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Neil Williams: a community rail hero – Friends of Glossop Station

Neil Williams is described as a “truly outstanding” volunteer. He is the founder member of Friends of Glossop Station (FOGS) and has been elected as chair for the past seven years.

He actively participates in practical activities such as gardening and cleaning, but also works tirelessly promoting community rail in the local and wider community. He not only represents the group at meetings, seminars, conferences, and other community rail events, he is also said to be a fantastic ambassador for the movement as a whole.

Neil fosters and maintains links with neighbouring friends groups – including Broadbottom, Hadfield, Hattersley, and Guide Bridge – and uses his expertise to coordinate shared events.

He also has strong connections with friends groups in other areas of the North, notably Whaley Bridge, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Buxton, Marple, Rose Hill, Romiley, Walkden, Hindley, and Mytholmroyd.

Examples of his work

Talks and Guided Tours

Neil often welcomes a range of groups and individuals to Glossop.  His informative guided tour of the station, including its gardens, heritage lighting, Poetry Platform, and display of local artists’ work, frequently ends with refreshments in its café, Twig. Time permitting, a short walk to the town square demonstrates the links between station architecture and local history and heritage, not forgetting a photo opportunity to honour the Howard Lion, who proudly guards the station entrance!

Praised as an engaging speaker, Neil is invited to speak to groups as diverse as the Health Group at Glossop Cricket Club, and the Methodist Church Women’s Fellowship.

Publicity and Tourism

Neil’s colleagues describe him as a stickler for information being accurate and up-to-date, so he personally checks and refreshes publicity material in and around Glossop station. This work includes;

  • updating notice boards on the station and in the community
  • producing and refreshing the content of the FOGS website, blog, and newsletter
  • displaying bus information and transport connections from Glossop
  • delivering posters to five stations promoting guided walks and folk trains
  • issuing press releases and giving interviews on High Peak Radio
  • sharing community rail literature at rail-related meetings

Gardening and Cleaning

Neil is said to be keen to lead by example in terms of ensuring that the station appears attractive and well-cared for.

He and the gardening team work on the embankment every month between April and October, and Neil also tends to three tubs on the platform, two seasonally-changed hanging baskets above the station entrance, and manger baskets at Dinting. Neil is also an active member of the cleaning team, who are said to be justly proud of their record of cleaning, tidying, and litter-picking every Sunday across the past year.

Events and Projects

One FOGS team member said: “At all FOGS events Neil is the first to arrive and last to leave when all is cleared away. He will turn his hand to any task.”

Examples of recent projects Neil has been involved with include the Lowestoft evacuees commemoration event, when former child evacuees from Lowestoft, billeted in Glossop in June 1940, came to Derbyshire to celebrate enduring links between the two towns. Local children with suitcases and gas masks were dressed in 1940s style and a commemorative plaque was unveiled.  As a mark of appreciation Neil was invited to this year’s annual reunion of surviving evacuees in Lowestoft, where he presented their group with a similar plaque, which he had carried all the way on the train. He has also been instrumental in organising events at the station including the teddy bears’ picnic, art in the window, and the Santa Christmas event.

The recent launch of historical information boards at Glossop, Dinting, and Hadfield stations was the culmination of three years of work by Neil and Joy Hallsworth, the chair of Friends of Hadfield Station, on a project supported by High Peak and Hope Valley Community Rail Partnership and Northern. Work is now underway to produce boards for all the other stations on the Glossop line.