Ann Middleton is commercial manager at Didcot Railway Centre

OUR volunteer guards have one of the best jobs at Didcot Railway Centre.

Their main role is ensuring the safety of passengers but they also have plenty of time to chat to visitors and they often have stories to tell.

In May, our guard was guarding in one of our newly-repainted coaches, and the driver’s wife was sitting in the coach in the sunshine knitting a Hufflepuff scarf (yellow with narrow black bands) for her 28-year-old son.

Apparently he went to a Harry Potter convention, convinced that he would have been in Griffindor House, but took a test and discovered that he would have been a Hufflepuff after all.

In March we were using the 'wee' engine (so called because it was built by Barclays of Kilmarnock) which was on hire from Rocks by Rail at Cottesmore.

Schools from Cookham and Bicester sent a jolly crowd of children who all seemed to enjoy their day. They particularly liked meeting Mr Brunel in the Transfer Shed, and hearing him talk about the broad gauge. He rode back with us on the last train of the day when we worked out that he was 211 years old – he looked remarkably good for his age.

In February, we ran our unique steam railmotor for a group of photographic enthusiasts. It was an easy day with a late start, an early finish, and not very much to do in between. The photo charter participants were joined by four female and four male re-enactors, all perfectly dressed in 1940s clothes, to enhance the pictures. The organiser even arranged for the re-enactors to stroll along the platform in Brief Encounter style, through clouds of steam produced by the railmotor, to enhance the effect. The re-enactors were a very sociable bunch and we had a great time during the day. At the end of the charter we were marshalled on the platform at Oxford Road, alongside the railmotor, for a group photo of re-enactors and crew.

One wet day our guard was doing his duty of watching the train out of the platform to make sure that nobody tried to get on or off the train while it was moving - putting his head out of the window and looking both ways to check that the platform edge is clear. As the train started off, a gush of icy water poured neatly down the back of his neck. After this had happened for a second time, the fireman noticed that the gutter above the door was blocked with leaves; as the train began to move, the water surged along the gutter and cascaded down on to the guard. Luckily the fireman was able to reach up and remove the blockage and all was OK.