Tenterden Terrier

Colonel Stephens Railways

The Hub Of The Empire

By the summer of 1895, Holman Stephens had spent some five years in Kent and was looking for a headquarters for his engineering practice. He took rented rooms at a private residence, Ashby House, Priory Road, Tonbridge (since demolished) and when these became too small, he rented commercial offices at 23 Salford Terrace, Quarry Hill Road, Tonbridge from 1900, purchasing the freehold in 1927.Salford Terrace

The premises consisted of a basement area and three floors. Outside the front door a board proclaimed in gold letters that it housed the offices of a group of light railways.

The basement included one main room occupied by two clerks, a blueprint washing and drying room and two small rooms for filing papers.

The front room on the ground floor was occupied by J A Iggulden, Stephens 'indoor' assistant, the principal clerk and two assistants. To the rear of this was the inner sanctum, where Colonel Stephens presided. The upper floors were of identical layout. The front room on the first floor was the general drawing office and civil engineering department, filled by W H Austen, the Colonel's 'outdoor' assistant. The staff numbered about 17 in the 1920's.

After Stephens' death in 1931, the offices were acquired by Austen personally, but continued to fulfil their original function up until nationalisation of the railways in 1948. It was then sold, but remains in commercial use to this day, the exterior virtually unaltered .

His first commission came in 1896, when he reached the rank of second-lieutenant (as pictured, seated left)

Holman Fred Stephens.... The Military Man

Stephens was never a full-time army officer, but a member of the 'volunteer forces', (later the Territorial Force) and was so able to continue his railway work in parallel with his military career.

He became secretary of the University College School cadet company and in 1888 attended a summer camp at Aldershot at the age of twenty. His first commission came in 1896, when he reached the rank of second-lieutenant (as pictured, seated left) with the 1st. Sussex (Volunteer) Royal engineers at Eastbourne. The following year, he was promoted to Lieutenant, and in 1898 to Captain, whilst still based at Eastbourne. Duringb this time Stephens recruited some 600 men to serve with the Royal Engineers in the Boer War in South Africa.

Stephens, pictured 2nd leftStephens recieved a fresh commission in 1905 as a Captain with the 2nd.Cinque Ports, Royal Garrison Artillery (Volunteers). Again this commission was base at Eastbourne (pictured 2nd. left).
The old volunteer companies were replaced by the Territorial Force. Stephens reached the rank of Major, acting as Commanding Officer of the five companies of the Kent (Fortress) Royal Engineers, moving to his headquarters in Chatham. In 1913, Stephens was given the command of the Cadet Battalion of the Kent (Fortress) R.E., again with the rank of Major along with his other duties.

In 1915, Stephens appeared on the cover of 'The Review'In 1915, Stephens appeared on the cover of 'The Review' and in 1916 was futher promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. As the First world war dragged on, Stephens devoted more of his time to the military effort. However, the War Department put pressure on him to become full-time in the army. Given an ultimatum of full-time army service or his blossoming railway empire by the War Department, Stephens returned to Salford Terrace. However, it was not for long as in 1917, he was transferred to the Territorial Force Reserve, being mentioned in dispatches in 1917.

In 1921, Stephens became Commanding Officer of the Sussex (fortress) R.E. Territorials in Seaford. His time in Seaford was short-lived and he moved on to Commanding Officer to the Cinque Ports (fortress) R.E. based at Dover. It was here around 1925, that Stephens gave up his active military role.

H. F. Stephens, M.I.C.E.

EDUCATION, LIST OF WORKS, AND QUALIFICATIONS.

EDUCATION

University College School, London 1877-1883 .
With Private Tutor 1883-1994 .
Vitre (Ile-et-Villaine) 1884-1886 French, &c.
Carlesruhe (Baden) 1886-1887 German, Mathematics, &c.
Matriculation, London University 1887 .
University College, London 1887-1888 Pupil, Sir A. W. B. Kennedy, Civil Engineering.
Workshops and Loco Dept., Neasden Works 1889-1890 Pupil, J. J. Hanbury, Mechanical Engineering

LIST OF WORKS. (RAILWAYS AND WATERWAYS.)

WORKS CONSTRUCTED

 

 

Name of Works.

Period.

Mileage.
M.   F.   C.

Remarks.

Paddock Wood & Cranbrook Railway

1890-94

11    3    5

Resident Engineer during construction.  (Now worked and maintained by S.E. & C.R.)

*Rye & Camber Tramway (Steam)

1895

2    0    0

Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent.  Designed and equipped line, organised traffic matters and worked line.

*Chichester & Selsey Tram Road (Steam)

1897

8    0    0

Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent.  Designed and equipped line, organised traffic matters and worked line.

*Rother Valley Railway
(Now Kent & East Sussex Railway)

1898

12    0    4

Engineer, Locomotive Superintendent, and Managing Director.  Designed and equipped line, organised traffic matters and worked line.

Sheppey Railway

1900-02

8    5    0

Engineer.  (Now worked and maintained by S.E. & C.R.)

*Rolvenden & Tenterden Railway
(Kent & East Sussex Railway)

1902

1    4    6

Engineer, Locomotive Superintendent, and Managing Director.  Designed and equipped line, organised traffic matters and worked line.

*Kent & East Sussex Railway, Tenterden to Headcorn extension

1903-04

7    6    9

Engineer, Locomotive Superintendent, and Managing Director.  Designed and equipped line, organised traffic matters and worked line.

Bere Alston & Calstock Railway

1904

4    1    8

Engineer in conjunction with Messrs. Galbraith & Church, Locomotive Superintendent, and Managing Director.  Designed and equipped line, organised traffic matters and worked line.

East Cornwall Mineral Railway
(Reconstruction and conversion of gauge)

1904

6    0    0

Engineer in conjunction with Messrs. Galbraith & Church, Locomotive Superintendent, and Managing Director.  Designed and equipped line, organised traffic matters and worked line.

Burry Port & Gwendraeth Valley Railway

1909

12    2    3

Engineer, reconstructed and converted line from mineral to passenger.

*Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Railway

1910-11

24    0    0

Railway reconstructed.  Engineer, Locomotive Superintendent, and Managing Director.  Designed and equipped line, organised traffic matters and worked line.

*East Kent Railway

1911-16

18    0    0

Engineer, Locomotive Superintendent, and General Manager.  Designed and equipped line, organised traffic matters and worked line.

*Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Railway

1911

14    0    0

Engineer, Locomotive Superintendent, and General Manager.

Medway Upper Navigation
(Maintenance and renewal)

1896-1901

16    0    0

Engineer.  (Number of Locks on River, 13.)


*Lines worked and maintained.

Mileage of Railways constructed, 130 miles, at a cost of £842,225.

Considerable experience re Parliamentary work, also organization of traffic matters and the complete equipment of Railways with rolling stock and stores.

At present responsible for a considerable number of standard and narrow gauge engines, coaches, and trucks of various types; also other rolling stock, with workshops, etc.

WORKS LOCATED AND DESIGNED.

Name of Line.

Period.

Mileage.
M.   F.   C.

Remarks.

Tenterden Railway (Parliamentary Line)

1894

31    5    9

Passed.  Charge of Survey and Sections.

Rother Valley Railway (Parliamentary Line)

1895

12    1    3

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

Railways under Act of 1896, &c. :-

Rye & Camber Tramway (Steam)

1895

2    0    0

Sole Engineer.

Gower Railway

1896

13    6    6

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

Hadlow Railway

1896

11    5    5

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

Central Essex Railway

1897

27    5    1

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

Sheppey Railway

1897

7    6    1

First 5 miles rejected subject to diversion, remainder passed.  Sole Engineer.

Chichester & Selsey Line (Steam)

1897

8    0    0

Sole engineer.

Sheppey Railway (Diversion)

1898

8    5    1

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

Cranbrook, Tenterden & Ashford Railway

1898

21    0    2

First 9 m. 7 f. 1¾ c. passed, remainder rejected.  Sole Engineer.

Kelvedon, Coggeshall & Halstead Railway

1898

9    4    1

First 2¼ miles passed, remainder rejected.  Sole Engineer.

St. Just, Land's End & Great Western Junction Railway

1898

17    1    0

Rejected.  Sole Engineer.

Land's End, St. Just & Great Western Junction Railway

1898

23    3    1

Rejected.  Sole Engineer.

Hedingham & Long Melford Railway

1898

15    2    7

Rejected.  Sole Engineer.

Orpington, Cudham & Tatsfield Railway

1898

7    6    8

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

Long Melford & Hadleigh Railway

1899

15    0    9

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

Maidstone & Faversham Junction Railway

1899

12    1    3

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

East Sussex Railway

1899

7    2    8

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

Rother Valley Railway Extension to Headcorn

1901

7    7    1

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

Surrey & Sussex Railway

1902

25    5    6

Rejected.  Sole Engineer.

Maidstone & Sittingbourne Railway

1904

11    1    6

Pending.  Sole Engineer.

Headcorn & Maidstone Junction Railway

1906

10    0    8

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

North Shropshire Railway

1907

24    0    0

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

Bere Alston & Calstock Railway, North Hill Extension

1909

6    7    1

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

Burry Port & Gwendraeth Valley Railway

1909

12    2    3

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

North Devon & Cornwall Junction Rly.

1910

19    6    0

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

East Kent Railways

1911

19    7    6

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

"       "       "              Extensions

1911

10    3    2

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

"       "       "                       "

1912

5    2    1

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

Cadbury Railway

1912

1    6    4

Pending.  Sole Engineer.

East Kent Railways Extensions

1913

21    6    8

Pending.  Sole Engineer.

Gower Railway

1913

13    6    6

Pending.  Joint Engineer.

East Kent Railways Extensions

1914

7    4    9

Pending.  Sole Engineer.

West Sussex Railway

1915

8    1    0

Passed.  Sole Engineer.

Edge Hill Railway

1917

11    2    8

Passed as regards 5 miles 5 furlongs 8 chains.  Sole Engineer.

Ashover Railway

1918

6    0    8

Pending.  Sole Engineer.

Shropshire Railways (Shrewsbury & Market Drayton Extension)

1918

22    1    2

Pending.  Sole Engineer.

Siding from L. & N. W. Rly. to Castner Kellner Alkali Co.'s Works, Weston Point, Cheshire.

1918

0    7    6

Pending.  Sole Engineer.

Total mileage of lines over 450; total estimates, £2,900,000.

Considerable experience in locating, designing and working railways of economical construction.

Acted as Inspector to the Railway Department of the Board of Trade, under notice of Accidents Act, 1894, for several years.

Admitted Student of Middle Temple, 1906.

General consulting work and reporting on various schemes, cases, &c., from 1890 to present date.

Has had special opportunities for acquiring knowledge of Government requirements for the working of both heavy and Light Railways.

Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Raised 600 men (Royal Engineers) for South African War.

Raised and commanded 2,400 men and 220 officers (Royal Engineers), in 1914 for European War; mentioned in despatches 1916; returned to Railway Work 1916 with rank of Lieut.-Colonel Royal Engineers (T.R.)

Tom Burnham has prepared this very useful addition to the website.

While Stephens was living at Cranbrook, Stephens built up a friendship with Edward Peterson, the son of the Rector of Biddenden, the Rev William Peterson and a solicitor with a practice in Staplehurst.  Born in 1848 and educated at Cranbrook Grammar School, Peterson is best known for his study of tithes and as "The Parsons Friend".  According to his obituary in The Times of 7th October 1934, he founded the Tithe Owners Union in 1890 and spent many years of his life defending the status of the clergy and studying their financial problems.  His enthusiasm for light railways came about in anticipation of the 1896 Act and he claimed to have clients interested in investing in railway schemes in various parts of the country.  In anticipation of the passing of the Light Railways Act, Stephens and Peterson formed a company in July 1895 called the Light Railways Syndicate, for the purpose of obtaining orders for new light railways.  The intention was that once the necessary authorisation had been obtained by the Syndicate, a separate company would be set up independently raise capital and construct the railway.  The Syndicate would receive a fee for its services.

The first proposal put forward was for a light railway serving coal villages in the Clyddach valley near Swansea and in August 1895 Stephens did some preliminary survey work in the area on behalf of one of Peterson's clients.  However, this did not get to the application stage and it was not until December 1896 that the first two formalised schemes came before the Light Railway Commissioners.

The Hadlow (Kent) Light Railway and the Gower Light Railway, were followed by the Central Essex Light Railway in 1897.  A further four schemes were proposed in 1898, the Sheppey Light, the Kelvedon, Coggeshall & Halstead and the St Just, Land's End & Great Western Junction (two proposals).  These schemes were put forward by the Syndicate and its sister company, the Economic Railways Company, and although 5 of these received light railway orders, only one, the Sheppey Light Railway, was built due to the inability to raise capital.

Peterson's sources of finance, if they ever existed, remain a mystery, but at the enquiry into the Central Essex Light Railway, counsel acting on behalf of Peterson said that he represented "a strong financial group with over a million sterling for investment in light railways".  In fact, most of these schemes were of doubtful viability and would have been unattractive investments to all but the most optimistic capitalists.  The Syndicate sold its rights to the Central Essex which would have linked Ongar with Dunmow, to other promoters and claimed a commission.

The Light Railways Syndicate became moribund and was wound up in 1912.  Peterson went bankrupt in 1910, claiming that he had been unable to obtain payment of costs and professional charges as a solicitor.  The Economic Railways Company had virtually ceased to exist in 1904.  In the file at the companies registry there is a letter written by the Registrar of companies to the secretary asking why the statutory return for the previous year had not been filed.  A copy of the reply, a sad and poignant ending to the story, is also contained on the file. ".....The reason why no return was made at the commencement of the year is that the company has practically ceased to exist. It has heavy liabilities and its only asset is a light railway order authorising the construction of a line 2 and a half miles in length in length (Kelvedon to Coggeshall). The compulsory powers for the acquisition of land have run out and a sum of just £1 in the bank. The compulsory powers ran out last November and without such it would be impossible to make the line as at least one of the landowners is decidedly hostile. The directors therefore took no steps towards calling an annual meeting and in fact are allowing the company to fall dormant.  It is, I am afraid, never likely to be resuscitated and I do not think that any of the creditors will go to the expense of winding it up."

An Appreciation of His Life And Works

Holman Fred StephensHolman Fred Stephens died at the Lord Warden Hotel, Dover, on 23 October 1931 - 77 years ago; he was in his 63 rd year. During his lifetime he built or was associated with some 16 light railways, ranging from the diminutive Rye & Camber Tramway on the Sussex coast, to the Bere Alston and Callington line, with its magnificent viaduct of 12 arches, each of 60ft span and standing 120ft above the River Tamar; a structure infinitely more graceful than Brunel's, but to this day hardly known.

Stephens was born into a family where art and literature predominated (his father was F G Stephens, the Pre-Raphaelite artist and critic, examples of whose work Stephens bequeathed to the Tate Gallery) but his interest in railways was apparent at an early age. Having studied civil engineering at University College under Sir Alexander Kennedy, " Holly" Stephens was apprenticed at the workshops of the Metropolitan Railway, Neasden, in 1881 before embarking on a career of light railway construction and management that was to span a period of 40 years.

Stephens' educational achievements were noteworthy rather than outstanding. After matriculating in 1887, he studied engineering briefly at University College London under the Professor of the faculty, Sir Alexander Kennedy. In 1888 his father, Frederick Stephens, arranged with John Bell, General Manager of the Metropolitan Railway, for him to enter the Company's works at Neasden as a pupil of the Locomotive Superintendent, John Hanbury. Hanbury was a distinguished engineer andhad served his apprenticeship under Matthew Kirtley at the locomotive sheds of the Midland Railway at Derby. In due course, Stephens pressed for the opportunity of gaining experience in civils work and Hanbury suggested that he approach Seaton, who was working for the Metropolitan on extensive alterations to Baker street and Portland Road stations. Stephens, who never hesitated to take advantage of family connections, made play of his family's acquaintance with Sir Edward Watkin, Chairman of both the South Eastern and Metropolitan Railways and this was probably enough to persuade Seaton to take Stephens on. Edward P Seaton, a consulting engineer with 20 years experience was responsible for the design of the route and structures of the Cranbrook and Paddock Wood Railway and Stephens was employed by him as his first railway project. He was, at the relatively tender age of 22 still a student, but many of the distinctive features and materials used in the buildings on this line were adopted by him subsequently on other schemes. He did, however, claim to have had the responsibility of sole supervision of the works, including setting out the line and was resident at Cranbrook throughout the construction period. The Hawkhurst railway project was an ideal opportunity to gain practical experience. The line was an offshoot of the South Eastern and one of the few schemes directly involving a major established railway company with which Stephens was to become involved.

The Hawkhurst line was opened from Paddock Wood to Cranbrook on 1st October 1892 and to Hawkhurst on 4th September 1893. After the line was completed, Stephens stayed on for the customary maintenance period and then returned to London with little prospect of any immediate work. He carefully nurtured an acquaintanceship with Sir Myles Fenton, General Manager of the South Eastern Railway, by sending him tickets for Royal Academy exhibitions and gifts of engravings, supplied by his father. He claimed that Sir Myles had virtually promised that if the proposed extension of the Hawkhurst line to Appledore were to go ahead, he would be given the job of supervising the works, but this line was not to be. In May 1894, Seaton proposed Stephens' application for associate membership of The Institution of Civil Engineers. Other distinguished members who put their names to the application included his old tutor Sir Alexander Kennedy, W. Wainwright and James Stirling. From then on Stephens was suitably qualified to undertake projects in his own right.

Stephens was essentially an individualist, who set out to build and operate railways of economical construction in circumstances where the establishment would have felt that the odds were heavily weighted against success. His philosophy was clear and decisive; "it is absolutely essential to have a policy and stick to it", he wrote to his parents in 1891, "if it fails try some other way, I am sure that this is the only way to get on". Whilst at Cranbrook Stephens built up a friendship built up with Edward Peterson, the son of the Rector of Biddenden, the Rev William Peterson and a solicitor with a practice in Staplehurst. Peterson formed a company called the Light Railways Syndicate in July 1895 for the purpose of financing bills or orders in Parliament for proposed new railways. The intention was that once the necessary authorisations had been obtained, a separate company would be formed for each scheme to raise the capital and the syndicate would receive a fee for its services. A total of seven schemes were formally proposed by the Light Railways Syndicate and its sister company, the Economic Railways Company, formed in 1898, but only one, the Sheppey Light Railway, was built. In all cases, Stephens was to have been the engineer and had a smallish shareholding in the syndicate.

PhotoThe failures Stephens had in the early years were balanced by many successes, commencing with the Selsey line in 1895 and the Rother Valley (later the Kent & East Sussex) in 1900 - the first line to be constructed under the provisions of the 1896 Light Railways Act. Thereafter a whole string of schemes came to fruition - the Sheppey Light, Bere Alston & Callington, Shropshire & Montgomeryshire, Burry Port, to mention but a few.
In 1918 Stephens prepared a full C.V. which showed the great extent of his interests and achievements.

After the Great War, Stephens remained active in railway development where others would have found the environment impossible. The North Devon & Cornwall Junction Light, for instance, constructed in the early 1920s against fearsome odds, both practical and financial. Indeed, if any criticism can be directed against Stephens, it is that he failed to anticipate the arrival of the motor bus and its impact on rural travel.

Nevertheless, he saved the famous Festiniog Railway from bankruptcy in the 1920s and had the Kent coal fields achieved their expected potential they would have been amply served by a network of lines engineered and managed by him. His biggest disappointment was the Southern Heights, a projected electric line in Surrey on which he was working almost up to the time of his death and which failed to come to fruition, largely as a result of the negative attitude of the Local Authorities.

Stephens in military uniformIn private life Stephens was an enigmatic, even an eccentric character. A tall, striking figure, instantly recognisable, with a military bearing; an arrogant man, but with immense personal charm and wit, much admired and liked by his staff; his attitude to women always courteous, sometimes supercilious - occasionally mysterious, he nevertheless had few friends outside his business acquaintances and lived a solitary existence mainly in hotels or at his clubs. A lifelong bachelor with no close relatives, he had few interests apart from his railways; his army service was spasmodic, but he attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1916, mainly in respect of services to the Territorial Force, a contact that he maintained throughout most of the 1920s. His interest in classical mythology, if somewhat superficial, is evidenced by the naming of many of his locomotives after goddesses.

When Stephens died his funeral was held at St. Peter's Hammersmith. Internment was however in the family grave at Brompton Cemetery. Stephens name was inscribed on the side of the Tombstone -his parents name is on the front.

Stephens was a man of his time; had he survived the 1930s he would have seen his empire of light railways crumble as surely as they did without him. Ironically, it is the revival of the Kent & East Sussex, the Festiniog and other minor lines around the country in the motorway era that has created renewed interest in Stephens'life and work. True, these railways fulfil a very different role to the one he envisaged, but railway preservationists today have something very much in common with Stephens - a tenacity and dedication of purpose that is surely as relevant today as it was 75 years ago.

William Henry AustinOvershadowed by the charisma of the mighty Colonel, little has been written about Austen himself. When he succeeded to the top job in 1931, Austen was, by all accounts, a hard working and versatile manager, but he undoubtedly lacked the pragmatism and innovation of Stephens and never attracted the awe and affection of his staff for which the Colonel is remembered. Stephens' relationship with Austen was certainly one of mutual respect, paternalistic, perhaps bordering on friendship; gifts were exchanged between the two men and Stephens acted as godfather to Austen's only son who also bore his name. But Stephens never socialised with Austen in the way that he did with, say, Gilbert Szlumper of the Southern Railway and other influential members of his London clubs, probably because of Austen's humble origins. 
Communications between the two men were more akin to master and servant over a period of forty years, evidenced by surviving correspondence. Referring to Austen in connection with a visit to his parents at their riverside home in Hammersmith in August 1895, Stephens wrote, "Can you let me man have the servant's room?", and on Boat Race day in March 1897, "May I bring my man with me? He has never seen the race and would appreciate it I think".However, by the 1920s attitudes had softened and Stephens wrote, "Dear WHA" in memos when Austen was away on site visits.

After Stephens untimely death in 1931 and against the background of mounting recession, Austen dropped all ideas of expansion. This was in stark contrast to the late 1920s when Stephens was still forging ahead with plans for new lines including extensions to the East Kent Railway and a completely new electric light railway, the Southern Heights, designed to serve new suburban housing estates near Croydon. After Stephens protracted illnesses culminating in his death, Austen finally bowed to the inevitable and abandoned them.

Salford Terrace OfficeStephens did not have a hierarchy of titles at the Salford Terrace Office, the business was much too personal for that but he referred to Austen verbally as his "outdoor assistant". In practice, this meant acting as resident engineer in the days of building new lines and general trouble-shooter in the latter days of management by memo and make-do and mend.

The Salford Terrace offices finally closed on 7 June 1948 after the Kent & East Sussex, the East Kent and the Shropshire & Montgomeryshire railways were nationalised and much of the general consultancy practice lost. Austen, then aged 70, retired.

William Henry Austen was born at Snodland in Kent on 8 May 1878. His father was a labourer at the nearby Aylesford paper mill. William was however largely raised by his grandmother at Cranbrook. When William left school in 1891 he was apprenticed to Messrs Joseph T Firbank, the contractors then engaged in the construction of the Cranbrook & Paddock Wood railway. It is almost certain that here he first came into contact with Stephens who at the age of 22, was working as resident engineer on the line. By 1894 work was coming to an end and Stephens obtained a brief to design and supervise the construction of the Rye & Camber tramway. Austen joined him where he was "put in charge of the locomotive workshops" and to all intents and purposes was employed by Stephens as his assistant from this time.

After Stephens' death Austen moved to ensure the continuity of the railways notably by purchasing 23 Salford Terrace. His key operational appointment was of managing director of the Kent & East Sussex in November 1931 becoming receiver and manager on 22 April 1932 at the behest of the Southern Railway, the principal debenture holder. He became general manager of the East Kent in 1932 and was appointed director of the Shropshire Railways Company in the same year. Both the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead, and the West Sussex lines were already in receivership and Austen was appointed general manager for the former, and engineer of the latter. He became consulting engineer to the Ashover and Rye & Camber lines in succession to Stephens and director of the North Devon & Cornwall Junction, which had been worked by the Southern Railway since its inception in 1925. Austen was also director of a curious outpost of the empire, the Snailbeach District Railways which Stephens had acquired in 1923.

Austen's involvement with the Festiniog and Welsh Highland Railways was no less stormy than that experienced by his predecessor. Stephens had been chairman and managing director since 1925 and his bombastic style of management was not popular with the workforce. Austen became engineer and locomotive superintendent but was not offered a board appointment and the Tonbridge influence gradually diminished. In 1936 cuts in essetial maintenance by the Festiniog chairman were the last straw for Austen and he tendered his resignation saying that the decision showed "no consideration for tomorrow".

Austen married twice and had a son by his first wife, Holly, who preserved many of the relics we now hold in the museum. Austen died at home on 26 February 1956. Looking back on his career, he certainly provided the continuity that was needed following Stephens' death, a task which he did more than adequately, despite having no formal qualifications. The question of succession never really arose in Austen's mind as he had long maintained that the days of independent railways were over and that nationalisation was inevitable.

Text: Philip Shaw, [K&ESR Historian]

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our Privacy Policy.

I accept cookies from this site