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Bob Austin, engine man who became Labour councillor

Family recall his love for Tottenham Hotspur - and his ability to crack quiz machine

02 November, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Bob Austin in his days as a steam engine fireman

BOB Austin – bus conductor, steam engine fireman and former councillor in Somers Town – has died. He was 86. A wreath of a 24 bus, the Routemaster he worked on for several years, will be laid out at his funeral in Golders Green crematorium at 11am today (Thursday).

Born in Cressy Road, South End Green, – the fifth Robert Isaac James Austin in his family – he went to Fleet School and later raised his own family in Tolmers Square for 35 years.

His son, also called Robert, said: “He had a marvellous life, it really spans such a lot of history. He could remember Regent’s Park being turned into allotments, sheep on Hampstead Heath, steam trains, the Blitz.”

He added: “When he was a child they never had TV. They didn’t know what a banana was – they didn’t have fruit. If you had fruit you thought you were in heaven. He remembered it all. Predominantly, he worked as a fireman on the trains, he was one of the ones shovelling all the coal in, but occasionally they would let him have a go at driving.

Mr Austin was also a gas man, a conductor on the Routemaster – number 24 – and had  worked for Dunn & Co in Kentish Town as a warehouse­man, and at NatWest bank doing payroll.

His son said: “Before his legs caved up he’d go and play down King’s Cross snooker club. He used to win lots of money on the memory machine, because he was brilliant at general knowledge,” adding: “My father was a mad, mad Tottenham supporter. He had all these albums – all Blanchflower and all that. We have to give them to my sister because we are all Arsenal – my mum was an Arsenal fan, you see.”

Mr Austin was also a big figure in the King’s Cross Railway Lands campaign. He sat on the council as a Labour councillor in the 1990s but was deselected when the party decided to implement all-women candidate lists.

Somers Town council­lor Roger Robinson said he was a “very good man” and a “hard worker” who “did a hell of a lot of good work for Somers Town”. In 2009, Mr Austin launched a successful High Court legal challenge against a privately-run GP centre proposed for Hampstead Road.

Married for 49 years to Sheila, who died two years ago, he leaves behind four children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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