TRIBUTE TO LAKESIDE GM AND DRIVER CHARLES MAHER
Charles Maher, the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway’s long-serving general manager and driver, passed away on September 30 at the age of 83, writes GRAHAM MAGEE.
Born in Adlington, Lancashire on June 30 1935, Charles was the youngest of four brothers. He was married to Barbara and they had four children, two of whom have followed Charles on to the footplate.
Starting his working life as a farmer, Charles used routine journeys to Penrith Auction mart to produce cine film of the end of steam on the West Coast Main Line, and befriended a number of BR steam crews from Carnforth shed, giving him the opportunity for dozens of unofficial footplate rides. When showing his film of a run on the Lakeside branch to friends in Carnforth, Charles and his brother Austin were introduced to Dr Peter Beet and his colleagues, who had expressed interest in forming a company to re-open the line using steam traction. These discussions eventually resulted in the upper 3½ miles of the railway being saved. Farming took a physical toll, and by 1974 the family farm was sold, meaning a mid-life career change for Charles, who went to work with Austin at what was now the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway. Starting as a driver in 1973, he also took on the role of general manager in 1975, and some of the proceeds from the farm sale funded the purchase of Fairburn 2-6-4T No. 42085, which at that time was wearing its controversial Caledonian Railway blue livery. Charles was not a big fan of this colour scheme, but he was not enamoured by people telling him to paint it black, so it took considerable persuasion before he eventually agreed to the inevitable.
Charles loved the camaraderie of footplate work, the relationship between the driver and fireman and, most of all, the banter. Schooled by BR crews, he had an intuitive feel for a locomotive.
On the day before Charles died, ‘Jubilee’ Galatea was travelling light engine up the West Coast Main Line on its way to Carlisle. The footplate crew knew that Charles was seriously ill and as they passed his house, a long salute on the LMS hooter was a special signal to the man who had put so much of his life into keeping steam alive.
Fairburn No. 42073 runs into Lakeside station on November 18.