I joined BR as Engineering Management Trainee (EMT) after finishing a 4 year Mechanical Engineering degree at Edinburgh University. I was initially allocated to one of the Roscos which was sold soon after as part of privatisation becoming Angel Train Contracts. During my time as an EMT I worked on shop floor at Craigentinny for a few months (having small hands was helpful for changing top brushes on HST traction motors); spent 6 months at Slade Green on shiny new electric trains (Class 465 and 466 EMUs still under warranty); and worked on various projects for Angel including starting up the scheme to rehabilitate the out of use 507/508 vehicles that weren’t in use with Merseyrail (we found one at Kineton with a tree growing in the side!). Along with practical projects and placements, I attended a number of railway management and technical training courses lasting from a few days up to 3 months (I worked out that in my first 18 months on the railway I lived in 14 different places!). The EMT scheme was the BR IMechE accredited MPDS scheme, the forerunner of the ATOC APEDS scheme in many ways. It gave graduates an excellent opportunity to move around the company (and country) learning about different fleet types and different aspects of railway engineering.
After Angel I joined North London Railways as a Senior Technical Officer (STO). I worked in the Technical Office at Bletchley looking after 323s under warranty to Central and some heritage DMUs as well as getting involved with the 313 DV EMUs and the 321 workhorses. A real mixture of mechanical problems (incident investigations following in service failures), hi-tech issues (training the fitters to use a laptop to do brake blending on the new 323 units) and lots of process improvement (quality, VMI change management).
I rejoined Angel as a Maintenance Engineer after leaving Bletchley and worked on the Great Western account initially, later taking on ScotRail and Springburn, then taking on my own account, First North Western, looking after Class 142 and 150 vehicles and managing various HM programmes. During my time at Angel I achieved Chartered Status and became a full member of the IMechE.
Having become chartered, I decided in 2000 that working in the rail industry somewhere abroad would be an interesting thing to do so took a job with Interfleet Technology in Sydney, Australia. I moved there just before the 2000 Olympics which was a great time to go but I knew very little about the place (if you’d shown me a map of Oz I would have struggled to say which of the state capitals was which!). During my 4 and half years in Australia I worked on various projects including cab ergonomics study in Perth; refranchising of the rail network in Auckland, New Zealand; maintenance and overhaul development in South Africa; technical projects in Melbourne for Connex and Alstom; re-engining of XPT power cars with VP185 engines (XPT looks exactly like an HST power car but a bit fatter!); and then spent two years seconded directly to the State Rail Authority of New South Wales, initially working as Depot Mechanical Engineer on a small diesel depot, then working on a project to improve the electric train fleet reliability.
I returned to the UK at the start of 2005 and spent a couple of years working on projects for Interfleet Technology, mostly related to train maintenance as part of franchise bidding. I ended up heading up the Maintenance team for the London office, leading a team of 20 consultants and associates. During this time as well as UK projects I worked in Denmark, Sweden and the USA. It was great to see the similarities (and differences) between working practices and technical challenges in different parts of the world.
In 2007 I was offered the position of Head of Fleet Production for Stagecoach South West Trains, responsible for the Class 455 and 458 fleets (484 vehicles), managing Wimbledon and Clapham depots, plus SWT maintenance and train care operations at Strawberry Hill depot and Waterloo. This was a significant move from managing 20 fairly autonomous staff to a team of over 300 including train maintenance staff, cleaners, depot drivers and managers, but was a fantastic challenge. I hugely enjoyed working with the team at SWT and being depot based remains my favourite place in the railway.
In 2009 I joined Chiltern Railways as Engineering Director and I am still relishing the challenges that this role continues to bring.