It was with great sadness that we had to report that Bluebell volunteer Dave Phillips passed away on Monday 9 April 2018 after a spell in hospital. Derek Hayward's photo shows him during the 2013 Vintage Transport Weekend, at which he was one of the judges. Dave did a lot of hard work for the railway, especially in the background on the day to day running of railway. He will be greatly missed by all.
An Evening to Remember Dave Phillips - Friday 18 May 2018
We invited all Dave's friends and colleagues to come along and share memories and remember Dave's contribution to the Bluebell Railway and our lives.
A special train headed up by visiting GWR locomotive 813 operated a round trip from Sheffield Park departing at 6:15pm (Horsted Keynes 6:32) to East Grinstead and return. Guests were then invited for a meal in the Bessemer Arms, the menu being Dave's favourite Cottage Pie and peas followed by crumble and custard.
Dave Phillips: An appreciation
When I joined my local model railway club as a junior member in 1962, Dave Phillips, several years older than me, was already a fixture and lost no time in making me feel welcome. Our friendship at the club developed over the next few years, notably when together we manned its layout at an exhibition in Dorking for most of a week, lodging at Reigate with my grandmother. After Dave acquired his first car, I got regular invitations to join him in some railway visits during the final years of Southern steam - often including his down-to-earth request at a booking office or depot for "any old stuff" that might be going begging, resulting in a fair collection of luggage labels and similar ephemera.
I joined Bluebell in 1965 and a couple of years later, Dave needed little persuasion to accompany me there - and none at all to join and start volunteering. With a background in "sparks" as a prototype wireman (and later as a
BT engineer) Dave found a niche in S&T, mainly as a technician but also as a signalman, and became a Bluebell regular. Always willing and conscientious, he never minded the menial and sometimes dirty jobs that kept the railway running and, in the years after his retirement, broadened his horizons to tackle a variety of jobs around the railway, lodging there much of the time. Dave was a regular visitor to Museumstoomtram Hoorn Medemblik and enjoyed working there.
Dave's good nature was evident to all who knew him, and his Goonish sense of humour was never far from the surface and could be infectious. I have little doubt that it helped him through his time in hospital, suffering from pancreatic cancer which, alas, proved terminal. Dave died on 9 April at the age of 78; he will be sorely missed.
This photo above by Stephen Garratt from March 2014 shows Dave in his more normal Bluebell attire, at Sheffield Park.
I can't remember a Bluebell volunteer whose passing at life's full span has brought as many tributes as Dave. To so many of us he was a fixture - initially as a hirsute figure glimpsed up and down the line who you felt should be off in a sou'wester advertising sardines, then as you knew him better as an essential cog in the operation of the railway, popping up where least expected to perform some tedious but essential task, and unfailingly spreading good humour. Each of the tributes that has crossed my desk has highlighted his exceptional good nature - except when grievously provoked - and his readiness to take on whatever task needed doing; all too often this meant the "splosh pot" on the points at Horsted Keynes.
Gavin Bennett particularly asked that I share this story about Dave. "When we acquired an SR concrete lamp room for Sheffield Park to replace the oil/paraffin store next to the Gents, we thought that it needed a suitable 'No Smoking' sign. Dave said he'd sort something out and before we know it, he'd had an aluminium casting made showing "L&EGR NO SMOKING". When he was fixing this to the lamp room door, the late John Potter emerged from the Station House and on seeing the sign said "Phillips, you're a shitbag!" much to Dave's delight and amusement. A good example of the humour from both of them."
Dave was a huge part of the Bluebell, and one of its great characters. May he rest in peace.
John Sandys' photo from 19 April 2018 shows the Q-class during its run-round at Sheffield Park, carrying a wreath in memory of Dave.
Dave to the rescue
The day my strimmer cut through the mechanical signal wire.
It was a very hot summer's day and my task was to strim the bank just north of Sheffield Park. Hot and sweaty work. I had to cut close to the long signal wire that pulled the signals just north of the station in order to prevent long grass fouling the wires. At that time I had a metal triangular blade on the end of the strimmer which was the norm for PW when I accidentally just glanced the wire and cut it into two.
I felt sick with the possible consequences, panicked and rushed back into the station. I knew Dave was on site, he always was at SP. He was the man to save the moment. I sought him out in a great rush on my part. I cannot remember where I found him, he may or may not have been around the signal box but quickly took the appropriate action before we both went to splice the wire. I can clearly remember my fear and panic and how Dave just calmly went through the procedure and then in the boiling heat we went to repair the cut. It was full mid-afternoon heat and we just got hotter and hotter. The sweat was stream off us, it was difficult to see through the sweat pouring off our faces and into our eyes yet he remained focussed. The work was a fiddle under the conditions and took longer than it should have done. The combination of the hard work strimming, the very hot day and the stress connected with the incident made the event one not to forget.
Once everything was safe and back to normal we had a very needed cupper in the shade and had a laugh at my foolishness. In fact, when we reflected on my panic some 15 years later, still with a laugh. Very soon after the incident I changed to a nylon strimmer head and stuck with that for the rest of my strimming days in PW. A lesson was learnt and Dave played an important part! He was always there at SP and dependable, someone to step in and help out is a crises. If I was at the SP end of the line I knew who to call on whatever day or time. He knew the railway so well and what to do or who to contact.