My Grandma did a lot of research into our family history and she published the collected results. Consequently, I’ve known for a while that the famous LNER driver, Albert Pibworth (known as “Old Pib”), was a distant relative of mine.
The Pibworth family can be traced back to the village of Pebworth in Worcestershire in the 16th century. Although they spread far and wide, the branch leading to Albert Pibworth (and me!) came from the villages to the south west of Newbury. He was born at Enborne in 1864, very much in Great Western territory but in 1883, after a brief stint on the Western, he moved on to become a GNR railwayman.
This relocation and change of employer causes some minor confusion with casual railway historians and irks me slightly because I’m a GWR fan. To me, it would be more satisfying if he’d been a famous GWR driver!
However, the story and the modelling possibilities got more interesting recently when I discovered that he drove an LNER A1 Pacific on GWR rails in the famous 1925 exchange trials.
I wonder if his Berkshire origins gave him any prior knowledge of the route?
From “Our Family Story” by E. A. Martin
James Pibworth, Albert's father, born 1821 at East Woodhay. His brother Thomas Pibworth, my ancestor, born East Woodhay 1830.
Thomas Pibworth was listed as a Linseed Oil Maker in the 1861 census.
Thomas would have walked to his work in Newbury. He was unlikely to have used the train that passed through Enbourne on its way from Southampton to Newbury, though many later Pibworths were to find eventual employment on that railway.
Thomas had a great many relations! His elder brother James, the third of the family, was married and had four children. The fourth of these was the only Pibworth to achieve national fame! His name was Albert, and he was born in 1865. When old enough to begin working he got a job on the railway - the employment that seems to have been favoured by many Pibworth men. At that time, Newbury was a junction of some importance, with lines going off in five directions. Albert worked on the railway (not for long in the Newbury area) for 46 years. He became one of the best-known drivers of his time, known affectionately as “Old Pib”. He was the driver in charge of the train that made the first non-stop run from Kings Cross to Newcastle, with the engine “Flying Fox”. In 1928 he won even greater praise for the longer run from Kings Cross to Edinburgh, with the “Flying Scotsman”! Soon after this achievement, he had to retire because of ill-health (1929). About this time he and his wife were living at Wash Common, in a house he called “Belitha Villa”. Why did he choose this name, “Belitha”? - Was it the name of an engine he specially remembered, or perhaps even the first that he drove?
In September 1929 he died, and was buried in the churchyard at Enborne. A simple gravestone gives his name and the relevant dates, but there is no mention of his achievements.
Newbury Weekly News - 1965
‘Old Pib’ - buried at Enborne - used to drive crack ‘Flying Scotsman’
The “FLYING SCOTSMAN” presented an unforgettable sight for railway enthusiasts lining the platform as with whistle shrieking she roared through Newbury at 80 m.p.h. on Sunday evening. This famous locomotive, now privately owned and restored to her former LNER appearance, was pulling a special excursion from Weymouth to London.
The “Flying Scotsman” took just six minutes to cover the distance between Hungerford and Newbury, and unknown to many of the enthusiasts aboard her passed within half a mile of the grave of the man who drove the locomotive on the first non-stop London-Edinburgh run in 1928.
He was Mr. Albert Pibworth, who is buried in Enborne churchyard. A simple stone makes no reference to his record-breaking achievement or to the fact that at the time he was regarded as one of the greatest engine drivers in the world.
“Old Pib” as he was known to thousands of railwaymen, reached the pinnacle of his career towards the end of his 46 years on the railway. At the age of 63 he made history by driving the “Flying Fox” non-stop from Kings Cross to Newcastle. He shared the footplate on the even longer record-breaking run to Edinburgh.
Mr. Pibworth, a member of an old Newbury railway family, who lived at Wash Common, retired in January 1929, through ill-health and died a few months later aged 65, on September 16.
Pendennis Castle and Flying Fox publicity photo
Driver Pibworth’s regular engine from new was 4475 “Flying Fox”. It was selected for the 1925 trials but it ran hot and it was replaced by 4474 “Victor Wild”.