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Home / Photographers / Peter D T Pescod

Peter D T Pescod

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Peter was born in Stockton, showing an early interest in railways which then lasted his lifetime. The family moved to Finchley when his father, who worked for one of the Tees-side bridge building firms, managed works in the London area. After schooling at University College School, Hampstead Peter joined Friends Provident, intending to become an actuary. In the event, war interrupted his studies and Peter served in the RAF as an armourer from 1941 to 1946.

On being demobilised, Peter studied from 1946 to 1948 in Kings College, London University, for a degree in civil engineering. Having worked for the Southern Railway during vacations, he joined the newly nationalised British Railways, as an assistant under agreement. Following the usual railway training round, he spent some time in New Works on station rebuilding using recovered materials, necessitated by post-war restrictions, before moving into the then novel field of Work Study. Here there was a particular emphasis on track maintenance. After a spell as ‘Assistant to’ the District Engineer at Woking, in 1963 he was appointed Assistant District Engineer at Eastleigh. At this time he was responsible for major work on the foundations of Southampton tunnel. He was promoted to District Engineer in 1965, having to take charge of new electrification works as well as the normal duties. As District Engineer he was both respected and liked. In 1968 the Eastleigh office was closed when the civil engineering departmental organisation was changed to conform with the rest of the BR management structure. He then moved to the new Divisional office at Wimbledon to commence his final appointment as Divisional Civil Engineer, South Western. The SW Division was one of the largest on BR comprising the routes from Waterloo to Reading, Salisbury, Weymouth and Portsmouth with a dense network of suburban lines.

The change to a divisional organisation (where Peter was responsible for hundreds of miles of track and well over a thousand staff) came at a difficult time for engineers on the Southern Region. The spotlight was on track condition as a result of a serious derailment elsewhere on the Region. Those parts of the railway which had not been improved during the brief modernisation plan of the 50’s had been stretched to breaking. Peter set out to consolidate what was good and carry out an extensive programme of track and bridge renewal on the remainder. He had no time whatever was the latest management fashion, concentrating on his assets and staff to get the work done. By 1983, when Peter retired, much had been achieved – part of the main route had been raised to the standard required for 100mph running with very little fuss or extra expense – and he had achieved the ambition of most BR Divisional Engineers to hand over to his successor a better ‘patch’ then he inherited.

During his time at Wimbledon, Peter walked many hundreds of miles of track with his assistants and outside staff judging condition and planning work, gaining an intimate knowledge of both the assets and the people working on them, which was meticulously recorded. He made a point of trying to see personally as many of his staff as possible prior to their retirement to thank them for their service. On the difficult aspect of disciplinary and trade union matters he tried hard to improve relations, dealing patiently, and charitably, with cases brought before him. In the office and elsewhere he was invariably courteous, but firm, sometimes admitting privately that he was a little cross but with no histrionics.

Peter maintained a balance in life with his hobbies of stamp collecting and railway photography, as well as tending his garden. He loved his cricket and badminton. Finally after retirement he found a new interest advising the Mid-Hants (Watercress) Railway.