David Maidment spoke at the March 2020 meeting of the Association.
David was a career railwayman whose posts included: Traffic Apprentice; Stationmaster at Gillingham, and at Aberbeeg; Area Manager, Bridgend; Divisional Train Planning Officer, Cardiff; Management Services Manager, Western Region & Internal Consultancy Services Manager, BRB; Chief Operating Manager, London Midland Region, Reliability & Quality Manager, BRB; Head of Safety Policy, BRB and then Railtrack; Associate Principal Consultant, International Risk Management Services; and founder and Chairman of the Railway Children charity.
His impressive career record led us to expect an illuminating talk. He did not disappoint. He spoke with the authority that comes from personal knowledge and a wide range of experience. Better than this, clearly a practised speaker, he communicated with his audience in an easy, accessible manner, assisted by copious, and often dramatic, illustrations. Many of these can be found in his autobiography, “The Toss of a Coin”. His talk focused on his railway career in South Wales from 1962 to 1972, but ranged more widely as the evening progressed.
A railway career seemed almost inevitable for a boy who was a railway enthusiast from the age of two and a half. He began on the operating side (for he was not an engineer) as a traffic apprentice. This early training was invaluable. It gave him a broad understanding of how the railway worked, and enabled him later to engage with railwaymen who respected that.
In 1964 he went as a station master to Aberbeeg in South Wales (the station chosen by the toss of a coin, which inspired the title of his autobiography). This shaped his career; he was in charge of 70 staff, learned about coal traffic (still then the staple of the valleys), and had to respond to all manner of incidents; derailments, run away wagons, trees on the line. He also designed improvements to track layouts in order to facilitate more effective operation – a useful lesson for modellers too.
He then rose through the ranks of BR management, culminating in his work as Head of Safety. The Clapham accident, 1988, was a watershed. His approach to safety, of both passengers and railway staff, was proactive rather than reactive; its success proved by the reduction of staff fatalities from an average of 20 a year to 0. Only suicides, still running at 50 a year, have resisted the trend.
David retired from BR in 1996 and was awarded the OBE. But his railway work did not end there. As a safety consultant he toured the world, especially the Commonwealth countries with a legacy of British railway engineering. In India, an encounter with a vulnerable child at a railway station led to what has become, in effect, a third career with the world-wide charity Railway Children. In Britain alone it deals with 10,000 children a year; the royalties from his autobiography and other publications are donated to it.
David has published several books on railways (he came to us with a travelling goods depot) as well as religious historical novels. He can be contacted at:
32 The Broadway, Nantwich, Cheshire CW5 6JH
See also: Maidmentrail@aol.com
In all an inspiring evening. I hope to hear from him again one day. Meanwhile I shall tuck in to his autobiography.