Carlisle-based Avanti West Coast worker retires after 50 years of rail service

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An Avanti West Coast employee has retired after 50 years of service on the West Coast Main Line.

Crew chief Tommy Michalek, 65, led the rig operating crew at Avanti West Coast in Carlisle.

His last shift was on March 31, and it also marked the end of his family’s long relationship with the railroad industry, as he is the last member of his family to retire from the railroad.

Tommy joined the railway in 1971, aged 15, following in the footsteps of his family working on the West Coast Main Line. Tommy’s uncle worked at the Carlisle Canal Shed until it closed, then moved to Watford, where Tommy began his career in July 1971.

Tommy Michalek with his first BR ID card.

In 1983 he returned to Carlisle as Area General Purpose Relief (GPR) at Carlisle Yard, where he was responsible for covering various jobs between Carlisle and Oxenholme.

He was appointed freight manager in 1992, before returning to the passenger railway in 1994 at Carlisle station. Tommy has been based there for nearly 30 years in various roles ranging from customer service and retail assistant, to GPR and team leader.

Accumulating half a century on the railway, Tommy follows his cousins, Stan, who was a train conductor for 50 years, Ron, who worked in accounts for 46 years, and Tony, who worked at Euston and Watford for 40 years.

The railroad also played a key role in Tommy’s personal life. He is an avid Carlisle United fan and travels by train across the UK to watch his beloved Blues play. Once he hangs up his baton and whistle, Tommy plans to continue following his team and enjoying his retirement by traveling with his wife.

To mark the end of his 50-year career, Avanti West Coast managing director Phil Whittingham presented Tommy with a framed copy of his service report. This detailed the various roles he held at Watford, London Euston and Carlisle. Carlisle’s colleagues gathered at Tommy’s presentation to give him a round of applause and good luck wishes.

Tommy Michalek with his Carlisle colleagues.
Tommy Michalek with his Carlisle colleagues.

Reflecting on his railroad career, Tommy said, “I really enjoyed my time on the railroad and had a good career. I love Carlisle station – it’s my home station, where I’ve spent most of my working life, but it’s the people who make it. I will miss my colleagues and look forward to seeing them when I travel by train to watch Carlisle United.

Michael Byrne, Avanti West Coast Station Manager in Carlisle, said: “Tommy is a beloved member of the team who will be greatly missed by everyone here in Carlisle. He is a rare breed of railway worker, his dedication has always been unwavering. He’s conscientious and there’s nothing he doesn’t seem to know!

“Tommy’s knowledge of the railway is vast and invaluable – everyone seems to turn to him with a question. It was a pleasure to work with Tommy and we all wish him the best for his retirement.

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