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Tributes paid to couple who put steam engines back on the tracks
A MAN described as the “father” of the world’s most popular steam heritage line died on Christmas Day – just hours after his wife.
Tom Salmon, 87, from Ruswarp, near Whitby died on Christmas morning, after his wife, Erika, 86, died on Christmas Eve, following a battle with cancer. Mr Salmon had been suffering Parkinson’s disease. They had been married for 66 years.
The couple met 68 years ago when Mr Salmon, a fluent German speaker, was posted to Germany with the intelligence corps where he met German-born Erika.
Mr Salmon is credited by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) as being the “Father of the Railway”.
He began the process of preserving the railway line in the 1960s, after Dr Richard Beeching’s announcement that line between Pickering and Whitby would be amongst 5,000 miles of track and 2,300 stations to be axed.
In 1967 Mr Salmon held the first meeting of the preservation society at the couple's home, where others who attended remembered how his determination to restore the branch won over the doubters.
By then the line had been closed for two years and they had to prevent British Rail lifting the track.
Within six years of the meeting, the line reopened and is now one of the most popular heritage routes in the world, carrying about 350,000 passengers during the 260 days of the year it is open and employing about 100 full-time, paid staff and hundreds of volunteers.
The couple became lifelong supporters and volunteers of the NYMR, along with their two daughters, Nina and Wendy. They also have four grandchildren.
Mr Salmon's granddaughter Natalya Wilson, from York, said he had travelled on the line to visit his parents in Thornton-le-Dale as a child and it was his vision to restore the railway line for the benefit of the community as well as its heritage.
In the early years her grandparents and other volunteers would spend hours clearing the railway line themselves.
She said many volunteers from the North-East came to help and would often sleep at the side of the line in railway carriages.
Earlier in the year, during the NYMR’s 40th Anniversary Gala, Mr and Mrs Salmon attended a reunion for all the founding members of the NYMR along with their family.
Their granddaughter said the train made a special stop at Ruswarp station for the couple.
“Grandad was presented with a plaque and Nana with some flowers and they told they had brought pleasure to millions of people through the work they had done,” she said.
“We took the plaque into Whitby Hospital for grandad, where he died. It meant something to him right up until the end of his life.”
Wreaths will be placed on the front of the engines in memory of the couple until Sunday. Their funeral is at 11.30am on January 7, at St Hilda’s Church in Sneaton, near Whitby.
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