Published: 23rd December 2014
Ron Shaw was a rail enthusiast all his life and there is nothing unusual about that for someone born over 80 years ago. Ron lived in Leicester all his life and built up an impressive railway collection which but for his nephew Geoffrey Baker, could have been thrown out when Ron died.
Geoff Baker contacted rail.co.uk about his Late Uncle’s railway collection wondering if it was of any interest to anybody. Ron had not left a Will or specific request concerning his railway collection so it would have been easy to take it all to the recycling site.
Fortunately Geoff Baker contacted rail.co.uk because his uncle had amassed some very historic items and had they been thrown out, a little of our railway heritage would have been lost forever.
He had a huge book collection which was collected by the Treasurer of the Ffestiniog Railway who run several fund raising book sales every year. Ron’s collection will be offered for sale over the next few auctions and the proceeds donated to the railway.
Pete Jordan for the Ffestiniog Railway commented "We are very grateful to Geoff, and to Ron, for the gift of many of these rare out-of-print books, particularly those covering North American railways. They will be auctioned, and we anticipate they will produce between £500 and £1,000, which will be put towards new coaches currently under construction at our Boston Lodge works. They will all therefore be going to good homes!"
Ron Shaw had collected literally cupboardfuls of books and magazines, many in bound volumes concerning American railways. The reality is that there is little if any interest in the specialist railway magazines published in the UK after 1970 and as for overseas railway magazines, probably even less interest.
Amongst the collection were a couple of photo-albums. Ron Shaw was a keen photographer and had his own dark room doing his own developing and printing as did many of his age.
The photo albums contained what could be expected in the way of photos from the 1960s, black and white train shots mainly taken around Leicester.
But when the editor of this website took a detailed look at the albums, he uncovered an unexpected historical treasure trove.
There was an official British Railways photograph from 1953 showing the ‘Turbomotive’ before it was converted to a reciprocating steam locomotive. What was astonishing was that the original LMS press release from 1935 was also in the album on yellowing paper. These have been scanned and given to the 6201 Princess Elizabeth Locomotive Society.
Other unexpected finds reflected Ron’s interest in North American locomotives with a series of official Works photos and General Arrangement drawings.
By coincidence, in September, rail.co.uk’s editor rescued another railway collection from a Milton Keynes recycling site. This was the collection of a very well known preservationist and included a letter from HRH The Queen Mother and paperwork dating back to the 1890s – all thrown out into a recycling skip to be pulped. As with Ron’s collection, the financial value is at best, small. But in historical reference material terms, priceless.
Then just two weeks later, the Milton Keynes Light Railway Chairman called to say one of their members had recovered a railway collection from another Milton Keynes recycling facility. Again, the items were probably not worth more than a few pounds but the paperwork dating back 60 years from Wolverton Works at a time of significant change is priceless.
Provision has been made in a Will for Ron’s albums and the other two recovered collections to be donated to a preserved railway to form part of their educational research centre. This way, Ron’s photographs will be preserved for the future along with another 50,000 or so dating back to the 1860s. The other material will also be invaluable as a primary reference source for future social, industrial heritage and railway historians.
As a young boy Ron would 'help' his Dad on Leicester's Trams, and after a short spell in the UK based army towards the war end, worked (for 40 years) as a Gentleman's tailor at Burtons (when Burtons were a bespoke shop).
In his spare time Ron continued his boyhood hobby of train spotting and learnt photography (and processing), and was often along the embankment close to Leicester station photographing the steam engines of the time, and started collecting books relative to his favourites.
On the demise of steam in the UK Ron studied the great steam trains of USA and Canada and developed a huge collection of books of his favourites and often wrote letters requesting specific photographs. He continued train spotting of the 'new' diesel engines.
Such was Ron's interest that on a family visit one recent Christmas eve, the theme was '' so how would you get to Paris by train in the 1940's ''?and then proceeded to show us maps and the most likely trains we could have travelled on!!
Ron's dining chairs of old now have a place in the waiting room at Loughborough GCR station. As Geoff Baker says: We hope the proceeds help in maintaining our heritage.
The message has to be, Geoff has done his uncle proud and we are sure he would be delighted with the outcome. And for readers, make a Will or at least provision for your collections, be they railways, thimbles or beermats!