David Wilcock 1.10.05

I am utterly stunned to hear the very sad news of Chris. I sat here for a few minutes just staring at the screen, heart thumping, and this is why: the fact that I only really knew him for the two years that we were together at primary school, doesn't begin to explain what a guiding light and mentor (yes, even at the age of nine or ten) he was to me, or how much his influence upon me in that short time was to ordain the course of my own life and career.
We were schoolchums and trainspotters (well, in those days you were weird if you weren't a trainspotter!), but Chris had the most amazing grasp of the railway subject, and on my arrival in Hatch End (we'd just moved from Wembley), he showed me the ropes, getting me as hopelessly hooked on steam locomotives as he was himself, and best of all, during the summer holidays and at other times, he showed me the art of travelling to, and getting round the many locomotive sheds in London, without ever buying a train ticket, or having the supposedly necessary 'official permits' to be in those hallowed places.
My parents, and probably his too, thought we were trainspotting, either down by 'the Dell' (off Sylvia Avenue), or on Hatch End station. In fact, we were often up in London, having travelled up on the train without tickets, and I'm not trying to absolve myself from blame when I say Chris taught me all the tricks and dodges.
He was unbelievably canny - a real 'artful dodger', with the cheek of the devil. I remember one incident when we were up in Camden (at the engine shed, of course), and couldn't get past the Ticket Collector to get our train home. We needed some dosh to buy either a platform ticket, or the cheapest train ticket (to the next stop), and had none. Chris solved the problem by nicking a wad of newspapers (Sunday Times, Telegraph and loads of supplements) that were sticking out of the letterbox of a pub, and then flogged them to a rather bemused Jamaican engine cleaner for about two bob - enough to buy the tickets and loads of 'flying saucers' and 'shrimps' and all that stuff. Magic memories.
Chris was so incredibly resourceful he was always going to be one of life's survivors. When the time came for Secondary School. I suppose that's where we went our separate ways, so my mind's eye recollection of Chris, still amazingly vivid, is of him in the regulation grey Grimsdyke school jumper with cherry red tie, a wiry pre-Beatles mop of hair spread over his forehead, and a little turned-up nose. And he was always very nasal!
The bottom line for me is this - if it hadn't been for Chris, I would never have been as passionate about steam as I was, and Steam Railway, the national railway magazine which I founded in 1979, edited for ten years, which became the country's best-selling railway magazine, and which I still work for today in a freelance capacity, would never have happened - there is absolutely no doubt about that. He was so much the inspiration that sired 'Steam Railway'.

Sue, I won't be in Paris on Thursday, but sure as hell, I'll be thinking of my pal, Chris Elvin - the 'artful dodger', as I am now, with tears in my eyes. What a lad. What an icon. How damned mortal we all are.

Affectionately,
David.

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