43 years on the railway – Robin Skinner

MEETING REPORT 12th April 2023

Robin Skinner was the speaker at our April meeting: what a remarkable career he was able to describe in a talk titled ’43 years on the railway’!  While there were times when Sheffield-born Robin was based in the city, his job in rail traffic control also took him around Yorkshire and Lincolnshire with some spells in the Home Counties.  During his first 10 years of employment he moved from Lincoln to Doncaster with time also in Hull.  He habitually took his camera to work (then focussed upon freight traffic) and so this period was illustrated by shots taken at the lineside or opportunistically from signal boxes or railway offices.  A short spell at Beckenham in Kent was followed by a return to Doncaster where he became a Customer Services Supervisor.  As Robin continued, the audience was reminded of the famous Roman quotation, ’We trained hard—but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we were reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while actually producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralisation.’  And this theme of continuous change was very much to the fore as Robin described his time in customer-facing roles as well as in traffic control successively in Sheffield, Leeds, Doncaster Lincoln, Nottingham, Peterborough, Kings Cross and finally York.  The bonus for the audience was that we were treated to a fine variety of railway images from all these locations to accompany Robin’s talk and we gained a real insight into the challenges that have to be faced day-to-day to keep the railways running.