'I'll miss the auld gang': Cork train driver Tom makes his last stop after 49 years

He might be retiring after almost a half century of service, but Irish Rail driver Tom Ryan isn’t quite finished with trains yet
'I'll miss the auld gang': Cork train driver Tom makes his last stop after 49 years

Tom Ryan on his last day as an Irish Rail train driver. (Photo Finbarr O'Neill)

Tom Ryan was 15 years old - “three weeks shy of my 16th birthday” - when he joined CIÉ as an office messenger in the old freight depot on Penrose Quay - “a place that’s all developed now” - in January 1973, and he transferred to Kent Station in 1976.

“I was doing guard, and working on the platform, bleeding trains, shunting trains, watering trains, checking tickets, you name it,” Mr Ryan told The Echo.

“I got the driving then, in 1981, and that’s the job I’ve been doing since.” 

He said his retirement today, after 49 years, was a nostalgic affair, as he drove this morning’s 0700 Cork to Heuston train and returned on the 1100 Hueston to Cork train.

“I got such a great send-off, there was such a great buzz around the place, it was like being a celebrity,” he said.

“There was lads I know who photograph the trains, and retired staff, a few of them travelled up on the train this morning and came back down for the spin.” He said he had been prepared for retirement, and wouldn’t miss the shift work.

Tom Ryan on his last day in Kent Station. (Photograph: Finbarr O'Neill)
Tom Ryan on his last day in Kent Station. (Photograph: Finbarr O'Neill)

“I’ll miss the auld gang, and you’d miss the craic, but it had to come, and you need a bit of life after work as well,” he said.

A Ballyphehane native, he lived in Mayfield from 1977 until 1998, when his family moved to Carrignavar.

He has been married to Catherine since 1991, and they have two adult sons.

Now, he said, he plans to travelling a bit, and he and Catherine hope to visit New York in March.

Not planning to go off the rails, he hopes to build a small model railway based on the trains he knew in the 1970s.

“There’s a load of the old Irish models, all of the old diesel engines we had, they’re all modelled now, the rolling stock too, I’ll be tipping away at that.

“I want to put up a nice bit of board with the track and a bit of scenery, just to be able to run the trains on it, something nice and tidy,” Mr Ryan said.

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