Crowd bids farewell to Devon’s own Man of Steam


DAVE Knowling, believed to be Britain’s longest serving steam engine driver, had a fitting tribute paid to him by family and friends by being taken to his final resting place down the railway that he loved and worked so hard to help build.

The funeral service for popular South Devon Railway stalwart Dave, who died on December 23 at the age of 78 following complications from cancer treatment, was held at Holy Trinity, Buckfastleigh on Monday, January 15, followed by burial in the cemetery there.

Dave Knowling’s funeral train was hauled by GWR 0-6-0PT No. 6412, seen waiting to leave Buckfastleigh on January 15.

A special train for family and friends ran the same day from Buckfastleigh to take Dave for one final return journey over the railway line he had made his life.

Article continues below…

Enjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine.
Click here to subscribe & save.

Having first joined BR in summer of 1954, he was still driving trains until last year, and 2018 would have been his 50th year on the revived former Ashburton branch.

There was standing room only as dozens turned out to join Dave (pictured in our last issue) on his final trip. Earlier, the line’s locomotives had already carried wreaths in his memory as colleagues paid tribute to him.

When Dave married his wife Sue in 1970, the couple had their wedding reception on a train on the line with ‘The Wedding Belle’ as a headboard, which is still in the Buckfastleigh museum.

Article continues below…

SDR spokesman Dick Wood said: “We had a really strong turn out of around 200 plus uniformed staff and volunteers at Buckfastleigh station, and at the other SDR stations at Staverton and Totnes, who all lined up in tribute and to say cheerio to our old friend and steam engine driver Dave.

“He had been a constant friendly face and proverbial rock of the Dart Valley and South Devon railways for the last 50 years from before the line re-opened in 1969 right up to the present day. His last driving turn was in October 2017 in his 63rd consecutive year working on steam engines.

Read more in Issue 238 of HR – on sale now!

Article continues below…

Subscribe to Heritage Railway Magazine Enjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Article Tags:

About the Author