Fifty golden years at Buxton train station

John Fitzgerald standing next to the train that carried his commerative plaque for 50 years service at the train station.
John Fitzgerald standing next to the train that carried his commerative plaque for 50 years service at the train station.

From steam, to diesel and freight to passenger trains - one driver celebrates 50 years of service on the rails.

John Fitzgerald, 67, started work at Buxton station back in May 1966 and has worked as a cleaner and a fireman on the steam lines and later as a driver for diesel trains.

John Fitzgerald with 17-month-old Grandson Dylan

John Fitzgerald with 17-month-old Grandson Dylan

He said: “When I started I was only 17 and when I was chatting to people who had 40 years experience little did I know that I would surpass that time.”

Although never a train spotter John got a job in the steam shed after a couple of his friends did.

The grandad-of-four said: “It was a case of seniority, you had to work up to become a driver, if there was a job going. If there was someone who had one day more experience than you it would go to the other person.

“I spent 12 years working on other jobs before I became a driver - that’s just how it was then.

“Nowadays train companies would never hire a 17-year-old these jobs go to much more older people and the training takes less than two years.”

The last steam train left Buxton on March, 4 1968 and John started work on the diesel freight trains.

In 1994 John said goodbye to freight trains and became a passenger train driver.

He said: “If you think of a silly o’clock time I was working.

“I went to more places but the hours were terrible - I was working at 9.30pm on Saturdays and other times I’d be starting at 3.30am from Sunday.

“I had enough off it really and was ready for the change.”

Now most of his routes take him to the North West to Blackpool and Wigan.

John, whose career spans six decades, said a lot has changed since he started working at the Buxton depot.

“I remember there were gas lights at the station when I was a teenager,” he said.

“Now things are computerised and very different but that is just a sign of the times.”

After 50 years John is now thinking about retirement. He has four children, one of whom is a pilot based in Dubai and he wants to spend more time visiting him and being with his wife Carol.

Honoured for 50 years service

John’s 50th anniversary of working at Buxton train station fell on his rest day.

However, on his first shift back he was told he was doing a drugs test so needed to be in work but not in uniform.

At the station he was greeted by his colleagues and was given a commemorative plaque with the station depot’s old steam number 9L - Northern Rail also put a plaque on the front of one of the trains which celebrated his service.

John said: “It was very emotional seeing so many people were there for me.

“As the train with the plaque came into the station, purely by coincidence the fireman who worked on the last day of the steam train at the station got off the train which I couldn’t believe and it was a lovely moment to show him I was still there.
“There have been good days and bad days working here but it is where I have spent all my working life and I have enjoyed it and the people I work with too.”