Director at Cleek Railway Solutions and rail enthusiast.
Phil Marsh was born in Winchester in December 1954 and his first railway recollection is at Hatfield meeting his grandfather off the train five or six years later. As with many kids at the time, this turned into watching trains, especially in the last days of steam until 1968 when it all ended.
Possibly because of this, not a lot was achieved at school being more interested in other things in the heady days of the 60s and early 70s! After working for a month in the Lone Star toy making foundry in Hatfield in 1972, he decided that this sort of work wasn’t for him.
The job funded a £27.50 Inter-Rail ticket in August 1972 and he covered 6500 miles on trains with a schoolfriend visiting most countries between England, Morocco and Norway providing a taste of the future so far as rail travel was concerned. This also reawakened an interest in railways which had ended four years earlier when just 13 years old. The railways offered reasonably good pay and free travel which attracted him to the railways starting in September 1973 as a booking clerk at Hitchin Booking Office.
Using the free travel available to employees, he managed to travel to the Asian side of Turkey in 1977 on a free ticket and Marrakesh a year later soon followed by a trip to Athens.
His first promotion was to the prestigious London West End Travel Centre in Regent Street and after a few years undertook supervisory roles at Kings Cross and Stevenage travel centres. Ten years after joining BR, he found himself at Watford Junction station in charge of over 30 staff.
After five years at Watford Philip joined the British Rail Business Systems in London introducing computerised ticket systems and training booking clerks on using the new computerised ticket issuing machines. Regional Railways soon offered him a publicity management role at their HQ in Birmingham in the exciting years of the business-led railway from 1990.
In the run up to privatisation, Philip restructured the inclusive travel tour section of InterCity and was offered several posts when the railways fragmented in 1994, but opted to join Railtrack as Commercial Manager at Euston station.
He left after six months after being invited to become Railtrack’s Passenger Marketing Manager, another promotion, but specifically dealing with open access train operations across the network ranging from steam and diesel charter services to Eurostar trains. This involved negotiating commercial contracts and offering guidance on Safety Cases.
1996 brought a new challenge to close out the introduction of the Regional Eurostar and Nightstar services with responsibility ensuring the infrastructure was ready before the trains were - otherwise the contractual penalties were huge!
This was deemed successful when a Eurostar visited Edinburgh and Glasgow running via York, and to Manchester via Trent Valley and the West Midlands plus one trip to Heathrow Airport under strict conditions of secrecy in October 1998. He was also a member of the Channel Tunnel Link Steering Group at this time which oversaw the commercial side of construction and operation on what is now called High Speed 1.
This previous few years’ experience led to becoming involved in the operation and costing of the Royal Train operation in 1997. This was a potentially ‘politically difficult’ task but was accomplished with little change, the desired outcome by its passengers and staff alike
When the Channel Tunnel Rail link consortium failed to raise the funds to construct HS1 in 1998, Railtrack took over responsibility sending Philip to the top negotiating table for five months thrashing out the commercial and operating detail in the deal.
It was onwards and upwards when Railtrack formed a London Board and Philip was a member of this concentrating on major projects such as Thameslink 2000 as it was then known, and electrifying St. Pancras to Heathrow plus a few others. He also was media trained at this time as an official Railtrack spokesman.
He was then invited to manage the Virgin Rail Group’s account with Railtrack which meant the Cross-Country and West Coast services became his responsibility. This was a challenging role in the immediate aftermath of the Hatfield crash and the collapse of Railtrack. It was at this time that the introduction of the Class 220, 221 and 390 trains was underway while the West Coast Modernisation was going terribly wrong!
Another invitation followed. This time to join the Rolling Stock Acceptance Board as Commercial Manager. This was the highest T&RS Authority at the time which signed off (or otherwise) new trains on the network as fit for purpose.
After leaving Network Rail at the end of 2003 along with 750 others on redundancy, he set up his own company, Cleek Railway Solutions, and was immediately offered freelance roles with West Coast Railways and The Railway Magazine.
Within a few years he joined the magazine editorial staff and also became a Guard and occasional Fireman as required with West Coast Railways working on their charter train services. He soon became the magazine’s Chief Correspondent, an honorary role still carried out today and was proud to be part of the team that won Magazine of The Year award in 2007.
The circulation has increased year on year for the last 5 consecutive years overtaking all the other railway periodicals by some distance and is over 20% higher than when he became involved. Philip was heavily involved in organising the Open Weekends at Carnforth in 2008 and Eastleigh in 2009 which attracted the best part of 20,000 visitors raising £50,000 for charity. The West Coast Railway Company and Knights Rail Services also played a huge part in these events.
He is now in his tenth year as a railway consultant, journalist, author and operations specialist much demand by national broadcast media for informed comment on railway matters. He has been featured on BBC Television programmes such as Countryfile and Inside Out as well as ITN’s ‘Tonight’ and Sky TV news all as a so-called railway expert.
Philip is also in demand for radio comment on today’s railways and is usually introduced as a former railway executive and thinks he was interviewed between 80 and 100 times on radio and TV in 2012 on railway matters.
Too many to choose, but being the fireman on the Hogwarts Express from Paddington a few years ago was a real thrill as was firing an A4 into and out of Kings Cross which also generates a pretty big buzz as well…….
Maybe travelling round the Circle line in June 1993 behind a steam locomotive was also a high point along with being in charge of the Olympic Torch in June 2012 on its only main line steam appearance from York will never be forgotten either!
Philip has a huge archive of railway material and uses this for research and use on rail.co.uk and The Railway Magazine. Much of it is being catalogued but this will take many years at the current rate of progress. He has a photo library of over 40,000 images going back to the dawn of railways and these are slowly being digitalised. These are based on around 8,000 steam photos his brother Geoffrey took them from 1964 to the end of steam.
Philip’s third book will be published in September 2013 to coincide with Wolverton Works’ 175th anniversary. His other books are Steam Spirit, published by Taylor Made Publishing in 2009 and The Age of The Train published by Carlton in 2011.
Philip has volunteered for around 25 years at several railways outside his professional career. He was Chairman of The Mid Hants Railway PLC and has also performed similar voluntary high profile roles in other preserved railways. He is a regular at the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway and the Severn Valley Railway as a fireman.
He is a keen cyclist covering over 3000 miles a year which is a great way to keep fit and save on parking charges! He lives in Willen Village, Milton Keynes and has a hideaway in the Isle of Wight.
It has to be LNER A4 No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley and the Isle of Wight Steam Railway owned ‘02’ Class No. W24 Calbourne. Why this choice? It is purely history that generated this choice, nothing more than that! The reality is that if I can get on a steam engine, that’ll do me, it’s a privilege to be allowed on them.
Wolverton Works celebrates its 175th anniversary in September 2013 and is the World’s oldest and continuously operating railway works. Philip is writing the official celebratory book in conjunction with Wolverton Works and it will be published on September 3rd 2013. It contains many long forgotten pictures and historical items about the Works illustrated with many photographs taken behind the scenes over the years. Details will appear on rail.co.uk and www.wolverton175.co.uk.