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.
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.
THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE
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...