Career on track with railway degree

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The Independent Online
The first graduate in railway studies yesterday shrugged off the notion that train enthusiasts were "sad anoraks".

Phillip Butterworth, 31, who has gained an MA from the Institute of Railway Studies at York University, said he was romantic about railways and rail travel.

It was his passion which took him away from his home in Sydney, Australia, for two years to study the running of railway workshops in Swindon for his degree.

"I have a love for trains, especially steam locomotives," he said, as he sat in the management centre of York station.

"I like the idea of something massive such as a steam locomotive moving through the landscape."

He added: "I'm interested in the social and cultural history of railways and how railway workshops of the 19th century operated. At one time there are more than 14,000 people working at Swindon."

He said he there were lessons to learn from the way people with so many different skills worked closely together as a team.

Mr Butterworth, who discovered the degree course in 1995 in the small ads columns of a railway fan magazine, admitted to standing at the end of platforms watching trains come and go, although he said he did not actually take numbers.

He acknowledged the "sad" reputation which seems to haunt train spotters and railway enthusiasts and laughed as he added: "Yes, I do have an anorak. I think train spotters have an image problem, but they do an important job, recording details of trains today. They provide an independent record which is invaluable, especially if official records were somehow destroyed or failed."

Mr Butterworth plans to return to Australia to study for a PhD at New South Wales University before launching a career in lecturing about railways.

Professor Colin Divall, head of the Institute of Railway Studies, said he was delighted Mr Butterworth had succeeded in his studies.

"He wanted to do the course so much he moved over to England and threw himself into the work. I hope he is the first of many IRS graduates, in fact we are recruiting students now for an October term start," said Professor Divall.

Nine other students have also passed their Certificate in Railways Studies after a two-year part-time course.

The degree course is a joint venture between the IRS, the York Railway Museum and York University.