Welcome to Neil's Beer & Rail Website!

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Hailing from the cathedral city of Hereford, the county town of Herefordshire in the West Midlands, my life took a major change in 2016 when I relocated to Leicester courtesy of a new job. As you may have guessed from the name of my website my main hobbies are beers & railways which has also led to interests in photography & travel. My job on the railway provides me with the most enjoyable way of getting around and pursuing my hobbies, which all tend to blur into one after a few hours!

I've worked on the railways since 1992, starting as a "Trainman D" at Stonebridge Park but with most of it as a train driver based at Hereford. My depot lost its last passenger jobs due to the rail privatisation process as I was about to pass out as a driver so almost all of my time has been spent working on freight trains. During my time at Hereford I worked for the Welsh Freight Division of BR which became Transrail, one of three freight companies formed prior to privitisation. Wisconsin Central bought Transrail in February 1996 along with Loadhaul, Mainline and Rail Express Systems (RES), becoming English, Welsh and Scottish Railways (EWS). Germany based Deutsche Bahn bought EWS in June 2007 and at the start of January 2009 the EWS name was replaced by DB Schenker Rail (UK) to bring us in line with other companies owned by DB Schenker. Sadly, the rail freight industry is very fragile at the moment and DB annouced redundandies in mid 2015 (to be followed by a second wave or redundancies twelve months later) and as Hereford was a small depot we were particularly vulnerable so it seemed like a good time to consider a change. My redundancy only lasted four months as I was lucky enough to find a job with Cross Country Trains as a driver based at Leicester traincrew depot. This is the start of a new chapter in my career as for the first time I'm now regularly driving passenger trains.

Sadly, much of the enjoyment and variety that existed on the railways up until the 1990's has been lost due to the nature of the UK rail privatisation, with all rail companies seeking to maximise profits while lowering overheads - not too surprising but a bit sad when staff morale doesn't always seem to be considered in the equation. Hopefully, my website will help to show that not everything is doom and gloom on the railways and there is still some enjoyment to be had both in the UK and abroad. To help me get my "fix" of proper railways, I'm a part owner of two former British Rail shunting locomotives which keeps me occupied when I have as spare weekend and I enjoy travelling around the world, using the native rail systems whenever possible and practicing my hobby of photography.

I'm also very interested in beer and the brewing process. Since the formation of CAMRA in 1971, the British beer scene has also undergone major changes with a wealth of brewpubs and microbreweries now scattered around the country including several in my home county. Thanks to some friends in Lichfield I developed a taste for real ale and in particular dark beers although in the last fifteen years my taste buds have changed and I've tried many beers from around the world. Although not always cask conditioned, there's a huge range of beer styles out there and some superb flavours waiting to be sampled so the dispense method and appearance isn't as important to me as the production method and flavour - I drink with my mouth, not my eyes! More information about these can be found on my beer page as well as in my trip reports.

My website is split into various pages with links at the top and bottom of each page to navigate to the other pages, including my Flickr collections. Rather than just being about me, I've tried to make the web pages more of a general interest nature based around my hobbies and the things I enjoy. I've finally managed to persuade my wife June to set up a website for her "Crafty Bitz" craftwork which can be found here and she's even threatening to scan her huge collection of beer mats now for her own Flickr page!

This is my first attempt at a website and rather than use the assistance of software like FrontPage, I've decided to spend a bit of time learning about HTML to understand the language behind website creation. Obviously I'm learning more as I'm going (I've just found out how to justify the text!) so please bear with me as my web pages are likely to change format and appearance every now and again. I have been warned that creating a website is fairly easy compared with keeping it up to date so just like the freight trains I drive - things might move quite slowly! I'd also like to point out that my website is likely to be littered with typos and glitches but I will not be providing a prize for the person who finds the most!

In the meantime, if you'd like to contact me with any thoughts, suggestions, queries or feedback, you can do so by e-mailing me on hfdned@hotmail.com.

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© Neil Aitken 07/06/2007


This site is in no way connected to any other railway company or related business. No payment has been received for the publishing of any company names and/or logos. The opinions expressed within this website are the sole opinions of the author and as such should be treated as hearsay and not be printed elsewhere without his permission. All photographs contained on pages of this website are taken by the author and remain copyrighted to him, unless stated otherwise in the accompanying text.