Being a Guard/Conductor

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Volunteer accommodation from 1976 - 1983 (c) Bill Hyde collection Two train sets of carriages await their locomotives one morning (c) Chris Holloway The Canteen gets shunted around Fairbourne one morning (c) Chris Holloway Sian & train await the "off" in the main road at Fairbourne (c) Mike Woods Change the clock (s), make sure there are no more passengers and we are ready for the off (c) Chris Hollowayg The train heads off across the stream bridge towards Beach Raod (c) Bill Hyde collection The driver looks around his cab, back along the train and keeps an eye on the road ahead - the gaurd makes sure no one falls out, as the train accelerates toward the top gate (c) Ian Goodman Along Beach Road the train travels before slowing for the tight bend and road crossing, just 5mph round the bend (c) Ian Goodman Always a good place for a photo, Beach Corner was often a nightmare for the driver and gaurd, with cars, people and animals to look out for (c) Bill Hyde collection And so the train glides to a half at the Bathing Beach Station, often one of the busiest on the line (c) Chris Holloway Next stop, the Golf House, not much actual golf during the 1960's, 70's or early 80's, just a cafe with fruit & games machines and a car park - postcard Bill Hyde collection And onto the Passing Loop where trains passed each othe ron busy days (c) Ian Goodman After the loop its the long haul to Penhryn Point, the little halt at the end of the road (c) John C Fletcher E.W Twining and packed train heading towards Penhryn from the loop (c) Bill Hyde collection Penhryn Point was the next stop, in summer this was busy with people using the dunes (c) Bill Hyde collection Leaving Penhryn Point across the little bridge to the site of the old Ferry (pre 1976), next stop the new Ferry station (c) Ian Goodman E.W Twining & train having just arrived from Fairbourne (loco is still attched to front) (c) Mike Woods Count Louis shunting the Canteen into position one morning (c) Mike Woods

Typical Day, first train

I spent the best part of 8 seasons doing the wonderful Gaurds job from 1976 to 1983 inclusive. Most summer weekends, all summer bank holidays and at least 2 weeks summer holidays each year.

I was a volunteer so worked for free(ish) accommodation, free tea and the occassional free meal. This is a typical day from 1976 season (as I remember it).

Early to Rise

There was a small band of dedicated volunteers on the railway in the mid 1970's and we had clubbed togther and purchased a couple of ex-caravan site caravans and etsablished a "base" behind the station at Fairbourne.

So at 7am struggle awake, make small breakfast - mug of coffee and bowl of cornflakes or (if remembered to get the provisions) a bacon sandwich.

Be at the station at 8am as the place is opened up and the driver(s) get started on raising steam in the days steam engines.


The weather forecast or the actual weather we were getting decides the combination of carriages to be used that day, so the first job I have is to help put together the 2 sets of carriages to be used for each of the days train sets.

Next job is to clean out your own carriage set.

Amazingly it is often 9.30 before you can blink. Time to get the tickets and money for the day sorted out, in the small office at the back of the shop. Making sure that you were equipped with all the guards equipment and had the relevant monetary float in the money bag - usually £20.00 in mixed coinage and one £5.00 note in the magic wallet. There is the added bonus of a cup of tea while carrying out these tasks.

Back to the train to help, as needed, while the Canteen coach is added to the train and its rubbish bins, generator etc are added to the trains carriages.

Guards Duties

A quick word about the Guards Duties. The main qualifications needed were:

  • (a) The ability to be able to charm money out of people
  • (b) To be to count money & tickets
  • (c) And to be able fill out with accuracy a way bill at the end of the day

The end of day balancing of the funds in the money bag against the number of tickets solved was usually a lengthy business.

The tickets were printed paper slips and it was very easy to give two for one. Additionally, some guards carried extra ticket blocks about their person (500 tickets stapled together literally in a block) and it was easy to lose one or worse, use the blocks in the wrong order - tickets were sequentially numbered.

In addition, the guards were dealing literally with 100's of £'s per day in tickets sold (on busy days) and consequently it was easy to accidently give too much (or too little) change to a customer. Oh happy days!!

The guard also had other jobs:

  • (1) To clean out the carriages at the start of each day and where applicable to clean the windows
  • (2) To help hook up the carriages to the engine - at each run-round point
  • (3) To make sure the brakes were properly applied when the train was parked **
  • (4) To make sure the train crossed all points (crossings) safely
  • (5) To make sure all passengers were carried safely - try and stop the leaning out

** Being careful with the brakes was vitally important, Fairbourne main station main platform road sloped gently downwards from the water tower to the mainline at bottom of the yard - watching your carriages sedately move off on their own was not a sight you ever wanted to witness. Similarly, the new (post 1976) Ferry station was on a incline from buffer stops back down to the "Canteen" siding crossing points. So again not applying the brakes properly could result in interesting and not desired traffic movements!!

The final but equally vital task entrusted to the guard was to pick up the train staff and token on those rare occasions when it was dropped by the drivers as the trains made an "on the move" pass by at the passing loop. More often than not one train arrived before the other but sometimes everything fitted perfectly into place and both trains were in motion as the tokens were exchanged.

Getting the drivers tea was not, contrary to popular belief, actually one of the guards duties.

First Train of the Day

First train out towed the Canteen coach and carried the generator & rubbish bins so they had to be accommodated, as did the Canteen coach operator plus the passengers.

Up and down the platform beside the train you walked remembering faces and/or colours of clothing so not having to ask passengers for tickets two or three times, selling tickets as required until it was time to depart.

One last thing to do before you left - change the "clock" on the main station door to the next train departure time.

Climb on the train and with finger on the bell ready to depress the button you see a family of four plus a pram and a dog, trailing buckts, spades, windbreaker etc running through the main gate. So you hop off, bundle them into a compartment, sell them tickets...and yes they had to pay for the pram and the dog (unless it could be carried on the persons lap) before hopping onto the dickey seat again, making sure the brake was off and pressing the bell.

As the train slowly pulled out of the station, over the bridge and all the crossing points your job was to make sure everything got over the points OK and that none of your (often very) excited passengers fell out of the train or get hurt by sticking their arms out sideways.

I am sorting out the money in my bag, so the coins were in the right compartments (really helped when giving change) and that all the notes were safely in the magic wallet. Depending on the loading of passengers on the train, I may even need to add another ticket block to the ticket rack. And finally, I have to be polite and answer questions from the nearest passengers.

Beach Corner and Beach Station

Before you know where you are the train is pulling into Beach Station - on hot summer days this could be the busiest place on the line.

So off you hop watch people get off and make sure they take all their stuff with them, watch the new ones get on and starting (usually) from the loco end walk the length of the train selling and checking tickets. Hop onto the dickey seat, ring the bell and again make sure no one falls out as the train chugs off to Golf House Station.

Golf House

The process was the same at the Golf House, often a busy stop as it featured a cafe with amusements, but sadly no actual golf course during the period mid 1960's - mid 1980's. Good fish & chips though I seem to recall.

Passing Loop

The next "station" is Passing Loop. Yes you could buy a ticket to or from here but it was not an advertised station. As this is the first train of the morning it will just steam straight through unless someone told you in advance they wanted to get off here (the guard had to remember that too) in which case you would use the bell to signal the driver to stop. No stopping and your duty was to make sure the whole train got through both sets of points still on the tracks and the train now steams on its longest non-stationed stretch to The Point.

Penhryn Point

Pre 1976, the next station was the final station at The Ferry. 1976 onwards, the next station was Penhryn Point (at end of the tarmaced road), a popular sunbathing area - with easy access to the sand dunes. As everywhere else, remember if people want to get off here so as to alert the driver to stop (assuming there is no one on the platform signalling for the train to stop). Sell the tickets, collect the money, climb back on for the relatively short trip to The Ferry.

This is also the site of a little bridge and one of the few level points on the line, which was often used to get access to both loco & carriage wheels for greasing.

The Ferry

Fisrt job is to lock down the train brakes. Then unload the Canteen bits and pieces - bins, generator, stock (sometimes) and help with the movement of the Canteen coach into its siding and the opening of its main serving flap/hatch.

A lot to do before you get to sell your tickets/collect your money but if the whole thing is done as fast as possible you may even get a cup of tea before the train has to depart!

All Day Long

Back and forth your train travelled eight times a day during the summer!

Two train operation, 16 train movements, first departure from Fairbourne 10am, last departure from The Ferry 6.30pm. 30 minutes travel/turnround time per train. Busy, busy days but as I remember them generally most pleasureable except when the rain was horizontal and no matter what you tried, you were soaked to the skin within 3 minutes of the day starting !!!

Please remember, on busy summer days the timetable dictated that all of the guards duties were carried out in less than 10 minutes (except for the lunchtime train when there was a generous 30 minutes layover - 20 mins for getting & eating lunch and 10 minutes for tickets, passengers etc).