Richard Leaning, Dad.

dadThis isn’t a post I expected or wanted to write.

Earlier this month, I picked up the phone and answered the call we all dread. My dad had passed away, peacefully but unexpectedly, in his sleep.

Richard Leaning was 83 which, I’m reliably informed, is “a good age”.

To me, he was my dad. A slightly eccentric, highly intelligent, caring father who shaped me and my two brothers in a million and one ways and who is in no small way is responsible for Model Railway Engineer. This post is dedicated to him.

My brother’s and I grew up in a home where science, engineering and knowledge ruled. He counted photography, astronomy, geology, music and electronics amongst his interests and they played a huge part in our childhood.

Telescopes, Chemicals and Mercury

While my peers played football, my time was spent watching dad making telescopes and mixing chemicals for developing film. We played with rare earth metals (we spent ages testing how heavy a tin of Lead was, rolling liquid Mercury around and marvelling at how a radioactive material he’d obtained lit up my face under the duvet. Our evenings were often spent fixing broken electronic circuitry dad bought home from his work at the BBC.

Normal it wasn’t.

We still wonder how we survived our childhood unscathed but we wouldn’t change it. We grew up with a thirst for knowledge, science and discovery of the unknown (StarTrek was a firm fixture in my TV viewing).

For me, this translated into an interest in technology (which enables me to create and maintain this website), creativity, history and strangely model trains. This last one, more so than I realised, was down to dad.

Until recently, I believed my interest in trains stemmed from my early years.

In a setting that Edith Nesbit could have set the Railway Children in, we lived in a house with a railway line at the bottom of the garden. Dad made a swing, which hung from a tree, and I’d sit on its wooden seat watching the trains that passed by on their way to destinations I knew not. The gentle rocking of the swing carrying me off into a peaceful sleep, to dreams of railway journeys to far distant lands.

Even now, as mentioned in some of my recent posts on Instagram, I still turn to my model railways to relax and get away from stress.

Train sets, Mamod and Airfix

On a wooden train, Dad made for me from an old Telegraph pole.

I thought it was this exposure to trains in the garden that gave me the train bug, and dad being a loving father supported and nurtured my interest.

He built a little wooden train for me to sit on in the garden (made from telegraph poles that run along the railway line) and bought my first train set. He also constructed the baseboards that ran around my bedroom for my early layouts and showed me how to solder the wiring. We built Mamod and Airfix models on the dining room table, much to the consternation of my mum.

But while going through his things I discovered books on trains, with the locomotives he’d seen nearly ticked off.

I had no idea about this interest but it transpires he was very much into steam and diesel. On mentioning this to others, I was told about journey’s he’d taken to see trains.

I never knew and I wish I had.

Now I’m beginning to wonder how much this interest shaped the purchase of our family home with its railway line at the bottom of the garden and a nearby signal box?

It seems my passion for trains runs far deeper than and from much earlier than I knew. Can you inherit an interest in trains??

My Trains

Dad kept them! Some of my very first trains. I still remember playing with these, the Shell wagon and train bring back happy memories.

I also found some of my original OO gauge trains. I thought these had long been lost and finding he’d kept them, in their original home-made box adorned with Lego stickers, meant the world to me.

In a nearby drawer, I also discovered a Hornby poster on which he’d scribbled the prices of various locomotives. Strangely this was a recent poster, from just a few years ago, and I can’t help but wonder if he was planning to start a new railway?

Sadly, I’ll never know now but I take solace from knowing that thanks to him, model trains have been a part of my life from the earliest years and they were a part of his life right up until the end.

R.I.P. Richard Leaning, 1935 to 2019.

55 comments
  1. Hi Andy, I am very sorry to hear of your dad’s passing. I pray he is resting peacefully and that you take the time to listen to your heart so you can hear him. I lost my parents quite some time ago, but I know they are always with me. From time to time they pop into my head and make me smile over something from long ago.

    I am sure he would want you to keep moving forward in your life and making him proud. All the best, Norm

  2. Hello Andy, please accept my most sincere condolences. I am very privileged to have been a junior colleague of Dr Dick, he was very much respected and admired. We were on the same shift for several years and shared many conversations and laughs during that time, right up until he retired. I will always remember him as being one of the formative figures in my early years at the Beeb, a man who treated me very kindly indeed. He was one of the best.

    Very Best regards,

    Chris

  3. Hi Andy, May I too offer my condolences following the passing of your father. He was as you say, an intelligent man with many and varied interests which have been passed to you. I’m sure he would have been proud of what your website and well informed advice is giving to new and old railway modellers alike. With regards, Steve.

  4. Lovely eulogy, it was very touching and heart felt. Sorry to hear of your loss. Your childhood and upbringing strikes a chord in me that is probably due to our generation.

  5. Hi Andy, I’m sorry for your loss and thanks for the beautiful tribute to your father. Our parents shape what we will become and your father set you on your way to get involved with model railways which we all love and thanks for your own massive input into them.

  6. My first time writing to you. Reading your piece about your dad helped me make up my mind that i will now start constructing my first railway. I am a pure amateur and will look forward to reading all the great tips from you.
    I will dedicated my first station to your dad’s memory.
    George

    • Hi George, that’s the best response I could have asked for! I’m sure my Dad would appreciate it too. Good luck and get in touch if you need any guidance. Best wishes, Andy

  7. So sorry for your loss Andy. I lost my dad 6 years ago and there isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think of him, as long as your dad is remembered he will live on.

  8. Andy, as many have already said, this must have been a difficult post to write. What you’ve written has brought back many fond memories of my own father who past 10 years ago. He taught me to shoot at age 5, to weld at age 10 and to build things all the time. I know you will remember him always – my thoughts are with you and your family.

  9. What a beutifully written piece. From the heart, like the best stories.
    It got me all steamed up!
    Im sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing this with us.
    It sounds like you had a very special relationship with your father, and I’m sure he appreciated you as much as you did of him. If my son were to write such a piece about me, I would be thinking… Job well done.

  10. So sorry to hear of the loss of your father, Andy. He sounds to have been a most wonderful man and great role model for his sons.
    My husband is 83 (me – 78). We started our model railway for his 80th birthday on the dining room table. We both love our Hobmorton Heritage Trust layout that consists of a railway museum, steam engine show ground and a farm. Plus, of course, the railway lines with small station.

  11. Andy may I offer my condolences for the loss of what sounds like a really super father, you will always have your memories of him to comfort you and know that his spark carries on in you. Best wishes Barry.

  12. My condolences, too. If it is any consolation, I believe a farewell is necessary before you meet again.
    Thanks for continuing the website; always interesting.

  13. Hi Andy,
    Sincere condolences on the loss your dear Dad.
    What wonderful memories you have of a very special man. Your Dad will be with you always in everything you do and I too, every time I read your mails, will remember what a very full, informative and interesting life he enjoyed and bequeathed to you and your brothers, and to all of us also who benefit from your wonderful site. Best regards, George.

  14. What a beautiful post, Andy, and what a fine tribute to your dad.

    I wish you and your family peace at this most difficult of times.

    Best wishes,
    David

  15. My thoughts are with you. My father passed away many years ago, (I am in my 70’s now) and still feel a lose. Your Father was one of a generation fostered by the war years where invention was the mother of necessity that formed a generation where intellect, manual skills and touch of Heath Robinson made men of boys. Your father sounded very similar to my memories of my father.

    Rgds.

  16. Andy

    This would have been a very tough post to write, but it shows your love and admiration for your father that will never fade.
    Having recently lost my oldest sister, I understand how you feel

  17. So sorry for your loss. I trust that the memory of your dad might bring you happiness and peace. Kind regards, Helen.

  18. Hi Andy.
    Thanx for your wonderful story. So touching. May your dad rest In peace.
    It went to my heart as i’m sure it did with all your readers.
    Best regards.
    Jim

  19. Hi Andy
    Very sorry for your loss. Quite often we don’t know a lot about our parents and their inner thoughts and workings until they are no longer with us. Even less often some of us forget or neglect to say thanks for giving us everything they could along the way. It appears your father gave you everything he could and no success or money can better that. To those readers with parents still alive don’t forget to say thanks whenever you see or talk to them.

  20. That was very well written, I hope my son someday sees all of positive aspects of spending time together on such a great hobby. Sorry for your loss.

  21. Andy thank you for sharing your memories and pain. I lost my father nearly 19 years ago now and he encouraged my interest in photography and their are still moments when I think ‘ I wonder what dad would think of that? ‘ He will always be your father and you have many great and fond memories to recall. Condolences and my prayers are with you.

  22. Hello Andy,
    So sorry for your unexpected loss. Your father sounded like an early renaissance man. Would love to know what he did at the BBC.
    Regards,
    Earl

  23. What a wonderful obituary of a caring parent. So sorry for your loss but he had an interesting life and a peaceful end.

  24. Dear Andy.
    My sincere condolences to you and all your family. You have recalled your memories of your dear Dad so eloquently and I salute you for this. Talking about someone you love will in due course help to heal your sorrow and I wish you well for the future. Your Dad is gone to a better place but fond memories will stay with you forever.
    Sincerely. Alan

  25. That was a very moving story, I am now 71 and my uncle made me the most amazing train layout when I was 10 years old, I am lucky enough to have been given a photograph of it by my 98 year old Motherand I am now building my own one hoping my grandchildren will appreciate what I am doing and keep the wonderful world of model trains alive for another generation.

  26. Andy,So ssd to hear of your bereavement. I lost my dad in 1965 he was only 48 but he too shaped me into the guy I am (like father,like son). And at the age of 76 I have done the best for my two sons and I hope/know my sons will feel the same following my demise. Andy my thoughts go with you and you family. John Hirons in Shrewsbury

  27. Sad to hear about your loss. Keep the good memories about your “Dad” in your heart and he will always be “there” for you.
    Thanks for all the model railroading tips you share with the rest of us in the good ole US of A.

  28. Sorry to hear your sad news, I can understand how your feeling as my mum passed away 6 weeks ago, my deepest sympathy to you and your family.

  29. Andy
    Sincere condolences. Sounds like you had a wonderful relationship which you can still treasure in the years to come.
    Best wishes
    Brian

  30. Wonderful short but heartfelt summary of your fathers life and what it meant to shaping your own life and interests, consciously or unconsciously. Wasn’t until later in life after my own father had long since past away that I realised how my own interests in modelling, hands-on & practical skills all came from him. Sincere condolences Andy and thank you for sharing your thoughts and insight to your father and the legacy he left you.

  31. My sincere condolences to you and family Andy.
    I’m sure everyone will appreciate you’ve been otherwise occupied.
    My advice is take whatever time you need, see you when you’re ready.

  32. A very moving story of your life with your Dad. My sympathy to you on the sorrow of losing such a significant and loving person in your life. His life’s story as you write it would want someone to have known him.
    Best Wishes, Bill

  33. Hello Andy,
    Such sad news but what wonderful memories, thanks for sharing them. My lovely Dad is 83 and has dementia for several years, no longer recognising family from care staff. He was always interested in how the future would shape up for us, Tomorrow’s World and The Magic Roundabout were his favourite programmes. What wonderful people are fathers. I think your Dad was very proud of you, your heartfelt post shows your love and respect for him.

  34. Andy please accept my sincere condolences, as Michael stated a difficult post to write indeed. My thoughts are with you having gone through similar pain with the recent loss of my son then my wife. All I will say is remember your incredible Dad with love & remember him with pride.

  35. Andy, that entry must have been very hard for you to write, but thank you for sharing it with us. When being a small boy you would not always realise how a fathers interest in his son can shape his future, as yours did, and as many fathers do. Your father would have been proud of your achievements and how your website has become so popular, and deservedly so.

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