The Glenbrook Vintage Railway is maintained and operated entirely by enthusiastic volunteers who freely donate their time and efforts to ensure the success of this rewarding and historically significant project. The various jobs are done by people from all walks of life in their spare time, who have learned to work as railway professionals for the sheer fun and challenge of it. Without volunteers the GVR would not operate at all, and more are urgently needed to fill vacancies in all departments.
Newcomers are trained by experienced people who gain great satisfaction from teaching them, and standards are high with a quality of service and safety second to none. We can find tasks for people who can afford to spend time from just a few days to weekly or more often, throughout the year. Anyone can join us and contribute in one way or another, from maintaining the track, painting the carriages, staffing the station, operating the trains, assisting with publicity, etc. Volunteers not only have the enjoyment of contributing to the success of the GVR, but of associating with those with similar interest. Various activities are:-
Station Staff at Glenbrook
This is an important GVR - Public interface, the first point of contact with most of our passengers. Volunteers carry out a wide variety of tasks - ticket sales, souvenir shop sales, refreshment shop sales and preparation, motor and hand jigger operation, crowd control, assisting disabled passengers, ensuring tidiness of the station and facilities, public announcements and generally helping out where needed. Younger volunteers often commence their association with our railway here, before moving on to positions of greater responsibility or in other departments.
Station staff are required for running days during the October to June operating season, on Sundays, public holidays and for special events such as "Day Out With Thomas", Duty times are usually from around 9am to 5pm depending on the position. There are also many mid week special charters, for which two or three refreshment shop helpers are needed, plus a Tour Host.
This is a rewarding position for those who enjoy meeting people too. Guards travel on all passenger trains to look after the passengers, help them on and off the trains, check their tickets, answer any questions and make them welcome. Guards assist in testing the train brakes, signal to the Driver when the train is due to depart and on many services are helped by an Assistant Guard, which is a training position for advancement to other positions, as it gives a good grounding in the basic railway operating principles.
The main requirement for Guards is on regular train running and special days during the October to June operating season, generally for 8 to 9 hours. A Guard is also needed on special tourist charter trains, usually mid-week, and which occupy only around 4 hours. This particularly suits retired people with a few hours to spare, and who are looking for a worthwhile and rewarding part-time activity.
Many people with an interest in railways dream of being able to drive a steam or diesel locomotive, and if this is your ambition, this is the department for you. There is a well defined and proven system of training and promotion from Engine Cleaner, to Fireman, to Driver, and the locomotive crew on all GVR trains will have qualified via this route. The Engine Driver has the most demanding operational role on the Railway, requiring not only a detailed knowledge and experience of train handling, but the safe management of steam boilers, for which a special qualification and a minimum period of service is required.
All trains require a Driver and Fireman, and a Cleaner is frequently included to assist in the preparation and operation of the locomotive, and to gain experience towards eventual promotion to Fireman. Because of the time required to raise steam pressure, locomotive crews put in the longest days of all on the Railway and to allow a later start it is usual for them to light up the engine the previous afternoon if the boiler is not already warm. Mid week charters are not demanding, are more leisurely, and are completed by lunch time.
Cleaners assist in the cleaning and polishing of the locomotives, help with the lighting up and when running trains they are given the opportunity to do some of the firing, a most practical hands-on way to experience the appeal and reality of steam. In New Zealand Railways days, for an enthusiast to ride in the cab of a steam locomotive was a rare privilege, but on the GVR enthusiastic engine crews do this as a matter of course. As a volunteer, this could be your opportunity to experience and learn what steam is really all about, rather than just through the lens of a camera.
Way And Works Staff
Track work is a vital aspect of the Railway, not always obvious to passengers as most works are carried out when trains don't run. Since the opening of the Glenbrook Vintage Railway in 1977 the entire track, which formed the original Waiuku Branch, has been replaced, in many places more than once, and extensive yards and sidings have been laid where none previously existed. This has all been the work of a well equipped, enthusiastic group of volunteers, mostly on Saturdays throughout the year, with major works requiring complete line closure, and carried out during the winter shutdown.
With a dedicated work train, comprehensive power equipment, rail mounted digger, a fleet of ballast wagons and a mechanical track tamper the Track Gang lays sleepers, rail, points (turnouts) and ballast, and maintains, levels and aligns the track to ensure the safe and smooth operation of the train, while controlling weeds and track side foliage and keeping drains clear.
Key members of the Track Gang have worked well together for years, and although the task is usually physical, frequently arduous, and the weather sometimes poor, they gain great satisfaction from a job well done. A well laid, aligned and ballasted section of track can be appreciated by all, particularly by the crews and passengers of the trains passing over it. New volunteers are always welcome, and with basic practical "on the job" training can quickly provide real assistance to this most necessary aspect of running a railway.
Maintaining our running locomotives in top condition and restoring others to operation is the main focus of a dedicated group of volunteers at the workshops at Pukeoware, mid way along our line. A well equipped machine shop ensures that most repair and restoration work on locomotives can be completed on site. The workshops also maintain the mechanical aspects of our extensive range of passenger carriages and goods wagons. Not only is this work interesting and rewarding, there is the satisfaction of knowing that we are preserving in a most practical way various engineering skills that have been long forgotten.
While some of the work requires qualified and experienced people, there is much that does not, and with some training, volunteers can contribute in a most practical and useful way and there is never any shortage of jobs to be done. These range from lathe turning and other machining, through fitting, gas cutting and welding, to dismantling, cleaning, painting, testing, assembling, and generally helping out.
There are workshop activities on all Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays throughout the year. Particularly on Wednesdays, there is a good turnout of mostly retired people who gain great satisfaction from contributing to a worthwhile project and from socialising with those similarly inclined. If you want to help out, come along to the Pukeoware workshop on any Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday.
Also at Pukeoware is the Car and Wagon works, where our passenger car fleet is restored, repaired and maintained. Being a Heritage Railway, most of our carriages are wooden or incorporate wooden framing, and therefore the skills required are woodworking, coach building, cabinet making and brush and spray painting. If your preference is to work with wood rather than iron and steel, the activities in Car and Wagon could be for you, and if you don't have specific carpentry skills, there are many other general tasks such as paint removal, sanding and preparation to be done.
The presentation of our carriages is of great importance and volunteers take pride in the finish of external paintwork and the beautiful internal native timber wooden panelling to convey the impression to our passengers of how travel used to be. Main activities in the Car and Wagon works are on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and if you are interested in helping, come along.
Fondly remembered steam railways of the past were actually quite dirty with locomotive soot and cinders and in this respect the GVR is absolutely authentic. Therefore there is a need to regularly clean our carriages :- inside, outside, roofs and windows of the GVR and mainline carriage fleets, and to remove debris left by passengers, all facilitated by our car washing facility at Pukeoware. Therefore, if you want to help the GVR in a practical way but can't afford the time and commitment to regular restoration works and operations, you could help to maintain our carriages fleet in top condition by assisting our cleaning teams.
Many of our volunteers have several roles. Some who help out in the workshop and on track work also assist operations by driving or firing locomotives or as guards or signal men. On busy "Day Out With Thomas" weekends, just about everyone is involved and regular weekend or Wednesday workers can be found making PA announcements, selling souvenirs, serving refreshments, helping passengers etc.
The easiest way to join our Wednesday or weekend working teams at Pukeoware is to come along on any of these days and meet us, see what we do and if you like what you see, we can sign you up and make you most welcome. Alternatively you could talk to our staff at the Glenbrook station or follow here.
Railway Enthusiasts Society (RES) Volunteers
No organisation can survive without the efforts of those who work behind the scenes. To meet the needs of both the RES members and also the general public, a dedicated team of volunteers work in the RES Clubrooms, situated at 38 Alfred Street, Onehunga, every morning, Monday to Saturday. Currently, there are 6 separate teams, one for each day.
The work covers general office duties including:-
- Collecting RES mail from the Post Office in Onehunga and sorting it according to requirements.
- Replying to requests from members, either by phone or e-mail.
- Answering enquiries from the public about Railway excursions and the Glenbrook Vintage Railway including Thomas Weekend enquiries.
- Allowing members and the public to visit our Museum and take donations of memorabilia and deceased estates.
- Entering membership and subscription payments into the membership database.
- Entering trip and excursion bookings into the appropriate spreadsheets.
- Operating the EFTPOS machine.
- Recording all daily financial transactions, either by cheque, cash, or credit card and sending details to the RES Treasurer.
- Banking all cash and cheques each day.
- Keeping the Clubrooms tidy.
Those interested in being part of the RES Volunteers should contact the Office Manager on 636-9361 or e-mail to email@example.com