The annual West Coast Railway Company social evening was held in Wakefield on January 22 with a high proportion of the 110 operations staff present, along with the Chairman and Managing Director who hosted the evening.
Presentations were made to two steam stalwarts, John ‘Paddy’ McCabe and Tommy Farr, who managed 58 years and 55 years respectively on the footplate spanning 1954 to 2011.
Rod ‘Tommy’ Farr started steam duties in April 1956 and retired as a Virgin driver-trainer in 2005 and drove the record breaking Euston-Manchester two hour Pendolino PR run nearly 10 years ago. He accepted an invitation to apply for a job with West Coast Railways based at Southall, adding another steam shed to those of his youth at Camden, Kentish Town and Cricklewood.
Tommy also drove the tilting InterCity Advanced Passenger Train in the 1980s and could drive pretty much everything else that ran between Euston and Carlisle. He even went to Bulgaria training locals on class 87s electrics three years ago. Like Paddy, Tommy was also an instructor and trained many drivers over the last 22 years of his full-time career.
Amongst the diverse driving turns in his logbook were the Hogwarts Express and the Royal Train.
Rail.co.uk’s Phil Marsh has had the pleasure of being Tommy’s fireman and guard many times and these days always provided a fascinating railway history lesson with his encyclopedic knowledge of railways. His last shift was to drive ‘Britannia’ No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell from Norwich to Kings Cross –“Not a bad way to bow out” said Andy Taylor, West Coast Operations Manager South, as he presented Tommy with his retirement certificate and one-off model of a Jubilee No. 45612 Jamaica, a Kentish town loco.
John’s 58 year railway career started as a cleaner in August 1954 at Carlisle Upperby and was passed for firing in 1955. When the new freight yard opened in 1963 at Kingmoor, he transferred there as a driver. He became an Instructor on the newly introduced diesels and then electrics being qualified to train drivers on no less than 26 traction types. These ranged from the slow shunting 350hp diesel shunters to the 125mph High Speed Trains. Like Tommy, the Royal Train and ‘Hogwarts Express’ also featured on his CV.
In 1981, his local Area Manager suggested he applied for an Inspector’s job which he did even though he was reluctant to take up a management post which did not attract overtime payments.
Paddy became a top level Trainer and was asked to train up steam crews on a two week steam stint Training using BR Standard Tank No. 80080 between Carlisle and Kirkby Stephen for two weeks in March and April 1993. His Area Manager told him he was not allowed to carry passengers on a training run, but was told by Paddy that as he trained HST drivers at 125mph while carrying passengers, there really was no argument!
His approach to training was to treat the rulebook as a journey making it easier to understand and use by people new to railways. This was used while training Phil Marsh on his Rules and Regulations in 2005 spending a week with me – one of the most interesting I’ve had.
At privatisation he was assigned to the freight division called Transrail which was quickly bought by EWS. He took retirement in June 1999 and this lasted under 30 days being asked to come back as a steam consultant. Steam work continued for both EWS and WCR for a year, but was just too much with both companies sometimes asking him to drive on the same day! When he joined West Coast, it was as the Operations Assistant to Bill Andrew as well as driving and instructing.
Paddy is proud that a Carlisle man has worked anywhere between Thurso, Mallaig and Aberdeen to the south coast via all the main routes. He even trained southern based crews on steam services along the south coast based at Eastleigh on Bulleid pacifics in the late 1990s.
He has been for the last 30 years, a very active member of the Carlisle Drivers Welfare Fund Committee helping others less fortunate than him. He was presented with a framed retirement certificate and a bespoke model of a ‘Princess Royal’ Class Pacific No. 6203 Princess Margaret Rose.
Paddy offered heartfelt thanks to West Coast, echoed by Tommy Farr, for their respective second careers. As was said, West Coast had made an old man happy in his retirement - driving and firing main line steam for another decade after he thought he had retired from the railway, well into the 21st century. Working for West Coast is like a family, just as the railways were in the 50s when both started.