Derailed boss steamed up over shunting

FORMER railway guard Geoffrey Evison has been left standing on the platform after a preservation society decided they didn't want him on board.

The 30-stone former chairman of the Friends of Riccarton Junction was dubbed the Fat Controller and branded a bully. He was given his nickname from the children's TV programme Thomas the Tank Engine.

This week the rail buff was given a one-way ticket and kicked out of the rail group he founded almost 10 years ago.

But he is refusing to be shunted into the sidings and has pledged to stay on track and cause mayhem. And he's told the secretary of the group he can use the sacking letter for toilet paper.

Last month, Mr Evison appeared in court at Selkirk and admitted a breach of the peace at the Melrose branch of the Bank of Scotland. In a phone call from that branch to his local Newcastleton manager, he told the bank boss he should be put up against a wall and shot. The manager had frozen the society's account after a complaint from a member. Startled staff alerted the police.

Sentence was deferred on the 52-year-old for six months to see if he could behave himself.

But the police have since been alerted after he drilled through replacement locks at the Riccarton facilities designed to keep him out. Police have also been told about alleged irregularities in the funds while under his control.

The preservation group is restoring part of the Waverley Rail line at Riccarton, a remote area of Wauchope Forest, near Newcastleton. They have laid more than 300 yards of track and restored a station house, platform and telephone box on land they lease from the Forestry Commission.

But their restoration dream became a nightmare after a stormy annual general meeting in 2003 when criticisms were levelled at the site and the integrity of the society's financial standing.

A leadership challenge hit the buffers and Mr Evison remained, but bitterness swelled and membership dropped.

He was suspended in January this year for six months, both as station master (vice-chairman) and as a member. But he ignored the yellow warning and this week was shown a red.

A statement issued by the Friends of Riccarton chairman Cath Stockdale, secretary Derek Brown and treasurer Dennis Roberts declared: "His abuse of public officials mounted to bringing the Friends of Riccarton Junction into disrepute. In addition, impropriety had been found within the accounts which he controlled.

"With this decision we expect we can now move forward."

The secretary added: "His actions have severely hindered our work. He is just a bully and while he is around no-one else will go to Riccarton.

Last week group members changed the locks on the station house – but Mr Evison admitted he turned up later to drill them out and replace them with his own.

He told TheSouthern: "If they think they can keep me out they can think again. I will continue to cause mayhem. If they keep changing the locks I will keep going back and drilling them out every time.

"They have terminated my membership without even an appeal. I have received a letter and sent one back to the secretary telling him he can wipe his backside with it. I refuse and will continue to refuse to accept that I have been booted out."

Asked by TheSouthern about allegations of cash impropriety, he told us: "There is no impropriety in the funds and I can prove it."

So is he a bully, we asked?: "I am not and never have been a bully. I may be big but I'm very kind. But I am not prepared to be pushed around by a group of nobodies. I would call them a bunch of deceitful scumbags."

Secretary Mr Brown told us: "That's pretty gentle compared to some of the things he has called us. But he is heading for a fall."

Mr Evison said: "I founded the group and I have raised every penny – turning it from a broken down junction into its present condition. This is not the end of the line as far as I am concerned – I am not going away."

Members of the group met with local police on Monday and a force spokeswoman told us: "Allegations have been made, and we are investigating as to whether a crime has been committed. We are not, at this stage, carrying out a criminal enquiry."

Riccarton junction closed in 1969 but was once a bustling railway village on the Waverley and Borders Counties rail network.