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Friday, 25 October 2013

Derek Soames 1930-2013

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Sad news today is the death last evening in Settle's Castlebergh hospital of the Settle-Carlisle line's stalwart of stalwarts Derek Soames.   Here is Derek in August watching this year's re-creation of the Fifteen Guinea Special from the walkway of his beloved Settle signal box.   The original train was meant to be the very last steam train on British Railways and Derek had signalled it.

He spent fifty years on the railways - notably as signalman on the S&C - seeing its seeming demise, then its reprieve and later its rise to stardom.   Derek too was a star.  Whenever anybody wanted to make a film or do a broadcast about the line Derek was the man - hugely experienced at public speaking and telling the tale about the line he knew and loved so well.   In retirement he spent his days chatting to visitors at his beloved Settle Station signal box.   He never tired of talking about the job he had so enjoyed.   Not many of us can claim that.

Every Saturday a select group of men of a certain age and character assembled at Settle signal box to reminisce, to learn and to enjoy themselves playing trains.   The parallel with TV's 'Last of the Summer Wine' was so obvious.   Without a shadow of a doubt Derek was the boss - the Foggy Dewhirst, the Truly of the Yard, the smart one to whom the others deferred.   He would sit in 'his' corner - the seat of honour that nobody else would dream of taking.

Two memories of Derek Soames come to me.  He was a lover of nature and a water bailiff for this bit of the Ribble.   I met him one October day at The Locks  between Langcliffe and Stackhouse where we watched the salmon leaping against a very strong current.   What a privilege to witness such a sight and to have such a commentator.

Much more recently I took Derek in my car to a spot near the Hoffmann kiln at Stainforth.   Derek had told me he knew the source of the water supply for the water tower.   We pulled off the main road and up a rough track.   It was a hot summers day and we were glad of the shade of a tree.   With that special stick of his he pointed to an overgrown area on the far side of the tracks.   "Just there" he said "in the trees you'll find  a slate tank that fed the kiln and the water tower."    Then he turned and pointed to a bare piece of ground alongside the up main line.   "There was my signal box" he said, barely able to contain his emotions.   "Twice it was knocked down by runaway trains.   That kept you on your toes!"

Well, Derek's life is over.   Bob Swallow asked him if when his time came he wanted to be buried behind Settle Junction signal box, where his faithful dogs are buried.   Derek, a devout churchman and pallbearer at countless funerals is familiar with the mechanics of death.  "No" said Derek.  "I want to be buried with my wife Freda at Settle churchyard.   But I want to be buried t'other way round".

"So as I can see the trains".

1 comment:

  1. Very, very sad to lose Derek and yet another end of an era.



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