You might not realise it but almost everybody at our railway is a volunteer. Our staff all elect to work with us via a staffing roster that is sent out every few months. Without volunteers we simply could not operate our railway in the way that we do.

So why volunteer with us?

The simple answer is fun and satisfaction. We are close knit group who work well together, combining professional skills with an irreverent camaraderie. We have had volunteers from 14 to 80, both male and female. Some have learned to drive steam engines with us, whilst others came to us from other railways and stayed because they enjoy how we do things.

If you want to join us as a volunteer, we have standard route which everybody follows. The first stage is to come down and introduce yourself. We’ll then arrange a day for you to work on the railway to see how we all get along and whether you think being at Poplar is for you.

The next stage is to introduce you to the various task on the railway on another weekend. Gradually we teach you how we treat our customers and how we do things at Poplar. Our approach may not be the same as at other railways or organisations! We always need drivers for our trains so you can expect to be shown how to operate the electric locomotive pretty soon after starting with us. This teaches you the ropes of train operation and allows you to build up your confidence, both with the equipment and in dealing with the public.

After you have demonstrated the necessary levels of skill with the electric engine, you can progress to learning the art of steam engine driving. Not everybody wants to drive steam engines, as they are dirty to operate and require a certain level of mechanical empathy, but for those who do, you will receive excellent tuition. Starting off with the basics of loco preparation and firing up, you will progress to maintenance and shunting, before being allowed to take driving turns under supervision.

Our drivers learn the theory of steam locomotives as well as the practical aspects. There is a written syllabus of questions you will have to learn answers to, a bit like the driving theory test.

Now coming into our 7th season of operation, we are pleased that many of our original volunteers are still working at Poplar, whilst others still remain part of the Poplar family.

If you would like to know more about becoming a volunteer at our railway, email us or come down on an operating day and introduce yourself to us. It might be the start of a satisfying and interesting journey!