Early years and education
Raised in Kendal in the Lake District, close to the London, Midland and Scottish Railway West Coast Main Line, he was educated in Harrogate, close to the London and North Eastern Railway East Coast Main Line. He attended medical school in Leeds, where on the weekends he would visit Tebay and its engine shed, with staff letting him clean out locomotives. After graduation he became a general practitioner in Morecambe, Lancashire, in 1964.
Beet first tried to save the Sir William Stanier-designed LMS Coronation Class No.46243 City of Lancaster, but was unsuccessful. He then tried to save the Furness branch line, chairing the Lakeside Railway Estates Company. Although the plan was backed by transport minister Barbara Castle, the need to widen the A590 road and the resultant loss of a railway bridge over the River Leven, meant that the complete vision was unsuccessful, but the company saved 3.5 miles (5.6 km) to create the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway from 1973.
Still looking to preserve mainline locomotives, Beet was instrumental in saving 23. Realising that there would be a need for maintenance and servicing, in 1968 he successfully acquired a lease on Carnforth LMS 10(A) shed at Carnforth, creating the attraction of Steamtown from 1968, funded by industrialist and fellow steam enthusiast Sir William McAlpine, 6th Baronet. Originally planned to be the maintenance base for the L&HR, it became the base for some of the first private mainline preserved trains, operating from Carnforth to Sellafield and York. The venture closed as a public access visitor attraction in 1997, some years after the preserved site was taken over by businessman David Smith to become the base for his West Coast Railway Company.
After the Severn Valley Railway decided to sell their LMS Jubilee Class 5690 Leander, Beet bought the locomotive and had it restored at the East Lancashire Railway. Still owned by his family, it is now operated by WCRC from Carnforth.
Beet died on 5 December 2005, aged 68.