26 May 2021 · Three Decades of Change on the Footplate

Presenter: Lee Davies

For the last presentation of the current season, Chichester Branch, including the many virtual attendees from elsewhere, were treated to a wonderful selection of anecdotes from Lee Davies.

As with so many of us, his interest in railways was kindled by the hobby of trainspotting with visits to various diverse locations such as Plymouth (Laira) and Sheffield (Tinsley). Most of the diesel classes he showed us pictures of are now regarded as heritage traction.

Leaving school at the age of 16 he joined the railway at Ellesmere Port (fondly known as ‘The Port’) under the YTS scheme and started his footplate career as a second man on the Bidston Dock – Fiddlers Ferry coal trains. Suffice to say that the ‘initiation’ ceremony he experienced with an avometer to measure his electrical resistance would probably get the perpetrators into serious trouble today!

Seven years later he was driving and Lee regarded it as a baptism of fire. Particularly challenging was driving a Class 47 in tandem with another of the same class under operating rules that are very rarely used today because of the power available from a single Class 66 and other modern traction. Soon after passing out as a driver he moved to Tyne Yard which had earned the nickname ‘Happy Valley’ reflecting how well a workforce of young and old staff had blended together.

He outlined the significant changes that sectorisation and privatisation wrought on the railway from the illuminating viewpoint of someone experiencing them at the ‘sharp end’.

Lee also described his involvement in several incidents that necessitated subsequent enquiries but happily had been exonerated in each and every case.

A great presentation from not only a railway enthusiast but also a throughly professional railwayman