MAILBAG – DICK HARDY TRIBUTE
Richard (Dick to his friends) must be considered among the last great BR motive power officers who managed the day-to-day supply of steam locomotives and their crews. Dick had a public school education, and was an excellent example of the benefits of such. He could get on with anyone, whatever their position in life, and earn their respect. He worked hard and achieved success in the face of adversity, and encouraged others to follow his lead. And he did it all with honesty and integrity. Dick may have had a privileged upbringing but it was hard, and he paid it back tenfold with his contribution to society. He quickly showed he was not afraid of hard work and dirt, and quickly built up mutual respect with enginemen who enjoyed his company and his preparedness to learn and share in what were often uncomfortable conditions. This ability to strike up mutual friendships and respect with working men was one of Dick’s greatest strengths. It stood him in good stead in later life when he took charge of depots like Ipswich and Stewarts Lane with several hundred men under his command. Managing these depots was a hard and arduous job, and the shedmaster’s life was therefore one of a constant battle to supply serviceable locomotives on time to work the timetable. With his innate fairness and understanding of human nature, Dick thrived in this environment. He took great interest in the comments of his men, who respected his knowledge, determination and the example he set. All this was in an era when it was unthinkable to cancel a passenger train except in the most exceptional circumstances. If a line blockage occurred the first priority was to get trains moving again using the most expeditious means available. Dick, with his wide practical experience, was essential in such endeavours either with his depot breakdown crane and gang, or reorganising train crew rosters or locomotive allocations to cover as many trains as possible. But even in the most difficult situation, Dick was never one to flog an engine. He knew that it accelerated wear, and his limited depot staff would consequently have to correct hot bearings or leaking tubes. I don’t think Dick had any favourite locomotive. He loved them all. Perhaps his idea of perfection would be an ex-LNER ‘B12/3’ inside-cylinder 4-6-0. At Ipswich, he had those allocated to regular men. He had their cab insides painted cream and their mechanical condition maintained as near to perfection as his staff allowed. They were also well cleaned and the regular crews kept cab fittings shining like a jeweller’s shop.
As such they ran their trains with a silent efficiency, with no fuss or black smoke. To Dick this was the steam locomotive at its best and was a wonderful example to his staff, which earned him a lifetime’s respect and many friendships. I cannot recommend too highly Dick’s three books. The two on railways are an accurate record of how things were and not seen through enthusiasts’ rose-tinted spectacles. The books are an essential, accurate history.
The one on Beeching also records what a great man he was and, as well as being a most fascinating read for all those interested in railways, corrects a total misjudgment of Beeching’s achievements and his character. Over the 22 years I was responsible for main line steam, there were cases where I needed advice on loads, timings and punctuality. Richard was always prepared to give this advice, which I knew I could trust. When it was proposed to run a ‘B1’ to Mallaig, this was questioned because they had been prohibited beyond Fort William in steam days, whereas LMS Class 5s had been allowed. Back came the answer from Richard: “A ‘B1’ will do anything a ‘Black Five’ will do with less fuss”. In Gwenda he had the ideal partner who accepted the absences his railway life involved. He said to me one day: “I knew I had pushed my luck to its limit when she gave me her look of displeasure”. His passing leaves an enormous void which cannot be filled and the loss of his experience and advice will be sorely missed. Above all, the many who knew him have lost a sincere and valued friend. David Ward, former BR Divisional Commercial Manager, Norwich, and former BR Special Trains Manager
HE MAY HAVE HAD A PRIVILEGED UPBRINGING BUT IT WAS HARD, AND HE PAID IT BACK TENFOLD WITH HIS CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIETY
Dick on the footplate of Neasden 0-4-4T ‘Met 1’ – an engine that he knew from school age.