On Monday 28th January, 1991 I began my career as a trainee train driver for British Rail. I reported at my depot, Wimbledon Park in south west London at 09.00 and along with 6 other people, waited for a manager to come into the room and give us our induction training.
A manager duly entered the room and began briefing us on what we were supposed to do during the next 3 months of training.
We were employed as trainee train drivers, but to get to be a driver we first had to train to be a guard, the man at the back and work a minimum of 6 months as a kind of apprenticeship. We were a new breed of train drivers who were being ‘fast tracked’ to the job. The eventual time it would take me to be a driver was 2½ years, significantly less than in days of old.
In the past to be a train driver you usually had to work as a ‘second man’, a kind of co-pilot (in aeroplane terms) to the train driver. You could be a second man for years, even a decade before you got your driving job. In those days usually a driving job only became available in the event of death or retirement.
We were given a new name, ‘Trainman D’ until some militant liberal minded woman complained that she was not a man and the name was changed to ‘train(wo)man D’. Yeah, it is kinda stupid but then so are a lot of the equality laws.
We were all issued with our ID cards, travel permits and so on. We were told we had to report for training at Eastleigh Works, about 100 km from the depot at 09.30 every morning. We were given the times of the trains we had to catch each day and as with everything on the railway, everything was planned down to the last minute.
At this point we were not issued with any uniform, but we did get our driver’s bag complete with a set of 7 ring binders, which included one of Rules & Regulations, one on Dangerous Goods, Trackside Safety and so on.
It was not enough that we had to carry these books with us during training. We were also expected to carry them while on duty and know them inside and out.
Finally, we were issued with our hand lamp, high visibility vest and a railway watch.
We had everything we needed to go forth and begin our training.