Driver retires after half a century on the railways

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Greater Anglia’s senior driver John Hockley retired on August 13, 50 years to the day since he started his railway career as an engine cleaner at Stratford cleaning B1s and N7s.

Upon his retirement an era closed as John, who has been nominated for the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s RailStaff Awards, was the last Stratford steam man still working on the London to Norwich and Harwich and Clacton routes.

John became a passed fireman in 1963 and was then promoted to a driver in 1970 before moving to Ripple Lane in 1972, where he stayed until the depot closed in 1993. John returned to Stratford then became a top link ( link 14 ) Norwich driver, driving class 86s and 90s on the Norwich to Liverpool Street route.

Finally John moved to Liverpool Street, from where he retired.

Highlights of John’s railway career include, as a second man, working the Royal train in 1969 conveying the Queen, Princess Ann and the corgis between King’s Lynn and Liverpool Street. For this John received a letter from the Queen with a 15 shilling postal order. The driver received 30 shillings.

Another highlight was when John’s soon to be wife Carol went to Crow Lane bridge in Chadwell Heath in 1996 and held up a banner saying how much she loved him. Unfortunately Carol held up the banner to the preceding train, the Harwich boat train, which left Liverpool Street two minutes ahead of John’s train, and driver John Rust saw it instead. By the time John’s train, the 08.30 from Liverpool Street to Norwich, arrived at the bridge Carol was already walking away.

In retirement John, a Christian for 51 years, will continue to be involved with his local church, where he has been a member for 44 years, singing in the choir and working with the local youth and he is also a committee member of the East London Christian League.

John’s final train was the 09.30 Norwich to Liverpool Street, hauled by 90012. Upon arrival in London Carol and a number of Greater Anglia managers greeted John and Carol was presented with flowers and John was given a bottle of wine.

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