Ron Strutt obituary | Travel


My brother Ron Strutt, who has died aged 66 of cancer, was one of the leading lights in the creation of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, a volunteer-run line that was opened in the early 1970s and has been expanded since then to reach 5.5 miles in length.

Born in Welling, Kent, to Kenneth Strutt, an engineer in the tobacco industry, and his wife, Lilian (nee Banham), Ron went to St Dunstan’s College in Catford, south London. Always a little eccentric, and at school oblivious to academic rigour, as a teenager he obsessed about many things other than schoolwork, including the end of steam locomotion in Britain.

After a failed attempt to take on the authorities and save the Westerham Valley Railway in Kent (something he wrote about in a soon-to-be published book titled The Decline and Fall of the Westerham Railway), at the age of 17 he switched his focus to saving an O2 class steam locomotive on the Isle of Wight, where the original railway line had been closed in 1966. His efforts received much support from various quarters, including from David Shepherd, the wildlife artist and steam enthusiast.

The project quickly gained momentum and steam engines, wagons and carriages were whipped away from scrapyards, while enthusiasts gathered on the island to lend practical enthusiasm and know-how – something that my brother, like many entrepreneurial spirits, did not possess in great measure. Although he was always “Member No 001” of the railway, and people spoke of him fondly as its “founding father”, he eventually moved away to take up a degree at Manchester University, and then to Norwich, where he worked with the shoe manufacturer Norvic.

Outside his interest in railways Ron had learned computer programming at an early age – when IT was in its relative infancy – and in his wider working existence became a business systems analyst for various companies, including South West Trains and Great Western Railway, using his skills to improve train logistics and ticketing. He later worked for Surrey police in the same capacity until he retired.

In later life, when told by his GP that he needed to get fit, Ron did just that. He took up serious cycling in the 1990s, and then began to write a series of Rural Rides cycling guides covering parts of southern England. He also cycled on his own from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and made the 730-mile journey from Dover in Kent to Durness in the north of Scotland.

He is survived by his partner, Jane Dallyn, whom he met in 2012, by his mother, and by his brothers, Paul and me.



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