FoSCL Volunteers for On-Train Guides


The Settle-Carlisle Railway is a massively popular tourist attraction, especially in summer months.  Overcrowding on some trains during 2021 has led train operator Northern to allocate a good deal of extra seating capacity for the line this summer.


For many years the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line (FoSCL) have provided volunteer on-train-guides (OTGs) who travel on the trains giving advice, information and descriptions of the passing scenery to grateful visitors from all over the world.  For pre-booked groups, usually coach parties seated in designated locations at the front of the trains, there is a live commentary for that whole coach, delivered through state-of-the-art public address systems using wireless microphones.


The number of OTGs shrank during COVID from some 25 trained volunteers to now just nine.  Once we could provide OTGs for anything up to six trains a day but with the reduction in numbers we presently confine it to providing commentaries to booked groups.  Most coach groups do the journey northbound, typically boarding at Settle and going to Carlisle though some might join at Leeds or anywhere else in between.  Some go from Carlisle southwards to Settle or Skipton.  In both cases market days attract visitors.  For most, the train journey itself is the big attraction and we aim to make that an unforgettably enjoyable leisure experience.  Uniquely for Northern, there is a refreshment trolley service on most Settle-Carlisle daytime trains.


The role of a volunteer OTG is to accompany pre-booked tour groups on the Leeds Settle Carlisle line and give appropriate commentaries on a case by case basis taking account of their needs.


COULD YOU BE A VOLUNTEER ON-TRAIN-GUIDE?   As voluntary jobs go this must be among the most enjoyable for the right sort of person.  You may get an all-lines Northern travel pass (some OTGs live remotely from the line and need to travel to get here) or you may just need a Leeds-Settle-Carlisle permit to travel free.  You get a free tea or coffee from the trolley too as needed.  You can relax on either the outward or return leg of your journey if you wish, depending on which way your group is going.  You can either return straight away - usually on the very same train - or you can spend time in say Carlisle or wherever.  All of the stations along the line are worth a visit.   You do NOT need to be a railway buff - in fact better if you are not.  People on coach trips tend not to be too interested in railway stuff!  Training and familiarisation trips enable OTGs to soon get to know the line and its features.  There is an excellent printed line-guide to mug-up on too.  You must join FoSCL (£10 p.a.) to be an OTG, to be covered by FoSCL insurances.  Email is essential.  Personality, senses of occasion and of humour far outweigh a headful of tedious facts and figures.  Young or old, male or female (can we still say that?) with an ability to speak to a railway carriage full of strangers and win their attention, then this could be the voluntary job for you. Good OTGs have been former teachers, clergy, butchers, bakers or candle-stick makers.  The reward is the feed-back you get from those former strangers who unfailingly give you a round of spontaneous applause as they get off the train.


If you think this may be the voluntary job for you, please contact FoSCL's volunteers coordinator Jon Tomlinson at email [email protected]