Our new Chair takes the bosses seat in more ways than one....
Work in progress ...... (that's this entry...... not Darren!)
Graham Gant was born in Doncaster on 31st October 1956 and was educated at Danum Grammar School, Doncaster. Graham served British Rail Eastern Region at Doncaster Works for 21 years, starting off as an Apprentice. Graham then moved on to become a Production Engineer at Masonpinder Toolmakers Ltd and now works as a Sales Estimator for Newburgh Engineering at Hope Valley, Derbyshire. Graham's admiration for Westerns started from spending a week's holiday at Dawlish Warren in 1972 when he spotted 51 Westerns and where at an impressionable age, the sights and sounds were not easily forgotten! Graham has been a working member for the WLA since 1976 (originally at Kingswear!) and has long developed an affinity to Western Ranger when he was asked by Graham Howell (WLA's Mechanical Engineer at the time) to "keep an eye on D1013" from 1979, which he has now done so for over 20 years! Graham is often involved on the technical side, especially on the air and vacuum brake systems. Graham qualified as a Class 52 Driver on the SVR on 31st July 1995 and has so far driven D1013, D1023 and D1062. Graham states that "Western Ranger always seems to be the better locomotive, especially when it comes to being quick off the mark!"
Mark Smith was born on the 10th February 1964 in Coventry and was educated at the Heart of England school. Mark's first encounter with Westerns and Warships was in the late 1960's whilst on holiday in west Cornwall. He says "I vaguely remember maroon loco's but the greater impression was the sound of them working hard!". His real interest in railways began in 1978 and was disappointed to discover he had missed the last days of the hydraulics by just 12 months. He joined the WLA and visited Bridgnorth in 1980 when D1013 was in sky blue livery and attended running days regularly during the 80's and 90's. He became a working member in 1995, progressing to Secondman in 1999 and to driver in 2005. Mark now works full time on the railway for Maintrain in Birmingham, having spent 20 years in the motor vehicle parts trade in Coventry.
Roger Smith was born in Cuckfield, West Sussex on 17th January 1958 and was educated at Ardingly College, West sussex. Roger currently manages his own company "Stirling Business Solutions", which is a management consultancy business, specialising in selling businesses. Roger's interests in Westerns go back to his school days and once during the school holidays cycled 90 miles in trainers, jeans and a rugby shirt to see a couple of Westerns passing by at Twyford station! Shortly after starting work in 1976, most of the salary was used to fund tickets for the last Western railtours and so here the affinity with Western Ranger began! Roger has been a working member of the WLA since 1986, promoted to Chaiman of the WLA for 10 years up until 2015, and is also a Director of the Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) PLC. Thanks to some intensive training from John Glover, Roger became qualified for driving Class 52's on the SVR on 25th June 1999. So far, Roger has driven D1013, D1015, D1023 and D1062. Roger's states that his favourite machine "has just got to be D1013" which he purchased in 1995, so no surprises here!
Don Shadwell was born on 4th August 1948 and was educated at Bewsey Secondary Modern at Warrington, Cheshire. Don started work in 1963 as a relief signal man at three signal boxes in the Warrington area but often went on "shed bashing" trips all over the country to follow up his hobby for railways. One such trip involved a visit to Crewe works where Don saw the Westerns being built and his first sighting of Western Ranger (a Swindon built loco!) was actually in the mid 1960's at Swansea, very early one morning! During 1964, Don was transferred to Warrington Dallam Shed where he became a Fireman for 4F's, 8F's and 9F's for freight work before being transferred to Warrington Central shed. Don's last steam working was a 9F - No 92218 and then he became a Second Man for Class 24 and 25 diesels. Don then moved to Birmingham to work as a Guard and would often catch a Western back as a passenger from Gloucester to Birmingham on a Plymouth - Manchester working. Don now works as an Engineer for British Telecom and works on the SVR as a volunteer. Don says that he has always appreciated the aesthetic design of the Western and was pleased when Western Ranger and Western Courier arrived on the SVR and even helped to unload all the spares! Don was one of the first SVR drivers for Class 52's, having qualified on 22nd June 1979. Don is also a Traction Inspector on the SVR and is qualified to drive the Warship and all types of SVR steam locomotives. Don does not have any particular favourite Western but says "the Westerns just provide a really enjoyable day out!"