Ralph Burnell was born in 1928 and lived for the first two years of his life in a back to back terraced housed near to the railway at Stourton. His family moved to the newly built John O'Gaunts estate in 1930 and Ralph went to Woodlesford School until he was 14. In 1942 he started work as an errand boy at Stourton engine shed and served a long apprenticeship as a fireman before becoming a driver in 1963. He often worked on coal trains from Water Haigh colliery and others which dropped off wagons at the brewery where he earned an "allowance" of beer from the cellarman. After steam finished in the West Riding in 1967 he moved onto driving diesels and was often at the controls of the Diesel Multiple Units which passed through Woodlesford on their way to Knottingley and Goole or Wakefield, Barnsley and Sheffield.
Ralph Burnell at the controls of a Stourton based Fowler 4F engine.
Ralph Burnell could well have been driving this 4F, 43851 of Stourton shed, as it propels wagons along the "Up" line towards Methley on a rainy day in the 1950s. The van in the siding had probably brought a consignment of whiskey for Bentley's brewery from a distillery at Markinch in Scotland. Note the car at the far end of the yard. Photo courtesy David Hey.
In later years Ralph drove "Pacer" units from Leeds through Woodlesford to Goole and back. He's pictured here at Goole in 1986.