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An appreciation by Michael Blakemore, Publisher of Backtrack
David Jenkinson died on 27th April 2004 after a short illness. With his passing, railways lost one of their most prominent historians, researchers, educators, authors and modellers.
David was born in Leeds in 1934 and educated at Prince Henry's Grammar School, Otley, and the University of London. His interest in railways began in the late 1930s when he began travelling behind either LNER Pacifics or LMS Compounds and 'Jubilees', depending on which route his father selected for regular trips between their London home and family connections in Yorkshire. Whilst at school he was taken on a field trip to the area around the Settle to Carlisle line, a famous stretch of railway which he would come to study, write about and model extensively in the future.
David was a geographer and teacher by profession, serving as an education and training officer in the Royal Air Force between 1956 and 1972. During this time he began his serious studies of railway history, in particular the locomotives and carriages of the London Midland & Scottish Railway on which he was to become an authority, and the first of what were to be many railway books and articles began to be published.
A change of career was embarked on in 1973 following the decision to create a new National Railway Museum in York and that year he was given the first permanent appointment (later styled Head of Education and Research), working initially from its parent body, the Science Museum in South Kensington. Later, he took charge of all the educational developments at the NRM and played an active role both in the restoration of exhibits and their subsequent public presentation.
The name of David Jenkinson was known to me from his magazine articles and books by the time I joined the National Railway Museum in 1975. His name was on the first door I passed as I was led down the staff corridor to 'sign on' but it was not until some five years later that I became part of his Education & Research team in the library. Life on the Jenkinson team was never for the faint-hearted, for he was a man of strongly-held and forcefully-expressed views about the right way to do things. But he led from the front and we all knew what we were aiming towards - and it was under DJ that the NRM's best exhibitions and restoration programmes were achieved.
Given David's love of LMS Pacifics, few doubted the arrival at York of 'Coronation' Class No.46229 Duchess of Hamilton in 1976 would not soon be followed by a plan to have it working again; he had already remarked, in response to a comment that it would be good to see it in action again, "That comes next!" By 1980 it was in steam. All the major vehicle refurbishments - LMS sleeping car, Wagons-Lits car, LNER buffet, ECJS third, Midland diner, BR griddle car, SECR and BR Pullmans, LSWR tri-composite and the famous collection of Royal Train carriages - can be attributed to him. David crowned these restorations in 1979 by putting together a full train of Museum catering vehicles to celebrate the centenary of railway dining cars and arranging for them to go on a national tour - with the public able not only to see them but also to ride and dine in them; with a characteristic flourish, DJ managed to secure the services of the Royal Train crew to accompany the tour! In 1981 he staged the first full exhibition of restored Royal saloons, a display visited by the Prince and Princess of Wales just a few months after their wedding - truly one of the National Railway Museum's red-letter days.
Most of the other special exhibitions came from the Jenkinson camp - railway hotels, the centenary of the Settle-Carlisle line, the 150th anniversary of the London & Birmingham Railway - and when the NRM decided to have a permanent model railway it was David who designed it. The workshop's staff who built it incorporated several personal touches and the pub serving 'Jenkinson's Ales' remains to this day!
It was during his RAF service - he co-founded a model railway club in Seletar, Singapore, in 1960 - that David began what was to be an illustrious modelling career with his 4mm scale Marthwaite layout in 1963. This was based on an imaginary station on the Settle-Carlisle line, this railway going on to be the inspiration for all his future modelling ventures. Marthwaite was sold in 1967 (though not before it had won the Railway Modeller Cup in 1964 and 1966) and the following year his Garsdale Road layout was embarked upon; the first train ran on 11th August 1968, the date on which the last British Railways steam train ran over the main line on which it was based! Garsdale Road was finished in 1969 and exhibited at Hemel Hempstead, then a year later appeared at the National Model Railway Exhibition at Central Hall, Westminster, where David again carried off the Railway Modeller Cup.
On leaving the RAF David dismantled Garsdale Road and, with a permanent home in Yorkshire for the first time, began work on a further Settle-Carlisle project, The Little Long Drag, in a purpose-built shed. Garsdale Road was incorporated within this layout, but new time-consuming commitments at the National Railway Museum and a declining interest in 4mm scale modelling led to The Little Long Drag being sold and dismantled in 1976. David's thoughts turned towards 7mm scale modelling for the future and although he established model layouts to this scale in his house at Knaresborough, it was to be 1995 before he could begin the creation of his ultimate model railway.
In the meantime David Jenkinson left the National Railway Museum in 1988 and shortly afterwards he purchased Atlantic Transport Publishers, a small Cornish-based company which he perceived as having great potential to produce the sort of authoritative books and magazines he believed the railway enthusiast world needed. A new career in publishing saw him enhance the growing reputation of Atlantic's historical magazine Backtrack, moving it eventually towards monthly production, and bring some serious books into Atlantic's list. He also founded the highly-regarded Modellers' Backtrack which, though only running for four years, set out a very Jenkinsonian agenda for accurate railway modelling and operating.
It was during 1995, after his sale of Atlantic Transport Publishers and partial retirement from full-time publishing, that David was at last able to embark on his most ambitious project, the Kendal branch, a representation of a branch the Midland Railway might have built from the Settle-Carlisle line into the Lake District. Many friends helped him to create a self-contained little 'world' in a substantial shed (from which a Gauge 1 live steam railway also ran out into the garden!) and by 2004, shortly before his death, it was largely completed. Operation of the layout (by a team of four) was to proper railway principles; there was a strict 24hr timetable which was adhered to, there were four control points connected by bell codes, signals and points were properly interlocked. The artefacts from the Kendal branch form the Lots in this sale, including many of the superb 7mm scale coaches for which David was renowned
An unexpected phone call early in 1990 invited me to meet him for lunch during which I was asked if I would like to join his team again to help edit Backtrack. Five years later I too left the NRM and joined David at Atlantic as Backtrack's full-time editor when it absorbed Modellers' Backtrack to go into monthly production. Even after David relinquished Atlantic, he retained ownership of the Pendragon book imprint and continued to add to its list, while also enjoying the opportunity that the freedom from full-time work now brought to write more articles and books.
David Jenkinson's name appears on around 35 books, some in conjunction with long-time friend and research collaborator Bob Essery, and his last one, Highland in LMS Days, was published only a couple of weeks before his untimely death. Amongst many books which have now become standard reference works are his three favourites: Rails in the Fells - his landmark geographical, geological and social study of the Settle to Carlisle railway, British Railway Carriages - a classic survey covering the years from 1900 to 1953, and Historic Railway Modelling - in which he sets out his whole philosophy on the subject in a way that will hopefully inspire and guide others for many years to come.
At the end of 2003 I was able to acquire Backtrack from Atlantic and we again joined forces to publish it under his Pendragon banner, a move which I know brought him great satisfaction. David was never short of ideas and we had plans for a range of publishing ventures lined up for the ensuing couple of years, some of which, at least, I hope to bring to fruition. Planning meetings with DJ were not stuffy office-bound affairs; the best and most productive ones invariably took place in licensed premises and I, for one, will miss those long lunchtime meetings when, over a couple of bottles of claret, we sorted out the business in hand, then went on to debate everything under the sun and set the world to rights.
David Jenkinson has left us a considerable railway legacy. His books will be consulted by researchers, historians and writers long into the future, while his contribution to model-making will continue to influence the next generation as they have influenced so many who have been captivated by this fascinating hobby over the last four decades. David derived a great deal of pleasure from his models and I am certain he would hope that they will bring just as much pleasure to those who own them in the future. If you should be fortunate enough to become the proud owner of a model from the David Jenkinson Collection, perhaps you will raise a glass - real or metaphorical - to his name. Whether in the halls of the National Railway Museum or on the printed page or through his finely-crafted scale models, David Jenkinson's contribution to railway history will hopefully live on, for we may not see his like again.
David Jenkinson's Kendal Railway was 7mm finescale for 32mm gauge and two rail electric running.
The buildings were modelled on standard MR/LMS practice, particularly from the Settle/Carlisle branch. All were built by David Jenkinson except where otherwise stated.
NARROW GAUGE MODEL LOCOMOTIVES, ROLLING STOCK AND BUILDINGS FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE LATE DAVID JENKINSON