St Albans man, Alan Ashberry, travels in train driver’s cab for 90th birthday

St Albans man travels in train driver’s cab for 90th birthday

St Albans man travels in train driver’s cab for 90th birthday

First published in News St Albans & Harpenden Review: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

A former train driver from St Albans had the chance to revisit the tracks for his 90th birthday when his friend arranged for him to travel along his old route.

Alan Ashberry marked the landmark occasion by travelling along the Euston track in the driver’s cab.

Along with his friend David Coasby, Mr Ashberry met Virgin driver depot manager Nick Chadwick at Watford Junction and they travelled to London Euston on the 11.16 service.

He said: "It was marvellous.

"It was very different. It was so quiet and very different to all the levers and things we had to manipulate in the steam engines. It was a complete contrast."

Mr Ashberry first joined the railway in 1936 at the age of 14 as a cleaner at Watford shed.

He gradually moved up the ranks to became a fireman and he was eventually made a driver.

During his time as a driver he worked on the Watford to St Albans Abbey line as well as the service to Euston.

He said: "I used to do the route in the the old steam trains.

"We went at a maximum of 85 miles an hour but on the journey last week the driver said we were doing 125 miles an hour."

Ill-health meant Mr Ashberry had to leave the railways in the mid 1950s and he took up engineering at Marconi Instruments in Long Acre, St Albans.

However his passion for trains continued and he took to building models.

Fellow train enthusiast David Coasby decided that he wanted to give his friend a birthday present to remember.

He contacted Virgin to see if the pair would be able to ride in the cab travelling along his old route.

Mr Coasby said: "We were extremely impressed with the comfort of the ride, even when the train went into its tilting mode.

"The cab looked like something out of Star Trek with it’s many instruments, communication devices, CCTV and other safety features.

"The Virgin staff were interested to hear of Alan exploits all those years ago and many stories of life on the railways, both then and now, were exchanged."

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