The closed season is, perhaps unexpectedly, the time of year when our volunteers are at their busiest. That’s because railways need a lot of maintenance, and things like steam locomotives even more so. As a sample, this weekend has seen the start of preparing the Hudswell steam loco for its boiler exam – a process of stripping ouit the firebars, cleaning the firebox and washing out the boiler. Elsewhere on site, repairs were taking place to a buffer stop which seems to have become the victim of a half-hearted attempt to extend the railway. Meanwhile, down in the workshops, experiments are taking place with a semi-automated rig to weld loco wheels. Before railway engineers read this and write strongly worded letters of complaint – this isn’t something we’d counternance on the passenger railway, but as a means of recovering loco wheels on demonstration locos, it has a good pedigree in industry. Experiments so far have exceeded expectations, but – a word to the wise – BOC is expecting a significent rise in sales at the Stoke trade counter. MIG wire and gas may be a little scarce in Staffordshire for a while.