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Henry Beaumont RIP

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Garfield
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On behalf of the mod team here at IRM I'd like to convey my condolences to our very own JHB171achill and his family on the death his father, Henry, who was a well known and highly respected railway man. May he rest in peace.

 

 

HENRY BEAUMONT (25th November 1918 - 22nd January 2015)

 

Henry was born in Dublin and lived in the Ranelagh and Ballsbridge areas. His father was H J A Beaumont (1879-1955), who was Edgar Bredin’s Chief Draughtsman in Inchicore Works, Dublin, and was responsible for the design drawings for the famous 800 class locomotives, among other things.

 

After attending school, Henry entered Trinity College in 1936 to study civil engineering.

 

He graduated in 1939, winning the Clark Memorial Prize, and immediately was appointed by the Great Southern Railways as an assistant to the Chief Engineer’s Office in Westland Row Station, commencing work there in September 1939. In 1942 he was appointed as Assistant Junior Engineer to P T Somerville-Large, the Dublin District Engineer of the GSR. Some of Henry’s early work involved coastal defence work around Bray Head, improvements to Mullingar Station, and work on the Bray Head tunnels. He recalled carrying out inspections in these tunnels in a four wheeled goods wagon propelled by a steam locomotive, and using torches to look at unstable rocks above the heads of the inspecting party.

 

In May 1942 he was offered a post in Belfast by the LMS (NCC), as Assistant Civil Engineer, in which role his reputation for coastal defence work was of paramount importance, as he was initially employed carrying out considerable improvements on the Carrickfergus to Whitehead section, which was plagued by coastal erosion on one side of the track, and land slips on the other. In 1946 he was promoted to Permanent Way Assistant Engineer. During this time, the NCC as part owner of the County Donegal Railways, had responsibility for the permanent way and bridges on that system. Henry carried out several surveys of the Donegal lines, one of which left the reader in no doubt whatever as to the poor state of the track over the whole CDR system.

 

Given that the NCC system was owned by the (English) LMS, he transferred on promotion again in December 1946 to Britain, having been appointed as Assistant Civil Engineer for the busy Blackburn District of that company. He recalled seeing many recently built “Black Fives”, the “new engines”.

 

During 1947-50 he remained in Blackburn based in the District Engineer’s office there. However, an opportunity to come home presented itself in 1950 when he was offered the post of Structural Assistant Civil Engineer to the Great Northern Railway (Ireland), based back home in Dublin at Amiens Street Station. His journey to and from work each day was either on foot from Wellington Road, Ballsbridge, by bicycle, or by tram.

 

In 1954 the GNR(I) promoted him to Enniskillen as Western District Civil Engineer. In this role he was responsible for all bridges, station buildings and other structures, as well as all track maintenance, maintenance costing, and organisation of all engineering and ballasting trains and crews. His area covered Dundalk - Enniskillen - Omagh, Portadown - Cavan, and the branch lines to Cootehill, Carrickmacross, Belturbet, Bundoran and Fintona. In his own time, he provided assistance to the Sligo, Leitrim & Northern Counties Railway, as they could not afford their own civil engineer. In particular, he carried out detailed inspections of the viaduct (Weir’s Bridge) in Enniskillen, and attended a landslip further along that line on one occasion.

 

In 1956, following the washing away of the embankment on the Bundoran branch near Castlecaldwell, he organised the rebuilding of the railway over the large gap created, only for the branch to be closed eighteen months later. He was also closely involved in the rebuilding of the Tolka river bridge in Dublin, washed away by floods around the same time.

 

After virtually all the railway routes within the GNR’s Western District were swept away by the mass closures of GNR lines in September 1957, he was loaned by the GNR to the Ulster Transport Authority, and resumed working in Belfast. The following year, when the GNR was divided between the UTA and CIE, he was formally appointed Civil Engineer (Production) for the whole UTA system. Part of his duties would soon involve supervising some of the former GNR lines now being run down or closed by the UTA.

 

Henry continued as the UTA’s Civil Engineer until 1964, when he left the railway due to the growing uncertainty of the future of any railways in Northern Ireland, due to the short-sighted government policy of the time. He had four young children to feed! He transferred to the roads department of the Ministry of Development, as their Civil Engineer. In 1973 he transferred to the newly established Planning Appeals Commission, as the Secretary, in which role he retired in November 1984 on his 65th birthday.

 

In Henry’s spare time he played rugby and tennis while at university, but his real interest was the railways he served. He was one of the earliest members of the Irish Railway Record Society and the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, joining these organisations within a couple of years of their respective formation. Until declining health meant he was no longer able to enjoy their periodicals, he remained a member of each until a very short time before he passed away. He was also a member of the Downpatrick & County Down Railway and several non-railway related charitable bodies, most notable connected with Dublin. He was a lifelong member of the Irish Branch of the Permanent Way Institution, and was recently believed to be their oldest member, as well as the last surviving white-collar member of staff of the Great Southern Railways - if not the last of any grade within that concern.

 

Henry travelled extensively on the railways in his youth and maintained a map upon which he marked each line he had traversed, quite often on the footplate of a locomotive or in a first class carriage, courtesy of numerous free passes granted as a result of his father’s position in Inchicore Works. The map contains very few railway routes anywhere in Ireland which he did not traverse; for example, he managed to get as far as Burtonport on the footplate of line of the Lough Swilly’s iconic 4.8.0 tender locomotives. He travelled by train to places like Castlegregory on the Tralee & Dingle, Schull, the NCC narrow gauge, and many more now-obscure railway destinations.

 

Despite having lived away from Dublin for many years he never cut his ties with family and friends there and returned regularly. Until his death he still insisted on some of his mail going to the old family home address, by now lived in by his sister; for all of his life he was immensely proud of his Dublin origins.

 

His wife predeceased him in 2000, and his surviving sister in 2011. Henry is survived by one son, three daughters and ten grand-children.

 

Rest in Peace.

 

 

JB 22.1.15

Edited by Garfield
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I tried to write something useful a few times, and got it wrong each time. Your dad has, unknowingly, helped us clowns out so many times. I say "clowns" in the nicest possible way. I never knew the man, but I knew of the man. My throat is constricted, and my eyes are glassy , men of his ilk will not grace our way ever more - we have lost a legend this day.

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My sincere condolences to you and your family JHB.

 

Although the changes and uncertainties of the 50s and 60s must have been difficult to deal with while bringing up a young family your father had the opportunities and career most of todays railfans' could only dream of.

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Very much appreciated, folks. The camaraderie here is what it's all about; in the ages we live in, it replicates the camaraderie shared by all who worked in all walks of the professional railway world in interesting, lost, times past.

 

I used to marvel at his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things - except diesels! He could tell an "A" from a "C" or a "B" - but if you started debating 101s, 121s, 141s or 181s...... "They're just diesels". He was a steam man, until only days ago telling of what he saw in "Kingsbridge", "Westland Row" and "Amiens Street". His last story, which I took notes of only a couple of months back, concerned his observations while commuting to Harcourt Street en route to school in the 1920s.

 

When travelling to Britain, despite dreading the ferry journey due to the ease with which he would feel seasick, he would prefer this to flying. Despite this too, he once told me he was "seasick" on the Schull and Skibbereen. He travelled over the line just once, which he said was enough; a combination of poor track, steep gradients and the rolling nature of a four-wheeled coach result in him standing on the end balcony decorating the receding track behind the train!

 

When I was asked by DCDR what info he had regarding the internal upholstery of BCDR coaches, I asked him, knowing he had travelled over the whole system several times in the 1930s. On one of these, he caught the train from Amiens Street to Bessbrook, then cycled to Newcastle! His answer:

 

"Oh, I've no idea. I was never in a BCDR coach"

 

Me: "But I thought you were all over the BCDR?"

 

"Oh yes, but I was always on the footplate. It was usually an 0.6.0. Last time there were several GNR cattle trucks in Downpatrick"...

 

He did the whole CDR a number of times by footplate, first class compartment, and crowded railcars. He recalled one trip through the Barnesmore Gap, "the locomotive was flat out with the goods, but the lorries were overtaking us". Same, as he recounted, the day he footplated 4.8.0 No. 12 to Burtonport....

 

He managed to get as far as Rathkenny on the Cushendall narrow gauge. It was one of the last inspection trips, just a light engine and him.

 

I said he had little time for diesels. Until, that is, he saw YouTube clips of 146, A39 and C231 on the DCDR. He passed away with a new found interest in heritage diesels and the activities of the ITG, whose magazines I lent him.

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When i joined IRRS in 1988, the first copy of The Journal I received was June 1988 and it contained the article A Slip into Lough Erne by HCA Beaumont. As a civil engineer, I found the article fascinating and it is only now that I realise that the author was the man who instigated the repairs as District Engineer of GNR(I).

I wonder if he was a member of ICE - there is mention of his membership of PWI?

It is sad when someone leaves us but the memory lives on.

 

Stephen Branchett CEng MICE

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