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Health & Safety: British Rail, the routemaster and Belgian buns

I’VE been thinking about the old British Rail trains that were around in the 70s and 80s – the ones where we’d manually open the doors (twist handle on the outside and a latch release on the inside). As these trains pulled into the station, the doors were swung open before coming to a stop. Passengers on the platform took a few steps back to avoid a smack in the face from a swinging door! It was not only the passengers on the platform that were at danger – opened doors meant passengers on the train were in danger of falling onto the platform!




Think back to the open-backed busses (old style Routemasters). We had more chances of catching one of these busses than with do the modern ‘shut the door in your face’ busses. When we saw a routemaster about to pull away from the bus stop, we’d sprint, leap, then grab the support pole on the back platform. Getting off was fun too – no need to wait for the routemaster to come to a standstill – we’d leap off and our heels would be in close proximity to the back of head as we tried to remain upright.




It was the mid-80s that I’d first stepped out into the world of work (part-time in supermarket whilst still at school). I told my manager that I couldn’t get the packaging for the Belgian buns as they were too high up on the racking in the warehouse. He looked at me in disbelief. ‘Young boy like you scared to climb’ – he then stormed off to the warehouse. Five minutes later he was back holding a box of Belgian bun packaging. He’d climbed the warehouse racking (about 12 metres high) without ladders. His action inspired me and soon I was also climbing the warehouse racking unaided. I felt proud of my agility and the heights I’d scaled. More importantly I felt I proved something to my manager – I was not a ‘young boy’ and was not scared to climb!


These were fun but dangerous days. The trains now have automatic doors or door operated by the conductor. The old styled routemasters are only used to add a bit of nostalgia to weddings and special events. If I ever go back to working in a supermarket then I’d ask the forklift truck driver to get the Belgian bun packaging. There is a lesson to be learned in the case of the Belgian bun packaging – I now think and question myself before following the action of a leader – sometimes the consequences outweigh the benefits.


We’re in a better place – safety is high on the agenda nowadays. Part of me still misses the excitement of being agile with the total disregard to safety, but I now have a different  mindset. I’ve some stuff that needs going back into the loft. My neighbour has been saying that I need to get a loft ladder – I’ve been using a standard ‘V’ shaped ladder and hoisting myself through the hatch into the loft. Getting out of the loft is interesting too! I think I’ll take my neighbours’ advice.





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1 thought on “Health & Safety: British Rail, the routemaster and Belgian buns

  1. What a lovely read down memory lane, there is something lovely about the old routemastera, they just had character and charm X

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