Longest-serving employee at Waterloo retires after nearly 70 years

A railway employee who worked at London Waterloo for nearly 70 years retired on Wednesday.

Don Buckley, 82, is thought to be the longest-serving railway employee in the country and has worked at Britain’s busiest railway station since he was 14-years-old.

Buckley said: “I have loved working at Waterloo for all these years. The station may have changed a lot since the 1950s, but it’s still such a special place and I feel so lucky to have had so many wonderful experiences working here.

“The people are what make the station special and I will miss my colleagues and customers immensely. While all good things come to an end, Waterloo will always have a very special place in my heart.” 

LONDON WATERLOO FROM ABOVE: An aerial shot of Britain’s busiest railway station.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons- Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

A rarity in today’s world where no one seems to have a job for life, Buckley started working at Waterloo in 1953 by coincidence as a young boy who travelled to the capital from County Kerry, Ireland.

He asked a taxi driver to take him to “the big station in London”, expecting to be taken to Euston to start a job there, but was taken to Waterloo, which he recalls as “a scruffy old station” and told a sweeper he was looking for a job.

As he was too young to be allowed to work near the trains themselves at the time, he started out as a station message boy which entailed going on shopping trips to David Greggs, the only supermarket on the south side of the river, for the ladies working at the station for sixpence a trip.

Over his many years of service, Buckley saw many changes at the iconic station.

Don Buckley speaks about his time at Waterloo for the station’s 170th anniversary in 2018. Video credit: Network Rail

When he first started, he earned £7 per week and steam trains came into the platforms, men wore bowler hats and music played throughout the concourse.

He saw the last steam train leaving Waterloo in 1967 and is one of the few remaining people in the railway industry with formal training to decouple a steam train.

Buckley has seen many famous faces pass through the station as he helped the likes of Sir Stanley Matthews, Roger Moore and Alfred Hitchcock with their luggage and spotted Buster Edwards the great train robber setting up a flower stall after he was let out of prison in 1975.

More recently he witnessed scenes from Skyfall and Bourne Ultimatum being filmed on location.

His last role was helping visually impaired and disabled customers around the station during his three shifts a week and giving unparalleled London knowledge to anyone needing directions around the city.

WATERLOO RUSH: Peak time saw thousands of people descend on the station pre-pandemic. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons- Dilif.

Buckley was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Rail Business Awards for his services to London Waterloo and the railway two years ago and was given an official send-off at an event at Waterloo on Wednesday.

London Waterloo Regional Manager at South Western Railway, Chico Coulibaly, said: “Don is a well-respected and much-loved member of our team. His wealth of knowledge about the railway, Waterloo and London is unrivalled, and he will be dearly missed by colleagues and customers alike.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank Don for all his years of service and the significant contribution he has made at Waterloo. We wish Don all the very best for his retirement.”

Featured photo credit: Network Rail

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