Obituary: John Maxwell Hemmens


John Hemmens (centre fore), his daughter and two sons show off some of his wonderful work back in the early days when the business was still very much a family-run affair.

We are sad to report that John Hemmens, whose model steam engines many of you will be familiar with, passed away in the early hours of September 5, 2023.

John started his original business in the early 1970s as a cottage industry from his garden shed, later moving manufacture to a Nissen hut on a World War II aerodrome near the village of Brieghton, East Yorkshire, where he went on to employ around 30 staff.

It was not long, though, before the business had outgrown this building, so in the early ‘80s it was relocated to a 5000 sq. ft unit in Thorganby, York, which became known as the ‘Steam Gallery’. During this manufacturing period John produced of over 20 different models, including replicas of Stephenson’s locomotion Rocket and many other fine engines, as well as dozens of accessories. He later diversified into model boat kits (which were his last ongoing projects, sadly mostly unfinished, although some boat kits were delivered to patient/loyal customers).

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The business was wound down in scale in the early 2000s, with John opting to work alone once again from a workshop in his garden. Up until January this year, he was, at the age of 87, still active there, although by this stage long-term illness had really taken its toll. Unbeknown to all but close family members, in the decade leading up to his passing he had quietly battled through health conditions, including cancer, yet proudly and stubbornly refused to give up or give in.

We are sure you will wish to join us in sending our deepest condolences to his wife, Janet, as well as his daughter, two sons and four grandchildren.


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