As many people know it takes quite a few members of our society to keep our little railway up and running.
Most of this is done by the Thursday Gang, who are responsible for keeping the track in good order.
Our steel track is fitted to mostly wooden sleepers, except the section that climes up to the bridge and through the little woods, which is fixed to plastic sleepers as it runs along with trees and shrubs each side so the track is always damp, making even our hardest wooden sleepers rot away faster than anywhere else on site, hence the use of plastic sleepers.
All members of the Thursday Gang know how to replace old sleepers, but we do have one member, Gordon that has made it his job to replace any sleepers he knows need changing or that have been reported to him by drivers or other staff who have noticed damaged or rotting sleepers in the course of there duties on running days.
Even if trains are running, if a really bad sleeper is spotted it will be replaced while service continues, drivers being told that the work is in progress, this doesn't happen that often these days.
Gordon has been with the Milton Keynes Model Engineering Society for many years, has built many steam locomotives, and the bright red engine we use at present on Sundays "Pollyanna" belongs to him.
Thursday Gangs Main man, is our site engineer Dave.
Over the years, since the early 1970s M.K.M.E.S have had a quite a few track sites, and Dave has worked on most of them, so if a problem needs sorting Dave's the man, but not until he has drawn it up on the white board in the clubhouse for us all to see over a cup of tea.
At present Dave, along with other members of the Thursday Gang, are building our long awaited signal box, many of the parts are already built and are in store awaiting the main support posts, which are almost ready.
Along with another member of the society, Dave built the fantastic locomotive "Waldenbugh" this loco only runs at Caldecotte on special occasions, we would love to see it more often.
Dave is also building two 5" gauge 0-6-0 Stroudley 'terrier' locomotives, he has a love of vintage motor bikes, Well all things vintage like most of us old timers.
Dave is on the M.K.M.E.S committee that runs the Caldecotte railway.
Another important member at Caldecotte is Geoff, retired from his successful engineering company, he now is the man we go to if we need heavy work doing, like digging trenches, mowing our site, track building, if you mentioned a job, next week he will turn up with some machine or invention to do it, along with the means of moving large things.
Geoff has lived all his life in the area, worked on on tractors, cars, lorry and even electric golf carts, I've seen him convert them into vans, ambulances all to his own designs.
Since Geoff joined us he has built two powerful 7.5" gauge locomotives but he has been building number three, still top secret, we might see it one day!
Another of his loves is model railways, 00 scale, he has a passion for diesel locomotives, with so many railway locomotive owners running trains in England
There seems to be a new livery each week, Well if a new one comes out on Monday Geoff will have a replica very soon after!
While building what we call HS3 our station by-pass line we had to dig out about 30 meters of embankment, which in the past would have had to be dug by hand, but no we had super Geoff and his trusty mini digger it still took a good three weeks.
The Thursday gang would like to say a big thank you to Geoff for his help in that major project, oh by the way Geoff we need about three tons of ballast...
I hope he doesn't mind me saying that he is the oldest member of our society.
Lawrence lives quite close to the track site at Caldecotte, with his dog Holly.
The Thursday gang use Lawrence as a clock, because when he turns up it means it's tea time.
After tea he goes off and helps anyone that need a extra pair of hands.
When I first meet Lawrence he had a fantastic collection of full size tractors, these he has slowly sold off to other collector's, he also had a 5" garden railway at one time.
Lawrence plays a bigger roll on a Sundays and other public running days.
Lawrence and his family were all farmers and there farm was quite extensive at one time, until Milton Keynes was thought up, apart from the farm house and a small area of land its now all housing, a bit more about our Lawrence when I cover the Sunday gang.
Brian has been with MKMES for about four years now, a keen model engineer, he has a fantastic collection of steam locomotives.
Brian turns his hands to any tasks we have going.
The last big job was fitting the brake system onto " Pollyanna " the Romulus steam loco we use on public running days.
If one of us is struggling with a project or repair, Brian's the first to offer his help he's a valuable member of the Thursday gang, but also helps out on Sundays and our Birthday parties.
He was a great help when we had to build many feet of track for HS3, our station
By-pass line, We appreciate him more because Brian lives some thirty miles each way to come and work with us, (he must be mad).
Mick has been with MKMES for ever.
I watched an old DVD which was copied from an old V.H.S tape and there was Mick digging drainage ditches, drilling sleepers, I expect there was many jobs he did on that site which was at Elfield park which was next to the main railway line opposite Bleak Hall.
When I started at Caldecotte there was only the raised track built and Mick looked after it, every Thursday you would find him on his knees adjusting sleepers and levelling the track, this he did week in week out, it was a great track to ride on.
Then came the ground level track, Mick was there building, laying, welding, what he doesn't know about miniature railways isnt worth knowing.
I know he belongs to a few other railways, Northampton, Bedford and one a bit further North, Echells Wood,there he's the carriage and wagon master.
The last big job he did at Caldecotte was with Dave Waters, together they built a half pitched roof on our workshop and running shed, a big task, it took about 8 months to complete, a mammoth job for just two people. I don't think Mick will mind me saying, but his health hasn't been to good, but he has still managed to build new bogie's for our passenger carriage with upgraded brakes. Mick still comes down on Thursdays when he can
Steve has been with us at Caldecotte for about three years, he is part of the Thursday Gang and helps out around the track, often with Gordon or other doing track repairs.
Ever since joining us most Thursday's he turns up with a large cake that his wife bakes especially for us the night before, and not the same cake either, we love her lemon drizzle!
One of Steve's passions is his campervan which he has had quite a while, he has just given it a makeover and changed the front end.
Steve has,like many of our member a rather large model railway in his garage.
Steve is awaiting delivery of a 5" gauge live steam model of an A4 locomotive, we are all waiting to see it running on our tracks.
Going back to Steve's campervan, this for the past two years has been the computer command unit for our most successful Halloween night, thanks for that Steve,
David has been part of the Thursday gang for about two years, I think he comes along for the lunchtime tea break, mind you he is always there waiting when the rest of us roll up at 9.30am.
Dispite not being as active as he would like to be, he still helps out with most tasks while he's at the track. Thanks for all you do David.
Andrea is a graphic designer by trade, she used to work in the news paper print industry in the days before computer graphics and all things digital.
She is a prolific card maker, and her designs are second to none, (orders taken, good prices too).
Andrea is on the MKMES committee and is a active member of the Sunday Gang.
Although not really a member of he Thursday gang, Andrea works all week, she is the contact between the public and the railway. She gives out information about running and opening times, and also takes the bookings for our Birthday parties on our dedicated phone line.
When we had one, she collated all the parts of our society magazine " the platform " this might come back one day....
Her other love is poster's, what can I say about her poster's ? she takes ages designing them, is never really satisfied with the end product, even though we all think they great.
Her best ones are what she produces for our Halloween and Santa days, unlike many who just repeat the same posters each year and just changing the date Andrea starts afresh with a completely new design.
One thing about Andrea she knows how to talk to the public.
Many years ago when I took over running the public timetable, it was just Andrea, Lawrence and myself working the Sundays Andrea was there taking her turn at driving the two carriage train hauled by our wooden box electric locomotive around our raised track, usually giving a running commentary all the way around explaining what new ideas we were having for improving the railway.
Andrea still comes to the track on a Sunday and works in the ticket office when she can, and attends as many of the birthday parties as she can, and now and then has a drive of
"Hagrid"our old faithfull locomotive that works many of the birthday parties.
I have been with the Thursday Gang since I joined, around 2008.
When I joined the first task I was involved in was getting mains water on site.
Next the level crossing and the ground level track, before that we had to move our now clubhouse from the North end of the site to where it is now up on the embankment.
What the public don't know is , the Thursday Gang works all year round, not like our public running sundays.
I have no engineering skills, so do find myself helping others where I can.
I have great plans in my head,which I share with Dave Waters and others, then I sit back and watch things take shape. Then spend the rest of the time saying, look what WE have done, the last thing that I watched being done is the mains electricity being added to our site, and the HS3 line being built, I do make the tea sometimes.
I would rather be playing trains than working. One thing I must say is every member of the Thursday Gang work quite hard in there own way, those with engineering skills get the hard jobs and all I worry about is,................. will it be finished so I can run trains on Sunday. ????
I would like to say thank you to all members of the Caldecotte Railway that make it the friendly place it is, I do find it hard to have time off.
In the school holidays we get extra help from our young members and sometimes their parents, first there is Ben Brock, we call him little Ben he came to us via his Grandad who was a well loved member of the Thursday Gang, sadly no longer with us. Ben takes an interest In all things trains, he also likes a bit of gardening, Plenty of that at Caldecotte, Ben is an accomplished steam engine drive, and is also a volunteer at the Leighton Buzzard Narrow gauge railway
Our next schools out helper is Callum, ( and his Mum ) they have been with us nearly two years. Put Callum to a gardening job and you don't see him until tea time. Thanks you two.
Our public running is on Sundays and most Bank Holidays.
On these days we have many regular customers, many we regard as friends of the railway, some are active members.
Our main Steam Engine Drivers are:
We have other steam engine drivers that are fully qualified to pull passengers but they don't often help out on Sundays but do on special occasions like Birthday parties or at Halloween.
As we get to know young members they are assessed, and if we feel the time is right we get them to help get a steam engine ready for service, that's filling the boiler and lighting the fire. The next step is to teach how the loco works, how to make it move and how to stop.
Then when we can a qualified driver will sit behind the trainee and teach them to drive the engine, later adding a set of coaches.
Once we feel they have learned the basic driving skills we will allow them to do a few laps of the track with a member of staff sitting behind them on the train.
So if you think you might be interested in joining, why not spend an afternoon with us, and at the end discuss joining us and our helpful, happy team. It costs £35 per year for adult members.
On our public running days we have our members doing various jobs, drivers, guards, station staff.
Station staff look after the passengers, getting them seated on the trains and they also clip the tickets, sometimes the guard clips the tickets.
At present the station staff make sure passengers are seated, makes sure the driver is ready, checks the signal is green he then gets the attention of the guard at the back of the train, who then blows his whistle to start the train, it's the guard that's in charge of the train.
So here are the staff you might meet on the platform on a Sunday or bank holiday.
All train staff including drivers work at all jobs at sometime or other.
A great talker, very knowledgeable about the past, steam engines in and around Newcastle, he's seen all the streamlined A4 locomotives, worked in the ship building yards, interesting man.
Harrold has been with us for about 4 years, he helps out at birthday parties and on sundays, can be found at the main gate, in the ticket office, and working on platform duties, he also drives our petrol locomotive
"HAGRID" and other electric loco's.
A valuable member of our weekend crew, like most of us works the platform, takes over guarding when a member needs a break and can drive all the loco's that we run at Caldecotte, he also has his own steam engines that he brings along if asked.
We appreciate it when Brian attends because he lives at least an hour each way to help us run the railway. Brian is also a member of the Thursday Gang.
Has been with the railway for ever, he has done every job on our railway over the years.
He is the longest serving members at Caldecotte, Lawrence can be found in our ticket office a lot of the time, a job he shares with other members, although not so much now he does drive most of our locomotives now and again.
Debbie has been with us just under two years, Debbie has her own little railway team, that's her two sons.
She also helps out in the ticket office, as well as station duties, she makes a wonderful cup of tea, some times we are so busy if she didn't make the tea we wouldn't get one.
Debbie also drives "HAGRID" our hard working petrol loco She also has been helping us try to keep the railway tidy during the Covid19 pandemic.