Holman Fred Stephens
Colonel Holman Fred Stephens (1868-1931) was a British light railway civil engineer and manager. During his lifetime he was engaged in engineering and building, and later managing, 16 light railways in England and Wales.
1868 Stephens was the son of Frederic George Stephens, Pre-Raphaelite artist and art critic and his wife the artist Rebecca Clara (nee Dalton).
1881 He was apprenticed in the workshops of the Metropolitan Railway. From there he went on to become an assistant engineer during the building of the Cranbrook and Paddock Wood Railway, which was opened in 1892.
In 1894 he became an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, which allowed him to design and build railways in his own right.
He immediately set about his lifetime's project of building light railways for rural areas. Most of his projects were to be planned and built under the terms of the 1896 Light Railways Act. His first two independently built railways, the Rye and Camber Tramway and the Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramway, predated this but he built the first railway under that Act: the Rother Valley Railway (later to become the Kent and East Sussex Railway).
The railways were planned, and some later run from, an office at 23 Salford Terrace in Tonbridge, Kent, which Stephens had rented in 1900 and purchased in 1927. It was characteristic of the Stephens' run railways that they stayed independent of the larger systems that were created following the Grouping under the Railways Act 1921.
1931 October 23rd. When he died the management was taken over by his former "outdoor assistant", W. H. Austen and run until they closed or were incorporated into the national system in 1948.
Buried in Brompton Cemetery
The railways in which Stephens became involved, and which became operational, were as follows with the (opening and closing dates):
- Ashover Light Railway (1924-1950): stone-carrying; 2 ft (610 mm) gauge
- Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway (1859-1996): originally coal-carrying, adapted for passenger traffic by Stephens 1913; grouped with Great Western Railway 1923
- Cranbrook and Paddock Wood Railway (1892-1961): worked, and finally absorbed by the South Eastern Railway in 1900
- Edge Hill Light Railway (1919-1925): ironstone-carrying; included a 1:6 cable-worked incline; never formally opened
- East Kent Light Railway: (1911-1980s): built to serve the Kent coalfield; passenger service 1916-1948; branch to Richborough; part now a heritage railway
- Ffestiniog Railway (1832-present): 1 ft 11½ in (597 mm) gauge; owned by Stephens 1923-1946, now a heritage railway
- Hawkhurst Branch (1892-1961): built to serve the hop gardens and plant-growing industries in the Kentish Weald. Stephens' first assignment following his training.
- Kent and East Sussex Railway (1900-1961): now a heritage railway
- North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway (1925-1982): originally a 3 ft (914 mm) china-clay carrier; Stephens engineered its construction 1925; operated by Southern Railway at outset
- Plymouth, Devonport and South Western Junction Railway (1890-1966 (part)): Built by an independent company but operated by the London and South Western Railway as part of its main line. The branch from Bere Alston to Callington was engineered by Stephens and opened in 1908; section to Gunnislake is still operating
- Rye and Camber Tramway (1895-1939): 3 ft (914 mm) gauge; used by military during World War II and never reopened
- Sheppey Light Railway (1896-1950): operated from the outset by the South Eastern and Chatham Railway; ownership and control taken over by South Eastern and Chatham Railway in 1905
- Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Railway (S&MR) (1866-1962): original construction as part of the proposed "Potteries, Shrewsbury and North Wales Railway", Stephens reconstructed as S&MR in 1911; passenger services ceased 1933; taken over for military use during WWII and remained under military control until closure
- Snailbeach District Railways (1877-1962): 2 ft 3¾ in (705 mm) gauge; lead- and later stone-carrying railway
- Welsh Highland Railway (1877-1936): 1 ft 11½ in (597 mm) gauge; being rebuilt in the early 2000s as a heritage line
- West Sussex Railway: (1897-1935): the "Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramway"
- Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway: (1897-1940); extension opened 1907
Apart from his successful projects, Stephens was also involved in many others, which did not come to fruition — eighteen reached the early, Light Railway Order stage. Many were extensions to existing railways; the most interesting one was the 1920s scheme for the Southern Heights Light Railway, which would have produced a single-track electrified railway from Orpington to Sanderstead.
The list of lines which he was involved in was as follows:-
- Central Essex Railway
- East Kent Railway Extensions
- East Sussex Railway
- Gower Railway
- Hadlow Railway
- Headcorn and Faversham Junction Railway
- Headcorn and Maidstone Junction Light Railway
- Hedingham and Long Melford Railway
- Kelvedon, Coggeshall and Halstead Railway
- Lands End, St Just and Great Western Junction Railway
- Long Melford and Hadleigh Railway
- Maidstone and Faversham Junction Railway
- Maidstone and Sittingbourne Railway
- Newport and Four Ashes Railway
- Orpington, Cudham and Tatsfield Railway
- Shropshire Railways (Shrewsbury and Market Drayton Extension)
- Southern Heights Railway
- Surrey and Sussex Railway
- Worcester and Broome Railway
Some of the railways (as can be seen in the list above) were already part of major companies by the time the Railways Act 1921 came into force on 1 January 1923. Many others were not included in the Grouping, and continued to operate independently. After his death in 1931 the surviving railways continued to be run from the Tonbridge office by W. H. Austen until most were closed due to road competition, while the rest were nationalised into British Railways in 1948.
Sources of Information
-  Wikipedia