Sunday, 19 August 2012

Robert Melton Armitage (1920-1993), train driver

Robert Melton Armitage was a son of Alfred John Armitage (1893-1957) who was a brother of my grandmother Emma Armitage (1883-1970). This profile is based on information from his son.

Alfred John and Ethel Emily Armitage had six children, five boys and a girl (who died aged 1). Robert was one of twins (the other was Leonard Frank Armitage) born on 30 January 1920 in Hackney, North London. He had two elder brothers and one younger. Alfred was a railway guard, based at Broad Street London. Electoral registers show the family living at 19 Sandbrook Road, Stoke Newington (North London) in 1919 and 1925 but they had moved elsewhere by 1928.

Robert grew up and went to school in Stoke Newington before joining the London, Midland & Scottish Railway in December 1936 as an Engine Cleaner at Kentish Town shed on the Midland line of that Railway company. He had become a 'passed cleaner' (certified to act as Fireman as required), when the Second World War began. He applied to join the army, but wasn't released due to his job. During the war he was appointed Fireman at Kentish Town, and by the end of the war had become a 'passed Fireman' (certified to act as Driver when required).

 On 7th August 1948 Robert married Eileen Gladys Grizzell. He had met her through a railway social gathering, as her father, Alfred Richard (always known as 'Dick'), was a wheelwright in the Road Motors division at Kentish Town. They lived at 29 Homefield Road, Edgware, with Eileen's parents to begin with, inheriting the house after 'Dick' Grizzell (died 1949), and Rhoda Amelia (nee Perks, died 1955) had both passed away. Robert and Eileen had a son in 1954.

After the war promotion was slow, as people returned to the railway service from the Armed Forces. Robert was finally promoted to Driver in 1958, still at Kentish Town. He covered a wide variety of routes over the former Midland lines, working to Leicester, Derby, Nottingham, Manchester, Sheffield, and Leeds. He also worked over the former London, Tilbury and Southend line to Barking, Tilbury, and Southend. His penultimate steam turn was in 1963, on a special rail tour working to Burton-on-Trent, with locomotive 35003 'Royal Mail', a class 8 Southern Pacific loco, not normally seen on the Midland. Between 1960 and 1966 he also drove the then new 'Midland Pullman' Diesel train between London and Manchester. While learning the new diesel locos a lot of these trips were worked over the now long closed Bedford to Northampton line.

In 1963 Kentish Town steam shed closed, and Robert transferred with most of the staff to Cambridge Street Diesel Depot, which had been opened just outside St. Pancras. His final steam driving turn took place in 1965 when he worked a diverted Dover-Manchester service between Cricklewood and Derby with standard class 5 loco no.73066.

In 1969 he became a Driver Instructor, although this was mainly on an 'as required' basis, with his normal driving duties when not instructing. In 1977 he became a full time Locomotive Inspector, which mainly involved taking others on Rules Exams, and riding with Drivers as part of their 'practical assessments', along with other special investigations and 'rides' when required. By 1979 he had been allocated a 'Divisional' role, whereby he undertook similar work on the 'North Western' lines from Euston, as well as his home territory on the Midland routes. Throughout his railway career he was always known as Bob Armitage.

In 1984 Robert retired aged 64 after 48 years service. He still resided at 29 Homefield Road with Eileen, and spent a lot of time enjoying his hobby of gardening (he had at one time owned an allotment next to Montrose Park). In 1991 he was diagnosed with cancer of the bowel. He had several operations and it was thought that he would recover, but the cancer spread, and he died at home with his family on 5th September 1993. He was cremated, and his ashes scattered at Holders Hill Cemetery London NW7.

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