ONE of our favourite regular dates at Didcot Railway Centre is the first weekend in March when for many years we have welcomed a certain little blue engine.

We had to move the event this year to this coming weekend, March 17 and 18, and were so pleased that we did because, of course, we probably wouldn’t have been able to hold it in snow.

We are now keeping our fingers – and toes – crossed for good weather.

One of our guards, Richard, is a regular at these events and he has given me some anecdotes.

Richard undertook his first turn as a qualified guard on a Thomas day, which fortunately meant that most of the children were quite jolly and enjoying themselves.

One small boy, however, had a good sulk on the platform of Eynsham Halt, near the centre entrance.

By luck, Richard ended it by lowering his guard’s hat towards his head and saying “There, now you’re a guard.”

For some odd reason, this worked and he un-sulked immediately, winning Richard a word of thanks from his mum.

We play catchy tunes which are lovely for the first 30 minutes but can get a little wearing after four hours.

Richard’s usual technique is to turn down the volume until they are nearly inaudible, but this only works at places where he can reach the controls so we usually put the boom box in the Transfer Shed on top of Iron Duke’s boiler, where he can’t reach it.

The other technique is to whistle or sing other tunes to drown them out. Richard tried “Over the hills and far away” and the “The Great Gate of Kiev” from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, but he tells me the tunes still acted as a mindworm and just wouldn’t go away.

Like Richard, we find we are all humming or whistling them for days afterwards.

The days are great fun and we need a lot of extra volunteers to help them go smoothly.

With the help of the great staff at Didcot Parkway Station we open the side door to the station so our visitors don’t block the station entrance and we need welcome hosts and ticket checkers.

We hire a marquee for an extra shop and catering outlet in the picnic area and of course that means we need more volunteers to run them.

It’s amazing how quickly the rubbish bins fill up and it’s great to see some of our trustees mucking in and emptying them as well as ferrying hot water flasks, sandwiches and toys (not at the same time of course!) to and from the marquee throughout the day.

We can’t wait!