Keith retires after 50 years on trains

Keith Philips who has just retired after 50 years on the railway.
Keith Philips who has just retired after 50 years on the railway.

An Ilkeston man has hung up his boots after 50 years of hard work on the railway.

Keith Phillips, 65, retired this August - marking 50 years to the day since he began his first job with British Rail in 1965.

The father of two was born in Belper and has lived in Ilkeston his entire life, attending Gladstone Boys School as a child.

On finishing school aged 15, Keith started work as a messenger boy at Toton Sidings, before becoming an engine cleaner and then a locomotive fireman, firing the steam engines.

He then progressed to become a secondman, which is a railway employee who assists the driver of a train with his duties.

Keith said: “I started right on the bottom rung of the ladder and worked my way up.

“When I was a secondman, I acted as the second pair of eyes for the driver.

“And it was 1978 when I drove my first train.”

After around 22 years at Toton, Keith moved to Derby and became a fully-fledged train driver.

While there, Keith saw a move from British Rail to Midland Mainline and finished his career working for East Midlands Trains.

He now has an exciting retirement ahead of him, involving travelling, sports and taking care of his three grandchildren.

“Well I’ve certainly got enough to keep me busy,” Keith said.

“When the children were little, we used to travel on the train to Spain. It would be nice to do that again.

“And we’ve got a touring caravan so there are loads of places in England we will now get the chance to visit.

“I’m also looking at taking up golf.”

As he retires, Keith would like to say thank you to his family and co-workers.

He said: “I’d like to thank my wife and family, as my shifts were often unsociable. There were sometimes up to three weeks where I didn’t really see my kids. They had to put up with an awful lot and I’m so grateful.

“I’d also like to thank everyone I’ve worked with. The thing I will miss most about the job is the people.”

Keith’s daughter, Joanna Tomlinson, is proud of her dad.

She said: “My brother Jonathan and I are so very proud of his achievement.

“He must be one of the last people to have worked on the railways from the days of steam through to the private enterprises that the railways now are.

“He has always worked incredibly hard to provide for our family and we are now encouraging him and mum to take time for themselves and fulfil some of their dreams.”