November 25, 2009

Wal Larsen

I was deeply saddened recently to hear of Wal Larsen's passing. Wal was one of the stalwarts amongst Victorian Railways early enthusiasts. He was also a faithful and devoted Christian. While I had known for some time Wal was not well, this was a sad moment, not sad for him because I know he is with the God he worshipped throughout his life, but sad for us to have lost such a generous link with the past.

I never met Wal however I contacted Wal many years ago seeking information about the Cudgewa line. He was happy to take the call of a stranger and generously help how he could. He had'nt visited the area much but that did'nt stop him forwarding me a couple of pages of recollections he had accumulated over the years.

I tried to contact him again more recently regarding liveries. His son kindly apologised noting he was'nt well enough to help. I knew it must have been serious to stop such a spirit from helping.

Wal lives on for enthusiasts through the books and articles he published, none more so for me than his "Change Here For", perhaps the seminal work on how the Victorian Railways was to an enthusiast in the late 1930's and 1940's. His recollections make the era alive, and have been greatly influential in my choosing the early era for my modelling. The book is redolent with interest, character and flavour of the times.

In honour of Wal I assembled this short train and gave it a few laps around the layout in the down direction, heading out of town. It is typical of the kind of trains he enjoyed and described so well. From his book:

"Branch line travel in the days of steam was a wonderful way of life for the travelling rail fan.

One was never in a hurry and could relax at his window seat in the inevitable ancient carriage that, having outlived it's declining years on a slow and easy once-a-week branch line.

The fan would not just have the compartment to himself, he would often have the whole carriage...

...The train rumbled through the rural scene......The carriage would gently sway along, creaking at times....There would be the smell of smoke drifting back from the engine mingled with the never-to-be-forgotten odor of hot sun on the leather seats......"

(Excerpts from p. 39,40 - "Change Here For")

Rest well Wal, I look forward to meeting you one day.