Peter Stephens Obituary

News has only just reached us of the death of former ABTEM chairman Peter Stephens on 1st December.  Andrew Scott reminds us that Peter was a professional civil engineer and active member of the Institute of Civil Engineers.

Peter was a Project Engineer or Resident Engineer on the Victoria Line early in his career.  He then spent several years in the 1970s as a curator at the Science Museum before becoming Director of the London Transport Museum spending about a year appointing staff, including John Freeborn, Bob Bird and Rob Lansdown from the Science Museum, and preparing the displays at its new home at Covent Garden which opened on 28 March 1980.

Peter made a major contribution to the Association of British Transport Museums.  He was co-opted on to the committee in 1979 by Brian Lacey and then took over from Brian as its Chairman in 1981. During his Chairmanship he initiated a regular newsletter in 1982, edited initially by Oliver Green, and reviving the Association after a period he describes as ‘in the Doldrums’ in the newsletter of March 1985. 

In February that year re-joined the Science Museum in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, where amongst other things he helped Dorling Kindersley prepare a couple of very well illustrated books involving photographing many objects in the Science Museum. ABTEM Secretary, Robert Excell, remembers helping him remove an object from a case when walking past one day.

Peter steered the ABTM committee through its evolution to become the Association of British Transport and Engineering museums with a new constitution before handing over Chairmanship to Bob Bracegirdle in 1989 the year Peter finally retired.

Andrew Scott says “during my time at the LTM (1988-92) Peter was active as a Friend/volunteer and I always valued his support. I’d known him for some years before my time there and he was a lovely man, a great friend of my family and a wonderful supporter of the world of Transport Museums.”

He remained on the ABTEM Committee, not least as its constitutional expert, regularly attending committee meetings until very recent years. David Senior says “I still remember his approach to me at Didcot (in 1995) – when he encouraged me to take on Chairmanship – He was a very good colleague.” Peter was also ABTEM’s first link with the Lottery’s consultative group.

Robert Excell recalls “Peter was very active as a Friend of London Transport Museum for many years after this retirement and I saw him frequently all through the time I was there” (1994 – 2015).

Vacancy: Engineering Coordinator, Black Country Living Museum

The Black Country Living Museum is currently advertising a vacancy for an Engineering Coordinator. The description is as follows:

37.5 hours a week (full time), £28,000 p.a., permanent.

This is an exciting opportunity for someone with solid practical project management skills to join our Site Conservation, Transport & Maintenance Team as an Engineering Coordinator. 

If you have a passion for heritage engineering and have strong experience of coordinating schemes of work, this is the role for you. You will have the opportunity to help shape the Museum’s strategic approach to its historic mechanical, industrial and operational collections as well as coordinate the operational maintenance of working exhibits, which range from steam boilers to coal fired ovens.  

Specifically you will:

  • Coordinate the work delivery of significant programmes of repair, restoration and conservation around the Museum’s historic site.
  • Determine specifications and tender content for the use of external contractors and suppliers.
  • Consider financial resources and the challenges of working in a visitor environment, when prioritising projects.
  • Develop optimum standards and working practices for the care, maintenance and ongoing use of relevant collections.
  • Ensure that relevant collections are maintained in-line with safety management systems, health & safety policies and external regulations as required.
  • Maintain accurate electronic inventories of equipment, materials, and service records.
  • Provide regular and timely written communication on the progress of works to appropriate stake holders

We are looking for a highly motivated, enthusiastic and organised individual with proven project management/coordination experience. Strong all round communication skills are critical as you will be required to make and present your recommendations. You should also be adept at working independently but ensuring clarity of your outputs.

Whilst a specific engineering background is not essential you must have some experience of working in an industrial setting and be able to evidence your engineering skills and knowledge.

To apply for the role, read the job advert here.


The Association of British Transport & Engineering Museums (ABTEM) is a non-profit-making network that exists to provide a forum for the discussion of matters of common interest to transport and engineering museums and to provide a means of representing their views on issues of national and regional concern.