Loco named after former CLPG chairman at surprise event

Former CLPG chairman John Ellis was taken completely by surprise when he was asked to unveil his own name on a GB Railfreight locomotive.

John’s family, former colleagues from his railway career and CLPG committee members had been sworn to secrecy about the ceremony organised by Great Western Railway at Moreton-in-Marsh station on Saturday, July 15.

John Ellis in the cab of 66785

The naming of Class 66 locomotive No 66785 was arranged to mark John’s 60+ years of involvement with the railways, which began in 1962 when he joined the then British Railways as a graduate management trainee.

He went on to hold senior roles with British Rail, Railtrack and GB Railways, and as an independent rail consultant, and served for 12 years until May 2023 as the chairman of the Cotswold Line Promotion Group.

He said: “It’s very rare for me to be at a loss for words. This is quite an overwhelming experience. I’m still looking around and seeing people I never ever thought would be here.”

GWR commercial development director Tom Pierpoint told guests that John had “made a massive difference to today’s railway and to me – your commitment and passion and enthusiasm has been really inspirational.”

66785 being prepared for the naming ceremony during a torrential downpour

Former British Rail colleague Dick Fearn told John: “Your leadership from those days has been a great benefit to many people since.”

John Smith, the managing director of GB Railfreight, recalled John’s role in helping to set up the company.

He said: “John was a great coach and a great help to me in building up the business,” and added, “without you and the guidance that you offered me back in the day, I don’t think we would have developed it.”

John was presented with a miniature version of the nameplate and a model of 66785.

  • The current edition of the CLPG’s newsletter, Cotswold & Malvern Line News, includes John’s own account of his railway career. It is available from ticket offices at stations on the line priced £2 or on request from the CLPG, using the contact form on this website. Please note that there will be an additional charge for postage.

Pictures: William Crossley

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