David Jenkinson

The nature of this page compels its compiler to apologize for its incompleteness: David Jenkinson died in 2004 at the age of seventy. David Jenkinson was clearly an energetic man who attempted to do more than his body could withstand. For the present the main item comes from the equally scholarly enthusiast John Riemsdijk and was a response to an Editorial in Backtrack. KPJ had the undeserved good fortune to receive a couple of e-mails from David (he had been wanting trains from Thirsk to King's Cross and got steamindex instead) and even this brief communication showed his love for the Midland Railway and the LMS and his easy charm with the written word.

Your editorial tribute [by Michael Blakemore] to David Jenkinson was beautifully matched to the merits of its subject. I would not presume to think that I could add anything but for the fact that he and I worked closely together in creating the National Railway Museum as it was at the opening (and remained for quite some years afterwards). His contribution is not well known and in fact I know more about it than anyone else, so perhaps my intervention may be excused.

When it became known that the Science Museum was to take over the historic railway collections and house them in a new museum in York, Squadron Leader David Jenkinson wrote to us asking what the chances were of his getting a job in the new Museum if he retired from the RAF. He was invited to come and talk to the then Director, Margaret Weston, and myself. We could, of course, promise nothing, especially as there was talk at ministerial level of the museum being allowed no extra staff, but education was part of my job in South Kensington and I had persuaded the powers that be in the Dept. of Education and Science to agree to the appointment of an education officer.

The post was advertised in open competition and we made sure that David received the forms. He was short-listed and successful at the interview. For most of a year he worked with me at South Kensington.

Brian Lacey, overall head of the transport collections and Keeper of Aeronautics, was fully in agreement with my taking charge of the curatorial work for York. I also had the full support of the late John Scholes But I was, thus far, the only person with a sound knowledge of railway history and engineering, so I welcomed David with open arms. There was a huge job to be done and, because of Westminster politics, there had been a year's moratorium while other locations for this new national museum (the first not to be in a capital city) were considered, but the opening date could not be postponed.

David and I worked side by side, planning the layout of the building, selecting objects to be displayed, finding or commissioning new objects to fill gaps, choosing the flat material and writing thousands of words for adequate labelling.

Nobody believed we could get it all done in time, but in fact we left no empty spaces or cases and nothing needed to be changed until the roof had to be rebuilt over ten years later.

David was the ideal partner in all this. I gave him complete carte blanche with the carriages and their furnishings and much else, and he had his ear to the ground in BR. I asked him to look out for a suitable BR-owned building to take at least some of the enormous reserve collection. He soon learned that one major goods depot in York was to be closed and David, with the support of Margaret Weston, made sure that BR decided to release to the Science Museum the site between the station and Leeman Road. He was also arranging much restoration work carried out by BR Works at Wolverhampton and York.

The intellectual and visual character of the new museum was due to three people, the third being Roger Mummery, the designer. This team was able to get on with the job because of the financial protection and diplomacy of Margaret Weston and Brian Lacey, and with some help from Science Museum curatorial staff and, above all, the tremendous contribution of the Science Museum Workshops. When John Scholes decided not to take up the offer of heading the new museum, owing to failing health, I felt that David should have the job but by this time Whitehall was getting interested and the Civil Service Commission, always jealous of its impartiality, preferred a recently-appointed assistant keeper, a railway photographer with a Ph.D in metallurgy, John Coiley. Though he had had no creative role, he proved excellent in the field of public relations and ensured a warm place in the public's heart for the new museum.

David was not a public relations man, but he knew how things should be done, had a great sense of style and was a serious scholar. He and Sheila were regular house guests here in southern France and the wine flowed as it always had. He was ten years younger than I, but his friendship was one of the things I valued most highly in life.

John van Riemsdijk
St. Maximin, France

Bob Essery (LMS Journal No. 8 page 2-3) provided a very personal appreciation and noted his skill as a modeller of railway carriages. He also recorded that David was born in Leeds in August 1934, served in the RAF, retiring with the rank of Squadron Leader in 1972 and died on 27 April 2004.


Bedside Backtrack; aspects of Britain's railway history; edited DJ.  Penryn: Atlantic, 1993.
Does not appear to have been a success as was never repeated: full contents.
The Big Four in colour, 1935-50. Penryn, Atlantic, [1995]. 192pp.
A wonderful collection of colour illustrations, many of which came from Colour-Rail, most of which are well-reproduced (considering the age of the originals) with excellent captions. The only fault is the use of background colour to the captions which makes them difficult to read and sometimes detracts from the illustrations.
British railway carriages of the twentieth century. Patrick Stephens. 1990. 2v.
This is a wonderful compendium and showed how he could make his illustrative material (plans, diagrams and photographs, mainly but not entirely official) work hard to convey the development of passenger rolling stock. He had a wonderful command of English and was not afraid to make personal, observations. It should never be forgotten that steam railcars are covered in these volumes. Volume 2 generously reviewed by Michael Harris: Rly Wld, 1990, 51, 538.

with Bob Essery
The illustrated history of LMS standard coaching stock. II. General service gangwayed vehicles. Sparkford: Oxford Publshing, 1994. 240pp.

with Barry C. Lane
British railcars, 1900 to 1950. Penryn: Pendragon, 1996


Railways South East

This was started before David's involvement with Backtrack. It was beautifully produced and the initial issue is still a joy to behold with two pannier tanks blasting their way out of Folkestone Harbour on the cover with a surround which was tasteful and did not distract from the Ransome-Wallis photograph. Initial contributors included Alan A. Jackson, John van Riemsdijk and Philip Atkins (not a bad haul). Subjects included the old Euston and unfulfilled designs for the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch including a Duplex 4-4-4-4. It coincided with the creation of Network SouthEast and contained a small amount of news material. Were Railways North West or Railways Wales ever envisaged?

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