Sally Joslin Railton

Sally Railton Joslin

Children of eminent people in all walks of life are frequently unaware of the significance of their parents’ impact on their chosen field of expertise until much later in their lives. Whether politicians, writers, movie stars or scientists, how often do you read in the early chapters of biographies quotes from children saying something like, “well to me, he was just Daddy so it all seemed so normal”. In this age of celebrity, sharing knowledge of the exploits of eminent engineers of the recent past is sometimes overlooked, especially when any area of their expertise involves something as seemingly unimportant as record breaking. But most of you reading this already understand that pushing beyond existing technical limits in any field requires people of extreme talent and that the way to get future generations interested in following in their footsteps is to harness those talents to exciting projects as well as the more mundane.

Cobb’s mighty Napier Railton
Cobb’s mighty Napier Railton Brooklands lap record holder and holder of many distance records at Bonneville. It’s seen here at the launch of Karl Ludvigsen’s biography with Railton’s daughter Sally in attendance.

If you read the reminiscences of her life growing up as Reid Railton’s daughter in Karl Ludvigsen’s magnificent Man of Speed books, you will know that Sally Joslin followed that journey herself and was only persuaded to share her memories and the treasure trove of documents she eventually inherited from her father after much thought and persuasion.

While she is rightly proud of his achievements she is also equally concerned that his legacy is portrayed truthfully and factually. Sometimes those who want to “assist” by telling the story in written or film format quickly give it the Hollywood treatment to get a bigger audience rather than portraying things correctly. We were lucky that three people with the right concern for authenticity had already paved the way for us when we explained to her what we wanted to do. The first of those people is John Dyson who as a former President of the Railton Owner’s Club first sowed the seeds of using her father’s archive to share his legacy in book form. The second is Steve Holter (who we quickly brought onboard) whose diligent research had separated fact from fiction – or at least perceived fact – to ensure that whoever told the story didn’t have to go through all that again. The third is of course Karl Ludvigsen who brought all this together with his own research to produce the definitive Reid Railton story.

So when we put together a plan to take her father’s last record breaking design and subject it to modern R&D techniques to understand some of his design ideas and thought processes that culminated in the Crusader 2 wooden tank test model, we wanted to reassure her that this was a serious and well intended project even though we couldn’t be certain of the outcome. In a series of emails and then lengthy phone calls she asked all the questions we hoped she’d ask in order to give her that assurance. She cautioned us that the wooden tank test model was in all likelihood the base unit rather than the finalised design with all the detail added. She explained that her father would in all probability have had a whole series of wooden attachments in mind to subtly alter and improve on that base unit area by area with tank tests for each and every addition to test the effects of those changes until he was happy with it and he had produced his finalised base concept. So we were happy to confirm to her that this was exactly the route we have planned rather than subjecting the model to a simple pass or fail test.

As Richard Noble says in his Foreword, Reid Railton was a man who didn’t need computers to get the job done. But we do have access to that technology, so rather than laborious minor evolutions via physical changes we can measure the baseline and then rapid prototype the design where necessary using CAD and CFD processes. The approach is the same – the tools and timescales are different.

We are delighted that Sally Joslin supports us with this approach and is as keen as us to see the results. Whatever the outcome, we intend to do this in a way that will communicate to others what she knows already – that her father was a truly gifted designer and engineer.