Bill Hoole

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group
Bill Hoole
Bill Hoole at the Centenary of Steam, 1963. FR Co. web site.
Born 27th July 1894
Died 7th June 1979
Occupation Locomotive driver
FR People | WHR People

Bill Hoole hailed from Merseyside, the second son of William and Martha Hoole.[1] Before his marriage William Hoole senior had been a seaman and made two trips around the world on windjammers. Bill junior left Kirkdale Day Industrial School at the age of 13. His first job was in the Goods Depot of the Midland Railway as a dock messenger. He spent his working life on the 'big' railway, starting on the Cheshire Lines Committee as an engine cleaner. He volunteered during the first month of WW1 and served in the Royal Field Artillery. He saw action in France and was wounded as well as getting a dose of mustard gas which left him chesty. The wounds were three pieces of shrapnel, one in the left forefinger and two in the side. While in the army he was trained as a radio operator and when he was de-mobbed at the end of 1919 he was a Corporal Signals Instructor. He married Dolly Ratley in 1920 who was the youngest daughter of Tom Ratley with whose family he lodged in Neasden before and after the war. He passed out as a driver at Neasden in 1926. In 1927 he became redundant at Neasden and was transferred to Kings Cross. He finished his career as a top link driver on the East Coast Main Line based at Kings Cross. Driver Hoole's normal locomotive in British Railways days was 60007 "Sir Nigel Gresley", and it was with "Number 7" he achieved the official post war steam speed record of 112mph on 23rd May 1959. Alan Pegler was on the footplate. Although failing to beat Driver Duddington's exploits with Mallard, he ensured the locomotive was fit to return to traffic the next day. Legend says he was also recorded at 117mph by inaccurate PW measuring equipment.[2]

He knew Allan Garraway who introduced him to the Ffestiniog Railway and on retirement after his 1959 exploits Bill moved in the Summer of that year to North Wales and started a second career as a driver for the FR Co. on 27th July 1959.[3] He became on of the principal characters of the FR's revival. By 1967 Bill was sharing Prince with Tom Davies. He suffered a stroke at Easter of 1967 which hampered his active involvement with the railway although he still pottered about at Boston Lodge. Bill and his wife Dolly lived in the Boston Lodge cottage nearest to the works for seventeen years. After Dolly died in 1976 and was buried at Minffordd, Bill was cared for in Birmingham by his daughter Irene and her family. He had another daughter Marian who had moved to New Zealand.

Bill was one of the best public relations officers the railway ever had. In his quiet unassuming way he always had time to answer every question, pose for every camera and help everyone who needed help. He was never happier than when small children showed interest in his engine. Other railwaymen have hard backed books written about them, others have appeared on TV news and feature programmes, perhaps even made a double page spread in the Daily Mirror; others might even have been invited to appear in Roy Plumley's "Desert Island Discs". But all these were just everyday happenings during the active retirement of Bill Hoole.

For an account of firing for Bill Hoole on the FR, see Mike Elvy's article 'Twenty Years in the Ffestering Bog' in FRM No. 186 page 349.

He died on 7th June 1979 and is buried in Minffordd Cemetery, the gravestone stating "BILL HOOLE - ENGINEMAN EXTRAORDINARY". This is also the title of his biography by Peter Semmens.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Semmens, PWB. Bill Hoole Engineman Extraordinary. London: Ian Allan. ISBN 0 7110 0556 7.
  2. ^ Glancey, Jonathan (2004-05-02). "Heaven or Hoole". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  3. ^ Johnson, Peter (2004). Immortal Rails (Vol 1) The Story of the Closure and Revival of the FR 1939-1983. Chester, England, CH4 9ZH: RailRomances. ISBN 1-900622-08-4. OCLC 56654167.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  4. ^ "Obituary", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 086, page(s): 003