Former IRJ editor Mike Knutton dies

Written by

David Briginshaw, Consulting Editor, International Railway Journal

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Mike Knutton, former editor of the International Railway Journal, following a short illness. Mike worked at the IRJ for 29 years and served as editor for 19 years. He leaves behind his widow, Yan.

Mike began his career in journalism in his home town of Huddersfield, Yorkshire, UK, where he started out as a journalist. This included a passage on the daily Huddersfield Examiner where he perfected his art. Mike moved to Cornwall in 1976 to take up the position of chief reporter on the Falmouth Pack newspaper.

In 1977 Mike was invited to join IRJ as Associate Editor by Managing Editor John Levett. He succeeded Levett in 1982 after Levett’s sudden death at the end of 1981. Mike resigned as editor of the IRJ in 2001 and continued as senior editorial consultant. He took on a new challenge in 2005 to become editor of IRJ’s sister publication European rail perspectives until his retirement in 2006.

Mike has traveled extensively during his time with IRJ, visiting more than 60 countries to interview senior railway executives. He made many contacts during his stay in IRJ and was a terrific ambassador for the magazine, but he was never afraid to ask tough questions to bring readers accurate and insightful news. Mike was particularly proud of some of the stories IRJ was able to publish exclusively. For example, IRJ was the first rail magazine to report on new technology such as eddy current brakes being developed for Germany’s Inter City Express (ICE) high-speed train.

While the most frequent travelers are all too familiar with train and flight delays and cancellations, luggage not arriving and hotels denying all knowledge of a reservation despite written confirmation of the reservation, Mike witnessed incidents that one normally associates with a spy. novel.

One occurred in the former Czechoslovakia before the fall of the Iron Curtain. Mike was visiting the Prague metro and asked to see a rather unusual feature: a bridge that contained a fully enclosed section of the metro. A man in a long black coat was assigned to show Mike the bridge, but it quickly became apparent that he knew nothing about railroads. The pair got off a subway train at a station, but just as the train doors were about to close, the man in the black coat pulled Mike back onto the train as if trying to give someone the run away. The man then tried to put Mike in a compromising situation in order to trap him. Mike quickly realized what was happening and managed to get away from the man.

Mike was passionate about everything he did both to IRJ and in his private life. He was a keen rally-goer, started sailing in the crew of a Falmouth works boat, was a member of Falmouth’s Marine Band, notorious for his lack of musical ability, and was an enthusiastic walker. During his retirement, Mike continued to travel with Yan on walking vacations. Their last holiday was a two-week walking tour of Iceland which they embarked on in 2021.

Tragedy struck 15 years ago when Mike’s son Dominic died suddenly aged 37. Despite this terrible blow, Mike showed remarkable strength of character to get through this dark period of his life. Indeed, he remained cheerful and outgoing until the last days of his life despite being confined to his home due to his failing health.

Mike will be sadly missed by his wife Yan, his many friends and relatives, and his former colleagues from IRJ, Railroad Age, Track and Structures and our American publisher, Simmons-Boardman. We thank Mike for his contribution to the railroad industry and his friendship.

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