Many people find trains fascinating and would like to know how to drive it. While old steam trains were actually very difficult to drive, but modern electric train driving is very easy. This article explains how to drive an electric train and why training to be a train driver takes a long time. It then takes a brief look at how to drive steam trains. Finally, it explains where you can go to experience in driving a train.
Driving an electric train
The engine driver of an electric train simply has two levers, one for power and the other for the brakes. The power lever has what is known as the "dead man's handle". Thus, the constant pressure has to be kept on the power lever, and if the engine driver lets go, the brakes are automatically applied and the train stops. This means that if the driver dies or is incapacitated, the train will stop automatically. So, it is a safety feature. The technique of driving is to apply power slowly so that the wheels don't spin. Train drivers need to do the same with the brakes. They need to be applied a long time in advance or the train will shoot past the station. After all, it is a very heavy machine.
Why does training take so long?
If driving a train is so simple, why does it take several years of training to become a train driver? It is because the driver has to learn the routes and the meanings of all the symbols. He has to be "passed" for a route, before he is allowed to drive it.
Driving a steam strain
Steam trains are much more complicated. There is a driver and a fireman. The fireman's job is to make sure that there is enough steam, and keep the water level and the fire in the boiler. The driver has three controls. The regulator controls the amount of steam. The reversing lever controls when the steam actually goes to the pistons. Of course, there are the brakes. More steam is needed for starting, less when going fast and the mechanism has to be reversed to go backwards. It is a complex process!
Experience in driving a train
If you want to try driving a train, it is possible to have a go with a train simulator. However, most preserved railways will allow you to have a try on a real train for a fee, usually a few hundred pounds. What a great present for a train enthusiast!