Rail buff taken to funeral in the train he restored

Rail buff taken to funeral in the train he restored

This is the moment a rail buff was taken to his funeral – on a train he spent years bringing back to life.

Mike Stollery, 71, was transported on his final journey on board the train carriage that he restored.

The locomotive travelled on the heritage railway line which he devoted his life to saving and preserving – in a coffin decorated with the locos he loved so much.

As a young man, Mr Stollery was one of the people who threw themselves into the Swanage steam railway in Dorset back in 1972.

Months after British Rail closed the holiday branch line between Wareham and Swanage and ripped up the track in seven weeks, he went to the first meeting of locals determined to get their railway back, even though he lived miles away in Hove at the time.

He grew up with a railway at the bottom of his garden, and his love of trains never left him.

When the time came to save the Swanage line, fondly remembered from childhood holidays, he was there.

Mike Stollery - Train carriage - Copyright SWNS Group - Credit Western Daily Press/SWNS.comFor 44 years, he volunteered for the group that restored and then ran the Swanage railway, which included restoring the Bulleid carriage onto which his coffin was carefully loaded for his funeral journey.

An architect by profession, he designed stations for London Underground- and won an award for his design in Gloucester Road tube station.

Away from work, he lived for the Swanage railway and moved next to it in 2000 after his first wife Dot died and he met his long-term partner Jan.

The rescue effort, which began back in 1972, eventually proved successful and the railway was opened in the late 1990s as a tourist attraction.

Even when he wasn’t volunteering on the real thing, he turned his loft into a giant model railway set, with carefully-made replicas of the stations he helped restore.

“Mike loved getting his hands dirty and helped to acquire and restore coaches – he was more interested in them than the engines,” said Jan.

“He held many senior positions in the railway – including chairman and trustee – and worked as a steward and in other roles.

“He just loved being around trains and travelling on them.

“In the loft he spent ten years building a model railway and he had thousands of trains and built replicas of Swanage and Wareham railway stations as they were in the 1950s. He’d disappear up there for hours.

“He read rail magazines all the time, from breakfast until he went to sleep. Over his life he accumulated a massive archive of rail books and slides which he used to illustrate talks, and he also co-edited a book about Swanage railway,” she added.

Tragically, he was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw last year, and two days before he died, he married Jan wearing his Swanage Railway fleece jacket.

It was his favourite, and he was dressed in it for that final journey.

“When he died it was fitting that he went by steam train and with the help of the funeral directors and railway we were able to make that happen,” said Jan.

“Not only was his coffin covered in photos of trains but he went wearing his Swanage Railway top.”Mike Stollery - Funeral - Friends and family - Copyright SWNS Group - Credit	Western Daily Press/SWNS.com