Axminster model rail enthusiast is making tracks
PUBLISHED: 11:33 02 August 2016 | UPDATED: 08:50 09 August 2016
Bob Phelps retires after 52 years as a designer at Peco and is heading to live in France
Model railway firm Peco’s longest-serving employee retired after 52 years last week - and admitted he doesn’t feel like he has done a day’s work in all that time.
“It’s never been a job to me – I have been paid for doing my hobby,” said life-long miniature train enthusiast Bob Phelps, 78, from Axminster.
He joined the Beer-based company in 1964 as a designer, having served an engineering apprenticeship, first working on jet engines with de Havilland and then helping to design nuclear submarines.
But his real love was always model railways and he spent his evenings building locos for people, eventually starting his own business at his home in London.
When Peco advertised for a designer, he applied and when interviewed by founder Sidney Pritchard he was amazed to see one of his model locos on his desk.
“To this day I don’t know where he got it,” he said. “And he would never tell me! He offered me the job and I have been here ever since. Peco have been such a good firm to work for.”
Now Bob is emigrating to live in France with his wife Elizabeth – just three miles away from where their youngest daughter Lisa and partner John are setting up home with their two children.
Peco chairman Michael Pritchard said: “During these past 52 years Bob has played an important part with the design and development of the world famous Peco Streamline track systems.
“Of course, during this time many other types of products have also been developed, including a comprehensive range of electrics, wagons and scenic items.
“Bob has always been a model railway enthusiast, right back to his childhood days when his father and brother had their own model railway in their home in Harrow. Their main interest was the American scene, Bob’s father being one of the founder members of the English National Model Railroad Association, which is a major society of model railway enthusiasts in the USA.
“It is no surprise that in Bob’s home in Axminster he constructed an enormous HO scale American outline model railway within a double garage. This must have been one of the largest private model railways in the West Country.
“Bob had many other interests, but one that was very important to him was his jazz music and he frequently played rhythm guitar for a number of local groups, including Clive Smith with his Arcadia band.
“Bob’s model railway expertise, enthusiasm and general knowledge will be greatly missed.”
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