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Dereck Grant

Chaplain to the East of Scotland

Railway Mission Chaplains: Supporting Rail Staff on Life's Journey

In this blog series, we shine the spotlight on members of our dedicated chaplaincy team and their invaluable work supporting rail staff on life's journey. Members of the team will share their motivations, daily responsibilities and the impact of their work across the rail industry.

Next to feature in our series is Dereck Grant.

Dereck was also recognised by the British Transport Police for his dedication and received the 'British Transport Police Citizens in Policing Awards, 2024'

What area of the UK rails do you cover? 


Over the past few years, I had covered the North of Scotland from 2014 to 2022. This is a very large geographical area, and it is very sparsely populated in places with few train services. Then I moved to Dundee in 2022, which means I now cover the East of Scotland. Basically, I cover three out of the four biggest cities in Scotland (Aberdeen, Dundee, and Edinburgh). At the same time, I cover smaller towns and cities like Perth and down as far as Tweedbank and Dunbar. After all, it was a big change covering the East of Scotland compared to covering the North of Scotland because it is a completely different geographical area with different needs.

What inspired you to become a railway chaplain?

When I was pastoring a small church in Nairn, I had only a part-time position there so I was thinking about taking on another part-time role. I had all those childhood memories coming back to me of my grandfather who worked on the British Rail sleeper trains from Inverness to London. I did my Google search by typing in ‘Christian work on the railway’, and I noticed that the Railway Mission was looking for someone to cover the north of Scotland. This also brought back positive memories because I remembered a man called, Willie Nelson, who was a railway chaplain when I was a young Christian in the early 1990s. I reckon that memory was the final factor that inspired me to apply for the role in 2014. 

How do you spend a typical day in the role?

Every day is different in the life of a railway chaplain, and every geographical area is very different for each chaplain. Yet, we bring our own unique skills to the role, and one of mine is pastoral care. We also organise suicide prevention events which are a good way for us to engage with the travelling public and organisations such as the Samaritans.  At these events, we have pop-up stalls at stations handing out suicide prevention literature, or we can be on trains talking to members of the public who might want to talk to us about suicide prevention or mental health issues.


We visit rail installations such as depots, signal boxes, signalling centres, control centres, CCTV facilities, various managerial offices, British Transport Police workplaces, and many more facilities. I have been asked to present a few Railway Mission presentations about the work we do for new trainee train drivers. Yet, I feel a lot of pride in conducting the Armistice Day/Remembrance Day services at Edinburgh Waverley because of my own background in the armed forces. We also support those who leave the rail industry even in their final moments of life. Indeed, I have conducted many funeral services because many railway people want one of their own to do the final honour for them or their families. In fact, there is so much we do that a long list would be needed to explain a typical day which is never the same. 

How do you tailor your chaplaincy work to the specific needs and challenges faced by railway employees?

Now, every employee has different needs and challenges. Therefore, it is about prioritising what needs to be done straight away and what can be left for another day. For example, a monthly visit to a rail facility or the more urgent need to support people after a fatality will be higher up our priority list for obvious reasons.

Still, railway employees face the usual challenges that life throws at us all. These problems can be anything from ill health, mental health, stress, work demands, financial difficulties, relationship issues, workplace relationships and personal bereavements, and these are just a few of the issues we support railway employees with.


There can be a variety of challenges that we can encounter as railway chaplains. For example, extreme weather is becoming more common. This can mean that railway lines can be closed for obvious safety reasons. If this is the case, we tend to work from home by catching up on our administrative tasks or emailing or calling people. Yet, the railway industry is always changing, so it is vital that we adapt to any new changes.

How does your faith play a role in the support you provide and how do you navigate the diversity of beliefs and backgrounds of the railway workers with whom you interact?

My faith is part of who I am, and most railway workers know that we are there to support them and not to force our religious beliefs on them. I can give many examples of how I have supported people from other faiths and different backgrounds. For example, I remember going to visit a signal box and the signalman in the box said that he did not want the ‘God Squad’ today because he was an atheist. It was a very cold day, and he opened the windows and left the door open to make sure that I got the message that I was not welcome in his signal box. However, he kept asking me questions as I was about to leave - and he seemed happy with my answers. Then slowly the windows and the door closed, and I was offered a cup of tea to warm me up.  After that, he realised that my motives were genuine, and I was able to support him. Then he knew that I was not there to judge him because he had different beliefs from me. In the end, he always made me feel very welcome after that encounter with him.

Can you share a memorable experience from your time as a chaplain?

There have been many moments of great joy as a railway chaplain. At the same time, there have been times that I have been able to cry with people in their lowest moments of life. For example, the train derailment at Carmont near Stonehaven has to be the most unforgettable experience for me. As railway chaplains we get some of the best training to deal with major incidents. However, I never thought that it could actually happen in my patch, in the north of Scotland. Nevertheless, it did happen on 12th August 2020.  Personally, it was hard enough knowing two of those who tragically lost their life on that horrific day. Therefore, out of respect, I will say no more except that we were able to support so many people during that heart-breaking summer of 2020.


I could share many other memorable moments like the support that I have provided to a former signaller who had lost his grandmother, mother and sister to Huntington’s Disease. In fact, I witnessed the rapid decline of his sister’s health when I would visit her in a care home.  Then the signaller was diagnosed with HD himself, so I have been with him during his ups and downs. Yet, this is not my story to tell, but it is important that people know that we are there for them in the very darkest moments of their lives.


What do you find most fulfilling about your role as a chaplain in the railway industry, and what motivates you to continue your work with the Railway Mission?

Personally, I find that supporting people on life’s journey can be very fulfilling. Nevertheless, the biggest factor that motivates me to continue working with the Railway Mission is suicide prevention. After all, I have been able to support a few people in my role who were feeling suicidal over the years. Recently, I was able to support a member of the public who reached out to me after he had written out a note of intention to end his life. Thankfully, I was able to support him with the help of others which makes my role worthwhile. Therefore, on a cold winter’s day when it is dark and miserable it becomes a great motivator to get out of bed because I know that I could make a difference in somebody’s life. Furthermore, the feedback I receive from people about the support we provide is extremely positive which makes it worthwhile working at the Railway Mission because we are making a difference in people’s lives.


What message or advice would you like to share with railway employees and their families who may be reading this blog post?

Railway employees and their families should feel free to contact us at any time. Even if they leave a message, we will always get back to them. They should also know that we provide a confidential service. Even if we cannot help with a specific problem, we can still signpost them to a place where they can get the vital support that they may need. Even when someone leaves the railway, we are still able to support former staff members and their families or visit their home, so don’t be shy please get in touch with us.

Finally, how can people inside and outside the railway industry support the work of Railway Mission and chaplains like you?

I believe people can support us inside the railway by letting their colleagues know about the support that we can provide. Even if they know about our support, they should feel free to approach us for a chat. After all, people don’t have to have a problem to approach us because we are happy to talk to people. Furthermore, the Train Operating Companies can support us financially or introduce us to their new members of staff on induction days. Those outside the railway can support us by giving to the Railway Mission or even praying for the work that we do. Even sharing a social media post can sometimes promote the work of the Railway Mission or its chaplains.

Keep an eye out for the next in our railway chaplain blog post series.