An Aberystwyth man’s career on the railways will reach the end of the line later this month after 50 years.
David Evans has been a familiar face at Aberystwyth Railway Station for the last half a century, but will retire at the end of the month.
Mr Evans started working at the railway station when he was 17.
Since then he has seen many changes at the station, watching it change from an industrial depot with eight tracks, to the train station we see today.
Today, Mr Evans works in the ticket office, but over the years, he has taken on many roles at the station.
It all began when his mother was contacted by Alec Goodwin, the station’s platform inspector at the time, who asked if Mr Evans would like to work there.
At the time, Mr Evans was unable to work on the tracks because he was under 18, so he asked ‘what can I do?’ A question which led him on a 50-year journey at Aberystwyth station.
Mr Evans started as a parcel clerk, but quickly found himself taking on other roles, such as a train shunter, which involved sorting and unloading cargo from trains arriving at what was then the industrial train depot.
The slightly ‘hairy’ job was one Mr Evans found incredibly fun, as he would chase after train carts which were bumped by train drivers and then needed to be manually stopped using onboard handbrakes.
Mr Evans said: “It was very fun, but it was a bit hairy. The wagons could travel quite quick, and I needed to chase after them so that I could pull the handbrake and bring them to a stop. We mostly offloaded farmer feed and coal.
“Eventually the yard was sold off, and deliveries came by lorry instead of trains.
“Where Lidl and their car parks sit today, that was all part of the old railway yard. It was a big change for the station when it was sold off.”
Mr Evans also worked the ‘nervous’ job of a crossing keeper, which involved him opening and closing gates on the line so that cars could cross over.
He explained: “Sometimes it was a case of standing back as the trains came flying past. You’d get about 60 seconds’ notice before the trains passed these crossings, but I’d regularly head over there a couple of minutes before.
“The job required a lot of co-ordination between us, it was up to the co-ordinate guard to communicate with me through hand signals. Now it’s all done automatically.”
Mr Evans has seen many changes in his time working at the station, he said: “Things here have changed a heck of a lot over the last 50 years, at times I wasn’t always sure it was for the best, but a lot of good has come out of these changes too.
“There are a lot more people riding the trains these days, although the amount of carriages on trains hasn’t increased.
“One of the biggest changes came when the operation of the railway changed from British Railways to private companies. After the change, trains weren’t always maintained as well, but there have been some big improvements since then as well.
“One of these improvements was the £2 million refurbishment of the station, which happened about 10 years ago – it completely improved the working conditions.
“I remember in the ‘80s it could be freezing inside the station, and we’d be huddled around a central fireplace. Now of course we have central heating, and even a TV in the breakroom.”
But for Mr Evans, this is the only job he could have seen himself working for as long as he did.
Despite working other jobs throughout his life, such as a baker, pub bar staff, and night security at Aberystwyth University, it was working at Aberystwyth station which gave him that ‘special’ something.
Mr Evans said: “I can’t imagine seeing myself elsewhere, the other jobs just weren’t the same. There’s something special about working on the railways.”
One of the ‘special’ parts of the railway has been the teamwork amongst the staff, and the bonds formed between them, as well as with railway passengers.
Mr Evans said: “It really is proper teamwork, if you want time off for example, we pull together and help out.
“I’ve met some great people working here, both as staff and passengers. There are a couple of chaps who I’m still in contact with today.”
Mr Evans’ feelings towards those he’s met were echoed by those who he’s met over the years.
One frequent passenger, Peter Webb said: “He’ll help you with anything, he knows I travel frequently on the line to watch the football, and he called me up one time when the line wasn’t running to let me know.
“His approach is excellent, he’s a gentleman to be honest with you, and you can’t fault him.”