12th October 1982 – 21st June 2016
Wagon Man and Founder Member of the Nene Valley Wagon Group
It is with immense sadness that we continue to morn the loss of Paul Foxwell. His memory and his achievements will live on in his friends, his articles, and the wagons restored by him.
Though he is no longer with us he will never be forgotten and his plans and ideas still influence the activities of the Wagon Group.
He was a man with so many dreams and wishes, but also with a clear vision to see the van train restored to its former glory. It is for this reason that the Express Freight Fund has been renamed the Paul Foxwell Express Freight Fund in his honor. Please continue to give generously to this worthy cause.
A Tribute from his friend Tim Hobman
Born in Royston Hertfordshire on 12th October 1982, Paul Foxwell showed an interest in railways from a young age. He always wanted a trainset and would spend break times at primary school with his friends running around the playground pretending to be trains. If the weather was cold so much the better, as Paul and his friends would pretend their breath was the steam from the locomotive. If he was anything like me, as we’ve discovered he was, his first ten letter word would have been ‘locomotive’. I didn’t know Paul at this time in his life, but I understand from his friend Ian Burt that they would spend time at his house after school playing with his trainset, which as they got older evolved into homework, computer games and the trainset.
Paul remained in Royston and attended Meridian School before going to study architecture at university. It was towards the end of his degree course that he met Debby, his wife, who convinced him to follow his dreams and get involved at the Nene Valley Railway. It was at this point, seven years ago that I first met Paul Foxwell, who turned out to be the closest friend of the last seven years of my life.
I can remember it as if it were yesterday. I was working on the restoration of my Brake Van at the time and had heard tales of a young man who had started to restore a van outside the Carriage and Wagon Shed. I was on the roof of my Brake Van when John Whitby entered the shed and introduced me to the gentleman by his side. The gentleman was Paul Foxwell, and never was the title of gentleman so fitting to a person. I climbed down from the roof and had a brief conversation about starting a Wagon Group together; and that was the beginning of it all. Living close to each other in Hertfordshire we met up during the following week for a pint, and like many great things in life the Wagon Group was founder over a few pints at a pub in Welwyn, Hertfordshire.
The next seven years we spent building the group and our profile and in time we were soon joined by an extra pair of hands in Philip Halstead. This small but happy group of volunteers then continued to work happily restoring and running wagons. Behind the scenes Paul would write articles for Nene Steam and use his design skills to produce our publications. We never argued and were like brothers during this time. We were constantly texting and chatting to make plans for the wagons, and were almost like two halves of the same person.
Often is the cruelty of life that just when it was becoming excellent fate intervened and Paul was taken ill. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer on 16th May 2016.
Such was my disbelief at the news that I rushed to his bedside in the Lister Hospital, Stevenage, half expecting it to be a classic Foxwell wind-up. No such luck, and the diagnosis was confirmed. “You can bet I’ll be fighting this” he said to me, and he quickly gave me a list of things he wanted to do and places to visit if he was able. As we discussed the list, Paul added “it’s life, you’ve gotta live it”. I visited Paul almost every day whilst he was in hospital and eventually he was allowed to go home. Before he left hospital, Paul and Debby were granted a special marriage licence and I was lucky enough to be best man at a simple ceremony at the hospital chapel on 1st June, with Alex Alder acting as witness. As the cancer spread Paul became weaker, but I’m pleased to say that with the help of Alex Alder, Paul got to drive a loco at Audley End Railway on Friday 17th June. I’ve never seen him happier and as we drove home he said “I don’t want this day to end”. So, true to form he insisted we went for a burger and a beer….. the perfect end to the day. The next day I spent playing model trains with Paul and on Sunday 19th June we managed to get Paul to the Railway for a ride in my Brake Van on a special freight train. He was very weak, but determined to ride the train. On the way back from Peterborough to Wansford, seeing how tired he was, I asked if he’d like to stop at Wansford or go to Yarwell, Paul replied “Let’s go to Yarwell”. Typical Paul! I’m glad we did, as we were able to stop next to the Conflat that we had bought together and just for a moment Paul opened his eyes, exclaimed “wow” and a massive smile crept across his face. Seeing him leave Nene Valley for the final time was one of the hardest things. Knowing how much he had achieved and how much he loved being there.
Paul was admitted to a hospice the next morning. When I saw him later that day he was mostly sleeping, but I was able to tell him my news and reassure him that I would continue our work. The next evening when I visited Paul he was asleep and I was privileged to be given some time with him. What I said to him in that moment will always remain between us, but as I spoke to him, having made no movements all days, he made a sound of agreement and a single tear rolled from his right eye. Fifteen minutes later, as I held his hand, and with his loved ones around him, Paul peacefully slipped away.
There are no words to express the sense of loss, but he really was one of the good ones…..the best, the very best. He will never be forgotten and his legacy will live on in Express Freight and the wagon fleet.
Having the privilege to read at his funeral, I would like to share my words from that day; which are words of a letter I wrote to Paul and he was able to read whilst in hospital…..
Paul, my dearest friend, there are no words that I can find to express to you how I feel; and yet I find myself writing to you because there are so many things that I want to say but cannot find the strength to say them to you in person.
You must know by now how much you mean to me. For the past seven years now you have been my friend, my inspiration and like a brother to me. You have pushed me forward when I have held back and brought the positive from my negativity. When we think of what we have achieved together I’m proud to have known you and to have shared such brilliant times with you. We have never disagreed or had a cross word and I have always felt that you are the left hand to my right. I will never forget your gentle manner, your overwhelming kindness and your wicked sense of humour. I am grateful for the laughs we’ve had, the things we’ve learnt from each other, and the battles we have fought side by side.
I know I shouldn’t be sad, but when I think of all the plans we have made that will not be realised I can’t help but shed a tear. I had such grand plans for us two, and hoped that we would grow old in each others company endlessly boring our loved ones with talk of trains.
I want you to know that even if in the days and weeks to come the pain is too much to bear, one day I will finish what we started and make you proud.
I cannot imagine life without you and I hope you will look in on me from time to time to check my progress and cast a critical eye over my efforts. Though be gentle as you know I scare easily!
There is so much more I could say, but I know you hate it what I go on, so I will end by saying this…….
What is next in store nobody knows, and where you are going I cannot follow, but I hope that the road is set clear ahead, the signals are forever green and that until we meet again you will keep the stove warm, the couplings tight and the tail lamp lit to show your train is complete.
Your friend, Tim