Report by Clive Flack
As we approached Old Walden on late Friday afternoon with the caravan and two very excited steam apprentices, we could see that the Society had yet again pulled out all the stops; the site looked more like a rally field than a Steam Apprentice weekend. Not even the sudden downpour of rain could dampen the excitement and enthusiasm of the youngsters already on-site for the weekend's events.
Saturday morning came soon enough with the lazy haze of the early morning giving promise of the sunshine, which was to remain with us for the duration of the weekend. The morning's events began at 10am with welcome and introduction to the weekend by the SAC and safety briefing by Paul Worbey taking place in the party tent.
Many of the apprentices had been up-and-about early joining in the hustle and bustle of lighting up and polishing the brass work of the engines already on site. More engines had been arriving all morning bringing with them the promise of no less than 25 steam engines of all types and countless models for the 130 apprentices attending to gain experience on. Split into groups, the apprentices soon got into the swing of the weekend, whilst in the party tent Mathew Lund gave a talk on boiler management. A driving course had been organised by Nick Allen that proved very popular with the more experienced apprentices.
A substantial lunch had been prepared for all by Hoggy, Ian Baxter-Powell, and his hard working team. In addition, Tea, Coffee, Squash, biscuits and huge bowls of fruit were available on tap throughout both days ensuring no one went thirsty or hungry! It was soon time for the driving activities to resume whilst in the party tent it was a hive of activity preparing for later events.
At 4.30pm, everyone gathered in the party tent for the presentation of certificates and cutting of the anniversary cake. After an introduction by Sylvia Dudley and Margaret Joachim of how the Steam Apprentice Club came into being 30 years ago in 1979, it fell to Sylvia and steam apprentice Thomas Breeds, who happened to be celebrating his own birthday, to cut the huge cake. During the presentations, Sarah Worbey, Nicola Moore and Nik Holmes made short work of cutting and distributing the cake. A special presentation was made to 'Teddy Harry' who, accompanied by Grace and Naomi Brighty, has attended many SAC events.
After the presentations and cake cutting, the apprentices assembled outside for a group photograph, followed by a supervised steam up of Mamod and Wilesco models, which gave the committee a chance to clear up and prepare for the evening entertainment. On this occasion a band played into the night and a licensed bar was available in the party tent. Outside, the Showman's engines attending lit up the night surroundings, and not even the sudden downpour dampened the party atmosphere.
Sunday morning came all too soon for many of us, but once again the apprentices were eager to get started on the engines, sweeping tubes, raking ash pans, lighting fires and of course much polishing of brass. The traditional cooking of breakfast on the fire shovel was soon underway, some owners even having custom-made shovels for the purpose. We were soon sitting down to a magnificent engineman's breakfast cooked by the apprentices, double checked and supplemented by Hoggy and his team. The driving activities then carried on, until all too soon it was time for the weekend activities to come to a close.
A host of competitions and activities were available in the tent during the weekend. Not least, the Digital photo competition organised by Nick Bosworth, which was won by Richard Warren, the runner up being Ollie Hooper. Joe Davis won the Word-search competition and Abigail Warren won guess-the-engines. Luke and Ben Hurst won the raffle with its star prize of a SAC 30th special edition traction engine by Mamod.
Many of us who took part instructing and supervising the apprentices during the weekend were again impressed at how well behaved and good mannered they had all been for the duration of the event. The weekend was a huge success enjoyed by all, a fitting celebration for the Steam Apprentice Club's 30th Anniversary. A big thank you to all the companies and individuals who generously supported the SAC, not least the B.S.E.P.S., enabling the 30th Anniversary to be celebrated in style.