At the tender of age of 19 Phil Taylor was the youngest person to drive a Metro when the network first opened – a record he still holds today.
Phil, 59, of Bank Foot in Newcastle, was in the first ever class of new drivers to start work on Metro in August 1980.
He remains the youngest person to pass the training course.
Phil has decided to tell his story as Metro celebrates its landmark 40th anniversary – and he speaks with a great sense of pride in a transport system he has represented for more than four decades.
He said: “I never thought I would be driving a train that young. It changed my life in that summer of 1980 when the Metro was getting ready to open.
“There were a few young lads there at the same time as me, but we’ve since worked out that I was youngest in that first group of trainees.
“Most of the new drivers were a bit older so I felt proud to have got in and got the chance to drive the trains on the system when it was brand new. I was never really nervous, despite being at the controls of this multi-million pound train with passengers on board who I was responsible for.”
Phil had been working as a guard for British Rail when the Tyne and Wear PTE started advertising for new drivers.
He said: “They were keen to take staff from British Rail and from the PTE bus company. I applied straight away. It’s incredible to say, but back then they had issued a whole booklet of jobs that people could apply for. That shows the impact of Metro.
“I was lucky enough to get an interview and from there a place on the driver training course, which lasted for just three months back in them days.
“At the start there was just one section of the line open between Haymarket and Tynemouth. I drove that route on the new trains, while other shifts I got to drive works locomotives for the other parts of the network that were still getting built.
“The Metro trains back then were cutting edge. All the technology that looks a bit dated now was shiny and new and really advanced for 1980.
“Those early days it was like a big new family. We all knew what a massive opportunity it was for us. My family were so proud of me.”
By 1981 it was time for the Royal opening of Metro. The Queen was to travel on a Metro train over the QE bridge before unveiling a plaque at Gateshead Interchange.
Phil explained: “I was a bit unlucky. The big royal opening with the Queen was on a day that I was on a rest day. I wasn’t in work at all and just watched the coverage on the news.
“However, I do recall the driver they chose to drive Her Majesty’s train. He was called Jack Hall and he was from Byker. He was a great guy and sadly he’s no longer with us.
“My abiding memory of the build up to the opening was that they ensured it was an older and more experienced former British Rail driver at the controls, given there was royalty on board.”
Phil worked as a Metro driver for 14 years. In 1994 he was promoted and began training a new generation of drivers.
He said: “It’s a great that I was able to pass my knowledge on and train so many new drivers. It was always a great feeling to see them trainees pass the course after working with them. Many of them are still driving today.
Phil went on to be a supervisor before making the switch to the Metro’s Gosforth control room, where he works on the control desk managing the services from a computer terminal.
He added “It’s amazing to see Metro turn 40 years old. The trains have served us so well and even as they get older the maintenance team do a great job. I’m proud to say I have driven them and I hope the drivers of today are just as proud.”