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South Devon Railway helps Totnes Times Reporter
Richard Davies mark his Retirement
Richard Davies on the footplate of GWR 0-6-0 3205Photo © SAHarvey 2014

When the South Devon Railway’s PR man Dick Wood learned that Richard Davies was retiring this Spring as Senior District Reporter at the Totnes Times after a ten-year stint on the paper when their paths crossed many times, he decided to offer him a farewell treat for his sterling reporting and one of Richard’s childhood dreams of going on the footplate of a steam railway engine.

Richard willingly accepted his retirement present and the date was set for Monday 31st March for him and his wife Trish to visit and travel down the pretty seven-mile line. Armed with some old clothes, gloves and a railway jacket, Richard joined the engine crew of veteran Driver Dave Knowling and Fireman Lance Hale on board Collett Goods loco No. 3205, but he was in for a surprise!

Richard Davies with SDR veteran Dave KnowlingPhoto © SAHarvey 2014

Richard was only expecting to go for a ride but not to have to work for it too, and was handed the shovel and told to get some coal into the firebox! But, just as he had done throughout his career, he got on with the job and arrived at Totnes beaming from ear to ear and ready for the return leg to Buckfastleigh where, for once, he was the focus of the story and photographers!

In addition to working at the Totnes Times, Richard was also at the Herald Express for 18 months previously and been a journalist all his working life in London, Bristol, Wiltshire and Devon.

He trained in Wales and one of his first jobs was covering the funeral of the victims of the dreadful Aberfan disaster of 21 October 1966 when 116 children and 28 adults died after Pantglas Junior School was engulfed in a landslide of pit waste and slurry – quite a baptism! The biggest story he had for the Totnes Times was the closure of Dartington College of Arts, which he helped to break, and, despite considerable publicity, the college moved to Cornwall.

Commenting on his footplate trip, Richard said: “I’d like to thank everyone at the South Devon Railway so very much for what Wallace and Gromit would undoubtedly have called ‘A Grand Day Out’ on the line.”

“It was a wonderful experience and incredible how just the appearance of the steam train made people smile – at stations, crossings, in fields, wherever, they just looked up and smiled, as if it brought something special into their lives.”

“To say I have discovered muscles I didn't know I had after shovelling coal would be nothing less than the truth, but it was great fun, so a big thank you to everyone at the South Devon Railway who made me so welcome on the day.”

SDR Spokesman Dick Wood added: “I have been in the PR business since 1979 so know what qualities a good reporter needs to get the news. ”

“In getting to know Richard, he always sought out the truth, strove for baIance on contentious issues so that both sides of an argument were aired, and his stories always made for interesting reading. I wish him and his wife Trish well in retirement.”

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© South Devon Railway Association 2014

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