The UK’s first-ever Pride train, staffed by an all-LGBT+ crew, inspired a closeted railway engineer to come out as bisexual.
The Avanti West Coast Pride train was first announced in August with a design that incorporates all the colours of the progress Pride flag, which is inclusive of both people of colour and trans people in the LGBT+ community.
The company went on to launch a public competition to name the train – and the winner was announced on Sunday to mark National Coming Out Day (11 October).
Railway engineer Edward Hitchon Godfrey was announced as the winner of the competition with his name suggestion “Progress”.
Hitchon Godfrey opened up about how the Pride train helped him to come out publicly as bisexual and to embrace his place within the LGBT+ community.
“As a young engineer entering the rain industry five years ago, I was struck by the stark contrast between a relatively progressive industry on the surface and the sometimes intolerant views expressed in the background,” Hitchon Godfrey said.
“Trainbows, Pride Trains and events gave me – a closeted bisexual man – the feeling of support within the industry I love, to come out at work, and to challenge prejudiced views. Winning this competition has solidified my sense of belonging and given a real boost to my confidence in my identity.
“To me, the name ‘Progress’ embodies both a celebration of where we have got to as an industry and as a society, and a recognition that we’re not there yet – that there’s still work to be done.”
The bisexual railway engineer continued: “Pride trains, it’s always a bit of a risk that it’s just social do-gooding by companies, but for me personally, they provided the jumping-off point for me to challenge prejudiced views at work.”
He said the name “Progress” wasn’t originally his idea, but came from an activist and railway worker called Charley. However, when it gained traction on social media, it “spoke” to Hitchon Godfrey.
He said the Pride train, and the name selection process, has given him “a real sense of Pride and has made me personally feel more welcome in the industry I work in as a non-straight person”.
“It can be quite tiring to be in a heteronormative environment all the time and it’s really nice to see these spells of light running up and down the network – it’s great,” he said.
Sarah Copley, executive director of Avanti West Coast, said she was “delighted” the name “Progress” was chosen for the Pride train.
“Within a day of the competition launching, an online campaign was started calling for the livery to be called Progress, highlighting the wider LGBTQ+ community’s love of the Pride Train and recognition of the progress we are making around diversity and inclusion.”
She revealed that they received 1,500 entires for the competition, but “Progress” was the “clear choice” for the judging panel, who found Hitchon Godfrey’s story moving.
“We constantly listen to our people, our customers, and the communities we serve to ensure our diversity and inclusion strategy is relevant. ‘Progress’ is a symbol of Avanti West Coast’s commitment to live proud and support Pride 365 days a year.”