Volunteers are needed to help look after local railway heritage and a working museum that is the Lavender Line at Isfield.
There are lots of jobs for volunteers to get their teeth into, such as gardening, cleaning and painting. Jacks of all trades are particularly welcome and it is understood that if, say, a plumber came along he or she might want to do something different while at the railway.
It also helps if a volunteer has vision, is someone who can see when something needs doing and be able to get on with it.
The best part of volunteering? Lavender Line chairman John Padgham, who has been involved since 1993, and his colleague Chris Wood, who joined two-and-a-half-years ago, said it was seeing the happy faces of visitors.
But there is great camaraderie too, the chance to get away from normal everyday life and, of course, there’s an opportunity to spend time with trains.
Mr Padgham said firing up a steam engine was like starting up its heart. “You go to it in the morning and it is stone cold but lighting the fire starts its heart.”
The preserved railway has a collection of steam engines and diesels, and a mile-long section of track – once part of the line between Uckfield and Lewes – which runs from Isfield to Worth Halt, which was built by the rail enthusiasts, at Little Horsted.
“Before we built the halt we were a ride,” said Mr Padgham. “The halt meant we became a journey.”
A trip round the engine shed at the Lavender Line reveals these trains:
And outside is Valiant.
Attractions at Isfield include the station buffet building, a listed signal box and two other railways, one in miniature, offering rides for children, and the other a model railway, built by the late Rodney Peters, housed in what was once the goods office.
A second model railway is being built in an old Thumper coach by former signalman and author David Larkin, who is an expert on wagons, and David Smith another rail enthusiast. The Thumper still has its cab complete with engine next door.
The two Davids are reluctant to say when they will finish their labour of love but they have restored the interior of the Thumper and are beginning work on the model layout which will be based on the railway line between Gravesend Station and Allhallows on Sea in Kent.
The buffet at the Lavender Line is popular with visitors and with the volunteers who take their breaks in the unique building and it provides a big boost to the railway’s funds.
Since the Lavender Line runs on a section of track which used to be part of the Uckfield to Lewes line the volunteers are well aware that one day it might be brought back into main line use but until then they are enjoying working there and maintaining it as an attraction for family visitors.
Mr Padgham said: “It won’t cause us any problems if the line re-opens. We had a meeting 20 years ago to discuss whether to pack up there and then, or carry on until such time as it is taken back over by the national interest.
“We decided to carry on and we have already had quite a bit of time enjoying what we are doing and bringing a lot of pleasure to other people and families.
“It will happen eventually in the grand scheme of things but I can’t see it happening within the next ten years.”
There are no paid jobs at the Lavender Line. In all there are about 30 regular volunteers and the railway has a membership of about 280.
If you would like to join as a volunteer please contact Chris Wood by calling 07860 245623or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.