The South Devon Railway Enthusiasts' site

The SOUTH DEVON RAILWAY mourns the passing
of long standing member Brian Cocks
Brian Cocks
Brian Cocks at an SDRA committee meetingPhoto © Ted Parrott 2008

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death tonight (03rd June 2011) of our dear colleague and long standing member Brian Cocks.

Funeral details & pictures - 15th July 2011


A war baby, Brian Cocks was born on 10th August 1940 in Feltham, Middlesex. During the war, his father moved wherever a Master Baker was needed and lived in Flackwell Heath. Brian was keen on motor bikes too and, after he left Shooters Hill Grammar School, he worked for a period of time at the AJS motorcycle factory and the London Fire Brigade before joining the Southern Railway as a loco Cleaner.

His friend, Alan Corfield used to race motor cycle sidecar outfits and Brian became his mechanic at the race tracks. Brian was also a member of the Eltham & District Motor Cycle Club. His first motorbike was a Francis Barnet, but he became the proud owner of AJS & Matchless motorbikes later.

Brian progressed on the railway from being a Cleaner to a Fireman, to Passed Fireman & then Driver and was based at Hither Green. His promotion was delayed initially by a Driver transferring to Hither Green from another shed. That man was Colin Kerswill who is the South Devon Railway’s Traction Inspector today. Brian joked that he hated Colin at first, but the two became firm, lifelong friends.

Brian met his wife June in 1965 when she happened to be staying overnight with friends in Forest Hill. She did not have any transport to get home as her “uncle” was busy giving driving lessons. Brian arrived at her friends’ flat and offered to give her a lift home and, decked out in a mini dress, fur coat and stilettos, June ended up sitting as a pillion passenger on his AJS motor bike! June received a phone call from Brian later in the week and asked him how he had found out her phone number as he hadn’t come into the house when he dropped her off previously. He said that he had looked at her dog’s collar which had the address and phone details inscribed on it. So, it was 10 out of 10 for initiative from Brian there!

He and June married on 17th September 1966 and moved into their first home in Dartford in May 1967. At some point in during 1966/67, they discovered the embryonic Dart Valley Railway which was being set up to save the Ashburton branch line and they became members. On Brian’s long weekends away from work, they came down to Buckfastleigh to help where they could. Brian’s Fireman Colin Harmes used to come down with them too whenever possible and some great weekends were had by all.

June was asked by Charles Hulbert, then the Dart Valley Railway Association Chairman, whether she liked painting and, saying “yes” she ended up painting loco No. 1369, the same engine which will pull Brian’s funeral train this Friday. During this time, Dart Valley Railway director Bob Saunders approached Brian and June and asked if they would be prepared to move down to Devon and for Brian to work as a driver for the Dart Valley. He also asked Colin Harmes if he would come down as a fireman too. So, now hooked, they eventually moved down to Buckfastleigh in 1969. Brian and June were interviewed on television by Hugh Scully for BBC Spotlight about their involvement in the emerging Dart Valley Railway.

Once in Devon, Brian and June also discovered the Kickstart Motorcycle Club of Torbay, which was affiliated to the Vintage Motorcycle Club of Gt Britain. They made many friends and, as always, Brian became involved with committees for both the motorcycle club and the Dart Valley Railway Association.

Their daughter Elaine (known as Ellie) was born on 19th December 1972. Sadly, when she was two and a half years old, Brian was made redundant by the Dart Valley Railway plc and having a young family, he returned in the summer to the “big railway” in Exeter. In time he was made up from Shunter to Guard and eventually took promotion and became Senior Conductor Manager at Exeter St. David’s station. He also had responsibility for stations to Newton Abbot at one point and also the On Board catering teams from Plymouth.

When the South Devon Railway Trust took over the Ashburton branch from the Dart Valley Railway in 1991, the railway’s new General Manager Richard Elliott asked Brian if he would like to become involved once again and the motorcycle club did not see much of him again after that! His daughter, Elaine was busy studying the clarinet and progressed from music school to music college and she has gone on to become a professional musician.

Elaine will be taking time off from the West End production of Phantom of the Opera and City of London Sinfonia Orchestra’s production of Figaro at Holland Park, London to attend her father’s funeral.

Brian Cocks was a dedicated railwayman and he thoroughly enjoyed working on the SDR in many roles. After his illness and hospitalisation last year, he promised June that he would take more time out from the railway and spend some weekends away together. Sadly, the Leukaemia returned and that never happened. He passed away in Rowcroft Hospice on Friday 3 June.

Donations may be made for the Turner Ward/RGDU at Torbay Hospital and Rowcroft Hospice in Brian’s memory. They may be made at either of the services on Friday or sent c/o F. Christophers & Son Ltd., 9 Kingsbridge Lane Ashburton Devon TQ13 7DX. Family flowers only.

South Devon Railway General Manager Dick Wood commented: “Brian Cocks was a much loved, well respected railwayman who was dedicated to the South Devon Railway and helped make it the great place it is today.

“He will be greatly missed by all of his friends and railway colleagues both here and around the country, and our thoughts are with his wife June and daughter Elaine at this time.

“He leaves a lasting legacy here, and his send off on Friday will be a fitting tribute to a man who gave so much to others. He encouraged many youngsters to learn professional railway skills and to follow in his footsteps on the footplate and in other roles.”

Funeral arrangements 15th July 2011

Brian Cocks
The Rev. David Hardy leads Brian’s funeral processionPhoto © Sarah Anne Harvey 2011
Brian Cocks
GWR 0-6-0PT 1369 draws Brian’s funeral train towards StavertonPhoto © Julian Moore 2011

Today, Friday 15 July, family and friends of long serving railway steam engine Driver Brian Cocks, who sadly died from Leukaemia last month, gathered at Buckfastleigh station in South Devon to pay their last respects to a man who had been at the very heart of the South Devon Railway (SDR) for over 40 years and who also drove the first public train in 1969.

Mourners attended a special early morning service at Buckfastleigh Station conducted by the Rev. David Hardy, SDR Railway Chaplain of the Railway Mission before the funeral cortege of family and friends travelled on a special train down the line to Staverton for what was Mr Cocks’ final journey by rail. They then went on by road for a private committal in Torbay attended by family and close friends.

Approximately 300 mourners paid their respects for what was a very sad day for Mr Cocks’ family, friends and railway colleagues on both the national railway network and the seven-mile South Devon Railway where he also worked as the line’s Carriage & Wagon Supervisor.

Many railway staff wore their best uniforms as a mark of respect for Mr Cocks who was always immaculately turned out on the footplate, and they travelled on the special train over the line which had played a major part of his life and attended a Memorial service from 14.00 at St. Luke’s Church in Buckfastleighto which all were welcome.

Fittingly, the train was hauled by former GWR 0-6-0PT loco No. 1369 -- the first engine Brian Cocks drove on the Ashburton Branch line as a volunteer in 1967 and, even though he was very ill at the time, also the last steam loco he travelled on for a short distance in May this year with his wife June and old friend and Fireman from the 1960’s Colin Harmes.

And, as a further mark of respect, the engine carried Southern Railway targets and was crewed by Driver Dave Knowling, the SDR’s longest serving steam driver and old friend of Mr Cocks, and Fireman Alasdair Page, the SDR’s youngest footplateman who was recommended for promotion to Fireman by Brian Cocks during his last official driving duty on Good Friday this year.

Mr Cocks first battled against Leukaemia in 2010 and, after a rough spell during the Summer last year, had apparently made a full recovery from the illness. Ever thinking of others, he helped raise money for the specialist Ricky Grant Day Unit in Torbay hospital via the South Devon Railway Association’s annual dinner.

Also a former Chairman of the South Devon Railway Association, Brian Cocks was instrumental in saving a large turntable for future use on the SDR which came from Hull Botanic Gardens, and had been raising funds to help achieve this ambition.

Return to Home Page

© South Devon Railway Association 2011

Home Page B0-B0 33 002 2-8-0 3803 RM1872 W55000 95979 W2180 Drive a locomotive 0-6-0PT 1369 Location