It is with great sadness that we have to announce the death, just before his eightieth birthday, of Andy Davies, our longstanding Chief Engineer.
Andy’s early years were spent to the north of London, and he used to spend time at King’s Langley, watching the trains go by.
He joined the MNLPS not long after the engine was moved from the Longmoor Military Railway to the South Eastern Steam Centre based at the former Ashford Motive Power Depot in Kent. This was just at the time BR were running the first trial mainline steam trips in the early 1970s to assess whether it was practical to run steam again on the national railway network.
He started as a member of the MNLPS engineering team, which included former BR fitting and boilermaking staff together with other fitters and turners, but with travelling distances, moves and retirement etc. Andy assumed more responsibility within the team and was much involved in the running of the locomotive on its first main line outing on the Southern in April 1974. He had served his time at the Admiralty dockyard at Chatham and was involved in the building of submarines, which was the principle shipbuilding activity of the dockyard in the later 50s and early 60s. He had been a competitive road racing cyclist for some years. At the time he joined the Society he was living at Whitstable and working as a tool room fitter for a company making precision components for the aircraft and other industries.
Clan Line was on a short list for locomotives to be involved in main line running and initially this was to be based on a possible trip from Ashford. The Society was heavily involved in overhauling the locomotive and its various components to make it ready for its return to the mainline. Among the components were the two injectors and, although we had some new internal parts, the steam cones had to be made and Andy volunteered his services and his firm allowed him use of spare time machining facilities at their works. The quality of finish that Andy achieved was outstanding, and they worked perfectly. When he overhauled the vacuum ejector some years later and produced many new parts for its complex interior, the parts were laid out on a trolley and someone exclaimed that the parts resembled the Crown Jewels so well they had been made.
Andy also made our safety valves, including a spare:-
As Andy became more involved in the engineering aspects of running Clan Line he was made the Society’s ‘Chief Mechanical Engineer’ and assumed the increasingly complex role of managing the locomotive’s overhauls and repairs and acquiring the necessary drawings, technical information and skills needed to run an outdated technological machine on an increasingly modern railway system.
He was a superb engineer who worked to the highest standards and gained respect from all who had dealings with him, including within the Railway Industry, and we doubt whether any UK preservation body has had a better engineer. To us lesser mortals who laboured or worked for him he was a pleasure to work with and we all learnt much from him. Although he retired from his former role in 2015, he was always available to offer his advice and machining skills.
On his last trip as a member of the support crew, our journey to Crewe for the overhaul, we made sure that he was on the footplate going through his old haunt of King’s Langley.
Andy’s interests were far more wide-ranging than engineering. As well as continuing to follow cycle road racing, he was also involved in stamp collecting, and showed a keen interest in ornithology. He was also known for having a colourful turn of phrase when it was needed.
From the MNLPS point of view a classic case of ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’ and someone who will be much missed by us all – both as an engineer, and as a friend.