I was called a ‘Chuffernutter’ today! I wasn’t sure if it was polite or not and I wasn’t sure if it was a complement or not. I smiled nervously as I gathered my thoughts!
A few days ago my old buddy, Estate Agent Extraordinaire Mike Baker, asked me if I fancied a tour around the Barry Steam Train Depot in Barry. The answer I gave him was the same answer he would have got if he had asked a dying man who had just crawled across the Sahara Desert if he fancied a glass of water.
Having obtained a day pass from the lady of the house I got up very early and made my way down to Barry through the early morning rain. My instructions from Mike were to find Howes Garage near Barry Town Station and follow a map he had sent me.
I found the gate and rang Mike’s number… and as he was speaking an orange suited figure appeared from a distant building and I soon found the gates to paradise being opened. Mike looked like a real railway worker, nothing like the smooth Estate Agent I know! Mike greeted me with a smile and a cheery handshake and welcomed me to the Barry Steam Shed. What followed reminded me of the old John Denver song, ‘Some days are diamonds, some days are stone…’
This was turning into a diamond day. It began with a tour of the shed when Mike introduced me to the trains and rolling stock and each piece was unique in its own way.
Susan was a small steam train, one of only two of the kind built. The builder named them after his children, Susan and Timothy. Susan now lives in Barry; Mike was not certain of Timothy’s whereabouts.
I climbed aboard and old DMU which is used for Santa Specials at Barry Island Station near Christmas.
All the other pieces had wonderful stories attached to them and Mike told me about them like a master storyteller.
This beast was once owned by the Channel Tunnel owners and was used to pull broken down engines out ion the tunnel. The equipment on the front can be pulled down to couple with French Trains.
This fascinating vehicle is able to travel on road and rail. The wheels can be lifted to allow it to fit on a railway line.
After the tour of the shed we had a cup of coffee and reminisced about the trains in the glory days.When we had finished our coffee others members of staff began to appear, one volunteer and one paid member od staff. I was introduced to them and as we were talking I looked across at Barry Town station. The 09:43 from Eastbrook was just pulling into Barry, the last stop before Barry Island. I must have had that certain look on my face because the guy asked me if I was a ‘Chuffernutter?’
For a few moments I was not sure how to answer. I may have smiled nervously as I gathered my thoughts. I wasn’t sure if it was polite or not or if it was a complement or not.
I quickly deduced that a Chuffernutter was someone who loved trains. (Chuffer = Train and nutter = someone who loves something with a passion).
I am a Chuffernutter. It’s true! Guilty as charged.
We strolled back into the shed and I watched Mike as he was taking 1mm off a bolt to secure part of the line. He was using some kind of grinder and was going at it full speed and it looked pretty spectacular.
As a volunteer for the day, I was assigned a few jobs. The first one was to help attach an O ring to the vacuum braking system on Susan, the only steam train in the shed. This we did with some difficulty, but eventually managed it after a number of trips to the tool box.
We then tried (at least I just watched!) to repair an ancient battery/jump start charger. It was somewhat bigger than the one I use on my car. This one looked quite old a rusty and after a long period of huffing and sighing my co worker gave up and was trying to work out the cost of a new one under his breath.
What followed was unexpected and truly wonderful!
Behind me one of the old trains burst into life. Thick diesel smoke began to fill the shed and the lads quickly opened all available doors to allow the fumes to escape. They must have noticed my worried look because I was told the smoke would run clear as the engine warmed up.
Then came the sweetest words I have heard for a long time. The answer must have been one he was expecting, because I was asked’ ‘Do you fancy a ride in the cab’
By the time he said you, I was up the steps and in the cab.
Our trip was a short but complicated one. We were required to manoeuvre an old wagon to a different part of the yard to await the loading of some old sleepers. It necessitated a number of points changes, all expertly completed by Mike pulling on a range of levers.
Sitting in the driver’s cab of this huge loco was just like a dream come true. My childhood ambition was to be a train driver. I am old now but the dream is still there. Today was getting pretty close to it! The sheer power of the loco was thrilling.
Sadly, as we pulled back into the shed, it was time for me to leave.
I had learnt some lessons…
I still dream of being a train driver…
Preserving these old locos and rolling stock is the work of loyal volunteers who work hard in unglamorous situations…
But the most important lesson of the day….
I am a Chuffernutter…and proud of it!
Michael… thank you!!