The Parson and the Cadeby Light Railway
No, that's *not* a mis-spelling, Parson I said, and Parson I meant. The eccentric English country cleric, particularly the hunting variety, is probably one of the most famous character types inhistory. Their existance shouldnt really come as a surprise to anyone, really, considering the way they found their way into the Church of England in the first place. The first son inherited the estate, the second went into the army, and the third into th echurch. What happened to any more, history does'nt tell us. In fact the poor old number three had a bit of a raw deal, after daddy had paid out for a commission (in a cavalry regiment, of course )for number two, *and* supplied him with his horses. Not a lot left over, I wouldn't have thought. But just because he had a dog collar, didn't change the nature of his upbringing, or his enthusiasms, so if he hunted, the congregation got a mercifully short sermon, and off he went to the meet. Unfortunately, this robust type was largely replaced by earnest, wispy faced wimps, who were, and still are, their own worst enemies. Their were exceptions, though, and with the virtual demise of the horse as a normal possession (now a trend that has halted, thankfully), the Country Parson seemed to embrace the steam engine woth all the fervour that his forbears embraced the hunting field. One such, Eric Treacy, even made Bishop, a sign that the C of E still has *some* of its priorities right. <br>Another, the Rev E. R. Boston, or">
Teddy, as I have said before, was a short, round, jolly man, much given to Anglo-Saxon language in times of stress, such as a close run race with his traction engine "Fiery Elias". I knew him through the Model Engineering Society I belonged to until a few years ago. Teddy was an honorary vice president, which is to say he didn't pay any dues, could turn up to any event, and his mane looked good an the stationery. Unlike many such, though, he was pleased at what he considered the honour, and regularly invited us all to visit him "en masse".
Such visits were eagerly looked forward to. The village of Cadeby, in Leicestershire (pronounced Lestershuh for those who have problems with our place names) is very, very, old. Its a delightful place, full of old (Elizabethan) buildings. The church is much older even than this, possibly Norman. The old vicarage, however is possibly Victorian, but its the new vicarage that Teddy lived in, genuine 1960's.
It was fairly obvious that Teddy wasn't in the least interested in house maintenance, by the profusion of grass growing in the gutters of the place. On arrival we would be told to "Go round the back and play for a bit lads". Now "round the back" was an enormous. . . . er. . tract of land, garden it *certainly* was not. A two foot gauge railway line ran from the back of the house, out of sight among two or three hundred year old trees. Two foot gauge locos abounded, steam, diesel and petrol driven, all ex contractors stuff, along with a variety of quarry wagons.
On the last occasion I was there, a certain Lister Rail Truck was cause for some concern on Teddy's part. Like, it was dead. The loco in question resembled nothing more than a small roof, supported by a pillar at each corner, under which was a large single cylinder petrol engine, wooden seat, facing sideways, gear lever, clutch etc, all mounted on a frame, rolling on four tiny wheels. "If you can get it going, you can play with it" was the offer.
At this point, my knowledgable colleagues melted away. Reasoning that there wasn't *that* much wrong with it, I scrounged a nail file, and cleaned the contact breaker with it, collared a reluctant member to hold the decompression valve open while I swung the starting handle. When I reckoned that the flywheel was spinning fast enough, the decomp valve was dropped shut and with a loud and protesting BANG, off she went!
And so we played trains until it got dark. Teddy buggered of to take Evensong (reluctantly), and some of us went to have a look at the church. Tiny, and beautifully kept, it is, but as we were digging in our pockets to put something in the collecting box Teddy said "Keep your money in your pockets lads, and don't spread it around the village, but I simply dont know what to do woth all the money in the church fund. "It the first, and only, time I've *ever* come across a church fund that wasn't stony broke. And this simply because Teddy was so well liked. When darkness put paid to our playing, both on the two foot gauge, and with Teddy's huge model railway layout in a large ex builders site hut, we all went into the house.
Every possible wall surface was covered with shelves containing model railway locos and rolling stock, from the turn of the century to present day. Diesels excepted of course. In every room. It overflowed onto the floor, tables, in the kitchen, literally *everywhere*. There was even stuff on the stairs. A railheads paradise. We just wandered around like kids in a candy store, eyes like chapel hat pegs. Teddy made the tea, and then said, "Right. What films shall we watch?"In addition to all this hardware, the man had the most comprehensive collection of railway films, certainly in England, probably anywhere. Pre war publicity stuff, documentaries, and feature films like "Oh Mr Porter" "The Runaway Train", and all on the original film no videos. You were very lucky if you got away before midnight. If anyone got up to go Teddy would say"Oh, you don't want to go yet, there's *much* more to see". In fact one memorable visit ended up with a worried member's wife ringing the police at three in the morning. Her husband arrived home at four! She simply wouldn't believe that he had been watching railway films. Does sound a bit thin, doesnt it?
Of course, one upshot of this huge collection of stuff was simply that the bishop couldn't ever move Teddy to another parish. The cost of shifting hundreds of tons of stuff even a short distance would have given the Church Commissioners nightmares for life. In fact, as Teddy himself happily admitted, the bishop had all but given up coming to see him, since the expression of pain on the poor man's face whenever he saw the stuff, was evidence of an internal turmoil of no small proportion.
The two foot gauge "layout" became known, quite officially as The Cadeby Light Railway, and never lacked volunteer labour. A small book was even published about it (I have a copy).
The first two rules are worthy of note:
Which argues that Teddy had a far more practical approach than that laid down in the ten commandments.
Teddy *did* find time to marry, late in life. His wife was a Model Engineer of no mean skill, and enabled him to recover from his first heart attack, but not, sadly, from the second. Audrey simply cut off the food supply, and tried, without, I suspect, conspicuous success, to do the same with the beer supply, but Teddy wriggled round that one.
He was known and liked far outside his own small parish, and provided the bishop left him alone, did the churches image far more good than the usual mealy mouthed cleric would have done given ten lifetimes. Literally a man larger than life.
I wish there were more like him.