‘World’s longest serving’ steam driver dies

THE South Devon Railway has been in mourning following the death of the man believed to be the world’s longest-serving steam driver who, in 2017, clocked up 63 years’ continuous footplate service.

Dave Knowling, who had just celebrated his 78th birthday, was one of the original members of staff to join the Dart Valley Railway after leaving BR, and he worked on the Buckfastleigh line for many years as the full-time driver right into the time when it was taken over by the South Devon Railway.

Dave Knowling at home in his element on the footplate in 2012. JOHN BRODRIBB/SDR

Even to the end of the 2017 season, he undertook his regular Monday driving turn. This year he had clocked up 63 years of continuous footplate work, making him probably the longest-serving footplateman ever.

A native of Holne in south Devon, Dave began his BR career at Plymouth’s Laira depot in June 1954 as a cleaner at the age of 15 years.

Meeting Dr Beeching

He worked on thousands of now scrapped steam locomotives over many long-closed railway routes across the West Country and around London.

With steam disappearing he was made redundant from BR in 1967 and briefly went to work for china clay producer ECLP in Plymouth where he assisted with some stationary boilers they used.

That year he joined the Dart Valley Railway Association and became the line’s first full-time employee in June 1968.

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