David Maidment has been a railway enthusiast since the age of two. His father served in the Army during the Second World War, for part of which David and his mother were evacuated to Shropshire. By the age of eight, he was a trainspotter and by the age of eleven, in 1949, he was allowed to travel to London to pursue his hobby. That year, he began at Suburiton County Grammar School, where he studied until 1951, when he began attending Charterhouse School on an assisted place. At the age of fourteen, he became Chair of the school Railway Society and with the help of several younger boys, made it grow to over 300 members.
He finished at Charterhouse in 1956 and spent the rest of the year attempting to gain a place at university, before applying for a job at Old Oak Common MPD in February 1957, where he worked in various clerical and minor maintenance jobs, before starting at University College London in September, where he studied a course in German language and literature. He returned to work at Old Oak in August and September 1958, during the summer break. He spent the following summer on a two month short course at Munich University in Germany. He graduated from UCL in June 1960, with a lower Second-class honours degree.
In August 1960, Maidment joined the Western Region of British Railways as a clerk in the Divisional Passenger Train Office at Paddington, before becoming a 'Traffic Apprentice' in September 1961. His apprenticeship included another stint at Old Oak Common in Spring 1962 for footplate training and concluded with a stint as Stationmaster of Gillingham in Dorset between February and April 1964. After completing the apprenticeship at the end of April 1964, Maidment was appointed stationmaster of Aberdeeg in South Wales, where he served for ten months until January 1965. He then became Assistant Area Manager at Bridgend and was promoted to Area Manager about 18 months later, a role in which he served until 1968.
He then moved to the Cardiff Divisional Office at Marland House, temporarily covering the positions of Terminal Manager and then Operating Assistant, before becoming Train Planning Officer, where he was responsible for overseeing timetabling and diagramming locomotives and crews of the Cardiff Valleys suburban services and the colliery trains. While Planning Officer, he devised the South Wales Freight Strategy to simplify operations. In 1972, he became Assistant Parcels Planning Officer at the British Railways Board headquarters. In 1974, he became Management Services Manager of the Western Region, before being promoted to Head of Productivity Services of the BRB in 1978. In these positions, he assisted in achieving productivity and cost reduction targets.
In September 1982, he became Chief Operating Manager of the London Midland Region, where he was responsible for 25,000 Operations staff, a budget of £35 million and the Royal Train, before becoming BR's first Reliability & Quality Manager in 1986. In this position, he was involved with the inquiry into the Clapham Junction rail crash. In August 1990, he became Head of Safety Policy, which led to the production of BR's first Safety Plan in 1991. Maidment's department became part of Railtrack upon that company's formation on 1st April 1994 and he continued in his post until privatisation in May 1996, when he took early retirement. He then became Associate Principal Consultant for International Risk Management Services, where he undertook major safety reviews of railways across the world, before retiring in 2001. He received an OBE for his services to the railway industry in the 1996 New Year Honours list.
In 1989, while returning from a consultancy trip to Australia via India, Maidment encountered a young streetgirl at Churchgate railway station in Mumbai who was whipping herself to elicit sympathy and earn money. Because of this, he got involved in Amnesty International's Children’s Rights Network, then became their representative on the Consortium for Street Children. There, he did a risk assessment of being a street child - identifying both causes and consequences. This identified a gap - the fact that no established NGO focused specifically on early intervention. Because of this, in May 1995, Maidment founded the charity Railway Children.
In 1997, Maidment wrote to Britt Allcroft asking if her company would consider a donation to the charity because of a common railway interest and he was invited to lunch with Marketing Director Steve Wright in Southampton. It was explained that the company was reluctant to make a donation as they frequently received such requests, but that they liked the idea of the Railway Children and they would think about it. A couple of days later he received a phone call asking if he would pen a few railway anecdotes as David Mitton was keen to use true stories as the basis of episodes as they were often better than fiction. He spent a couple of mornings typing them out and then sent them off, whereupon he received a £10,000 donation for the charity and a two year contract to vet scripts to ensure there were no railway 'howlers' in the texts or videos that would get complaints.
Many of the story ideas submitted by Maidment were based on incidents he had experienced during his career on British Railways, such as Baa! which was based on an incident which occurred during his time as stationmaster of Aberdeeg, where a ram occupied the abandoned station of Llanhilleth. Others were based on more famous incidents, such as A Better View for Gordon, which was based on the Gare Montparnasse derailment at Paris, France. Maidment visited Shepperton Studios during the filming of the latter episode. Following Britt Allcroft's sale of her company to HiT Entertainment in 2002, Maidment contacted the new owners about continuing as consultant, but received no reply.
In December 2010, Maidment stepped down as Chairman of the Railway Children and became its Founder Ambassador. He is also Chair of Amnesty International UK Children’s Human Rights Network and since May 2012 has been co-ordinator of the Nantwich Street Pastor project; he has been a children's and youth leader in Methodist churches for over 50 years. In April 2013, Colas Rail Class 60 66850 was named David Maidment OBE in his honour. In addition to his charity work, he is an author of a number of books on railway history, safety and street children.
The story ideas for the following episodes were provided by Maidment.
- A Better View for Gordon
- Lady Hatt's Birthday Party
- James and the Trouble with Trees
- Gordon and the Gremlin
- Haunted Henry
- Double Teething Troubles
- A Surprise for Percy
- Busy Going Backwards
- Duncan Gets Spooked