H. F. Stephens
Colonel Holman Fred Stephens (1868 – 23 October 1931) was a British light railway civil engineer and manager. He was engaged in engineering and building, and later managing, 16 light railways in England and Wales.
Stephens was the son of Frederic George Stephens, Pre-Raphaelite artist and art critic, and his wife, the artist Rebecca Clara (née Dalton). He was apprenticed in the workshops of the Metropolitan Railway in 1881. He was 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, mostly planned and built under the 1896 Light Railways Act. His first two railways, the Rye and Camber Tramway and the Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramway, predated this, but he built the first railway under the Act, the Rother Valley Railway (later 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 his railways that many stayed independent of the larger systems created in the Grouping under the Railways Act 1921.
Stephens had no close relatives and remained a bachelor. He had few interests outside his railways and his voluntary military service. In 1916, during WWI, Stephens attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Territorial Army (TA) with which he had been associated since the 1890s. He continued to support the TA throughout most of the 1920s.
When he died in 1931, the management of his railways was taken over by his former "outdoor assistant", W. H. Austen, who ran them until they closed or were incorporated into the national system in 1948.
A museum devoted to his life and achievements is at Tenterden Station in Kent
The operational railways in which Stephens was involved were:
|Name||Year Opened||Year Closed||Passenger services start||Passenger services end||Gauge||Notes|
|Ashover Light Railway||1924||1950||1924||1926||1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm)||Built primarily to carry stone|
|Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway||1859||1996||1913||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)||Originally coal-carrying, adapted for passenger traffic by Stephens;
absorbed by Great Western Railway 1923
|Cranbrook and Paddock Wood Railway||1892||1961||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)||Worked, and finally absorbed by the South Eastern Railway in 1900.
Stephen's first assignment following his training. Also known as the Hawkhurst Branch Line
|Edge Hill Light Railway||1919||1925||none||none||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)||Ironstone-carrying; included a 1 in 6 cable-worked incline; never formally opened|
|East Kent Light Railway||1911||1980s||1916||1948||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)||built to serve the Kent Coalfield;
branch to Richborough; part now a heritage railway
|Ffestiniog Railway||1832||Open||1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm)||Managed by Stephens c1923-1931, now a heritage railway|
|Isle of Wight Central Railway||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)||Stephens was Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent for a brief period in 1911.|
|Kent and East Sussex Railway
and Rother Valley Railway
|1900||1961||1900||1954||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)||Now a heritage railway|
|North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway||1925||1982||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)||Originally a 3 ft (914 mm) china-clay carrier; Stephens engineered its reconstruction and extension; operated by Southern Railway at outset, although remaining an independent company until nationalisation|
|Plymouth, Devonport and South Western Junction Railway||1890||1966 (part)||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)||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 as an independent company from the main line of the London & South Western Railway
section to Gunnislake is still operating
|Rye and Camber Tramway||1895||1939||3 ft (914 mm)||Used intermittently by military during World War II and never reopened|
|Sheppey Light Railway||1896||1950||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)||Engineered by Stephens but operated from the outset by the South Eastern and Chatham Railway,
which took ownership in 1905
|Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Railway (S&MR)||1866||1960||1933||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)||Reconstructed from the long-closed Potteries, Shrewsbury and North Wales Railway in 1911.
Regular 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 3 3⁄4 in (705 mm)||Lead- and later stone-carrying railway|
|Welsh Highland Railway||1923||1936||1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm)||Incorporating the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway (opened 1877).
Rebuilt 1997 - 2011 as a heritage line.
|West Sussex Railway||1897||1935||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)||The "Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramway"|
|Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway||1897||1940||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)||Extension opened 1907|
Stephens was also involved in many other projects that did not come to fruition – 18 reached the early, Light Railway Order, stage. Many were extensions to existing railways; one was the 1920s 'Southern Heights Light Railway', a single-track electrified railway from Orpington to Sanderstead.
He was involved in:
- Central Essex Railway
- East Kent Railway Extensions
- East Sussex Railway
- Gower Railway
- Hadlow Railway
- Headcorn and Faversham Junction Railway
- Headcorn and Maidstone Junction 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 Light Railway
- Surrey and Sussex Railway
- Worcester and Broome Railway
|Railway||Loco name||Build date||Wheels||Disposal||BR number|
|KESR||Hecate||1904||0-8-0T||to SR and BR||30949|
|PDSWJR||A. S. Harris||1907||0-6-0T||to SR and BR||30756|
|PDSWJR||Earl of Mount Edgcumbe||1907||0-6-2T||to SR and BR||30757|
|PDSWJR||Lord St. Levan||1907||0-6-2T||to SR and BR||30758|
None of these locomotives have been preserved.