July's Windfall Donations go to Downs Light Railway Trust

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Posted on June 29th, 2016 by Laura Hollis

We are delighted to announce that July’s windfall donations (donations made without logging on) will go to Downs Light Railway Trust.

 

Downs Light Railway

 

The Downs Light Railway Trust is an independent registered charitable organisation, who own and operate the Downs Light Railway for the educational benefit of children.

Situated within the grounds of The Downs Malvern, the Downs Light Railway is the world’s oldest, and most internationally renowned, private miniature railway. At the track gauge of 9 ½ inches in width, it is one of a handful of railways of this gauge – once a popular size for many estate railways of the Edwardian Era.

 

 

The Downs Light Railway Trust has a small collection of narrow gauge locomotives, together with some ⅞ mile of track around the school grounds. The children meet once a week during the school timetable to maintain and operate the railway.

The railway today is an integral part of The Downs Malvern’s extracurricular activities. The Downs Light Railway Trust runs two hobby sessions for the school each week during the school Term, lasting 1½ hrs each. Each hobby session can have up to 16 pupils, with some of the more enthusiastic and experienced pupils attending both!

 

Downs Light Railway

 

The hobby time is where the children are actively involved in the maintenance of the railway. Selecting the railway as a hobby within the school is down to the individual child, none of them are compelled by school to take part. Similarly, while each child is encouraged to drive a locomotive, it is entirely voluntary. The railway awards two levels of competence for the children. A blue neckerchief is awarded when a child is fully competent at operating the petrol-hydraulic locomotive; both in driving, refuelling and oiling the locomotive. A red neckerchief follows the same principle but for the steam locomotives. Of course, with the added complexities, the competence level required is much higher.

The railway has a mixture of both boys and girls of all ages, between 7 and 14 years. Their interest in railways is neither important nor relevant. Each child that chooses to take part is encouraged to get involved in all the activities; these range from physical track work, to complex disassembly, repair and reassembly of locomotive components. It becomes a great opportunity for the children to get their hands dirty, while both physically and mentally challenging them in a practical environment. The group activities requiring collective problem solving enable each child to develop their own leadership and team working abilities. The senior pupils invariably take a lead, directing or teaching their peers with the knowledge they themselves have developed. This is not necessarily age bias, and frequently younger children can find themselves teaching an elder child or even an eager parent who has jumped at an offer to sit on the foot plate to drive a locomotive.

 

Downs Light Railway

 

The children get to prove their hard work, by running the railway for the school’s events. This can be anything from school Open Days, to specific celebratory events. While the railway is exclusively run for the school, on very rare occasions it can be run for local charity or community events. The railway can have up to three trains running at anytime. The children confidently take turns in driving and guarding the trains, managing the platforms, controlling the points, and operating the token signalling. With some of the larger events in the past, they have coped easily with over 400 passengers.

Many children struggle with academics and sports, but the railway has proven to be an area where they can flourish. Invariably it becomes the making of them. With many years of schooling ahead, these children will walk away with foundation skills that will last them all their lives.

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