Slay It Forward

A train buff has said he has “one of the best lockdown situations in the country” as he gets to self-isolate in his own railway station amid the coronavirus pandemic.

For the last seven weeks, Matthew Armstrong has been living at the popular steam railway tourist attraction, Wells and Walsingham Light Railway in Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, in the U.K.

The 29-year-old has free reign of the railway and gets to drive their two-steam and two-diesel engines along the four-mile stretch of track to keep them in working order — all while quarantining and keeping himself safe from potentially contracting the virus.

“It’s pretty awesome. I can do what I fancy around here,” Armstrong told the local outlet. “In many ways, I’m quite enjoying it … I’ve probably got one of the best lockdowns in the country.”

a close up of a man with a beard looking at the camera: SWNS Matthew Armstrong

Life on the railway station initially began for Armstrong, who usually lives in a small house in Norwich with partner Kasia Zbrog, at the start of the pandemic.

At the time, the couple felt it was best that they temporarily live separately since Zbrog, 36, works as a clinical support worker at Julian Hospital and Armstrong has an underlying health issue that requires him to take immunosuppressants.

“It’s not fun being apart from Kasia,” Armstrong shared with the outlet. “We’re really missing each other. But it wasn’t possible for us to self-isolate together, our house is just too small.”

To take his mind off of missing Zbrog, Armstrong spends his days working remotely as an assistant practitioner for Norwich’s Hellesdon Hospital.

a train is parked on the side of a dirt road: SWNS The railway

Armstrong also works part-time as a train driver at Wells and Walsingham Light Railway  — the world’s smallest public railway — so the rest of his time is spent protecting and maintaining the tracks, according to the outlet.

“I’m keeping the railway ticking over,” he explained. “Driving the trains to keep them running, making sure grass doesn’t grow over the tracks, and providing security to make sure nobody trespasses.”

“I’ve got plenty to do, what with working from home and also providing maintenance and a bit of security for the railway,” Armstrong added. “My ‘office’ at the railway station is an old signal box, which has a great view out over the sea. It’s amazing at night. The sunsets are amazing.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Wells and Walsingham Light Railway said of Armstrong: “He’s helping us a great deal while he’s there.”

“He’s not there specifically to run the trains or maintain the site, but he’s filling his time doing those things while also continuing his ‘normal’ job online,” the spokesperson continued. “It’s a great help for some of our volunteers who can’t get to the site at the moment during the lockdown. It’s like having a full-time security guard there.”

Though most days are quiet — Armstrong only has his 13-year-old cat, Dave, with him for company — he occasionally gets visits from Zbrog, who comes by to deliver his mail, and his mom, who brings whatever groceries or essential items he needs, SWNS reported.

The Norwich resident told the outlet he expects to live on the railway until mid-June, and while he describes it as “pretty awesome,” he is hoping to be back home with Zbrog soon.

“I think I’d be enjoying it more if there were other people around,” he admitted. “But for the first couple of weeks it was certainly joy[ful]. It’s definitely a bit different.”

As of Tuesday, there have been over 5.4 million cases and at least 346,283 deaths attributed to coronavirus worldwide.

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Hey SLAYER! I’ve started a new series of posts called SLAY IT FORWARD. Each post is a submission from you of an act of kindness you have received or have witnessed that has inspired you. Let’s remind each other what’s important during this time and spread kindness… SLAY IT FORWARD.

To submit your own SLAY IT FORWARD story email me at carrie@stateofslay.com

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