Dick Hardy passes away

The life of Richard H.N. Hardy, renowned across the rail­way for his lead­er­ship, en­gi­neer­ing skill, foot­plate tal­ent and per­son­able style over many decades, who died in Fe­bru­ary.

Steam Railway (UK) - - Contents - By Nick Bro­drick

Richard H.N. Hardy, one of the most fa­mous rail­way­men of all time, has passed away at the age of 94. Known as Mr Hardy by his staff and ‘Dick’ by his se­niors, friends and ad­mir­ers, the for­mer LNER and Bri­tish Rail­ways se­nior man­ager was uni­ver­sally hailed for his peo­ple man­age­ment skills and foot­plate ex­per­tise. Born in Leather­head, Sur­rey, on Oc­to­ber 8 1923, just months af­ter the in­cep­tion of the ‘Big Four’ rail­way com­pa­nies, Dick was fas­ci­nated by trains from an early age. So much so that, when he was five, his mother sewed him his own ju­nior-sized foot­plate uni­form, com­plete with an oil feeder that had been donated by a South­ern en­gine­man. The fol­low­ing Jan­uary (in 1929), Dick’s par­ents bought him a copy of The Rail­way Magazine and the young en­thu­si­ast would hang on ev­ery word of lo­co­mo­tive per­for­mance guru Ce­cil J. Allen. A hol­i­day in York­shire in 1931, which in­cluded jaunts to Mexbor­ough, York and Don­caster Carr Loco, be­fore a brief spell liv­ing close to the West Coast Main Line and its “mag­nif­i­cent” four-cylin­der ‘Claughtons’, helped ce­ment what would be­come a life de­voted to the rail­way, its mo­tive power and its peo­ple. In 1934, the Hardys re­lo­cated to Amer­sham in Buck­ing­hamshire – a move that would be­come Dick’s favourite home over the next eight decades, not least be­cause it ad­joined the Met­ro­pol­i­tan and Great Cen­tral joint line. It was from here that he made his first ac­quain­tance with Neas­den’s ‘E’ 0-4-4T ‘Met 1’ as it hero­ically res­cued a stricken LNER ‘A5’ class and its six car­riages, wit­nessed on a bike ride to Chal­font & La­timer. That same sum­mer, Dick took his very first rail­way pho­to­graphs. They were of the now-pre­served Robin­son ‘Im­proved Di­rec­tor’ No. 5506 But­ler-Hen­der­son at his lo­cal sta­tion. The first pic­ture was, in his words, “quite good”, de­spite be­ing taken on a prim­i­tive Ko­dak Box cam­era as the high-step­ping 4-4-0 rolled in with the 4.06pm to Maryle­bone. But he was par­tic­u­larly pleased with the sec­ond im­age, of the ‘D11’ at a stand­still, com­plete with Driver Fred France pos­ing at the cab win­dow – the same man who had fired the first lo­co­mo­tive to depart the Lon­don ter­mi­nus in 1899 on the open­ing of the orig­i­nal Great Cen­tral Rail­way.


Barely in his teens, Dick struck such an in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship with the rail­way­men that he would be wel­comed into the sig­nal box for tu­ition, or a ride on the foot­plate be­tween Amer­sham and Ayles­bury and Rick­mansworth – quite of­ten with the in­jec­tor deliberately blow­ing to avoid be­ing seen by those who might have frowned on the strictly un­of­fi­cial prac­tice. Pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion at Marl­bor­ough put Hardy in good stead as he pur­sued his in­creas­ingly in­quis­i­tive thirst for me­chan­i­cal knowl­edge. The death of his fa­ther in 1938 hit the fam­ily hard, emo­tion­ally and fi­nan­cially, and meant that while his mother would be able to pay his re­main­ing school fees, a univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion would be be­yond his reach. How­ever, a de­sir­able pre­mium ap­pren­tice­ship on the LNER was af­ford­able, and the 16-year-old Dick wrote to its Chief Me­chan­i­cal En­gi­neer, Sir Nigel Gres­ley, to ap­ply. The re­ply came from his as­sis­tant, Ed­ward Thomp­son, who not only in­ter­viewed the young prodigy at Don­caster Works in Jan­uary 1941, but even­tu­ally is­sued Dick with an en­vi­able foot­plate pass as he con­tin­ued to rack up thou­sands of miles of first­hand en­gine ex­pe­ri­ence in his spare time – much as he had done in the Home Coun­ties. Not only was he now on the foot­plate of some of the LNER’s premier lo­co­mo­tives, but he was also shar­ing the boards with the likes of Joe Dud­ding­ton, who was at the reg­u­la­tor of Mal­lard on its world speed record run. His pri­mary men­tor though was Ted Hail­stone, who would later be the reg­u­lar driver on ‘Top Shed’s’ ‘A4’ No. 60014 Sil­ver Link (and who in­sisted that Dick join him on his re­tire­ment run in 1957).


celebrity ‘a4’ Mal­lard, at Don­caster works dur­ing the Sec­ond world war, is joined by Pre­mium ap­pren­tices (from left to right) Pe­ter tow­nend (later Shed­mas­ter at king’s cross ‘top Shed’), Bill tay­lor, Jack tay­lor, Henry Steel, David Sandi­land (crouch­ing...

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