Malcolm Crawley

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MALCOLM Crawley, a leading authority on railway engineering and part of the team which built Britain’s first new steam locomotive for almost 50 years, has died aged 80.

He spent his entire working life with British Railways Engineering, much of it at its Doncaster works, until he retired early in 1988, the year that the operation was privatised.

But his engineering expertise and enthusiasm continued becoming a vital part of the development of the Peppercorn A1 Pacific steam locomotive, Tornado, as a member of the technical advisory panel. It began as an ambition of a small group that came together in 1990 and was realised 19 years later.

From 1947 until 1952, Mr Crawley was an apprentice under Arthur Peppercorn, the renowned designer of the Class A1 steam locomotives – the last of which was scrapped in 1966 – and had worked on the design, construction and maintenance of the original class A1s.

He was vice-president of the A1Steam Locomotive Trust and shovelled the first coal into the Tornado’s firebox. He had been president of the London & North Eastern Railway Society, and was also chairman of The Gresley Society for some years until last year when, at 80, he decided someone else should take it on.

Mr Crawley was born in Doncaster, the only child of builder Arthur and Norah Crawley. As a child all he wanted to do was to be taken to the station to watch the trains.

He was educated at Beechfield Infants School, in Doncaster, and although he passed his 11 plus to go to grammar school he opted instead to go to Doncaster Junior Technical School because he wanted to be an engineer. When he left, he went as a premium apprentice – which was of Oxbridge standard – at BR’s Doncaster works, always known as “the plant works”.

In 1973, he did his National Service with the Royal Engineers in Germany, returning to the plant works two years later to work in the locomotive drawing office, gradually being promoted through the organisation.

As a junior draughtsman he designed part of the structure for Class 85 AL5 locomotives until, in 1958, he became a mechanical inspector of diesel electric engines before they went into service. He also took part in trials of the diesel locomotives, the Deltics.

In 1961, he went into management variously working at York, Newcastle and Doncaster until he retired.

He was well known in model railway circles as a builder of locos from scratch and also of kits, and he and his wife were members of the Friends of the National Railway Museum, at York, and on the museum council.

But he also found time for many other interests, including being a founder member of Doncaster Alpine Garden Society of which he was chairman for eight years, and was members’ interest secretary for Doncaster Family History Society for about 20 years until last September.

He also had a great interest in wildlife and heritage, being a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and a member of English Heritage.

Mr Crawley is survived by his wife, Marian whom he met when they both worked in the railway drawing office, their five daughters and 15 grandchildren. He died one week after their 49th wedding anniversary.