Steam Railway (UK) - - NEWS FOCUS -

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.

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