Twenty-one-year-old Jac Smith has become the latest member of staff to qualify as a locomotive driver on the Vale of Rheidol Railway, making him one of the youngest steam locomotive drivers in the UK.
Jac first joined the railway as an engineering apprentice after leaving school at 16. After completing his apprenticeship, he went on to be employed full time by the railway as a fireman as well as in the engineering workshop, working on restoring and maintaining steam locomotives and using many of the heritage skill he has learnt through his training.
Becoming a steam engine driver has always been his dream. He grew up on and around the railway as his father Pete Smith is probably one of the most travelled steam engine drivers in the UK. Pete and Jac often work together on the locomotives.
Driver training is carried out on the job by working alongside other qualified drivers and learning the skills required. Jac had to pass a practical assessment as well as an examination on the railway’s rules and regulations.
A typical say consists of a morning locomotive preparation where the fire is lit and the locomotive polished and lubricated followed by two trips along the scenic trip to Devil’s Bridge and back.
Railway manager Llŷr ap Iolo said:
“We are proud of Jac for becoming the railway’s newest driver. The Vale of Rheidol is fortunate in to have a large number of young staff members working for the railway. It ensures the traditional railway skills and engineering techniques are passed on to the next generation.”
Opened in 1902, the railway is a masterpiece of engineering and has been delighting passengers for generations. Although the line no longer carries lead ore from the mines, it has been carrying tourists to the beauty spot of Devil’s Bridge for over a hundred years!
The journey starts in Aberystwyth and runs for 12 miles to Devil’s Bridge, home of the famous Mynach Falls.