Bob Bigsby, service manager for Avanti West Coast and one of the West Coast main line’s longest serving employees, has retired after 54 years on the railway.
Bob joined the railway as a 15-year-old after arriving at Euston on April 3, 1967. He was given a role on a British Rail Service from London to the Lake District and back, where he pot-washed in the kitchen for First Class passengers.
“They gave me an induction which didn’t last long,” Bob remembered. “By 10am, I was on the train to Windermere. It was a shock because I’d barely left London. I was worried about my parents who had no idea when I’d be home – it was before the mobile phone days!”
Since then, Bob, now 69, has held a number of roles working on the trains while travelling millions of miles on the network. These have included as an assistant steward, steward, chief steward (as the roles were known) and finally as a service manager for Avanti West Coast, leading First Class and wider catering service on board.
He has also worked on the Royal Train since 1974, including for the Queen’s Silver, Golden, and Diamond Jubilees, and was awarded the Royal Victorian Medal in 1999 for his role on the service.
Explaining why he stayed in the job for so long, Bob said: “It’s the joy of meeting people that the railway brings. It’s the comradeship between the colleagues and the variety of customers I’ve had the pleasure to meet. I can honestly say I’ve had fun every single day.
“But like a lot of people I took stock of things during the lockdown. I’ve still got my good health and the time to retire just feels right.”
For someone who has seen plenty of changes over the years, Bob explained it’s the evolution of technology which has had a major impact.
“Technology has revolutionised things,” he said. “Whether it was my roster or orders, I had to write it all down or deliver and pick up notices all over the station. Now it’s all just a call or a click away.
“But what has stayed the same is the friendship of the staff. There’s always been so much support and love, and if you’re in this world you’ll know what people mean by ‘railway family.’ Everyone stands by each other and that’s priceless.”