HENRY BEAUMONT (25th November 1918 - 22nd January 2015)
Henry was born in Dublin and lived in the Ranelagh and Ballsbridge areas. His father was H J A Beaumont (1879-1955), who as Edgar Bredin’s Chief Draughtsman in Inchicore Works, Dublin, was responsible for the design drawings for the famous 800 class locomotives, among other things.
After attending school, Henry entered Trinity College in 1936 to study civil engineering.
He graduated in 1939 and was appointed by the Great Southern Railways as an assistant to the Chief Engineer’s Office in Westland Row Station, commencing work there in September 1939. In 1942 he was appointed as Assistant Junior Engineer to P T Somerville-Large, the Dublin District Engineer of the GSR. Some of his early work involved coastal defence work around Bray Head, improvements to Mullingar Station, and work on the Bray Head tunnels. He recalled carrying out inspections in these tunnels in a four wheeled goods wagon propelled by a steam locomotive, and using torches to look at unstable rocks above the heads of the inspecting party.
In May 1942 he was offered a post in Belfast by the LMS (NCC), as Assistant Civil Engineer, in which role his reputation for coastal defence work was of paramount importance, as he was initially employed carrying out considerable improvements on the Carrickfergus to Whitehead section, which was plagued by coastal erosion on one side of the track, and land slips on the other. In 1946 he was promoted to Permanent Way Assistant Engineer. During this time, the NCC as part owner of the County Donegal Railways, had responsibility for the permanent way and bridges on that system. Henry carried out several surveys of the Donegal lines, one of which left the reader in no doubt whatever as to the poor state of the track over the whole CDR system.
In December 1946 he moved to Britain, having been appointed as Assistant Civil Engineer for the Blackburn District of the LMS. He recalled seeing many recently built “Black Fives”, the “new engines”.
During 1947-50 he remained in Blackburn based in the District Engineer’s office there. However, an opportunity to come home presented itself in 1950 when he was offered the post of Structural Assistant Civil Engineer to the Great Northern Railway (Ireland), based back home in Dublin at Amiens Street Station.
In 1954 the GNR(I) promoted him to Enniskillen as Western District Civil Engineer. In this role he was responsible for all civil engineering, permanent way and maintenance meters in an area encompassing Dundalk - Enniskillen - Omagh, Portadown - Cavan, and the branch lines to Cootehill, Carrickmacross, Belturbet, Bundoran and Fintona. In his own time, he provided assistance to the Sligo, Leitrim & Northern Counties Railway, as they could not afford their own civil engineer. In particular, he carried out detailed inspections of the viaduct (Weir’s Bridge) in Enniskillen, and attended a landslip further along that line on one occasion.
In 1956, following the washing away of the embankment on the Bundoran branch near Castlecaldwell, he organised the rebuilding of the railway over the large gap created, only for the branch to be closed eighteen months later. He was also closely involved in the rebuilding of the Tolka river bridge in Dublin, washed away by floods around the same time.
After virtually all the railway routes within the GNR’s Western District were swept away by the mass closures of GNR lines in September 1957, he transferred to the UTA and resumed working in Belfast. The following year, he was formally appointed Civil Engineer (Production) for the whole UTA system.
Henry continued as the UTA’s Civil Engineer until 1964, when he left the railway due to the growing uncertainty of the future of any railways in Northern Ireland. He joined the N I Civil Service, from which he retired in 1984.
Henry was one of the earliest members of the IRRS and the RPSI, joining these organisations within a couple of years of their respective formation. Until declining health meant he was no longer able to enjoy their periodicals, he remained a member of each until a very short time before he passed away. He was also a member of the DCDR and several non-railway related bodies, most notably connected with Dublin. He was a lifelong member of the Irish Branch of the Permanent Way Institution, and was recently believed to be their oldest member, as well as the last surviving white-collar member of staff of the Great Southern Railways - if not the last of any grade within that concern.
Henry travelled extensively on the railways in his youth and maintained a map upon which he marked each line he had traversed, quite often on the footplate of a locomotive or in a first class carriage, courtesy of numerous free passes granted as a result of his father’s position in Inchicore Works. The map contains very few railway routes anywhere in Ireland which he did not traverse; for example, he managed to get as far as Burtonport on the footplate of line of the Lough Swilly’s iconic 4.8.0 tender locomotives. He travelled by train to places like Castlegregory on the Tralee & Dingle, Schull, the NCC narrow gauge, and many more now-obscure railway destinations.
His wife predeceased him in 2000, and his surviving sister in 2011. Henry is survived by one son, three daughters and ten grand-children. Funeral, on Monday, private at his request.
Rest in Peace.