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STUART BAKER

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The cre­ator of the pop­u­lar Rail At­las of Great Bri­tain and Ire­land, Stuart Baker, died in early Novem­ber fol­low­ing an ill­ness.

First pub­lished in 1977, the at­las has chron­i­cled the changes in Bri­tain’s rail­way, cover­ing main lines, metro and tram net­works and her­itage rail­ways, as well as projects due for com­ple­tion.

Born in Sh­effield, Baker was ed­u­cated in Brad­ford and grad­u­ated in chem­istry from Lin­coln Col­lege, Ox­ford. He joined the rail­way in 1977 and held roles within the in­dus­try and at the Depart­ment for Trans­port. He was Route Man­ager In­terCity East Coast and Pro­duc­tion Direc­tor at Re­gional Rail­ways North East.

In 2001, he moved to the Strate­gic Rail Author­ity, where among his other achieve­ments he was in­stru­men­tal in the West Coast Route Mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme, paving the way for the Very High Fre­quency timetable which helped to in­crease pas­sen­ger num­bers on Europe’s busiest mixed-traf­fic rail­way.

He trans­ferred to the Depart­ment of Trans­port in 2005, and led projects in­clud­ing the In­terCity Ex­press Pro­gramme, Read­ing sta­tion and fly­over, North­ern Hub and the Trans-Pen­nine up­grade. He was a de­voted fam­ily man, widely trav­elled and much re­spected through­out the in­dus­try.

Stuart took early re­tire­ment in 2018. He is sur­vived by his wife El­iz­a­beth and two chil­dren.

One of his col­leagues, for­mer Strate­gic Rail Author­ity Head of Fran­chise Plan­ning Jim Collins, paid trib­ute to him:

I first met Stuart in Septem­ber 1977, when we ar­rived at The Grove to start the BR Traf­fic Man­age­ment Train­ing Scheme to­gether. He was a fresh-faced grad­u­ate from Ox­ford but had al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced front­line work in the Travel Cen­tre at Ox­ford in the run-up to our course start­ing.

The first edi­tion of his At­las had just been pub­lished - a labour of love for him, and for the rest of us an es­sen­tial tool when ex­plor­ing those parts of the net­work that were not home turf. Need­less to say, we were quick to point out er­rors in his first edi­tion! Be­ing wise, he sent the draft pages of the sec­ond edi­tion to those with an in­ter­est in maps, to check the lat­est sta­tus of lines on a rapidly chang­ing (mainly de­clin­ing) net­work.

Even in those early days it was ob­vi­ous that Stuart was thought­ful, in­tel­li­gent and full of ideas. Some of the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of his fu­ture ca­reer were just start­ing to emerge - in par­tic­u­lar his play­ful na­ture, and the amuse­ment he had in those around him on the course who were some­times a lit­tle naive in the ways of the rail­way.

Stuart made us all laugh - his mis­chievous sto­ries were told through­out his ca­reer and in later days fea­tured some very se­nior politi­cians and rail­way man­agers. He cer­tainly got into many scrapes over the years.

Over the past decade, I was of­ten his tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor and I had to ex­plain what he re­ally meant to those who just couldn’t cope with the speed at which Stuart could de­velop cre­ative so­lu­tions to in­tractable prob­lems on the net­work.

One of the first times I saw Stuart in a scrape was when we were do­ing our Rules and Reg­u­la­tions train­ing at The Grove.

As part of this course, BR had staged a col­li­sion between pas­sen­ger and freight trains on the dis­used Po­plar branch in East Lon­don - van­fits were strewn ev­ery­where. We were sent in as teams to in­ves­ti­gate, in­ter­view the lo­cal staff, and pre­pare an ac­ci­dent re­port.

Be­ing a dis­used line, it at­tracted dog walk­ers and oth­ers on a sunny day. Stuart led his team as the se­nior of­fi­cer on site, and be­ing highly ob­ser­vant, he no­ticed that some teenagers were on the track near the de­rail­ment.

As Stuart and his team ap­proached the group of lads, they ran off. Think­ing this was all part of BR’s sim­u­la­tion, he chased after them with his team in hot pur­suit. Stuart’s team were not seen again un­til the minibus ar­rived to take us back to The Grove. He wasted most of the al­lot­ted time on this chase, and his team there­fore ran out of time to com­plete the task.

We both worked to­gether un­der Don Badley at Pre­ston Area, and then again at York Area un­der Phil Ben­ham. Later, at the SRA, I was nom­i­nally Stuart’s line man­ager for a brief pe­riod.

He was work­ing on the West Coast Very High Fre­quency timetable and it was time for him to brief the se­nior team on cur­rent progress. It was a Stuart tour de force. He spoke for sev­eral hours with­out notes about ev­ery con­ceiv­able as­pect of the plan, down to in­di­vid­ual rolling stock and train crew di­a­grams from Eus­ton to Scot­land.

I sensed a lit­tle fa­tigue in the au­di­ence to­wards the end and I leaned across to Ni­cola Shaw, who was sit­ting next to me, and whis­pered: “I hope you are keep­ing a good record of Stuart’s plan.”

She looked at me some­what con­cerned and asked why, to which I replied: “It will all be dif­fer­ent in the morn­ing as he will have an even bet­ter plan by then.”

The poor train plan­ners at Net­work Rail were nor­mally work­ing on a timetable it­er­a­tion or two be­hind Stuart’s spec­i­fi­ca­tion - he al­ways got to the prob­lems be­fore they did!

In 2004, my friend and col­league Bill Reeve or­gan­ised an SRA strate­gic plan­ning con­fer­ence at The Ge­orge Ho­tel in Stam­ford. One of the many at­trac­tions of the venue was a chance to visit Robert Humm’s book­shop at the sta­tion, be­fore we set off home.

A group of us were busy se­lect­ing qual­ity read­ing ma­te­rial for the jour­ney when Stuart was over­heard en­quir­ing if Robert had a copy of the lat­est edi­tion of Rail At­las of Great Bri­tain by Stuart Baker.

“I think we are out of stock, but can I ask who is ask­ing so I can put one aside for you?” he was told.

“Stuart Baker,” came the re­ply, adding that he was just check­ing on the ef­fi­cacy of dis­tri­bu­tion from the pub­lisher. There was great laugh­ter all round, but he was treated with great rev­er­ence as a real celebrity.

Stuart was a won­der­ful rail­way­man and trea­sured friend. I will miss him, as will our great in­dus­try.

 ?? JIM COLLINS. ?? Stuart Baker is sec­ond from right in this pic­ture of him and his fel­low 1977 BR Traf­fic Man­age­ment Trainees just be­fore they took up their first ap­point­ments.
JIM COLLINS. Stuart Baker is sec­ond from right in this pic­ture of him and his fel­low 1977 BR Traf­fic Man­age­ment Trainees just be­fore they took up their first ap­point­ments.

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