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OAKWOOD PRESS CELEBRATES 80 YEARS OF PUBLISHING

In 1931 school friends Michael Robbins and Roger Kidner who shared the same interest in transport produced the first type written issue of LOCOMOTION (often called the 4 O's) Editorial in the first edition states; This is an entirely new venture and is including articles of general interest as well as those concerning the Permanent Wayfarers, we hope that those prevented from joining the Society will support LOCOMOTION the only fee is 6d subscription quarterly.

Michael Robbins was Editor until June 1933 by September Roger Kidner had taken over and Michael is listed as President of Committee. Roger continued to type and duplicate the magazine in his garage until the Silver Jubilee Review in June 1935 when it was produced by a commercial printer.

Meanwhile it had been decided to expand into book publishing, at that time there had only been a handful of railway books published and the market was unknown. The first title chosen was the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway by the late L. T .Catchpole. This railway had closed in Autumn 1935 and the book was timely released by March 1936. Only 250 copies were printed as no great demand was expected, however a reprint was needed by May of the same year, and the book has been reprinted numerous times since. The next titles to emerge from Oakwood were The North London Railway by M.Robbins, TaffVale Railway by the late D.S.M.Barrie, and Hull and Barnsley Railway by the late Dr G D Parkes, plus the very informative eight parts of the Light Railway handbook by Roger Kidner. Then came the war.

Oakwood was on hold during World War II after both Kidner and Robbins "joined up", the former was a private in the Royal West Kents, later being commissioned in the Essex Regiment ending the war as a Major in the Royal Artillery with 21 Army Group.

Post-war paper rationing was strict and the allocation for the Oakwood Press extremely small, however a few new titles and reprints were released in 1946. It was decided not to restart the magazine, but to convert it to occasional small books of subjects not covered elsewhere, called 'Locomotion Papers' (LP's). The first was by the well known railway historian George Dow, The Alford and Sutton Tramway. The Oakwood Library of  Railway History series, known as (OL's) restarted again in early 1947 with the Maryport and Carlisle Railway by Jack Simmons. Several more were produced until Michael Robbins (on taking up a position with London Transport) was required to relinquish editorship of the series, which for the next 35 years was edited by Roger Kidner. By the time advancing age made a transfer to younger hands necessary, 65 'Oakwood Library' railway histories, 153 Locomotion Papers, and well over 100 other titles had been published. The latter included the series of large and detailed books on Welsh narrow gauge railways by J.I.C.Boyd, the first of which was published in 1949 and can be said to have begun the practice of publishing really deeply researched works into the history and equipment of the smaller railways and companies.

Roger carried on and by 1972 he had given up his 'day job' at Benn Bros working in public relations, to concentrate on Oakwood with his wife Beryl helping with administration.

In the 70's Oxford Publishing Company (OPC) had decided to open a transport bookshop in Oxford and it was at this time that Roger and Jane Kennedy became firm friends with Jane loving the branch line histories which Roger produced, so it was really no surprise in 1984 when Roger announced his retirement that Jane bought the company and carried on the A5 size and the now familiar 'number plate' style covers.

In the intervening 26 years the company has produced 397 titles and to celebrate the 80 years of publishing Oakwood are planning to produce a book listing every title plus reprints and new editions.

Because of the prolific output of new titles by Oakwood, people are often surprised by the size of the company, it remains very much a family concern. With six out of seven employees being family members. Both Roger and Jane have been extremely fortunate in that authors became friends and over the years remained loyal to the company, this also includes customers who buy every book published.

We thank you all!