Colonel Holman Fred Stephens (31 October 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 named after his father's friend and former tutor, the painter Holman Hunt, although the two later fell out. He was a great nephew of the naturalist, explorer and biologist, Charles Darwin.
Stephens 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 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 operating 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.
Many of his railways stayed independent of the larger systems created in the Grouping under the Railways Act 1921.
Stephens had no close relatives and never married. He had few interests outside of railways other than voluntary military service and Liberal Party politics. In 1916, during World War I, 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 aged 62, the management of his railways was taken over by his former "outdoor assistant" and life partner, 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 railways edit
|Ashover Light Railway||1924||1950||1925||1936||1 ft 11+1⁄2 in (597 mm)||Built primarily to carry stone|
|Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway||1859||1996||1913||1953||4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge||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||Worked by, and 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||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||built to serve the Kent Coalfield;|
branch to Richborough; part now a heritage railway
|Festiniog Railway||1832||Open||1 ft 11+1⁄2 in||Managed by Stephens c1923-1931, now a heritage railway|
|Isle of Wight Central Railway||4 ft 8+1⁄2 in||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||Now a heritage railway|
|North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway||1925||1982||1925||1965||4 ft 8+1⁄2 in||Originally a 3 ft (914 mm) china-clay carrier; Stephens engineered its reconstruction and extension; operated by Southern Railway at outset, remaining an independent company until nationalisation|
|Plymouth, Devonport and South Western Junction Railway||1890||1966 (part)||4 ft 8+1⁄2 in||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
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 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||Reconstructed from the long-closed Potteries, Shrewsbury and North Wales Railway in 1911.|
Regular passenger services ceased 1933.
Taken over for military use during World War II 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||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||The "Hundred of Manhood and Selsey Tramway"|
|Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway||1897||1940||4 ft 8+1⁄2 in||Extension opened 1907|
Other projects edit
Stephens was involved in many projects that did not come to fruition, 18 of which 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 Light 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 Broom Railway
|Railway||No.||Loco name||HL Works No.||Build date||Wheels||Disposal||BR number|
|KESR||4||Hecate||2587||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 has been preserved.
- The Colonel Stephens Railway Museum - An Appreciation of His Life and Works
- The Colonel Stephens Railway Museum
- See, e.g,, Strange, Peter, "The Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Railway: A Pictorial Record," (1989, Twelveheads Press)(ISBN 0906294193).
- Colonel Stephens' Railways Archived 4 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Rother Valley Railway
- The Colonel Stephens Museum – locomotives Archived 4 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Ian Allan ABC of British Railways Locomotives, 1949 edition, part 2, pp 15–17