It is with deep sorrow that the railway community in
Hong Kong, especially the railway signalling circle, heard about the
passing away of Mr. Frank Shaw, FIRSE, on 24 April 2009.
Frank had a relatively short working connection with Hong Kong, only a
couple of years in 1979-81, yet he was instrumental to the development
of the railway signalling profession in Hong Kong.
After Frank retired from British Rail (BR) he joined Transmark, the
consultancy branch of BR. Together with a group of professionals in
different disciplines, he was assigned to Hong Kong on the KCR
Modernisation and Electrification Project in 1979, at which time the
KCR was still much a rural railway, mostly single line, and operated
with semaphore signals and token block working. It was Frank who
introduced to Hong Kong the “modern railway signalling” of 4-aspect
colour-light signals, continuous track circuiting, relay interlocking
and even train describer.
I was then new to the profession, and together with a group of young
engineers and technicians, assisted Frank in the design of new
signalling system, trying our best to learn from the wealth of
knowledge in Frank. I still remember vividly going out on signal
sighting expeditions with Frank and others, when I was assigned the
task of the “human signal post”, holding up a board with 4 circles
drawn on it for the team to sight. After a long walk in the summer
heat, we would congregate at the Better ‘Ole, a bar near Fanling
Railway Station, to have a refreshing cool drink.
Besides teaching us the technical knowledge, another very important
thing Frank did was introducing us to THE institution of the railway
signalling profession, IRSE. Himself being a Fellow, Frank explained to
us the details of the Institution’s organization, membership,
examination, etc and was very willing to sign our application forms to
the Institution. Many of the first batch members in Hong Kong had the
full support of Frank.
After a couple of years in Hong Kong, Frank decided it was time to pass
on the reins to others, and moved back to the UK to enjoy his
retirement. In the many years following, whenever I was in the UK,
whether on business or leisure, I would try my best to pop down to
Sandbach and pay a visit to Frank and his wife Eileen. They were so
kind as to offer accommodation for me and my wife in their guest room.
On the other hand, whenever Frank and Eileen travelled between the UK
and New Zealand, where their son lives, they would make a stop-over in
Hong Kong to see us. I remember that his favourate restaurant was
Jimmy’s Kitchen in Central. Their last visit to Hong Kong was in 2000,
when they mentioned their intention to emigrate to New Zealand to be
near their son, which they did in 2002.
Although I could not see Frank again, I still remember his kind face
and words, and the time we spent together in Hong Kong and in the UK. I
think Frank would feel most satisfied to know that the seeds he sowed
in Hong Kong have flourished and grown into a strong and active IRSE
Hong Kong Section.