Buttons Index


It is with regret that we have heard the news of the passing of our friend Vernon Howard on 11th April.

The funeral will be on Thursday the 3rd May at 3:45pm, Easthampstead Crematorium, South Road, Bracknell, RG40 3DW.

This photo shows Vernon Howard enjoying a cab ride on the Bluebell Railway during the 2016 Nine Elms Enginemens' Reunion. (Copyright 2016, John McIvor)

Railway memories have sustained many us throughout our latter day lives. Looking back we can all recall the moment that we embarked upon a railway career that would take each and every one of us on an individual journey through time. For many it became a lifetime of employment that then provided a fascinating, rewarding occupation but for some they never experienced that longevity, as circumstances changed their course of life.

Vernon (‘Vern’) was one such person who started his footplate career at Nine Elms in 1955. A family background that had had a long association with railways meant that it was in the ‘genes’ so to speak.

Early days as an engine cleaner saw friendships forged like no others, I guess we are all the same in this respect. Moving on to become a fireman was then the real opportunity to show your ability on the footplate, despite the fact you still had a lot to learn. This was the way it began for Vern, a keen interest from the very beginning. It was later in 1958 that I first met him on an occasion that our paths crossed one day, another kindred spirit.

After transferring down to Basingstoke sadly he decided to leave the railway in the early 1960’s and contact was lost. This also happened with several other colleagues with whom I had a rapport - such a shame really.

However there is a brighter note, inasmuch the rekindling of friendships long past.

By chance, many years later, I met ‘Vern’ once again and immediately we turned the clock back sharing mutual memories of our youth. It was a great time, but too short a period alas, with visits to various preserved lines providing us with all the links back to ‘our times’, not forgetting attendance at the Nine Elms Enginemen’s reunions - something that he relished!

Despite his failing health an organised footplate trip, courtesy of the Bluebell Railway, was another special day for him during these times. These and more are the fond memories that I shall cherish about Vern, for he was indeed a fine fellow.

‘God bless you mate’

James (Jim) Lester - 70A

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