On a Garrett in the Nairobi Railway Museum

I’m told I was a railway enthusiast from the age of two - my mother apparently was persuaded to wheel my pushchair a couple of miles each way from our home in East Molesey to Esher Common where I could see trains on the Waterloo - Bournemouth and Exeter mainline.  At Charterhouse, I, aged 14, and a couple of 13 year olds managed to boost the school’s Railway Society to a membership of over 300 by dint of offering free entrance to shows of those British Transport films of the 1950s (now held by York National Railway Museum).  In 1960, after a three year degree course in German Language and Literature at University College London (my specialist subject was ‘stylistic analysis of mediaeval German poetry’) I decided to make my hobby my career, and joined British Rail Western Region as a clerk in the Divisional Passenger Train Office at Paddington, before becoming a ‘Traffic Apprentice’ (Management Trainee) in 1961.

Railway Career with British Railways

Traffic Apprentice, Western Region 1961-1964
I spent a year at station and depot level in the London Division, the second year in South Wales at the Swansea District and Cardiff Divisional offices, six months at Paddington Regional Headquarters and a final six months undertaking junior management roles in the Plymouth Division (ASM Plymouth North Road, AGM Exeter Goods, AYM, Taunton Freight Yard, Stationmaster Gillingham (Dorset), before being appointed to my first managerial role post training in South Wales.

For a fuller description of my three years as a Traffic Apprentice, click here for more details

Stationmaster Gillingham (Dorset), February - April 1964
The last three months of the Traffic Apprenticeship scheme required the trainee to act on his own as a Stationmaster, to gain further experience and be assessed before appointment to a permanent managerial post.  I was posted to Gillingham, with supervision of stations at Semley, Tisbury and Dinton also, some two months after the former SR Salisbury - Exeter line was transferred to Western Region management.  On May 2nd 2009 I joined other local retired railwaymen and the Mayor of Gillingham in unveiling a plaque on the station commemorating the opening of the line through Gillingham 150 years ago, and met a lady whom I’d last seen as a three year old when I lodged with her grandparents in a cottage in Railway Terrace in 1964.    Several years ago I wrote an article about my time at Gillingham.  If you want to read this click here for more details

Stationmaster Aberbeeg (Monmouthshire Western Valley) 1964-5
At the beginning of May 1964 I was interviewed by the Divisional Manager Cardiff, with a fellow trainee, for two stationmaster posts in the Monmouthshire Western Valley - Ebbw Vale and Aberbeeg.  Bob Hilton tossed a half crown and Stan Judd, my colleague, called correctly and chose Ebbw Vale, because he’d heard of it!  That half crown shaped our respective careers because I got the Operating job which opened up other opportunities which eventually led to becoming Chief Operating Manager of the LMR and my subsequent involvement in recent years in rail safety policy. I was responsible for about 70 staff, mainly guards, shunters and signalmen and for the last three months, also for the drivers and fitters at the Aberbeeg engine shed after the Shedmaster retired and before a New Area Manager was appointed in March 1965.  The passenger service had been withdrawn a couple of years before I took up the post, but freight traffic was heavy, with colliery traffic and flows of coal and steel to and from Ebbw Vale.  I revisited the line in 2008 with Stan Judd after the passenger service was restored.  For contrasting photos showing Aberbeeg in the 1950s and again in 2008, click more

For access to an article about my experiences as Stationmaster Aberbeeg, click more

Area Manager, Bridgend 1965-68
I joined the Area Manager, Eric Warr (ex Shedmaster Southall) as Assistant initially, and shortly afterwards, took over as Area Manager.  My main memory is the number of derailments we seemed to have, most a pair of coal wagon wheels off, or a new Class 37 diesel splitting the points, but we had a few ‘spectaculars’ in the valleys with runaways and derailments on the mainline, culminating in a head-on collision just outside Bridgend station when a landslip in the night derailed the Up Fishguard Boat Train empty stock into the path of a double-headed pair of 37s on a 52 wagon coal train.

 

Divisional Train Planning Officer, Cardiff, 1968-72
This post involved management of the Cardiff Train Planning Office, which had the role of timetabling, and diagramming locos and crews of the Valley suburban services and the colliery trains from the pits to docks and steel works.  We were stretched for resources in those days and I oversaw a major recasting of the whole freight work, including revision of the marshalling yard workings - it was known as the ‘South Wales Freight Strategy, and was planned in a joint team with the senior Operations Managers from Paddington.

Management Services Manager, Western Region & Internal Consultancy Services Manager, BRB, 1974-82
After a spell at the Board as project manager for development of options for the future of the BR Parcels Business, I was tasked with the role of transforming the former Work Study and Organisation & Methods teams of the WR to a modern management consultancy unit, to tackle staff and resource productivity.  After four years on the Western, I was asked to do the same for all Regions working from BR HQ.  My efforts and those of my team culminated in the major productivity deals with the Trade Unions in 1980 which brought in Single Manning, Flexible Rostering, and transfer of ticket checking from barriers to on-train.

Chief Operating Manager, London Midland Region, 1982-86
I was responsible for 25,000 Operations staff on the LMR from London (Euston, St. Pancras and Marylebone) to Birmingham, North Wales, Liverpool, Manchester, Carlisle, Derby and Nottingham. This was during the time of business management development and the closing of the Divisional Offices and Controls.  My major task was the safety, reliability and punctuality of services on the West Coast Mainline.  A sideline was my responsibility to act as Officer in charge of the Royal Train during this period whenever it originated on the Region.

Reliability & Quality Manager, BRB, 1986-89
I was appointed to this new post at the instigation of a non Executive Board Member who concluded that BR needed one!  When discussing this with the Board Member to whom I reported and asking ‘Why me?’, I got the somewhat dubious backhanded compliment ‘Well, as Operating Manager of the West Coast Mainline, you know more about failure than anyone else!  In fact, working closely with the businesses, I developed systems that allowed us to evaluate the worth of investing in quality improvement, stemming the flow of cost cutting that had been rampant in the industry for years.

Head of Safety Policy, BRB, 1990-94, Railtrack 1994-96
After the tragic rail crash at Clapham Junction in December 1988, I was asked to lead the team preparing evidence for the Judicial Inquiry and subsequently led a major project to revolutionise the way BR managed safety - turning a thorough but reactive system into a proactive one applying risk management principles to all activities and researching human error theory with academics.  This led to the production of BR’s first Safety Plan in 1991 and the development of cost benefit applications to prioritise safety investment.  As a result, I became a frequent speaker at international railway conferences and undertook consultancy programmes for railways in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Hong Kong and Europe.   My Safety Policy Department was transferred to Railtrack while it was still government owned and I took early retirement at privatisation.

Associate Principal Consultant, International Risk Management Services, 1996-2001
Undertook major safety reviews of railways in Hong Kong and Southern Ireland, as well as work for Railtrack and Network Rail.  I was also one of the dozen managers on call to the Rail Standards and Safety Board ready to chair the internal independent Safety Inquiries following accidents or major incidents.

Recognition

At the 2012 Rail Staff Awards Dinner at the IEC Birmingham, I was awarded the ‘Life Achievement Award’ and a new annual award named ‘The David Maidment Award’ would be given each year to the individual judged to have made the most meretricious contribution to charity during the previous year.

At the Network Rail Plant Exhibition at Long Marston in 2013, a Colas Rail Services General Motors Diesl Electric 66850 was named ‘David Maidment OBE’, and a replica nameplate presented which is exhibited at my home.

Railway Interests, Societies and Talks
I have written a number of articles on my professional railway safety role and also my experiences in the steam railway, both in the UK and overseas.  For more details see the ‘Writing’ webpage.  I am a member of the Retired Railway Officers’ Society (RROS) which has over 800 members and attend their 100+ strong monthly meetings in the Union Jack Club at Waterloo. I have given talks to enthusiast and lay groups on my railway career, royal trains, and an illustrated (slide) talk on ‘The Jingpeng Orient Express’ - spectacular photos of the 600 mile long 1995 built steam railway through the Autonomous State of Inner Mongolia.  To request a talk or presence at an event, e-mail Maidmentrail@aol.com.

Gillingham (Dorset) Station in 2009