting down to the basics and properly supervised on the North York Moors Railway apprenticeship scheme. (NYMR)

Yorkshire’s Magnificent Journey project has included apprenticeships in engineering, administration and countryside management. Designed to transform the NYMR and secure its future, the £10 million YMJ is funded by grants from the European Union, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the UK Department of Environment Farming and Rural Affairs, the Local Enterprise Partnership and by donations from the charity’s members and  supporters.

**UK businesses can soon share their stories in a full-colour digital magazine of sister title Railfreight.com, tailored to the UK rail industry. The RailFreight UK Christmas Special will be published on 15 December. Details, including how to take part, can be found here.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for RailTech.com and Railfreight.com

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.