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LMSS Masthead

Keith King - an appreciation.

I first met Keith at a LMS Society meeting at Derby that I had been invited to in the early 70s. I was starting to build the railway exhibition layout of Monsall and Millers Dale in Matlock Bath and a few days later Keith came to view the progress on the layout and that started a friendship and later a business relationship that was to last the rest of Keith's life.

Keith grew up in the Birmingham area and his Father worked for the BCN so Keith learnt a great deal about canals from him. He often took Keith with him round the canal network on his inspection rounds. Keith had a vivid memory during the 2nd war of seeing an unexploded German bomb sticking out of the bed of the canal near to his house with the Army preparing to defuse it.

When he left school he was employed as an apprentice reprographic artist in a large printing company in north London that was an NGA closed shop. Although as a prospective apprentice he had been interviewed by the company's manager it was the interview by the shop steward that decided if he was suitable for the apprenticeship. It was his early experiences with the NGA that turned him against unions for the rest of his life.

By the time I met Keith he was working at Bemrose printers in Derby, an old established printing firm that had done printing work for the Midland Railway. It was about then that he was going through a divorce and shortly afterwards moved to Hulland Ward with his partner Pam who was to remain with him for the rest of his life. The Bungalow had a large empty roof space and it was not long before Keith was building a EM gauge layout of the LMS in the roof and as I was living in Matlock Bath at the time, only a few minutes drive away, I saw him most weeks.

In those days the printing industry was using the etching process to etch printing plates in zinc and Keith had started doing some experiments designing and etching loco parts for his own use and it was he who suggested that Slater's should consider doing our own etching work. His advice and expertise was invaluable in setting up the plant and once we had the etching process working we were able to do Keith's test etchings of various LMS tenders for him, which was one of his particular interests, and he sold a number of his tender and loco designs to Chowbent kits.

It was about this time that I thought it would be a good idea to offer our wagon kits with private owner liveries on them so naturally I asked Keith's advice, his comment was simply "Give me the photograph and I will do the artwork for you". It was then that I discovered Keith had another interest, that of Calligraphy, in another life he could have been a police handwriting expert. I remember one evening taking two Gloucester Carriage Wagon photographs from the same batch of wagons to him. To me the lettering looked the same but not to Keith he just said, "which wagon do you want me to copy you have two different sign-writers here?" He then proceeded to show me the very slight differences between the sign-writers' work. It was because of Keith's skill that we were able to put a photocopy of the actual wagon in with each kit, confident that no one could claim the lettering was inaccurate, although he would always ask me to check the spelling when I picked up the new artwork, as he was slightly dyslectic.

Keith was one of the last two surviving members of the coffee queue at the Central Hall Westminster that started the LMS society, I remember David Jenkinson saying that at the first official meeting Keith was the life and soul of the meeting and had them all laughing, but no one could remember afterwards what he had said that was so funny!

Keith King

There was one particular amusing incident involving Keith. The LMS Society was attending the Derby Model Railway Exhibition in the Assembly Rooms. Our stand was at the end of a long narrow gallery overlooking the square with windows along the side and end where we were. The Derby club had fed us all and by Saturday afternoon the sun was streaming in through the windows and the room was getting very warm. It had gone quiet in the exhibition and some of us were feeling decidedly sleepy and in the end Keith succumbed, as the photograph shows. By Saturday evening at the Midland Hotel, where we were all staying, the preliminary sketch was prepared unbeknown to Keith, and the following morning at our Society meeting before the exhibition opened the photograph was presented to him with much laughter. Sadly many of those signatories, like Keith, are no longer with us.

In 2003 Pam went on holiday to Spain and fell in love with a property there, which she purchased. Keith was not too happy with the idea of moving to Spain but the cold winter of 2003 finally persuaded him that a move to a warmer climate might be a good idea. The bungalow was put up for sale and the layout in the roof sold. I purchased the bungalow and it was a sad occasion the night before he left giving me a set of keys to it and helping him to pack his last few possessions into his estate car ready for a 5am departure the next morning to Portsmouth to catch the ferry to Santandare. There was just enough room for Keith, and Mac his pet highland terrier, to fit into the car when we had finished. After arriving at Santandare he had a long drive across Spain to his new villa in the south. We only saw Keith once a year when he came back to visit us at the Warley Club Exhibition, although we often spoke on the phone whenever he needed some railway parts sending out.

Although Keith never actually published anything himself he was also an accomplished artist. If you have a copy of Portrait of the LMS the front cover was one of Keith's paintings and if you have a Slater's PO wagon or one of Chowbent's loco kits then you have a sample of Keith's skill as an artist and a designer.

Following a short illness, Keith passed away peacefully in hospital in Spain on 7th May 2017. Keith is survived by Pam, his partner, and by his sister to whom we send our condolences.

In concordance with his wishes, Keith's ashes were placed in a steam engine for his final journey on Sunday 26th November 2017 at Kidderminster.

David White

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