Lieutenant-Commander Roy Francis, founder of not one but two iconic 10 ¼ inch gauge lines, has died aged 92.
In the 1960s and 1970s Commander Francis operated miniature steam trains at fetes and fairs for people to ride on before building and opening the Wells Harbour Railway in July of 1976. Legend has it that the railway was built along the line of the flood bank at the request of Norfolk County Council in an attempt to relieve congestion in the town.
Then in 1979 he set about restoration of the railway service south from Wells, towards Walsingham along a former LNER trackbed. Ground works and track laying took three years to complete, and the Wells and Walsingham railway, the longest 10¼” narrow gauge steam railway in the world, opened on 6 April 1982. The line is worked by two unique Garratt locomotives Norfolk Hero and Norfolk Heroine were especially built for the line.
Roy Francis was also known for his distinguished war record. He was a Norfolk Arctic Convoy veteran who was one of the last survivors of HMS Edinburgh which was sunk on 2 May1942 with the loss of 58 crew. The ship was loaded with more than four tons of gold as payment from Russia and the gold was not recovered until the 1980s.
He is survived by his wife Marie, son Rowan, daughter Susie, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.