‘Accidental’ rail worker to mark 50 years of service

Tom Wallace is celebrating working on the railways for 50 years. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Tom Wallace is celebrating working on the railways for 50 years. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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A MAN who has helped maintain the Capital’s trains for nearly half a decade has described how he fell into the job almost by accident.

Tom Wallace was just 17 when he joined ScotRail as an apprentice at a time when the firm was still known under its previous guise of British Rail.

Now he is just days away from celebrating 50 years’ service with the company – and the 67-year-old has said he has no plans to retire just yet.

Mr Wallace, who lives in Dechmont with his wife Diane, joined the firm back in 1967 after completing his studies at Leith Academy and said he had loved every day of his time at the company.

And it was almost a matter of chance that he joined at all, Mr Wallace admitted, saying: “At the time it was basically looking for something to do after school. It was the only one that said ‘yes, come here’.

“You try everyone and basically the railway was the only one that wrote back. I’ve always liked it there. It’s manual work – you get covered in oil up to your armpits but I enjoy it.”

His work to repair trains has taken Mr Wallace all over the country and included stints away from home for days at a time as part of the response team to incidents such as derailments in the earlier part of his career.

One of these cases involved a sleeper train which came off the tracks on a bend in the small Borders village of Grantshouse, an incident which saw the engine end up on its side and a number of coaches going into a man’s house.

“It was quite a big job,” said Mr Wallace. “But they had a coach that you stayed on and ate and slept in. There was a relief squad and that came down as well.”

Despite starting out at the firm’s Leith depot – where he was based for four years – Mr Wallace spent the majority of his career at the city’s Haymarket depot after being moved to the base in 1971.

The dad-of-two described his job as doing to trains the sort of checks cars have in their annual MOTs.

And despite his interest in all things mechanical – Mr Wallace explained he spent time in his youth repairing racing bikes – he said it was the camaraderie which was the best part of his job.

He said: “It’s friendship – you know everybody there, I have had a great time. You [also] get a few people with you and you get to train them.

“You see them coming through the years. I’ve met a few good friends.”

Mr Wallace is now set to receive a trophy for his service later this week, with ScotRail Alliance engineering director Angus Thom speaking to congratulate him on what he described as a “remarkable” achievement.

Paying tribute, Mr Thom said: “Tom’s 50 years’ working on the railway is a remarkable feat and we all congratulate him on achieving his half century of service.

“The railway so often inspires colleagues to spend all or most of their working life on it and I’m particularly proud to be presenting Tom with a trophy marking such a long career.”

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk