MAILBAG – DICK HARDY TRIB­UTE

Steam Railway (UK) - - Contents -

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

NIGEL HAR­RIS

Dick on the foot­plate of Neas­den 0-4-4T ‘Met 1’ – an en­gine that he knew from school age.

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