Do train guards ever 'nod off'?

rg177

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I haven't witnessed a guard do it but I do recall an amusing (or concerning) incident under DOR East Coast when I watched the trolley attendant sleepily crash the trolley up the aisle (this was an early service) without a word then promptly lie down across two seats and fall asleep until we arrived at Edinburgh. He was either exhausted or hungover but thankfully was left undisturbed and no chaos or disaster ensued from his nap!
 
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CW2

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A long time ago, when I was nowt but a lad, I had a friend who was a guard at Leeds who - like me - was a fan of clss 40s. One night he invited me to join him on his diagrammed trip on the 21:50 York - Shrewsbury to Stockport, returning on the 22:50 Shrewsbury - York to Leeds. All went well until the return journey, where we were seated in a comfy first class compartment with the lights off and the heating on. We awoke with a start at Huddersfield, where the station staff were beginning to panic as they couldn't find the guard, and feared he had fallen out somehow. The train was delayed about 5 minutes as a result - not much, but as it was a Post Office train it was closely monitored, and a "Please Explain" soon followed. He concocted some story about the connecting doors between carriages being faulty, and him becoming stuck between carriages. I'm not sure anybody believed him, but he got away with it.
 

the sniper

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I haven't witnessed a guard do it but I do recall an amusing (or concerning) incident under DOR East Coast when I watched the trolley attendant sleepily crash the trolley up the aisle (this was an early service) without a word then promptly lie down across two seats and fall asleep until we arrived at Edinburgh. He was either exhausted or hungover but thankfully was left undisturbed and no chaos or disaster ensued from his nap!
Erm, or ill...? Did anyone check on them?
 

D365

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I have been a guard for 8 years now and the key to avoid this is preparation. At my depot we have shifts that start from 0123. It's not always possible to get a full night sleep the day before especially if you have come off a bank of rest days. I struggled with this at first but now I find it much easier. I start the day before by getting up earlier than I would (0500-0600). Yes I would like a lie in but I will find something to do, watch some TV, take the dog for a walk etc. I plan that day out and make sure I have meals well before I plan on going to sleep. I try not to do anything too arduous and just take it steady. Trying to get to bed early is easier said than done. If I went at 1700 I would get little sleep, waking up, clock watching etc. If I drag that out to maybe 1900 I would get more quality sleep but less of it. I also look forward to going to work which is better than thinking about how rubbish it is to get up at 0020!
Get up nice and early, have a shower and get dressed. When I get to work I try to keep up to date with the latest information, be that infrastructure changes, retail changes etc. If I am feeling tired I generally have plenty of lunch and a coffee. Or a walk about and have some mints and water. I like to review my routes too and revisit route maps to check for inconsistencies in knowledge. Our company is very keen we have excellent route knowledge and I think this is brilliant. Of course some less keen Guards are different and do fall asleep, but I enjoy my job and I want to use my time wisely whilst at work to keep myself up to date.
Sorry for babbling a little off topic.
I'll bear this in mind in case I end up working early mornings in any of my future job roles!

Meal planning is a good point. I've heard (and learned for myself) that one should leave at least three hours between dinner and sleep. Not always possible but it doesn't feel good to sleep on a full stomach.
 

Adam0984

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Short answer yes
The most lethal are travelling Pass on longer distance services for a shorter journey and setting off think I must not go to sleep I must not go to sleep and waking up pulling into your station and hastily gathering your stuff and diving up otherwise an embarrassing phone call to say you maybe about 3 hours late to your train as your on a train next stop London!!
 

185

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Short answer yes
The most lethal are travelling Pass on longer distance services for a shorter journey and setting off think I must not go to sleep I must not go to sleep and waking up pulling into your station and hastily gathering your stuff and diving up otherwise an embarrassing phone call to say you maybe about 3 hours late to your train as your on a train next stop London!!
A fair number of Northern's Piccadilly drivers and guards over the years, travelling pass to Stoke have sailed through the station whilst dreaming, usually woken up as the train bounces over Colwich junction.
 

trebor79

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I’ve had a fleeting look through the Railways Archive - I suspect as very few instances of the guard definitely being asleep (as opposed to being merely inattentive) lead to incidents, they’re not well documented beyond the various potted histories of depots aforementioned!

One I did find was an accident at Bradley near Huddersfield in 1873 where a guard was “either drunk or asleep” enough to fail to apply brakes, causing a runaway: https://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/BoT_Bradley1873.pdf

There are likely to be others, but the ever diminishing role of the guard in the direct running of the train probably rules out a sleeping guard being the immediate cause of an incident more recently, although a deeper dive into the archive might reveal incidents where it was a contributory factor.
Didn't the guard involved in the Moorgate crash admit that he was reading the paper in the rear cab, so failed to notice they were entering the station at far too high a speed?
 

bluesfromagun

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Of course they do, intentionally sometimes. When I was a guard I never did it, some people will go "50mins til next stop, I'll get a nap", I didn't do that because in my eyes, its bad patter. God knows it was hard to keep your eyes open at times though.
Its not as serious as it sounds though, shutting your eyes and dozing for ten mins etc - you'll wake up when the train stops, driver buzzes you on cab to cab, a passenger chaps your door.
 

2L70

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Short answer yes
The most lethal are travelling Pass on longer distance services for a shorter journey and setting off think I must not go to sleep I must not go to sleep and waking up pulling into your station and hastily gathering your stuff and diving up otherwise an embarrassing phone call to say you maybe about 3 hours late to your train as your on a train next stop London!!
Now in this wonderful social media age you get Drivers/Guards who close their eyes whilst travelling pass, someone takes a picture and tweets the company in question.
 

Ashley Hill

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Its not as serious as it sounds though, shutting your eyes and dozing for ten mins etc - you'll wake up when the train stops, driver buzzes you on cab to cab, a passenger chaps your door.
It is quite serious when as a grade we are fighting against DCO etc. The guard being late releasing the doors is one of the excuses used in favour of it.
A driver at my depot was photographed by a passenger whilst passing on another TOC. During his deep sleep he had managed to sprawl over four seats. The complaint was about a train driver being asleep on a busy train. If the press had got hold of it you can imagine how it would have gone.
 

Gems

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We are only human, and lets be honest, there is no greater environment to nod off than on a moving train. What's more, it can happen fast and sudden. I have done it, but mostly just micro-sleep rather than the full blown snore fest some on here are describing. The earlies can be punishing, and the worst of all is the first early of the week. I tend to find it is the middle to end of a shift that is worse, a few hours in and I can feel like a zombie, although it never lasts long.
I know drivers do it as well. How many times do we get a emergency brake application only to be told "Sorry mate, I dropped the DSD" Yeah right. Lol
 

pompeyfan

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There’s a section of route where you coast down hill for miles on end, drivers would use a rough bit of track to wake them up again. Not sure if that’s railway rumour but certainly makes a good story.
 

Dieseldriver

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We are only human, and lets be honest, there is no greater environment to nod off than on a moving train. What's more, it can happen fast and sudden. I have done it, but mostly just micro-sleep rather than the full blown snore fest some on here are describing. The earlies can be punishing, and the worst of all is the first early of the week. I tend to find it is the middle to end of a shift that is worse, a few hours in and I can feel like a zombie, although it never lasts long.
I know drivers do it as well. How many times do we get a emergency brake application only to be told "Sorry mate, I dropped the DSD" Yeah right. Lol
So if I was your Driver and I missed the vigilance you'd automatically assume I was asleep at the controls of a 400 tonne train?
 
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170 cabs are great for guards; in winter on a really early; quick ticket check then blinds down, heater on full, revolve seat, recline seat, feet on the second man's seat, set alarm for 2 mins before first stop. Absolute bliss.
 

Rover

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Travelling into Euston one morning 33 years ago on either the 0115 ex Holyhead or the 2215 Nightrider ex Glasgow we called at Watford Jn at around 0535 to set down, driver got the "right away" from platform staff but the guard was nowhere to be seen, he got down and walked down the platform to a BG at the front and banged on the window, the guard's head then appearing - so yes, it does happen.
 

Taunton

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David L Smith, in his books about the G&SWR 100 years ago, of course has the best stories. Unfitted freight downhill, loco crew just felt no braking from the back at all. Signal at stop, couldn't make it, just gently through the trap points onto the ballast.

Driver walks back, feels the van brake blocks - cold. Into the van, guard nicely with feet up. "What's wrong with you this morning, so hard on the brake, we could hardly get along there". "Oh no, my word I hadn't been pulling on the brake at all". "Really? Then come forward and see where the engine is ...".
 

paulmch

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The earlies can be punishing, and the worst of all is the first early of the week. I tend to find it is the middle to end of a shift that is worse, a few hours in and I can feel like a zombie, although it never lasts long.
Snap - I always struggle with the first early on a Monday, particularly if it follows a very late finish on the Saturday night. I find that once I'm out of bed and on my way to work, I get along just fine until I've had something to eat on my PNB down route. The post-lunch slump hits me very hard sometimes and I force myself to check every ticket at every station on the way back home. Anything to avoid sitting down in the cab!
 

ChiefPlanner

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Not unknown for drivers to drop off when not on the road , I can recall a looped Freightliner in Kilburn loop at stupid o'clock not moving when the signal was pulled off , - so someone was sent out there to check , to find the driver had shut his eyes , ditto, someone had to go and kick the cab door on the Camp Hill banker at Brum for exactly the same reason. Perfectly understandable.

No one has yet mentioned single manned signalboxes in the small hours......
 

TEW

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Snap - I always struggle with the first early on a Monday, particularly if it follows a very late finish on the Saturday night. I find that once I'm out of bed and on my way to work, I get along just fine until I've had something to eat on my PNB down route. The post-lunch slump hits me very hard sometimes and I force myself to check every ticket at every station on the way back home. Anything to avoid sitting down in the cab!
Always shocks me to hear that there are rosters with very late finishes on a Saturday in to a very early start on a Monday, it's near enough impossible to adjust that quick. We have a 32 minimum rest period over a single free day, so you can't finish very late Saturday then start very early Monday.
 

tony6499

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We used to get rostered finishes on Saturday night at 1am and back at 4/5am on Monday. If you were spare you could cop a Saturday night turn finish at 6/7am Sunday morning and start 4/5am on Monday. But it's legal management told us.....
 

45107

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We used to get rostered finishes on Saturday night at 1am and back at 4/5am on Monday. If you were spare you could cop a Saturday night turn finish at 6/7am Sunday morning and start 4/5am on Monday. But it's legal management told us.....
Under the old BR conditions it was. Can’t remember the wording but something about 32 hours rest where a ‘rest turn’ intervened except when a Sunday was involved.
I suppose it is now down to company/local agreements.
 

Horizon22

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Snap - I always struggle with the first early on a Monday, particularly if it follows a very late finish on the Saturday night. I find that once I'm out of bed and on my way to work, I get along just fine until I've had something to eat on my PNB down route. The post-lunch slump hits me very hard sometimes and I force myself to check every ticket at every station on the way back home. Anything to avoid sitting down in the cab!
Statistics have shown between the 2-4th hour of duty are when you're most likely to enter a "microsleep" and when most operational incidents (for drivers anyway) happen. Also post PNB as some can get complacent after a break!
 

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