David Jenkinson A Personal Appreciation
By Bob Essery.
David Jenkinson, BSc London University, was born in Leeds in August 1934 and died on the 27 April 2004. He served in the RAF, retiring in 1972 with the rank of Squadron Leader. After two years in teaching he joined the National Railway Museum at York as Head of Education and Research. Following management changes at the NRM he retired and purchased Atlantic Transport, publishers of Backtrack. Later he launched Modellers Backtrack and the Pendragon Partnership Imprint, publishers of specialist railway books.
He was the member of a number of societies. A founder member of the LMS Society, and President for a number of years, he was also the long serving President of the Wakefield Railway Modellers and a long standing member of the HMRS and Gauge 0 Guild.
My first meeting with David was at the New Horticultural Hall London in September 1963. We were both responding to a letter that had been published some weeks earlier in the Railway Modeller. This lead to an invitation to meet to see if it was possible to form a small society catering for those who were interested the LMS Railway Company. Within an hour we had decided to form the LMS Society and the founders were also committed to fill a complete edition of the June 1964 Railway Modeller with LMS material. We had one problem, the lead article in the magazine was, Railway of the Month, a detailed description of a model railway and only one of the founder members appeared to have anything that would meet the criteria required; this was David Jenkinson, who said that his Marthwaite layout, based upon an imaginary ex Midland Railway branch in Yorkshire, would be suitable.
Three of the founder members lived in Hertfordshire, we considered ourselves to be the Headquarters Section so Don Field and I decided that we ought to go to inspect his layout. When we arrived we were made most welcome, however, years later David wrote about our visit and used the words of Shakespeare to describe what happened. We said, There's no ballast, the signals don't work, I wouldn't do that etc. He wrote something to the effect that, The summer of this son of York quickly became his winter of discontent. Notwithstanding our remarks, the Railway Modeller project was a success and David's article won him the 1963 Railway Modeller Cup, an annual award given by the publishers to the author whose article was voted best by the magazine's readers. He went on to win the cup again and again.
David's first article to be published in the model railway press was a piece on the Grassington branch; this appeared in the May 1955 edition of the Model Railway News. His writing career was to span almost fifty years; his last book on the Highland Railway has just been published, while I still have two further articles that will be published in LMS Journal. He wrote many books as both sole and joint author.
Our association began a few weeks after the inaugural meeting of the LMS Society when he was staying overnight with my wife and I to review progress. While I was busy applying the final touches to a 0-4-4Tank engine that was to feature in the Push Pull article, he sat quietly smoking his pipe. When I had finished I showed it to him. What do you think? His response was what I later came to know as pure Jenkinson. It looked better before you put the transfers on! In vain I protested that the transfers I had used were the only ones that were available and I knew they were the wrong size. It was probably two or three large whiskeys later that he said, If we are going to get a transfer manufacturer to make proper transfers for the hobby we had better find out what the LMS did. This marked the beginning of a partnership that saw our first book published in 1967 and the last in 2000, seventeen books that included one with another LMS Society member, Roy Anderson.
Because I had never really done any prime source research David became the project leader and I was the ferret. My work took me all over the United Kingdom so it was not too difficult to find and then to make regular visits to see the owners of photograph collections and then to borrow hundreds of pictures that were used as the basis of the locomotive livery research. The livery code that is used today was David's idea as indeed are the other codes that appear in our joint author publications. After a few months of steady research David wrote to me to say, I think that we have enough material to write a decent magazine article on the subject. How wrong can you be? First came Locomotive Liveries of the LMS, published in 1967 and after that went out of print the work was greatly enlarged and expanded to five volumes entitled An Illustrated History of LMS Locomotives, published from 1981 onwards. The rest of the story is history, PC Models made the transfers and today they are marketed by the HMRS.
There is one story from this period that I would like to tell; it is about his identification code for carriages. Within a few months of beginning to research the livery of LMS locomotives we decided to widen our horizons and to cover the LMS built coaching stock as well. This was a complex subject but one evening, it was probably well after midnight with the wine or whiskey flowing freely, when David made one of his profound statements and said, You know Bob, there are three distinct design phases, he went on to explain what he meant. I think that we should call them Period 1, Period 2, Period 3. Understandably these terms are in everyday use within the hobby, but there is more to come.
One day, when I was in my office, the phone rang and I listened to the excited voice of David, who was calling from his office at the National Railway Museum. He said; you are never going to believe this. Try me, was my response. I've just had a phone call from Mr XX, a senior manager at Doncaster. He said, Mr. Jenkinson we have a LMS passenger brakevan that is surplus to our requirements, we think that it ought to go to the museum. Isn't that what they are supposed to do was my reply, but I was totally unprepared for what came next. David continued, He said to me, it's a Period I vehicle; Bob, British Rail are using OUR codes to describe their vehicles. His laughter and joy was overwhelming. There is also a pointer to his character in this story. The codes were his, he could have said, they are using my code, but he didn't. We were a partnership and our success was shared equally.
We did not always agree. For example, David firmly believed that French Red wine in general had no equal in the World. In my view the best red wine comes from Australia. One day, when he was staying with us, I offered him wine from a decanter and invited him to tell me what it was. He was deeply puzzled, but finally decided that not only was it very good indeed but that it was rare Burgundy. I showed him the bottle and label. Then I listened to his U Turn as the Australian wine went from excellent to just about reasonable. The inhabitants of a house in Downing Street would be green with envy at the skill he used to get out of what he had stated previously. However, it must be said that I did not often score points over David in this manner.
There are many stories to tell of my friendship with David. One is his phone call to me when I was at a trade exhibition at Brighton. Bob, said my assistant, there is a Mr. Jenkinson on the phone for you. David came straight to the point, We need to raise £X thousand to put the Duchess of Hamilton back in service. Would Arthur Price ( of England, the company I worked for) sponsor it? My response was, not likely, but I quickly grasped the extent of the problem. It was a quiet day at the exhibition and within an hour I had an idea about how money could be raised. On an adjacent stand a Fine Art Company was promoting the idea of using limited edition prints to assist marketing products. Have you ever thought about a railway subject was my opening remark to them? Yes, they said, but we don't know much about the subject. I explained what I had in mind and they quickly warmed to the idea. By the end of the day the deal was done and in due course the profit from the prints of the picture painted by Terence Cuneo generated a fair sum of money. Although the prints would produce a sizeable sum, it was not enough to restore the engine to working order, it was now that David pulled off his masterstroke; he persuaded the Friends of the NRM to write an open cheque for the shortfall.
As a result of his efforts The Red Duchess went into service pulling passenger trains; but the composition was not entirely David's ideal, Utopia was a train made up entirely of 1st Class Diners with sufficient Kitchen cars to meet the travellers needs in both food and that splendid red liquid, which he adored.
David built many fine models. In my view his expertise was at its best when building carriages. I am sure that in the years to come a coach that was built by David Jenkinson will command similar or even greater respect as the locomotives that were built by James Beeson. One thing is certain, his coaches are very accurate. Apart from building coaches he also wrote extensively about them. My area of impute to our joint work was largely in the realm of non-passenger carrying stock; David was the master of the rest of the story. His numerous books on the subject covered Midland, L&NW and a two-volume overview of 20th Century British practice. He was a good draughtsman and apart from his drawings being included in many of the carriage books he combined with Nick Campling to produce an entire volume of carriage drawings.
In addition to writing about aspects of the full size railway he was very well know for his modelling ability. His ideas and work was shown in his books devoted to modelling that began with Modelling Historic Railways and concluded with Historical Railway Modelling, published by the Pendragon Partnership.
But notwithstanding his skill with individual models it was his creative ability to construct a model of a section of railway that earned him most of the accolades from other modellers, which he has received over the years. In my view his model, Garsdale Road, was outstanding, but rather than use my words, let me use the words of one of his admirers who said:-
'I never met David, I only corresponded with him briefly on two occasions, he dealt with my immature letters of one seeking a shortcut into the NRM with impeccable tact, diplomacy and firmness, pointing me to saner ways. I can never thank him for the inspiration he has given me over nearly four decades of modelling along historical lines. Garsdale Road at the Easter Show duly enthralled me. (How often have I read or heard similar expressions from people who saw this layout on display)?
What I am trying to say is how much of a debt of gratitude I owe David, in not only researching and making inspirational models, but in disseminating the results so well; he was certainly one of the finest. David Jenkinson will be sadly missed by a great circle of friends, beyond his grieving family; the depth of that loss must be huge, given the sadness experience by one who never knew him personally.
Thank you David for so much, from one of your many anonymous friends.'
To conclude my personal appreciation of David Jenkinson. On Desert Island Discs the interviewer always asks a question which I am going to copy. If you could take but one memory what would it be? There can be no doubt; it was David's method of classifying problems. A minor problem would be described as, not a one-bottle problem. If it was more serious, then it was a one-bottle problem, but if it was really serious then it was a two-bottle problem.
Rest in piece dear friend, it was both a privilege and honour to be your friend. I know that you would never let me down and I hope that you felt likewise. Your legacy in your writings and inspiration that you gave others will live on. Your friends will always remember you.
The funeral was held at St. Mary's Parish Church Raskelf, North Yorkshire on the 5th May 2004. The small church was filled with about eighty members of his family and friends.