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Travers Cosgrove – War Hero and Innovator

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The man who invented the British Rail Universal Trolley Equipment, nicknamed BRUTEs and a familiar sight on many platforms, has died aged 93.

John Travers Cosgrove was also responsible for the yellow warning line near the platform edge. War hero Travers Cosgrave was awarded the Military Cross in 1945. After the war he joined LNER and worked for British Railways Scottish Region until 1955 and then for the Western Region before being appointed to the BR Board.

John Travers Cosgrove was born on 9th October 1920 in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was educated at Marlborough and Imperial College, London where he read Civil Engineering. Cosgrove was a noted cross country runner.

Serving in the Royal Corps of Engineers he took part in the Normandy invasion arriving with his unit just after D-Day.

He was awarded the MC for his part in leading the installation of a temporary scissor bridge at Wesel.

The allied advance had been held up by the failure to bridge the local river in Issum. Cosgrove took charge and directed operations for three hours under fierce enemy bombardment.

A successful career on the railways led to his promotion as Materials Handling Officer on the British Railways Board from 1962 to 1976. In this role he introduced luggage trolleys and BRUTEs.

Travers Cosgrove also worked out the safe distance from a platform edge for passengers to stand. This was developed initially for the Advanced Passenger Train but Cosgrove’s yellow line has survived as a safety measure on all platforms. Travers Cosgrove is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and their two daughters.


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