Diary of a fireman/ secondman/ driver based at Dundee.

This website lets you explore the railway diaries of Jim Hoskins.

In May 2017 his son, Derek, began posting Jim's diaries for that day on the internet in a series called "On this day in history through the years". Derek continued to do this every day for a year - amounting to over 9000 diary entries.

Now collected into a database, these records are here for everyone to explore not just day by day, but month by month, loco by loco and other ways.

Sadly Jim passed away in December 2017 aged 89. The website would not have been possible without the incredible records that he kept. We hope you enjoy your trip down memory lane.

His entire working career was as a railwayman, something he enjoyed doing and felt privileged to be paid to do.

Born on 31st July in 1928, Jim started as a parcel boy 11 days after his 14th birthday (11/8/1942 start date), but had helped out unpaid prior to this as his father worked as a lorryman with the railway horses. His first pay packet was a princely sum of 21 shillings and a tanner (sixpence).

“He missed a fair bit of school due to asthma/bronchitis, a few family members were concerned the job would finish him off – turned out to be the making of him.”

Jim talking about himself in the third person

As with everything in his life, he was fully committed to the job and was soon progressing up the career ladder within the railway. He eventually progressed to the footplate, which was where his eye had been for a few years.

Allocated to Dundee Tay Bridge depot, he would quickly establish a reputation for being a keen and willing learner as a fireman on the many varieties of steam loco he would work in the ensuing years. Indeed he was often “loaned” to the neighbouring Dundee West shed when they were short of staff, with him enjoying the different traction offered there even though he saw himself as an LNER (London North Eastern Railway) man.

After a two year hiatus whilst he served his National Service from February 1947 with The Royal Artillery, he resumed his learning on the footplate.

Just over 9 years later on 4th July 1958 he became a fully fledged steam engine driver having passed the necessary on the job examinations from the traction inspector. This would allow him to drive any type of steam engine on the rails from the smallest to the largest, although he would often comment in later years whilst watching programs about the famous Flying Scotsman loco that if the stories in these programs are to be believed he must have been the only steam driver never to have driven the iconic loco!

As he worked his way up the seniority links, and as steam traction drew to a close in the late 50s/early 60s he would become one of the first of the Dundee drivers to learn the new diesel units. He was a regular on the new diesel locos also acting as secondman (formerly fireman on steam locos) to the driver, and became a driver in his own right on 7 th February 1965.

As his career progressed through the 60s and 70s, such was his willingness to help out his colleagues - whether it be learning on the job or swapping shifts to allow them time off to attend events etc – his reputation as one of the top men on the railway in the area grew to an extent where many affectionately gave him the nickname of “Gentleman Jim”.

Moving into the 1980s, and as the traction on the rails evolved again, being one of the most senior/experienced men he was asked to assist in teaching the new traction to his peers.

This would involve daily trips through to Edinburgh for a mixture of classroom and on the job learning, something he tackled with his renowned commitment and enthusiasm. As with every segment of his career, he quickly established himself as a natural in the role.

So highly regarded was he as an instructor, he was offered a full time post as a trainer/manager. Whilst flattered at the recognition, he loved driving trains and declined the post to allow him to see out his final years on the railway doing the job he loved.

He drove his final train on the mainline on Sunday 27th May 1990 working the 11:20 from Edinburgh to Dundee, and officially retired on 7th July 1990 having completed 48 years service on the railway.