Horsington rail fan celebrates 40 years as a guard by working with Flying Scotsman

Chris Bates
Chris Bates

A Horsington railway enthusiast has celebrated his 40th anniversary as a guard on one of the country’s leading preserved railway on services operated by the legendary Flying Scotsman.

Chris Bates (68) became of a member of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society in 1968, the year the five mile branch line through West Yorkshire’s ‘Brontë Country’ was re-opened from Keighley to Haworth and Oxenhope by enthusiasts.

At first, he worked in the on the train buffet car – the only one in the world to sell real-ale through hand pumps – but in 1977, qualified as a guard.

Since then, he has worked hundreds of journeys over the line famous as the location of the film The Railway Children and for many years was the line’s press officer and helped edit its magazine ‘Push and Pull’.

In late March and in April this year, the Worth Valley line hosted a visit from the Flying Scotsman, which is now part of the National Collection, based in the National Railway Museum at York.

Chris worked as the guard on one of those days and said afterwards: “I could never have dreamed when I passed my guard’s exam all those years ago, that one day I would be guard with the Flying Scotsman. I used to travel behind the locomotive when it made tours of Lincolnshire branch lines in the 1960s, cadging a ride home from my work in Boston as a local newspaper reporter, to see my Mum in Grimsby for the weekend.

“I still love every second of being a guard on the Worth Valley Railway and hope I can continue in the role for some time yet”.

When not on the Worth Valley line, Chris is likely to be found at Skegness helping as a volunteer on the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway (where he is also a guard when trains are running) – he has been a volunteer on the historic narrow gauge line since 1961, a year after it opened on its original site at Humberston, and was able to help with reconstruction on its current location in the Skegness Water Leisure Park, where it reopened in 2009.

Chris’s late father Geoff Bates and grandfather, John “Percy” Bates were railwaymen in the Spalding area and his father was also a signalman at Brocklesby and at Friargate Crossing, Grimsby.

Chris said: “They say steam is in the blood - it most certainly is in mine!”

The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway operates steam services at weekends throughout the year, over most school holidays and at many other times. It can be reached in about two hours by road from most of Lincolnshire via the M180 and M62 motorways and also by rail in about the same time – through tickets including a steam train ride are available from all Lincolnshire railway stations.

Full details on www.kwvr.co.uk