Photo: FR Magazine No. 67.
|Occupation||Permanent way ganger/foreman|
|FR People | WHR People|
Ron Lester, a native of Oswestry, joined the Festiniog Railway's staff on 10 November 1959 to work on the Permanent Way. Before this Ron worked as a store keeper in Kent before moving, via a job on the construction of Trawsfynydd power station, to work on the FR. He first visited the FR as a volunteer in 1955 having previously been at Towyn. He was well schooled in the PW arts by Will Jones and Paul Dukes. He was interested in archeology, historical coins and old relics of all sorts, hill walking and good beer. He was a member of the Permanent Way Institute and became the FR's PW ganger in 1962 and foreman in 1969.
For at least some of the period of his employment he lived in part of the Minffordd station building where his quarters were named Ogof which is Welsh for "The cave". He was a keen pipe smoker. Fred Howes describes him as a round man, with a round face, round glasses and a round cap. He did not strike Fred as very knowledgeable about track or very managerial although "he was a nice bloke". However he was a bit prone to shout and wave his arms about. If asked "why are we doing this job this way" he might answer "because we always have". Ron (often known as Ronnie Bear because of his rotund stature) did not believe in hurrying a job but rather would suck hard on his pipe while sizing it up for some while before organizing the gang to make a start. An example of a good solution was turning PQR rails at Old Coed-y-Bleiddiau cutting which had been dropped off the wrong way round for relaying. He organised trollying them down to the bridge by the cottage where there was more space. According to Fred Howes  "Ronnie Bear" was not keen on getting out of bed in the mornings. There was one occasion when Fred, working on a six o'clock start, found a rock the size of a football had fallen in Garnedd Tunnel and Ron was summonsed from his bed to inspect - much to his displeasure. He also liked going off to the beach. Fred would turn up to work and Ron would say "I am off to the beach - find something to do". It was because he did not like getting up in mornings that he got Fred to drive the Wickham trolley on which they rode to the working sites. After that Ron, who had been the driver, was able to sleep in longer. He later (from July 1974) became PW supervisor responsible for the rebuilding of permanent way on the Deviation and on to Blaenau when Fred took charge of the PW on the operating railway to Dduallt. Ron left the FR at the end of October 1975 after sixteen years with the PW department. Although many considered Ron part of the railway's fixtures and fittings, it was no secret that he was disappointed by the low priority given to his favourite stamping ground above Tanygrisiau in recent budgets, and he left by mutual consent, a victim, as much as anything, of the then rampant inflation. He went to work for Portmeirion where he was the night porter at the hotel which must have nicely accommodated late rising. He died on 7 September 1990.
Ron Lester and Paul Dukes lived in opposite ends of Minffordd station building and were friends with a sense of humour. They enjoyed putting up spoof notices. See for instance the picture of the notice stencilled on the back of The Peckett's cab.
- 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. , page 157
- "Portraits", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 067, page(s): 29
- Fred Howes: The Permanent Way Man, DVD 2013
- "Staff News", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 071, page(s): 007
- Harris R (2017) Facebook post in Narrow Gauge Enthusiasts Group 9/5/2017.