Volunteering with us
Our railway is maintained and operated entirely by a team of committed volunteers. If you’d like to join in, we’ll make you very welcome.
Not many tourist attractions in Northern Ireland are run like us, by the community for the community. Nobody you see at the railway is paid a penny for their work – it’s all done for the love of railway heritage, and the desire to share our experience with our visitors.
We’re always on the look-out for more help. Whatever your background, age, or skills there’s a role for you – whether you’re a railway enthusiast or not. You just need to be 16 years of age or older. Volunteering is a great thing to do, it gets you out and helps you meet new people and learn new skills. It will look great for potential employers if they see it on your CV.
You don’t need to have any experience on the railways or any trade, so whether you’re in full-time work, or are a student, unemployed, retired or simply have a couple of hours spare on Mondays, Wednesdays or Saturdays, just bring yourself along. You’re guaranteed a warm welcome and we’ll put you to work. You’ll never know what “bored” means again!
Don’t worry if you don’t have any specialist engineering knowledge. You’d be surprised what you are capable of with a little help and training.
If you think you want to volunteer, then get in touch with us!
You do need to become a member before you can volunteer with us. See how to become a member.
You don’t have to stick to just one area, many of our volunteers work in several different roles. What are you interested in doing? Choose from the list below.
Carriage and Wagon Department
Our Carriage and Wagon Department is always keen to get new volunteers started – the more people, the more wrecks we can turn into the jewels in our crown.
The role is varied and interesting, ranging from engineering on braking systems to DIY skills such as painting, woodwork, bodywork repairs and much more. You don’t need to have much experience, but a basic understanding of DIY will help, so if you want to hone those woodworking or painting skills, and are looking for challenging and rewarding ‘hands-on’ hobby, as well as get the joy of seeing our passengers marvelling at your efforts, then the C&W team’s the place for you!
Permanent Way Department (Track Team)
The Track Team is the team that maintains and lays all of our track. Perfect for both people with construction site experience or who work indoors all week long and want to get out in the open air at the weekends and swing a hammer about.
There’s good team spirit and larks in the team, which can find itself out several miles from Downpatrick Station in the countryside. With new extensions to the line in the pipeline, track renewals planned, as well as new manpower-saving equipment on site, it’s all-go with the Track Team. New members are always welcome and full training in all tasks is provided, starting with basic track safety.
No construction site experience necessary (although desirable) only a reasonable level of physical fitness is required.
The Signal and Telegraph (or S&T) department, in conjunction with the Permanent Way team, looks after the planned installations of all signalling and telecommunications equipment on our Railway. This small but important department is looking for new members, both skilled and unskilled. As well as making a heritage line look the part with authentic semaphore signals, it will also be essential for the line’s safe and efficient operation, especially as the scheme grows.
Are you interested in Big Machines? We currently have three steam locomotives that need care and attention to keep running, as well as eight heritage diesels, some of which are currently in storage and crying out for someone to take it under their wing.
Much of the behind the scenes work goes unnoticed, but it is vitally important as without working engines, there are no trains for the public to enjoy. The work is challenging and almost invariably dirty, but great fun all the same. Anyone who is experienced with engineering and/or machining will be most welcome but these skills are not essential. There’s a wide range of tasks for both skilled and unskilled new volunteers as help is required in all corners of the department.
Our railway is an accredited museum, and it is important to catalogue our collection of artefacts from the original railway, the Belfast & Co. Down Railway, as well as develop a vibrant exhibition to illustrate the railway heritage of the local area. If you are a history enthusiast, and feel that heavy work may not be for you but still want to help, this may be your very area.
If you’re a friendly sort who’s happy to give a welcoming smile to our visitors, the Booking Clerk role on a running day might be just for you – you’ll be our passengers’ first point of contact, you’ll sell them their tickets, provide them with visitor information on what’s on offer and answer any of their questions, such as when the next train is running. If you have retail experience that’s bound to help, but it’s not essential as you’ll be able to shadow current volunteers to get a feel for it. This role may be also suitable for those who have limited mobility.
With the advent of online ticketing in recent times, this job is getting a lot less stressful!
Platform Staff are key to the railway’s customer care, and like booking clerks you should enjoy meeting and dealing with the general public, making them feel welcome and assist them with any queries or problems they have, and helping people boarding and alighting from the trains.
The Railway’s souvenir shop at Downpatrick Station offers our visitors a selection of railway themed gifts and merchandise. Popular with our visitors, and busy during operating days, like platform duties you need to be able to deal with the general public with a friendly smile. As with booking clerks, if you have retail experience that’s bound to help, but it’s not essential as you’ll be able to shadow current volunteers to get a feel for it. This role may be also suitable for those who have limited mobility.
Guards are responsible for the safety of the train and its passengers. Their tasks include preparation of the stock before the day’s operations, dealing with passengers, and the safe working of the train throughout the day. Guards also have to be smart in their appearance, adhering to the uniform guidelines, as well as being friendly and approachable when dealing with passenger enquiries. This role does require training and certification, which is given on site.
Before you can be a guard, you have to train and pass out as a shunter, where you learn how to control train movements safely and efficiently, and couple and uncouple vehicles.
Footplate Crew (Drivers & Firemen)
Locomotive drivers and firemen are vital for obvious reasons! Footplate crews are given rigorous training before being passed out. Whilst it is not necessary for all footplate crews to volunteer with the Locomotive department outside running days, some time spent there helps get an understanding of our locomotives work. Steam crews and diesel crews are needed!
We operate a sort of old-style career progression – you have to ‘pass out’ as a shunter, then a guard, before you can be a fireman, and eventually a steam driver. With diesel it’s the same path, you just have to spend time as a secondman to learn the ropes before you can be passed out as a driver.
Volunteers are always needed to help assist serve our visitors their cherished cups of tea and snacks! We have a buffet carriage parked at either Inch Abbey or the Loop Platform on all running days. As with some of the other roles, if you have retail or catering experience that’s bound to give you a leg up, but it’s not essential as you’ll be able to shadow current volunteers to get a feel for it. If you are really interested you can undertake a Food Hygiene Course, which could be useful outside the DCDR.
Marketing and Fundraising
In order to grow, more people need to find out about the railway. We also need new ideas and ventures and people to implement them – is this you? We have a roadshow stand that we take to fairs, exhibitions, and shopping centres to spread the word about the railway, but can you help organise bucket drops? Come up with new ventures? Then we need YOU!