February 02, 2018 Gossip

Nene Valley Railway volunteer Nathan Wilson (27) is celebrating after becoming the first nationally fully qualified boilersmith in 50 years!

There’s always plenty happening at NVR and it takes a dedicated team of volunteers to keep this great Peterborough tourist attraction on track. Nathan’s passion for steam has seen him learn a variety of new skills but this is something special.

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(Photo above courtesy of Angie Nurse)

Nathan told ESP – “Through volunteering at Nene Valley, I met a guy called Jon Pridmore who told me about the BESTT Scheme (Boiler Engineering Skills Training Trust). The scheme was a 12 month apprenticeship aimed specifically at boiler repairs for steam locomotives. The course was the first of its kind to be set up since the end of steam in the 1960s and the course was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

NVR-nathan1“I applied and was in the second year intake of eight apprentices. There were 16 places available over two years. I served my year apprenticeship at the North Norfolk Railway, where I learnt an awful lot of skills and knowledge that really set me on the right path to succeed. It has taken approximately 2 1/2 years from start to finish for me to complete the apprenticeship and become the first nationally qualified boilersmith since the end of steam on the national network 50 years ago.”

Nathan only started volunteering at the Nene Valley Railway in 2011, originally planning to join the footplate crew with the intention of working his way up from cleaner to fireman and onto becoming a driver. Discussing this he told ESP.

“I quickly became involved with the Battle of Britain Locomotive Society, and helping out on the overhaul of their steam engine, Battle of Britain Class ‘92 Squadron. A few months later I set up The Small Loco Group, and along with two others cosmetically restored a small tank engine called ‘Derek Crouch’ over two years.

“We are now cosmetically overhauling another engine and the group now has 15 members, the majority of which are under the age of 30. In 2014 I also passed my fireman’s exams which was something I always wanted to achieve as my Grandad was a fireman for British Railways at New England Shed, and it was through him I found my interest in steam engines.”

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Now he’s fully qualified Nathan intends to build on his knowledge and skill base and his next aim is to qualify as a driver for Tornado the steam engine that’s based at Locomotive Maintenance Service (LMS) in Loughborough that featured in a thrilling chase in the film Paddington 2.

“I aim to carry on my volunteering at the Nene Valley, to progress to a steam driver,” says Nathan, “and to use the knowledge and skills I have learnt to educate others and to help carry out work on The Small Loco Group engines when they are overhauled, as well as any other projects the NVR embarks on.”

Tornado and Paddington will both be visiting the Nene Valley Railway to celebrate one of the biggest British films of recent years on Sunday May 6.

For details visit: www.nvr.org.uk/events/tornado-and-paddington

Mark Hernandez