of the Special Trains team. This person would be someone of senior railway experience who has run a TOC, or has been a senior person in NR, who has a grasp of the bigger picture but also has an interest in the charter trains business. He or she would head off major issues at the pass with the ability to pick up the phone to the NR board.” It’s an interesting idea - and you may not have to wait too long to find out whether NR takes it up; I understand the review’s completion is pretty imminent. Flying Scotsman may have pushed the issue onto the agenda - but this needs sorting for all trips - and not just for the celebrity ‘A3’. Well, the time comes for everyone… and now two of the main line’s bestknown enginemen have hung up their greasetops. Colin Kerswill, originally of Faversham shed and latterly DB Cargo, and Ray Churchill, who started at Bescot and finished with West Coast, have both stepped off the footplate. Between them, the pair have racked up nearly 120 years worth of footplate experience - both started when BR steam still had more than ten years to go. Indeed, reconstruction of the Bulleid ‘Pacifics’ was only just getting under way when Colin Kerswill signed on at the motive power depot in his home town of Faversham in 1956; he moved to Hither Green in 1959. So Colin saw the last years of Southern steam first-hand - though for most readers it’ll be his more recent exploits with Bulleid ‘Merchant Navy’ 4-6-2 No. 35028 Clan Line as well as ‘foreign’ engines for which he’ll be remembered; a traction inspector since 2001 with what was then EWS, Colin was a regular sight - and not only on the Southern. His jovial face could frequently be seen on new ‘A1’ No. 60163 Tornado - and he also took part in the 90mph programme with sister LNER ‘Pacific’ No. 4464 Bittern. A less happy incident was when ‘Merchant’ No. 35005 Canadian Pacific burst a tube at Paddock Wood in 2002 (SR277). Remarkably, Colin is now 80 and a recent back problem has encouraged him to call time on what anyway was a part time role. He says he’ll miss the “camaraderie”, and quips “it’s the first time I’ve been unemployed in 63 years.” It looks like ‘foreign’ power will still be part of Colin’s life though because he plans to carry on his ‘free time’ role of South Devon Railway footplate inspector. ‘Foreign’ engines are not only familiar to Ray Churchill now - he’s probably become most associated with them. For while he may have grown up with the Western at Wednesbury, when he joined BR in 1957 it was at Bescot on the LM Region. So it was Stanier, rather than Collett engines, that shaped his life - and that was initially true, even in ‘return to steam’ days with a firing job on ‘Black Five’ No. 5000 from Stourbridge to Hereford. However, there was a footplate role in ‘GWR150’ (1985), and in recent years he’s frequently been seen with Tyseley’s ‘Castle’ No. 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe. He was also a regular driver on Vintage Trains’ summer ‘Shakespeare Express’, among others. It was, though, a ‘Black Five’ that saw him out - Ian Riley’s ‘Black Five’ No. 44871 on day three of this year’s ‘Great Britain’. Ray reaches 75 this year and he considers: “Although in one way it’s sad to have left the scene, I know the time is right.” “What better way to finish than driving through your favourite county and getting paid, to boot!” Like Colin, railways have recently only been a part-time activity for Ray, since he left full-time work in 2001. He has, he says, enjoyed his subsequent time with West Coast “tremendously”. Well, I reckon these two gents of the footplate have brought plenty of tremendous enjoyment to others too - and that readers would join me in wishing both a happy retirement.
It’s sad to have left the scene, but I know the time is right
Flying Scotsman crosses the Forth Bridge with the evening ‘Fife Circular’ on May 15. Colin Kerswill on the footplate of No. 35028 Clan Line at Victoria, on May 24 2013.