They need to be aware of the needs of their train with a willingness and ability to at least identify the train’s needs in terms of its equipment and operation, what to do or where to go and who to speak to if they are unable to rectify any faults that they may find.
But beyond that and almost as important, is a similar awareness and ability to address what passengers need. To do this, they need to be conscious of what they might want to know, even though they might not ask, to be able to answer a large range of questions and to have reasonable knowledge of what the Railway and surrounding areas have to offer. A piece of information incorrectly conveyed can ruin someone’s journey or day out.
Occasionally they will need to deal with complaints or difficult situations on the spot, or know what to do if they need to be referred to a higher authority. Do you for example feel able to ask someone to remove their shoes from a seat, or to ask a colleague to remove dirty overalls when sitting in a train? Or would you be prepared to deal with a missed connection as a result of a late running KWVR train?
Therefore, guards need to be able to communicate precisely, presciently and concisely with colleagues and customers. They need to be able to do all this in conditions which sometimes are not ideal. They need to be prepared to understand that things do not always go according to plan and that as a result, their personal needs occasionally take second place to the duty to the Railway and its customers which they have taken up through the job.
Being a guard on the KWVR is a very active job. Guards need to be reasonably strong and physically fit, although gender is no restriction and the Railway is particularly keen to recruit more lady guards. Guards need to wear a uniform which is well presented as they are more or less constantly in the public eye; they are one of the main contacts between the Railway and its passengers who, to a large degree, will measure their journey or visit to the Railway by the presentational standards of the carparks, stations, train (particularly in the interiors) and the staff. The member of staff with whom they are likely to have most awareness of if not contact, is the guard.
To some degree the guard is an actor; passengers and others will want to take the guard’s photograph so guards need to be willing to present a good image to customers and be what might be termed a ‘people person’.
The Railway has an almost insatiable appetite for guards and it is possible to enter the grade directly, with no previous experience. The trainee guard will be expected to learn about the basic mechanics of a passenger and goods train and the vehicles which make it up; they will need to have a very good awareness of the comprehensive documentation which supports the operation of the Railway; they will need to have a basic understanding of how the railway is signalled and controlled. They will spend at least a day on a locomotive footplate and a day in a signal-box so as to see the Railway from the viewpoint of the colleagues with whom they are working. They will also undertake a comprehensive course in trackside safety and shunting, each lasting a day.
All this means that volunteer guards need to be able to commit time to the job. We would hope that most trainees will be able to qualify (by practical and written examination) within six months of starting training but volunteers need to be aware that as with all things which are worth-while, commitment is essential and such jobs ought not to be entered into on a mere whim.
In terms of time, there is no prescription or specific requirement, but to obtain the benefit of the training on offer, we would hope that the typical trainee would be present on at least two days a month on training activities whilst once qualified, would be able to offer a day a month as a guard.
Guards often need to work using their initiative, particularly if things go wrong, but they also need to be prepared to be part of a structured and very well regulated team which has clear reporting lines. Therefore, although they will be mentored, encouraged and supported throughout their training by the Guard’s Mentor and Training Officer, the Senior Guard and to a lesser degree by the Railway’s Training Manager and HR Director, deliberate reliance is placed upon trainees to arrange at least some of their own training, working within the Training Plan which will be provided. If they can’t do this, then they probably ought not to be a guard.
Being interested in railways, or this railway in particular is a really good starting point as a qualification, but it is not essential by any means. The real qualification for a trainee KWVR guard is an interest in people, the time to train and later to do the job combined with a willingness to learn.
If you would like to know more about training to be a Guard, send an email to the KWVR Volunteer Liaison Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 01535 645214 between 09.30 and 16.30.