RICHARD Hardy, who died on February 18, aged 94, was one of the last remaining professional links with the ‘Big Four’ and a railwayman who commanded as much respect in the preservation era as he did during his illustrious career with the LNER and British Railways.
Known affectionately in his autumn years as ‘the Grand Old Man of Steam’, and widely regarded as the elder statesman of the heritage movement, he made a meteoric rise through the rail industry’s hierarchy, becoming a shedmaster at the astonishingly young age of 22, running another five major depots before he was 35, and then overseeing the massive changeover from steam to modern traction on the busy Stratford district of the Eastern Region.
Unlike many of his fellow managers, Dick was a rail enthusiast at heart and never lost his passion for locomotives and their crews. He considered himself first and foremost a ‘people person’ and estimated he had worked during his career with more than 25,000 men and women, many of whom became close friends and remained so for many years afterwards.
Born at Leatherhead, Surrey, on October 8, 1923, Richard Harry Norman Hardy was bitten by the steam bug at an early age, reading his first Railway Magazine at the age of five, and being given a tour of Doncaster loco shed two years later by a family friend, who just happened to be the depot’s chief clerk!
In 1934 the family moved to Amersham, Buckinghamshire, and 10-year-old Richard was soon spending most of his spare time at the town’s station, spellbound by former Great Central Railway engines and thrilled whenever their drivers gave him a wave.
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