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image credit: Charlie Arnold was given a special send-off by his Southern colleagues at Brighton station, including a special message on the information board.

Charlie Arnold was given a special send-off by Brighton colleagues

One of Britain’s longest-serving train drivers was given a special send-off after 51 years in the cab.

Charlie Arnold, 69, was touched when his Southern colleagues at Brighton station made a surprise, special announcement and put up a notice to thank him for his outstanding service, leading to a round of applause.

The grandfather’s first role on the railway was on the platform at Brighton at the age of 15, when he would change the oil-filled tail lamps of trains. He then briefly worked at Hassocks station before becoming a box boy at Keymer Junction, which involved keeping a log of the trains passing through.

Shortly before he turned 18, Charlie returned to Brighton, where he worked as a driver’s assistant, also known as a second man, until he was 23. In 1980, he landed a driver’s job at Redhill and was based there for 11 months before returning once again to Brighton, where he was based for the rest of his driving career.

Charlie, who lived in Brighton from 1969-2000 and currently lives in Lancing, said: “It’s like a family when you work in the rail industry. People get to know you. It was amazing how many people came up to me to shake my hand during my send-off. I was quite surprised to see my name on the board. They also made an announcement and staff all clapped.”

As well as his send-off at the station on Thursday, 21 November, Charlie also received a long-service award from Govia Thameslink Railway.

His last day driving a Southern train was Wednesday, 20 November, when he went from Brighton to Barnham and Southampton and back. Charlie said: “I have no idea how many miles I have covered over the years – millions I expect!”

Brighton depot Driver Line Manager Neil Wyatt said: “For the short time I have managed Charlie, he has been an absolute pleasure to work with. He would come in every day with a positive attitude and he was a great representative of the company, as well as a great example to others. I have a great deal of respect for him and I hope he enjoys his retirement immensely as he deserves it and he will be missed.”