BR engineman retires after 65 years

Jeff Madge, a railwayman with 65 years footplate experience, took his final turn as a locomotive driver on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway on October 17.

On his penultimate driving turn, ex-BR footplateman Jeff Madge (right) shared the footplate with fellow ex-BR fireman Chris Smith on ‘28XX’ No. 2807. MALCOLM RANIERI FRPS

On his penultimate driving turn, ex-BR footplateman Jeff Madge (right) shared the footplate with fellow ex-BR fireman Chris Smith on ‘28XX’ No. 2807. MALCOLM RANIERI FRPS

Jeff, who lives in Caerphilly, South Wales, joined British Railways’ Cardiff Canton depot in August 1952 aged just 15, the following year moving to Old Oak Common in London where he passed out as a fireman. Working his way up the ranks, he returned to Cardiff where he became a passed fireman and was put forward for driving.

“As a passed fireman, I enjoyed plenty of opportunities to drive locomotives and did an awful lot of work on freight traffic,” he says. “I often worked up to Gloucester and sometimes further north over what we knew as the ‘Honeybourne Line’, the route over which the present day GWSR operates.

“Unfortunately, although I was due to be passed as a driver, the end of steam came about too soon. Many steam men left the railway then but I decided to continue and became a diesel driver, working on most types including the InterCity 125s and retired in 1983.

“But railways – and especially steam – ‘gets into your blood’ and I decided to take an interest in the then embryonic GWSR at Toddington. It was a tiny operation with big ambitions then, and I have seen it grow and have enjoyed encouraging youngsters as they start their voluntary footplate careers on the railway.”

Jeff’s penultimate driving turn on the ‘GlosWarks’ was with fellow ex-BR footplateman Chris Smith who, following Jeff Madge’s retirement, becomes the railway’s only ex-BR engineman.

He said: “Working with him for the last time was very special and in some ways, an emotional experience.

“As ex-BR men, it took us right back to our young days.  We spoke the same language, if you like. Jeff has so much knowledge and it’s wonderful that he has been passing that on to others in the steam department.  

"Two ex-BR men together – it must be a very rare occurrence nowadays.”

Jeff reflected that with 24 years’ service behind him, he has been a driver longer on the GWSR than on British Railways, with whom he was a driver for 18 of his 27 years on the footplate.