Born June 4, 1940; Died: September 3, 2013 .
Vic Gilchrist, who has died aged 73, was a passionate railwayman who managed Central Station in Glasgow, was deputy managing director of Scotrail in the last days of British Rail, and often accompanied senior members of the Royal Family on the Royal Train. He also co-ordinated the railways' involvement in the fatal accident inquiry that followed the tragedy in Newton, Lanarkshire, in 1991 in which two trains collided, killing both drivers and two passengers.
He had loved the railways for as long as he could remember. As a little boy in Cupar, he watched entranced from the bridge as trains hurtled beneath en route to London. Later, whilst living in Aberdeen, the youngster became a serious trainspotter and was on such good terms with depot staff that he was permitted to help turn the locomotives after coaling - all highly irregular, he noted later.
To a youth who had grown up within earshot of railways and developed such a fascination for trains, it was the ultimate thrill. And that passion for trains and tracks continued throughout his life as he established himself as a consummate railwayman.
Yet he had begun his working life in a bank. It wasn't until three years later, when his father heard of a vacancy for a clerk at Aberdeen's Joint Railway Station, that he got the opportunity to fulfil his ambition of a job in the rail industry.
The son of journalist James C Gilchrist and his wife Alice, he was born in Millom, Cumberland. but moved to Fife. where he attended Castlehill Primary in Cupar until the age of eight. The family then headed north to Aberdeen where he completed his education at Ferryhill Primary School and Robert Gordon's College.
He could trace his interest in railways back to the age of five or six and recalled family visits back to Millom where, from his bedroom, he could see the railway lines leading to the local iron works, then in full post-war production.
In Aberdeen he was an avid train spotter, visiting the Ferryhill and Kittybrewster loco depots. He was a regular face at the turntable, watching the locomotives being turned after being loaded up with coal and was often allowed to assist with the turning operation, being rewarded with a lift back to the shed on the footplate.
"I clearly recall the tremendous thrill of being on the footplate of Gresley A2s such as Blue Peter, Bahram, A H Peppercorn and Sun Chariot, V2s, B1s, the occasional Stanier Coronation Class, WDs and many other smaller locomotives," he said. "It was always possible to sneak a look at the locomotive allocation board near the foreman's office at Ferryhill to determine which locomotives were allocated to the day's workings."
After leaving school, he started work at the Clydesdale and North of Scotland Bank. His career on the railways did not take off until April 1960, when he began in the transit section of the district traffic office in Aberdeen. Five years later he moved to a divisional office in Edinburgh and applied to be a traffic apprentice, the equivalent of a management trainee.
As a result he moved to Glasgow south division and subsequently was appointed area manager at Pitlochry where he was very much a hands-on boss, doing everything from climbing 35ft in the pitch black to replace a signal lamp that had blown out to running a box himself after relieving a drunken signalman.
By the end of 1967 he was assistant outdoor superintendent at Dundee and in 1974 he moved to become management development officer at Glasgow Central. A few years later, after Greater Glasgow Passenger Transport Executive took over the operation of the Glasgow subway and closed it for modernisation works, he was seconded to produce its new operating and signalling instructions.
There he also became involved in the day-to-day operating activities, an experience he thoroughly enjoyed. He was closely involved in the operation of the new central control room and signalling centre and was delighted to drive part of the way on the subway's first new underground train. He and his wife Catherine attended the opening ceremony by the Queen in 1979.
Over the next few years he held posts as area manager at Paisley, passenger operating officer in Glasgow and, in 1984, had his first experience accompanying the Royal Train. As performance officer it was his duty to be on board. The Duke of Edinburgh was en route to an RAF event at Forres but unfortunately the train broke down on a viaduct south of Aberdeen. After summoning another engine they arrived just 31 minutes late.
Over the years Mr Gilchrist accompanied Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson and the Princess Royal on several occasions.
In May 1988 he took over as area manager for Glasgow Central and South West, inheriting an iconic and modernised station which won the Best Station Award the following year. However one thing that had escaped rejuvenation was the station's plastic clock, "a triangular monstrosity in orange", as he described it. He was proud of arranging the installation of a replacement, more in keeping with the original, which family and friends still refer to as "Vic's clock".
He remained at Central for four years before moving back to Scotrail headquarters to co-ordinate the railways' involvement in the fatal accident inquiry that followed the 1991 Newton tragedy.
On his return to Glasgow Central he was appointed total quality and safety manager, a depute director role, and concluded his 33-year railway career just before privatisation of British Rail in 1994.
In retirement he sat on the children's panel for North Ayrshire. He was also a church elder, sang in the church choir and was an avid golfer, Aberdeen FC supporter and reader, particularly of crime fiction. His love of words extended to keeping a dictionary by his bed and doing The Herald crossword daily.
He is survived by his wife Catherine and daughters Susan and Marie.
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