Bessie’s story

Working as a railway guard and freight train driver, Bessie understands the importance of small talk. She has helped many people in recent years, all because of trusting her instincts and starting a conversation.

“Growing up I was already part of what we call 'the railway family' as my dad was a guard and conductor at Ipswich. I first joined the railway in 2018 as a guard for Greater Anglia. It was a dream role that I’d applied for relentlessly for years. I loved my job, but I knew it was time to start looking ahead, perhaps in a more ‘behind the scenes’ role.

“Now I'm a freight train driver. The safety element of it is so important and something I am passionate about and that includes looking out for people who might need help.

Bessie STSL

It feels so rewarding knowing you've helped someone and that what you've done can make all the difference to that person. It’s important to say that you don’t need any special training, and everyone has the skills to make small talk.


“One time I approached someone who I didn't think appeared vulnerable, but I had a gut instinct, and at the end of the conversation they said, 'Thank you for talking, I wasn't going to go home'.

“When I was working as a guard, someone caught my eye because it was a lot of, flitting around, looking around, looking at their phone. Deep down, you have got all that adrenaline going and you're thinking, ‘what should I say?’ I had found something about what they were wearing, and it was a case of just going over and saying, ‘Oh, my goodness, I absolutely love what you're wearing. Where have you got that from?’ It was just a short, sharp answer of ‘I don't know.’ That's when you can kind of edge your way in to say, ‘Are you okay?’

Just that one little bit of positive small talk and it can go so far. It was a positive outcome. Take that chance because it is the most important and pivotal thing you could do. I don't think I've ever listened to anyone like I'd listened to that person.

“Another moment that stuck with me was when I walked past a young girl who had a few bags with her and looked like she'd been crying. I just asked her if she was okay and she said she was, but I persevered and ended up sitting with her. I just started talking about her bags, making small talk which I felt distracted her and built trust.

“She ended up telling me that her boyfriend had left her, and she didn't have any money to get to her Mum’s, so she was just sat on the platform not knowing what to do. I helped her work out her options.

“I think just showing her a bit of kindness was exactly what she needed.“

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