Weardale Heritage railway is desperate for volunteers to join their team before the summer season.

They have 400 members in the Weardale Railway trust but only around 10 percent are volunteers that regularly help out on the railway which runs from Bishop to Stanhope and needs to be maintained all year round.

The railway is hoping to recruit more volunteers before the school holidays, as passenger numbers have been increasing over the years.

Train enthusiasts have the opportunity to find out the ins and outs of the railway which runs from Bishop Auckland to Stanhope.

Most will start at the bottom as a ticket inspector or in the shop and work their way up to train guard and signalman.

Volunteers will receive full training before taking to the tracks and require no previous experience, however a a background in mechanics will be beneficial for working on the diesel trains.

Anyone can volunteer as long as they are over 18, however 16 and 17 year olds can volunteer in the shop.

The line originally ran from Bishop Auckland to Wearhead and was used to carry limestone and provide a passenger service to Wearhead. The freight service ceased operations in 1992 and in 1993 the Heritage rail was started. The line recently opened a station at Witton-le-Wear back in 2016 and has plans to extend the line to Eastgate in Weardale.

Mark Woodhams a volunteer at the railways said that it was "great opportunity to learn how railways operate, from guards to signals, the line is described a hidden gen in the dales"

The Northern Echo:

The school summer holidays will be a busy time, with the railway opening on weekends and and Wednesdays and they need six people on duty to run one train service.

You don't have to volunteer all the time as the railway is flexible as they have many volunteers coming from all over not just the local area.

The company that owns the tracks Iowa Pacific who share it with Weardale Railways CIC put on events such as the Polar express which need a lot of volunteers to maintain, as it has seen 40,000 visitors in previous years.

As well as the popular Cream tea trains and the Beer and Gin train which also needs volunteers to be the ticket conductors, the station masters, and signalmen.

Members of the Heritage rail trust receive benefits such as 50% off train fares and if they are a volunteer as well they can travel for free on the line with their immediate family.