by Gil Roscoe F&WHR

Half a century of railway preservation brings death of several original preservation stalwarts

Published: 24th January 2015

Allan Garraway MBE

Lifelong railwayman and manager of the Ffestiniog Railway for the first 28 years of its preservation era, died in his sleep on December 30 at the age of 88.

Allan, the only child of Ron Garraway, locomotive superintendent for the London & North Eastern Railway in Cambridge, and his wife Connie was born June 14 1926 in Cambridge.

He studied engineering at St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge and in 1946 was accepted for training for a short service commission in the Royal Engineers, subsequently being accepted for further training in the Railway Operating Division. Posted to 348 Railway Operation Division in Germany, in 1947 he became locomotive superintendent of the Detmold military railway, by then run by the British Army of The Rhine, and achieved the rank of captain.

Back in civilian life, in 1949 he joined BR Eastern Region. Initial training at Doncaster was followed by spells at Stratford works and sheds and Norwich. In due time, he was appointed assistant to the motive power superintendent for the Eastern Region, with particular responsibility for Automatic Train Control (ATC) matters.

His initial involvement with railway preservation was as a Talyllyn Railway volunteer in the early 1950s but when reopening of the Ffestiniog Railway emerged as a possibility he switched his attention to Porthmadog. After being actively involved in founding the Ffestiniog Railway Society he became full-time manager and engineer to the Festiniog Railway Company in 1955 and its General Manager in 1958. Allan’s MBE was awarded in the Queen's Birthday Honours on his retirement in 1983, at which point he had been the longest-serving general manager in the Ffestiniog Railway’s 130 year history.

Allan and his wife Moyra (whom he had married in 1965) retired to live in Boat of Garten, Allan having known the Strathspey area of Scotland as a schoolboy and on holidays. He wrote ‘Garraway, Father and Son; Two Generations of Railwaymen’ which charted his and his father’s steam locomotive working experiences and became a Strathspey Railway director.

Moyra died in 2011 and Allan moved into a care home in Newtonmore on December 15 where he died two weeks later. The funeral, attended by over 50 people encompassing friends and colleagues from his BR days and representatives of the Ffestiniog and Strathspey railways, the Gresley Society and his local rowing club, took place at Inverness Crematorium on January 8.

Ffestiniog Railway locomotives carried wreaths in Allan’s memory on December 30 and the FR is dedicating the current restoration of England 0-4-0ST Welsh Pony to steam – an objective he referred to as 'unfinished business' – to his memory. The FR plans to hold a memorial service at the railway on the weekend of the society annual meeting at the beginning of May, probably during the morning of Sunday May 3.

Bob Symes-Schutzmann

Bob Symes, as he was often simply known, although his full name was Robert Alexander Baron Schutzmann von Schutzmansdorff, died on January 19 at the age of 90. Born on May 6 1924 he was descended from an aristocratic Austrian family. Broadly described as an inventor and television presenter, Bob was a lifelong railway enthusiast and a Talyllyn Railway volunteer in its early preservation years.

He principally came to the notice of the public with his 1980s appearances on TV programmes such as ‘Tomorrow's World’, subsequently presenting his own ‘Model World’ series and, in the 1990s, co-presented (with Mary-Jean Hasler) the BBC ‘Making Tracks’ series covering railways in Britain and abroad.

Perhaps less known was his time looking after a private timber railway on his family estate, involvement helping the setting up of private railways in Switzerland and Wales and attempting to establish The Border Union Railway Company in 1969 which aimed to restore the (then) recently abandoned Waverley Line between Edinburgh and Carlisle.

His Surrey home had both a Gauge 1 model railway and a 10.25in gauge ride-on miniature line and he was president of Guildford-based model railway circle Astolat MRC.

Outside of railways, he was the (unsuccessful) Liberal candidate for Mid-Sussex in the February and October 1974 general elections and was instrumental in setting up the Institute of Patentees and Inventors. Bob married his first wife Monica Chapman, around the end of WW2. In January 2007 he married Sheila Gunn, at that time Works Manager at the Ffestiniog Railway’s Boston Lodge works.

The funeral was at Aberystwyth Crematorium on January 29, Bob being buried in a plot on the same site.

David Holmes

The passing of David Holmes on November 9 2014 following a year-long battle with inoperable pancreatic cancer should not go unrecorded. A Chartered Engineer who worked on major civil and mechanical engineering projects around Britain (including refurbishment of hydraulics for Tower Bridge in London, the London Olympic Village and London Underground) and the rest of the world (one of his last projects was the railway tunnel under the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey) David was involved in Britain’s heritage steam railway movement for over 30 years.

Over the years he held many positions with both the Dean Forest Railway and West Somerset Railway but was almost certainly best known for his 12 years service as a West Somerset Railway Association Trustee which included a period as WSRA Chairman up to 2011. It was during the latter period he masterminded the concept (crucially involving Network Rail’s High Output Ballast Cleaning operation and John Luffman Engineering) design and construction of the WSR ‘Triangle’ at Norton Fitzwarren. This amazing project, one of the biggest enhancements ever undertaken by a UK heritage railway, will stand as a lasting legacy to one of the nicest people one could ever wish to meet in preservation.

Mike Johnson

It is doubly sad that on December 21, little more than a week prior to the death of Allan Garraway, an important figure from the early years of the other heritage railway in Porthmadog had also died. Mike Johnson was a key figure in the mid-late 1970s/early 1980s development of what was then Welsh Highland Railway (1964) Ltd, now the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway.

In terms of the railway he was involved in acquisition of rail and track materials for the railway being developed on the Beddgelert Siding site. In addition, while visiting South Africa Mike purchased two Bagnall 0-4-2Ts for potential use on the line. One, 3050/1953 now named Gelert remains a WHHR locomotive. The other, 3023/1953, was subsequently sold and is now named Isaac and in service on the revived Lynton & Barnstaple Railway.

Moyra Cross

Few people outside the Isle of Purbeck area of Dorset will know the name Moyra Cross, who died in December at the age of 92, but locally heart-felt tributes were paid to a determined Swanage Railway pioneering veteran who campaigned for, and volunteered on, the steam railway for over 40 years.

Moyra was one of a handful of community-spirited volunteers who stood in Station Road, Swanage in all weathers back in 1969 gathering signatures for a petition aimed at stopping BR closing the 10-mile branch line from Wareham to the seaside town of Swanage. She was a pioneering member of the Isle of Purbeck Preservation Group in 1969, formed to oppose closure, and then the Swanage Railway Society from 1972 (and the Swanage to Wareham Railway Group) formed to rebuild the line.

"Everyone owes a huge debt of thanks to Moyra, and her fellow campaigners, for volunteering to stand up in the community in the face of opposition during the early days,” commented Peter Frost, a founder Swanage Railway member and volunteer who knew Moyra for almost 40 years. “She was, and is, an inspiration to the generations of Swanage Railway volunteers who follow in her footsteps."

Moyra was one of the first volunteers in the fledgling station shop at Swanage when it first opened in 1976 as rebuilding of the railway commenced, while her husband Ronald (known to all as Robert, he died in the early 1990s) was volunteering to help restore carriages and wagons. She was on duty in the station shop in 2009 when the first diesel and steam trains ran from London down to Swanage for the first time since 1972 and 1967 respectively.

In September 2002 she helped officially name a new multi-million pound inter-regional Virgin express train 'Dorset Voyager' at Swanage station along with fellow stalwart Swanage Railway volunteer Stan Symes.

Moyra's funeral took place at St Mary's parish church in Swanage – opposite the restored station – on December 3 2014 and she was buried in Godlingston cemetery, Swanage, within sight and sound of the rebuilt railway for which she worked so hard for more than 40 years.

The vibrant world of Britain’s heritage railway scene owes its success to such people around the country.

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