Stuart Holt

IMG_8609 copyIt was with great sadness that we have learnt of the death of Stuart Holt, a regular attendee at our modelling weekends and the Summer Retreat. 

We have received the following from Tim Shackleton, who was one of our tutors for a number of years, in memory of Stuart.

Stuart Holt 1945-2023

Blending artistic flair, mathematical precision and meticulous research

As befits a career Yorkshireman, Stuart Holt’s modelling output was parsimonious at best but he did build a working P4 layout, successfully exhibit it at Railex and see it featured in Model Railway Journal  – which is far more than most of us have managed. As a member of that dying breed that values skill and craftsmanship above everything else, his approach to modelling was pitched somewhere between the philosophical and the obsessive and his elegantly analytical approach to resolving technical issues reached a point where it became almost an end in itself, a hobby within a hobby – in any other walk of life it would have led to the foundation of a research institute bearing his name, or at least the publication of his notebooks. As part of this drive for perfection almost everything on Kyle of Sutherland was created by hand, from the locomotives and stock (which ran beautifully) to the backscene and the abundant tree cover, a consequence of which was an invitation from Pendon Museum to help with the afforestation of the Vale Scene. 

Professionally Stuart was a mathematician and a highly qualified one, working among other fields in aero engine and diesel engine development, nuclear power plant, oil and gas pipeline technology. A lifelong railway enthusiast but for many years only an occasional dabbler in modelling, he retired at 55 and immediately began work on a project he’d been considering for years – a scale model of Culrain station on the Highland Railway northwards from Inverness across the Kyle of Sutherland (from which the resulting layout took its name). Like everything Stuart did his approach was thoughtful, meticulous, impeccably researched and not to be hurried – paradoxically he refused point-blank to take himself seriously. He was a great listener and an inveterate asker of questions who learned a vast amount – almost everything, he said – from the Missenden Abbey modelling courses he’d religiously attended over very many years. He had no grudge against mainstream, RTR-based modelling – he just wasn’t very interested in it.

As would be apparent from only the briefest glance at Kyle of Sutherland, Stuart was a gifted artist, a master of the difficult skills of perspective modelling and the properties of light and shade. He drew brilliantly; in his 70s he started attending life classes. He was also devastatingly funny, with a wit as dry as the driest Amontillado, and it made him excellent and much sought-after company, with the ironic take on life that could only have come from someone who’d lived it to the full. In P4 circles there really was no one else like him. The Beatles were still to release Sergeant Pepper when he met and married Norma, a fellow student at Edinburgh University, and it was a lifelong union that produced two daughters – Janet and Sally – and three grandchildren. The rich Barnsley accent and deadpan delivery survived unscathed to the last.

– Tim Shackleton