What do you mean “No?”
Bloody cheek. I shall sulk, you know.
It’s been a while since I did any of this writing lark, so you’ll forgive me if I ease myself back into it with an introduction. Those of you who have read my stuff before might want to skip this bit. Or indeed you may want to seek professional help, I’m not bothered. Knock yourselves out.
My name is Steve Upton, and for the past 10 years I have worked as a train driver for South West Trains. I come from a railway family – grandparents & parents have worked on the railway, my brother is a trainee guard somewhere in the darkest West Midlands and my 10-month old nephew has a Brio wooden train set on the way this Christmas.
I began my railway career with SWT at Wimbledon Park in south-west London as a Depot Driver. The depot driving role meant that I worked in a yard shunting, splitting, joining and preparing trains for daily service. After 6 years, I decided that it was time to turn my focus towards the mainline – more speed, more responsibility, more routes and lastly (leastly) more money! I retrained and after 18 months I qualified to drive passenger trains. For the past two and a half years I have driven commuter trains into and out of London Waterloo. I’m still based at Wimbledon Park and spend my working days surrounded by, as far as I’m concerned, the best bunch of work mates I could wish for.
I’m a railway enthusiast, I’m a train driver. I’m paid to indulge my hobby and life doesn’t really get much better than that.
(Right – those of you who have been here before can come back now. You see, it’s only fair to warn the newbies that they are going to exposed to a certain amount of Anorak and Cringe-worthy Enthusiasm.)
So what’s been happening? Since I last wrote a blog entry I’ve risen in seniority somewhat – as well as all the suburban routes already under my belt I now sign the route down to Alton in Hampshire. That might not sound like a big deal, but it does expose me to 90mph Class 1 trains (which I like very much – Potter doesn’t enjoy hanging around) and for further japes it exposes a good friend of mine to my driving. He shall remain nameless, but on one of the few times I drove him from Alton to Waterloo we arrived no less than 7 minutes early. It’s always nice when someone gets off your train and walks up to the cab, grinning like a loon, to say “I’ve not come up to town that quick since the slam door trains were in service.” It’s these little unsolicited testimonials that make the job worthwhile.
I’ve been entrusted with new entrants to the driving grade – people either from outside the industry or moving to the driving role from other areas of the railway – for their Cab Experience sessions. Before any new recruit begins their driver’s rules course they spend a week with an experience driver to learn the impact both of the shifts (which are no laughing matter – being alert at 04:18 in the morning is a skill that is tricky to learn) and to see the nuts & bolts of being a train driver. I’ve had plenty of newly qualified drivers joining me to Learn the Road, of which I’ll be writing more about later on, and of course I have been left quietly on my own to enjoy merrily scooting about the south of England. South West Trains are now working together in a “deep alliance” with Network Rail – more of that in the weeks to come as well.
And with all that we’ve had the usual signal failures, leaves, tea spillages, lost magazines, burps, farts, beery meet-ups with old mates, retirements, deaths, births, mistakes and choices to be made that keep life interesting and give me things to write about.
There’s still plenty to write about, and the odd knob gag to make when I get bored with being sensible.
Right – that’s your lot for now. Add links, mention the new site to those who may be interested. Things could be changing in the new few months. You’ll be welcome to pop your nose around the door and see how things are going.