Challenge of a Lifetime for Thomas

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Thomas Howe talks about his Diamond Challenge

Thomas is a 16 year old member of 2nd Alton Boys' Brigade and a Bronze Duke of Edinburgh's Award holder. He was inspired to take up the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Diamond Challenge which celebrates 60 years of the Award and is a means of raising funds to support awards activities. Each participant has to seek sponsorship of £60 and, if the Challenge is completed, receives a Diamond Award Pin. Participants are provided with a companion (record) book and a Diamond Challenge T shirt ( as worn by Thomas in the photos). This has been a massive achievement for Thomas for which BB staff and boys have congratulated him — hence the inclusion of his report here.
Here's what Thomas says about his challenge:

"Having previously completed the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award with the Boys Brigade, this has given me the confidence to enter the Diamond Challenge, where you get to choose your own challenge. Originally, I wanted to learn Russian; I thought that it would be a useful skill. But as the deadline for all challenges was the end of January, I thought the best option was to do something that I would enjoy, which was visiting sixty heritage railways in England & Wales — no matter what the weather!

This has to be one of the greatest challenges I've ever attempted. As I'm one of the very few teenagers who are into heritage railways, this challenge is certainly going to be a rare one. You don't see many teenagers visiting heritage railways these days, which is a shame, as then the next generation won't get to know more about one of the greatest British inventions of all time.

For each railway, we needed to do a few of things:
￿uro;￿ Take a photo of me with or without others at the railway itself
￿uro;￿ Print it out into the companion book
￿uro;￿ Write the name of the railway, the date and the order we did it in

There're over 100 heritage railways in the British Isles, so we were spoilt for choice. The ones we visited varied from well-established lines like the Severn Valley Railway to much smaller embryonic ones like the Shillingstone Railway in Dorset, which doesn't even have any working trains yet. We travelled behind steam, diesel, and electric engines and travelled inside a huge variety of vehicles including compartment, Inter City and Pullman carriages as well as guard's vans, observations cars and even one footplate ride. We also featured in an episode of Full Steam Ahead™ when we were on the Torbay and Dartmouth Railway as they were filming for the BBC TV series inside the same observation car as we were travelling in.

It has been a great experience and a chance to catch up with many family and friends all over the country whom we wouldn't have seen otherwise. Then there's the award at the end. The diamond pin is much bigger than I originally thought it would be, after seeing it on TV, as I thought it would be the size of a sewing needle, but hey, the bigger the better. I didn't know the size, until Countryfile did a special episode that was dedicated to the 60th Anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. I can't wait for it to arrive, with my certificate.

I'm proud to say that this is a challenge that is worth doing and will be one that I'll remember for the rest of my life.

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