John Halsall

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group

John Halsall, a well known figure on the Ffestiniog, who died on 29 December 2008 following a short period of illness. On leaving school, John obtained a job with British Railways as a clerk at his local station and worked there until he was called up for the then-obligatory National Service, following which he rejoined BR. He also had a keen interest in railways as a hobby, taking part in railtours locally and further afield. During this period he met future Ffestiniog colleagues, including Fred Boughey and Martin Lee. His involvement with the FR started when this small group began volunteering as the 'Works Department' in the early days of the revival. Like Fred, John's initial involvement was primarily with building repairs, but soon came to include work on carriages as well.

Continuing his career on BR, John became a Goods Inspector in the Merseyside area. His work included checking the flow of wagons and goods in the various yards and visiting customers' premises, such as the Lancashire Steel Company at Irlam, arranging shipments and searching for lost wagons.

In 1963 John married Portmadoc girl Katie Jones, after which the distractions of married life in their home near Warrington resulted in a marked reduction in the frequency of his visits to the FR. However, by the mid 1960s, freight wagon traffic on BR was in serious decline and John could see that his future was not very secure. Fortunately, this development coincided with then General Manager Allan Garraway's decision to build up the workforce at Boston Lodge under Works Manager Paul Dukes. John therefore left BR in 1968 to take up the position of painter at Boston Lodge. Part of the 'deal' included the availability of cottage No.2 Boston Lodge, which had become vacant following the death of the previous tenant, Miss Langsdale. The Company undertook to refurbish the premises before John and Katie moved in and they lived for a time in a caravan in Minffordd Yard whilst the work was being done.

John's work at Boston Lodge was mainly concerned with carriages, but also included the painting and lining of locomotives and the manufacture, painting, sign writing of the many and varied sign boards needed around the Railway. As time went by he also became increasingly involved with carriage construction and repair, as well as carrying out numerous other woodworking and painting jobs around the Railway. After being passed for diesel driving he drove turns on the train service, shunted the carriages into winter storage at the end of the season, and got them out again in Spring.

He eventually joined in the carriage works by Peter Magnay, and their partnership resulted in a significant improvement in the presentation of the ever-expanding carriage fleet (which John documented very well with photos of the newly-painted vehicles). During this period, the fitting out of new steel-bodied carriages, and thorough rebuilding of some of the wooden carriages was carried out. John kept full written detals of all this work.

John took early retirement in the early 1990s but continued to be present to record scenes, drive diesel turns and offer advice and support to younger members of the Railway.