One of the country’s most prominent and expert rail enthusiasts who died aged 71 was taken to his funeral in a carriage he had restored himself.
Mike Stollery was a life-long rail fanatic and was one of the people who began the restoration of the Swanage steam railway in Dorset which he volunteered on for 44 years.
Such was his passion for the railway that he lived overlooking it and built replicas of local stations in his loft where he had an enormous model set.
He gave talks about the railway and in his working life was an architect who was employed by London Underground and he even won an award for the design of Gloucester Road station.
He was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw last year and two days before he died married long-term partner Jan, and did so wearing his Swanage Railway top.
His coffin was decorated with photos of steam trains and it was loaded onto the Bulleid carriage that was pulled by an M7-class locomotive.
His final journey was from Swanage to Norden station on the line he had worked on for so many years.
Funeral Director Derek Trotter from James Smith funeral directors – part of Douch Family Funeral Directors – said: “It was a privilege to organise another amazing funeral working within the Douch Family funeral directors group.
“Mike was such a rail enthusiast that it was fitting his last journey was by steam train.
“We always do everything we can to make a funeral just as the family want it.”
Mike’s widow Jan said their house became an extension of the railway with the models in the attic, photos of trains on the walls and rooms given rail-themed names.
She said: “Mike was born in Kings Langley in a house with a railway at the bottom of the garden and his love of trains never left.
“As a child he holidayed in Swanage most years and in 1972 he went to the first meeting that eventually led to the restoration of Swanage Railway, even though he lived in Hove at the time.
“He worked as an architect on the Underground and after his first wife died we met and moved to our house in Swanage in 2000, after he had retired.
“Mike loved getting his hands dirty and helped to acquire and restore coaches – he was more interested in them than the engines.
“He held many senior positions in the Railway – including Chairman and Trustee – and worked as a steward and in other roles. He just loved being around trains and travelling on them.
“In the loft he spent ten years building a model railway and he had thousands of trains and built replicas of Swanage and Wareham railway stations as they were in the 1950s. He’d disappear up there for hours.
“He read rail magazines all the time, from breakfast until he went to sleep.
“Over his life he accumulated a massive archive of rail books and slides which he used to illustrate talks, and he also co-edited a book about Swanage Railway.
“When he died it was fitting that he went by steam train and with the help of the funeral directors and railway we were able to make that happen.
“Not only was his coffin covered in photos of trains but he went wearing his Swanage Railway top.”
As well as his love of Swanage Railway, Mike was involved with planning matters through the Purbeck Society and for many years was involved with the Town Twinning Association. He acted as Chairman of both groups.
Mike’s first wife, Dot, pre-deceased him and he leaves Jan, his stepson Bobby, step daughter Samantha, six step-grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
The Dorset line from Swanage to Wareham was closed by British Rail in 1972 and ripped up in seven weeks.
Volunteers rebuilt the line from Swanage as far as Norden over 30 years and have been running it as a tourist attraction since the late 1990s.
Their long-term ambition is to reconnect the full 10-mile stretch between Swanage, Corfe Castle and Wareham with a scheduled community passenger service, and that is due to open next year.
The heritage railway will run daily from March 25 until the end of October and at weekends through the winter.
Pic caption: Family and friends with Mike’s coffin that was covered in photos of trains, just before his final journey.
Note to editors: Douch Family Funeral Directors have been helping families with funeral arrangements for over 100 years. Branches include Douch & Small, A E Jolliffe & Son, Albert Marsh, James Smith, Ives & Shand and Lesley Shand Funeral Service. They’re based in Ferndown, Wareham, Poole, Upton, Wimborne, Swanage, Corfe Mullen and Blandford.
Editor’s Note: For more information please contact: Ed Baker, Deep South Media, on 01202 534487, or Ed Baker on 07788392965.