Reviews for December 2012
OAKWOOD PRESS, The
First 80 Years 1931 - 2011 - A Collector's Guide
by Terence A. Mullarkey
pages. 210mm x 148mm. Softback with coloured laminated card
covers and colour and monocrome illustrations.
0 85361 719 8
The number of SLS members who
have not heard of the Oakwood Press probably equates with the number who
have never heard of Birmingham or Glasgow. Oakwood has given
pleasure and enlightenment to generations of railway historians: here,
in an abundantly illustrated book of traditional Oakwood dimensions, the
history of the imprint is told briefly, by way of introducing a full
illustrated list of all Oakwood books, DVDs etc known to have been
Oakwood's roots go back to what is now a rare
collector's piece, the quarterly magazine 'Locomotion' - which faded
with the outbreak of war in 1939. Even by then its founders Roger
Kidner and Michael Robbins had set Oakwood on its course with railway
history books, starting with the Light Railway Handbooks, 'The Lynton &
Barnstaple Railway' and 'The North London Railway'. After World
War II Oakwood restarted and expanded mightily. R. W. Kidner sold
the business to Jane Kennedy in 1984 since when an already strong and
successful enterprise has enjoyed a Renaissance, branching into videos,
DVDs, new series, and reissuing earlier volumes in more detailed and
copiously illustrated forms.
Terence Mullarkey lists not only these old
familiars, but also Oakwood catalogues, bookmarks and the surprisingly
large non-railway items which include discographies, market research
textbooks and numerous road, canal and other transport titles.
Where possible, the author employs Oakwood's own alpha-numeric accession
series, but occasionally he has had recourse to his own, double-checking
with a cross-referenced master list. The outcome is a helpful and
accessible taxonomy, straightforward to use. Virtually every
Oakwood title is illustrated with photographs of covers, in the
time-hallowed style first adopted by R. W. Kidner with his famous
text-supporting thumbnail sketched.
A recent discussion about Oakwood held at one of
the Society's Midland meetings concluded that its chief attractions
included high production standards, authoritative accuracy and that most
elusive quality: being the right size. This might be said of its
compact books with their helpfully organised texts, the perfect half-way
mark between the austerity of Wikipedia and full-blown (and generally
expensive) line or theme histories. Oakwood has also been 'the
right size' in terms of service and customer relations, consequently
knowing and serving its market well.
Thanks to Oakwood and its authors British railway
history (and more besides) has been covered more systematically and
exclusively than has generally been the case elsewhere. The UK
railway scene, arguably the oldest and possibly the most varied in the
world, has been well served by historians in general - this book
describes and catalogues the output of one of the leading publishers in
the field and is in itself a valuable contributor to it.
R. A. S. Hennessey
The Journal of the Stephenson Locomotive Society (Nov/Dec 2012)
THE BISHOP'S STORTFORD, DUNMOW AND
by Peter Paye
pages. 210mm x 148mm. Softback with coloured card covers,
black & white illustrations.
0 85361 708 2
This is a much revised and
expanded second edition of this book, first published by Oxford
Publishing in 1981. This edition contains 142 pages more and the
author has considerably revised the text plus adding many more
illustrations. Peter Paye is well known for his books on East
Anglian branch lines and as always this book shows the fruits of
considerable research into this fascinating line.
The Bishop's Stortford, Dunmow and Braintree
branch was opened n 1869 running in an easterly direction for some 18
miles from a junction on the former Great Eastern line from London to
Cambridge, a short distance north of Bishop's Stortford to Braintree in
Essex. The line was single track and in this undulating rural
landscape the most important intermediate station was Dunmow where the
line was carried over the valley and the River Chelmer by a seven arch
viaduct. At Braintree, a westerly branch from Witham, on the
London to Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich main line, was met.
The construction and future running
of the line was fraught with difficulties from the beginning and this is
amply brought out in the very detailed writing of events in the early years
of the line. The reasons for the building of the line never seemed to make
good economic sense but were rather more political. The problems and
difficulties eventually led to the whole concern being taken over by the
Great Eastern Railway. The author writes extensively about the line
from its inception to its final closure in 1972. Other chapters
concentrate on the permanent way, signalling, staff, timetables, traffic,
locomotives and rolling stock used on the line.
To complete the story - passenger services were
withdrawn in 1951 with sections from from Braintree to Bishop's Stortford
being closed piecemeal until final closure twenty years later. Much of
the old track bed remains with some converted into the 'Fitch Way'.
The Braintree to Witham section has fared much better with overhead
electrification and the building of a new station to serve the local
Freeport shopping area.
The Oakwood Press is a byword for good quality
railway line histories and this book is no exception, joining a long and
distinguished list - highly recommended.
The Journal of the Stephenson Locomotive Society (Nov/Dec 2012)
Reviews for July 2012
IRELAND's NARROW GAUGE RAILWAYS - A Reference Handbook
by Joe Begley & Steve Flanders
Paperback, 21 x 15cm, 58 b&w photos, 160
0 85361 710 5
This book could be
subtitled: "Everything you want to know about the Irish Narrow Gauge",
e.g. from 1920 to 1923, there were 562 miles of Irish narrow gauge
railway. A chapter is devoted to the history of each of the 18 narrow
gauge companies, along with tables of dimensions of the locomotives and
rolling stock. Each chapter concludes with a chronology and a table of
distances showing route mileage. The book is illustrated with
photographs from the collections of Richard Casserley, R.W. Kidner, John
Langford, R.W. Rush and
The appendices include the narrow gauge mileage from 1875 to 1961, where
to find rolling stock diagrams (useful for modellers), and a
comprehensive bibliography which includes books and magazines. To say
that this book is packed with information would be an understatement.
The authors intend to donate their royalties to the restoration of
County Donegal Railways class 5 locomotive "Drumboe" (currently at
Whitehead) to full steaming condition.
Railway Preservation Society Ireland (R.P.S.I)
STEAM, DIESELS AND ON-TRACK MACHINES - From Colwick to Derby via the East Coast Main Line
by John Meredith
A5 format, 240 pages, 196
978 0 85361
718 1 £ 15.95
In my spotting days I was always disappointed if the signal came off
but instead of yet another locomotive-hauled train
should, of course, have paid
because, as with
aspects of railways, things change.
a subject I now know
about thanks to this
engrossing account of
working on the
once, the author is not.
footplate staff but a locomotive fitter and his reminiscences are very
This is a very readable
240 page A5
card-backed book revealing
aspects of life behind the scenes
illustrated with a
section of b&w pictures
of steam and diesel locomotives, on-track
machines and infrastructure.
I particularly enjoyed the
Days at Hitchin
reflections on the Baby
which he says that:
locomotive ran trouble-free, D5907... maybe it was better constructed than
the rest of the class in the first place.
was to be reunited with one of
the class, D5901,
on his return to work at Derby
in the 1970s
when it was being used by the
Derby Research Centre. The
detail on the Cromford &
High Peak line is equally
A very good
Railways Illustrated. July 2012
CME's - 2 Vols - by E A Langridge
Diesels and On-Track Machines - by John Meredith
invited me to review these volumes, which I have thoroughly enjoyed
reading while recovering from my recent operation.
volumes fill a gap in the lesser known and written about aspects of what
goes on behind the scenes to run a railway system. Most people are well
versed in the 'front of
house' aspects - locomotives, trains, operations, and line histories,
further helped with an increasing availability of accounts describing the
people responsible in many cases - the loco engineers and their civil
counterparts. Far fewer will be aware of what goes on 'behind the scenes'
to ensure a railway can function on a daily basis.
offers a rare insight into how the steam locomotive was actually designed
and of the many, mainly smaller, problems still being investigated and
resolved right up to the final rapid demise of them: to learn of the
extent of rectification needed to the BR standard engines was surprising.
His descriptions of his earlier years at Eastleigh under first Drummond
and then Urie recalled how far advanced had the skill of engine design
techniques progressed by this era with longer travel valve design and
outside valve gears being developed with mainly two outside cylinder
designs which anticipated the later BR products over 30 years later!
to Derby in the final days of the Midland Railway under Fowler highlights
the established stereo-type design procedures with short travel valve
gears still considered 'de-rigour' there, when elsewhere particularly on
the Great Western, Swindon had long since discarded such features. His
recall of the semi-paralysis of motive
power design during the first decade of the newly created LMS was painful
to appreciate. The general malaise that existed is well known and recorded
but to read of the actual reality of how it almost crippled their forward
motive power policy revealed much that has not been previously known
outside the writings not readily accessible to the average student of
railway history - usually in specialist papers presented in a private
meeting to members only of the various professional institutions.
Langridge's description of the early diesel activities makes for salutary
reading. To learn of the almost ruthless determination to side-line the
early main line diesel locos in favour of a new generation of steam
beggars belief. Why the opportunity they offered to progress their
positive development in a measured and controlled manner was so wantonly
thrown aside is difficult, even now, to accept with the result that much
valuable time was lost before the headlong rush finally occurred into too
many different designs often hastily conceived to meet delivery and
political deadlines. The failure to preserve the original LMS 10000
is a tragic loss to the national railway story that Langridge very rightly
covers a very interesting spectrum of very vital activities that are an
inherent part of any larger industrial enterprise, be it railways or
whatever, in addition to the more specialised aspects peculiar to a
railway environment, such as the maintenance or the track relaying
machinery. His descriptions of how the Outdoor Machinery Dept.
operated will come as a surprise to many to realise the breadth and scope
responsibilities - who would readily think of remote pumphouses out on the
moors high in
the Peak District being a vital part of the need for an efficient railway
system, or of the hydraulic power systems that enabled most larger goods
depots to function, to name just two of the varied tasks he describes so
clearly? Meredith likewise describes
the large hydraulic system that formerly operated at the Nine Elms depot.
reservations in respect of the publications is in the depth of detail into
which, particularly in the Langridge volumes, the two authors go to
describe their activities. In this one respect, Meredith is the easier to
read and follow by the average student. To fully understand Langridge
requires a prior basic knowledge of the steam
locomotive, which some non-professional students of the subject may not
authors write very clearly and well in recalling their respective lives on
the railway and all three volumes offer an excellent contribution towards
the wider understanding of how our national railway system functions and
will be a useful addition to the library bookshelf .
Author of From
Steam to Stone - Vols 1 and 2
Two Reviews for February/March 2012
THE SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE
RAILWAY VOLUME TWO: Walsall to Rugeley including the Cannock
Chase Colliery Lines by Bob Yate
softback, 179 b&w photographs, timetables. maps and diagrams
ISBN 978 0 85361 717 4 £15.95
Whereas the previous volume covered the
lines from Dudley to Walsall and Lichfield, this book takes us from
Walsall to Cannock and on to Rugeley, together with ample coverage of the
various colliery lines in the Cannock area.
The first five
chapters cover the full history, together with some unsuccessful
proposals. The links with the LNWR are well featured. The author gives a
very good description of the line, and locomotive workings both past and
present. A very full appendix gives details of the extremely varied
industrial locomotives which once worked in the area.
is well illustrated with past and present views, mostly previously
unpublished, including shots of unmodified Fowler 2-6-2Ts in action. It
would have been nice to see a few more ex-LNWR types, perhaps a 4-4-2T and
one or two of the old 17in. 0-6-0 "Coal engines" a number of which still
worked locally up to about 1948.
However, we do see the
Midland 2Fs which replaced them. The coverage of the industrial
locomotives is second to none, as we are treated to shots of the old Beyer
Peacock 0-4-2STs as well as the distinctive products of the Lilleshall
ironworks, built in the 1850-1=70 era and working into post-war years in
many cases. Later and more familiar types are also featured. An excellent
book, well recommended. (JLC)
THE HELSTON BRANCH by Stanley C Jenkins
168 pages, A5
softback 125 b&w photographs, maps and diagrams
ISBN 978 0 85361 711 2 £12.95
This study of the Helston branch line has
now been published as a volume in its own right, with a much enhanced and
comprehensive text. The newly researched material is impressive in its
depth and scope featuring every aspect of the line inception, building,
running, preservation and even a scale model.
details include the GWR's use of delivery vans from the stations to the
many small towns and villages on the Lizard, which together with use of
omnibuses shows that the GWR were forward thinking in many ways and
perhaps this should have been built on more sensibly. The proposed
extension down the Lizard is also mentioned in some depth. In view of the
current resurgence of west country branches, it is indeed a shame that it
closed in the 1960s. Let us wish the preservation group every success in
their endeavours to bring the rails back.
Some of the
proposed lines for the area would have produced some interesting routes:
Helston to Penryn for instance, one of many schemes mentioned for this
area of Cornwall. Mining, the war time military bases in the area and the
fresh vegetable trade bring the story of the branch to life, as only
Oakwood know how. This volume is well produced on art paper with copious
photographs, line drawings, and timetables.
I recommend this book to members. (SCW)
Three Reviews for
SWANAGE, 125 Years of Railways
by B. L. Jackson
210mm x 148mm. Softback with coloured card covers, black & white
anniversary of the opening of the branch line from
Wareham to Swanage provides Mr Jackson the
opportunity to produce another detailed study of one of Dorset's railways.
In fact, the story goes back further than the opening of the railway
in 1885 as after an introduction to the Isle of Purbeck, the second chapter
describes the clay tramways of Messrs Fayle and Pike dating back to 1804.
The following chapters cover Swanage Pier, the arrival of paddle steamers to
the town in the 1860s and early schemes for a railway.
We eventually come to an
acceptable scheme and construction of the line. The book then follows the
customary pattern of Oakwood's 'Library of Railway History' with chapters
detailing the events of the line in successive periods, a description of the
route, train operation, motive power, rolling stock and signalling. As well
as the railway, reference is made to competing forms of transport such as
buses and steamers.
Being a holiday
resort, passenger traffic to Swanage was at its peak in the summer months
before and after the Second World War. There were several through trains to
and from Waterloo on
Saturdays and through coaches every weekday off the 'Royal Wessex'
train. However, in view of the number of military establishments in the
area, the line was of great importance in the war, as it was in WWI, for
military traffic both passenger and freight. An illustration shows a
rail-mounted gun on a special siding put in off the branch.
With the increase
in car ownership and in foreign holidays, passenger traffic declined in the
1960s and although not included in the Beeching Report, British Railways
decided to close the line. Against much local opposition, services ceased
from 3 January 1972, apart from the short stub to Furzebrook used for clay
and oil traffic until 2005. The remainder of the route was lifted but
meanwhile a society was formed to preserve the line and its success is
described in the final chapter, gradually extending from the restored
station area at Swanage to Corfe
Castle and the Park and Ride station at Norden. The connection with the
National network has now been restored and a number of charter trains have
visited the railway, with plans under consideration for a restored regular
service to connect with main line trains at Wareham.
This book reminded me
that I was in Swanage at Easter both in 1971 and 1972 and had to return to
London on the evening of Easter Monday. On the first occasion it was no
problem taking the demu then working the branch to connect with the London
train at Wareham but in the following year I had to be taken by car to
Wareham and even though plenty of time was allowed, such was the traffic on
the road that I missed my connection and had to take a slower train one hour
This interesting book
provides a comprehensive history of the line and is well illustrated with
photos of trains, stations and much else throughout the 125 years as well as
maps and track diagrams and a
comprehensive index. Very good value
Bruce I Nathan
1: Dudley-Walsall-Lichfield-Burton (including the Black Country
Branches) by Bob Yate
210mm x 148mm. Softback with coloured card covers, black & white illustrations.
This is an in-depth work
benefiting from exhaustive primary research and consequently - giving great
value for the cover price of £19.95. It describes the origins of the South
Staffordshire Railway Company (SSR), its subsequent history and the fate of
the railway after the company ceased to exist as a separate entity. This
volume covers the line from Dudley, through Walsall and Lichfield to Wichnor
Junction on the former Midland Railway, including the Black Country
branches. A second volume will examine the line from Walsall through Cannock
to Rugeley, together with the numerous mineral lines that served the
Cannock Chase coalfield.
The author has taken the trouble to cover all the industrial concerns
connected to the SSR and its successors which is a great bonus and gives
added flavour in setting the scene.
There are eleven
chapters with five very useful appendices and the book is copiously
illustrated with photographs, maps, plans and gradient profiles. Moreover,
it describes the people who were concerned with promoting, building and
managing the SSR - an essential aspect of railway history that is often
overlooked or given scant attention. This is an absolute must for railway
enthusiasts living in the West Midlands and for residents living in the area
who are interested in industrial history. For others it is a shining example
of how to write railway history and will make a welcome addition to any
railway enthusiast's library.
highlights for me were a reminder that the 'Pines Express' was once routed
via Walsall and the revelation that pigs transported to Palethorpes' sausage
factory near Sedgeley Junction were classed as 'cattle'. I run a Palethorpes'
train on my model railway and it has now taken on a whole new perspective.
Hitherto I have only concentrated on the finished product! I eagerly await
Mike G Fell
ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO WELSH HERITAGE AND
by Mervyn Jones
210mm x 148mm. Softback with colour illustrations. ISBN
A compact guide to
anything and everything to do with Wales and its railways. Besides a
description of each railway and railway line in the Principality there are
useful chapters on the geography, a brief history of Wales and of the
railways of Wales.
Besides full details GPS
and map references plus contact details are given. In fact everything that
the traveller would want to know and are likely to experience when they
reach their destination. Besides details for Wales the book covers the
'Borders' with mention of the Perrygrove Railway which members of the
Midland Area enjoyed on a visit in September 2009 (March/ApriI 2010
travel guide is profusely illustrated with up to date colour photographs and
should prove a very handy guide to anyone venturing into Wales.
Dad Had An Engine Shed
Anthony J Robinson
ISBN 978-0-85361-707-5 £12-95
book is described as 'Some childhood railway
reminiscences of a North Wales shedmaster's son
it is an absolute jewel!
Robinson's father, John Robinson, was born in 1902. He was the son of the
Assistant Chief Electrical Engineer, (also John Robinson!) of the London
and North Western Railway. John Robinson Senior's father, Ben Robinson,
was an LNWR driver in a career of some 52 years. Thus we have a book that
covers three generations and a period of railway history stretching from
the late 19th Century to the 1960s.
the John Robinson who is the subject of the book - began as an apprentice
at Willesden, before being moved, in 1925, to Llandudno Junction shed as a
fitter. After WW2, and following short periods in the sheds at Rhyl and
Sowerby Bridge, he went to Mold Junction as Shed Foreman.
reminiscences cover all these events, and there are also chapters dealing
with Wartime, Accidents, Friends and Colleagues, and - perhaps the
reviewers favourite - Holidays and High Days, a glorious series of
descriptions of journeys with his father, travelling the length and
breadth of the country.
anybody who was brought up in North Wales, or remembers the area's
railways before the 1960s, this book will be most evocative. All of
this is enhanced by the illustrations. There’s a wonderful photograph of
the author's proud great-grandfather, Ben, on page 7, but how sad to see
photographs of Llandudno Junction 's shed and environs in their prime, and
to compare them with the area as it is today! The text is eminently
readable, the photographs are well chosen and beautifully reproduced.
Overall, this is a fine publication. Highly recommended.
Rheilffordd Ffestiniog Railway Magazine
Winter 2010/2011 No 211
Five New Reviews for March
NORTHUMBERLAND'S MINOR RAILWAYS: Volume 1. Brickworks, Foresty,
Contractors, Military Railways and various other lines by
128 pages, A5
ISBN 978 0 85361 703 7 £10.95
the first of a planned series of four titles covering the history
of all industrial, military and preserved lines in the area lying within
the districts of Alnwick and Berwick-upon-Tweed. It excludes anything
owned or operated by former 'main line' companies or BR. This first
volume, dealing with brickworks, forestry, contractors, military and
miscellaneous other lines, shows how widespread were the many short or
temporary systems in this relatively remote part of the country. There is
even a section on the mysterious tunnel near Berwick, alleged to have been
part of a seaweed railway, though there is no conclusive evidence of how
or when it operated.
is scholarly, well researched and exhaustive in its coverage. The
illustrations, particularly those depicting Canadian forestry teams who
came to Northumberland in World War I, are evocative of an era long past
when the transport of heavy loads almost automatically implied the need
for a railway.
There is also some helpful
advice for those seeking to trace the lines today, including a warning to
beware of unexploded ordnance near the lines used for artillery and
missile training! If railway archaeology appeals to you, this is
undoubtedly a series to collect.
NEATH ENGINEMEN - Reminiscing Steam in South Wales complied by
192 pages, A5
softback with coloured cover
ISBN 978 0 85361 691 7 £13.95
Neath was like
other South Wales towns, it was the centre of a web of railways connecting
collieries and mineral traffic to the ports. As the number and quantity of
collieries grew so did the necessity for even more railway lines to
transport their valuable cargo to the ports for transhipment.
This book is the result of many years of research by Bryan King. It is a
compilation from a few of the many who were associated with the Neath area
and especially its shed at Court Sart. It ranges from the 'faggot boys'
who made firelighters, lamp men, drivers, firemen, to the often forgotten
The book gives a
concise history of the development of railways in the Neath area but the
vast majority of the book is devoted to its secondary title, 'Reminiscing
Steam in South Wales'. This is about the lives of a railway family, a
community whose whole existence was dependent upon working on the railway.
It records the day-to-day business of working steam locomotives and the
less glamorous side of railway operations with emphasis on goods trains
and such mundane tasks as transferring empty coal wagons between yards.
There are maps, track
diagrams, timetables and many photographs including some early ones. The
quality may be lacking but this is not a standard history book but a
record of railway life in South Wales. The stories are interesting,
amusing, hair raising but a valuable record of a way life now gone.
Whether you know
anything about South Wales and its railways this is a book which deserves
to be on every railway enthusiast's shelves - highly recommended.
March/April 2011 No.868, Volume 87
RAILS TO TURNBERRY AND
THE HEADS OF AYR. The Maidens & Dunure Light Railway and the
Butlin’s Branch by David
McConnell & Stuart Rankin
304 pages, A5
format, laminated card cover
ISBN 978 0 85361 699 3 £19.95
authors of this extremely detailed and well-organised volume have produced
what will surely stand for a long time as the definitive work on the
railway from Girvan to Ayr, finally completed in the 1870s, and the
subsequent coastal route which also connected the two centres, via
Glenside and Heads of Ayr, opened in 1906. There is much well-researched
detail about the politics, planning and construction of the lines,
supplemented by photographs, drawings and maps. Sources are carefully
cited, as one would expect.
travelers will remember Heads of Ayr as the railhead for Butlin's Holiday
Camp, and others will recall the wonderfully photogenic scenery of the
coastal line. The book includes much interesting detail about the postwar
rise and decline of Butlin's camp at Ayr, including the proposal to reopen
part of the branch specifically to serve the camp. The authors have also
included a description of the procurement of the two steam locomotives
which were for a while on static display at Ayr.
Alloway is of course
in the heart of Robert Burns territory, and there are many appropriate
references to Robert Burns in this book. Alloway station was the scene of
a footbridge collapse in 1948, with one fatality, and the event and
subsequent enquiry are described. Included in the traffic detail are the
potato trains, and various PWI readers will be delighted to know there is
a sizeable golfing content!
All told, this
excellent volume is not only a comprehensive history of the railway system
itself but it also embraces a number of interesting sidelines, anecdotal
and factual; which collectively make this work not only a valuable
resource, but extremely readable.
Institution - Journal and Report of Proceedings
February 2011 Volume 129 Part 1
HUNSLET 1215 - A War Veteran's Story
56 Pages, A5 format, laminated cover
ISBN 978 0 85361 709 9
During World War I the British War Office placed orders for large
quantities of railway equipment for use in the Allied offensive in Belgium
and France. In 1916-17 there was an intensive programme of expansion and
construction of 600mm gauge military lines, some temporary, others less
so. Rail section was mostly 20lb/yd, and interestingly - although this
book does not mention it - some of this material was subsequently
purchased and used on the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway.
Included in the materials ordered was a quantity of locomotives, some
diesel and some steam, and amongst the latter was Hunslet 4-6-0 tank
locomotive No 1215, the prime focus of this fascinating book. The
locomotive still exists and is presently the subject of a restoration
appeal, but many readers will find the main interest of its history in the
account of the extent and operation of the 600mm wartime railways.
There is much well-researched military history recorded here, including an
appropriate map and photographs, and consequently this work will prove a
valuable source for a student of World War I and its railways.
rest of the book describes the subsequent career of No 1215. After the war
she was re-gauged to 2ft 0in (610mm) by having her tyres pressed outwards
and sold to Bingera Sugar Mill in Queensland, Australia, and in due course
on to lnvicta Mill, Townsville. In 1964 she was withdrawn after forty
years of work in Australia and plinthed in a children’s playground at
Townsvil!e. In due course she was purchased and by 2005 was back in UK as
the property of the War Office Locomotive Society and as yet
remains a static exhibit.
excellent book, with much interest and historical data packed into its
Way Institution - Journal and Report of Proceedings
February 2011 Volume 129 Part 1
THE BISHOP'S STORTFORD, DUNMOW AND BRAINTREE BRANCH
by Peter Paye
352 pages, A5 format, laminated card cover ISBN
978 0 85361 708 2
Peter Paye is already greatly respected as a researcher and writer of
railway history, specifically that of East Anglia, and this latest
offering serves to enhance his reputation even more, being an updated
revision of an original work he published in 1981.
miles in length, the branch line analysed in this book was opened in 1869.
As with many a branch line, freight and passenger traffic were reasonable
until the upsurge of road transport; withdrawal of passenger trains in
1952, and complete closure in 1971 were thus inevitable events.
As with his studies of other East Anglian lines, the author has
painstakingly assembled a vast storehouse of information, well organised
into appropriate sections.
There is a
useful chapter on permanent way and signalling, and further engineering
aspects occur in the description of the construction as well as the
occasional accident in the early days. Single line apart from passing
loops at Bishop's Stortford, Dunmow and Braintree, the line was something
of a switchback, up hill and down dale with gradients as steep as 1 in 61.
Illustrations pertinent to the text abound, ranging from station layout
diagrams, maps, timetables to a wide selection of photographs - nearly 300
illustrations in all.
Although the line has been closed for forty years the trackbed has since
been reopened by Essex County Council as 'The Flitch Way' with wardens
based at the sites of Takeley and Rayne stations. Should any PWI member
elect to venture along this walking route, where once steamed a wide range
of Great Eastern and later locomotives, they would be strongly advised to
take this excellent reference book along with them. It is an invaluable
piece of work and well worth the money.
Way Institution - Journal and Report of Proceedings
February 2011 Volume 129 Part 1
Five New Reviews for February
CASTLEMAN'S CORKSCREW Volume 2
The Twentieth Century and Beyond
by B L Jackson
320pages Softback ISBN
978-0-85361-686 3. £19.95.
first volume of this book, reviewed in issue No 123 of this journal, ran to
272 I. pages, so the total pages devoted to the subject now number nearly
six hundred - more than ample, you might think, for a railway which served
mainly rural outposts such as West Moors, Wimbome, Wareham and Wool.
However, read the
-"Including the railways of Bournemouth and Associated Lines" and you have
the explanation. When Charles Castleman, a local solicitor, dreamed up his
Southampton and Dorchester Railway in. the mid-1840s, no one much had heard
of Bournemouth, but it was that resort's rapid growth in the latter half of
the 19th century which dictated the later expansion of all railways in the
area, and ultimately overshadowed Castleman's original vision.
Having described the
line's origins in Volume One, Jackson brings us up to date with descriptions
of nationalisation, electrification and more - in impressive detail. To
emphasise the historical context of his subject, he even goes to Wool
station on 1 June 2007, to photograph a class 444 'Desiro' electric leaving
for Waterloo exactly 160 years after the opening of the original line. .
Chapters are devoted, inter alia, to World War II and its aftermath,
electrification (first to Bournemouth, later Weymouth), the evolution of
signalling, and the line's architecture and infrastructure. There's even
some information (and rare pictures) about the short-lived Bovington Camp
line, opened in 1919, just too late to be involved in the First World War,
closed nine years later and tom up in 1936.
Oakwood Press, in whose
series The Oakwood Library of Railway History this new book is No l44B, has
certainly provided plenty of reading matter for devotees of the railways of
south Dorset. The first edition of Roger Kidner's The Railways of
Purbeck,which appeared in 1973; was a modest book of 48 pages, but the
third edition (2000) has 96. Then there's Colin Stone's Rails to Poole
Harbour, which between its first (1999) and second (2007) editions
expanded from 144 to 208 pages. Slightly further a field, there's an Oakwood
book on the Bridport Railway, and a trio of volumes about the Railways of
Portland, in all of which B L Jackson is involved as author. Now I
understand that Jackson is turning his attention to the Swanage Railway, a
pretty and now preserved branch line which has already spawned a number of
histories. As a one time resident of Wareham, I await its publication with
National Railway Museum Review - No 126 Winter 2008/2009
HARROW & WEALDSTONE 50
by Peter Tatlow
128pages Softback ISBN
978-0-85361-680 1. £9.95.
As a young
lad in the late 1950s I used to visit my grandparents' home near North
Harrow. A short walk brought me to a footbridge over the West Coast Main
Line just north of Headstone Lane station. Here I did my train-spotting
becoming acquainted for the first time with Duchess Pacifics and what were
other strange delights for a boy living in Derbyshire. To the south the Up
Fast and Up Slow line distant signals gave a useful warning of approaching
trains usually a minute or so before they appeared through the road bridge
at Hatch End over half a mile to the north. Only many years later did I come
to realise that one of these signals was pivotal in the story of the Harrow
& Wealdstone train crash, as it was this signal that Driver Jones on the
late-running Up Perth sleeper tragically failed to heed.
This is an updated
version of a book first published in 2002 (Review No 102) containing
additional information supplied to the author, and a slightly amended
portfolio of photographs. There is little more that needs adding to the
earlier review. Interest in major railway accidents remains high both
because of the drama of the events themselves, and the impact they have on
railway safety procedures. The accident at Harrow was, and thankfully
remains, the worst peace time railway disaster in terms of casualties. And
yet, at a time when death and tragedy during the then recent Second World
War had become all too commonplace, the public and media reaction seems
remarkably muted by today's standards - but then this was many years before
the 24 hour rolling news phenomenon we have to endure today. Thus trains
were running past the accident site within a few hours even though the
recovery work was still taking place, in sharp contrast with the practice
today where any significant incident leads to line closure for days
if not weeks.
If anything, the book's
matter of fact style adds extra poignancy to the individual tragedies
created by the accident, many to railway families, since a large number of
the casualties in the local train where staff from the railway headquarters
offices at Euston. Several of these stories are related in the book, but one
is struck by the determined and committed manner which all those involved
got on with the job of recovery without fuss and without drama. We get some
small insight into how some of those caught up in this work were affected,
for the rest one can only imagine.
This is a remarkable
account that can be recommended without hesitation. Indeed my only critical
comment is actually a positive. The sub-title 'Clearing up the Aftermath' in
my view undersells the book, since it is much more than this including as it
does an account of the circumstances leading up to the accident itself.
The ramifications of
Harrow & Wealdstone were considerable. This is a valuable record and
analysis for those interested in such matters.
National Railway Museum Review - No 126 Winter 2008/2009
OVER THE ALPS on the Watercress Line
by John Richardson
144pages Softback ISBN
978-0-85361-683 2. £11.95.
imagine we've all read books by former footplatemen about what life was like
on the steam railway. This book is similar but different: John Richardson is
a man of the current generation who decided I that he wanted to drive a
steam engine; the book is his story.
As a marine engineer,
Richardson had a good basis to start his life as a volunteer on the
Mid-Hants Railway, but he rapidly disabuses us of the notion that merely
knowing about engineering is of much help when faced with the elemental
tasks of ensuring that a steam locomotive can perform the duties expected of
it - and its crew. His account of progress through the Mid-Hants 'links' is
engaging and immediate. His writing has the skill to present the reader with
the feeling that you are there on the footplate alongside him.
A major plus is that as
he progresses through the tests and tasks that are required of footplate
crews, he takes the trouble to explain the 'whys and wherefores' of train
equipment such as the historical background to the development of the
continuous vacuum brake (principally the Armagh disaster) and the fact that
human carelessness can defeat the absolute block system - witness the
Abermule accident. This is done in a cogent style that the non- technical
can easily understand.
Of course, there is the
personal background to learning how to fire and drive steam locomotives on a
very testing railway - for men and machines. There are virtually no flat
stretches on the Mid-Hants, so it's either hoping that there is enough steam
to get up the hill (without slipping or blowing off) or avoiding braking too
hard and stopping short. All this is told against the background of the very
mixed diet of locomotives based on, or visiting, the railway and on which
Richardson gives some personal views of their strengths and weaknesses. .
For most of us, the
chance to fire or drive a steam locomotive comes only by parting with a
considerable sum of money on an 'experience' day. But this book gives a
first rate and very readable introduction to the life of the modem steam
footplateman on one of our preserved railways. Highly recommended.
National Railway Museum Review - No 126 Winter 2008/2009
RAILS TO NEWQUAY - Railways, Tramways, Town,
by John Vaughan
A5. Softback, coloured covers with black & white illustrations. ISBN
The town of Newquay grew
from a very small village at the turn of the 19th century to a popular
holiday resort today, famous for its surfing. (As this reviewer's article
'Atlantic Cost Express - 2008' in this 'Journal', pages
24-26 has pointed out). It is still served by rail, even if this is
only a limited service on the 20-mile branch from Par on the Cornwall main
John Vaughan's book
however, goes further than a history of this single branch. It begins with a
history of the town of Newquay and its harbour, the local industries, all of
which have now declined with the exception of tourism and a general survey
of transport links to the town - sea, road, air and rail. Only then on page
63 do we start with the railway history and the horse-drawn tramways built
by the land and mining entrepreneur, Joseph Thomas Treffry to transport
minerals to the harbours at Newquay and Par.
These tramways later
formed part of the Cornwall Minerals Railway, a standard 4ft 8½in gauge
line, which extended across the county from Fowey in the south to Newquay in
the north. The line opened for goods in 1874 and passengers in 1876,
initially worked by steam locomotives ordered from Sharp Stewart. The
extension to the harbour at Newquay was on a gradient of 1 in 4 through
tunnel with limited headroom and this was worked by horses. until traffic
dwindled to nothing and It was formally closed in 1926. Loss of revenue and
a fall in mineral traffic caused the GWR to work the line from 1877. Through
traffic from the rest of the system was not possible until the final
conversion of the broad gauge in 1892. The entire CMR system was eventually
purchased by the GWR in 1896 and a chapter covers the improvements carried
out under their ownership including the development of holiday traffic. The
following chapter continues the story of the line under British Railways and
Privatisation up to the present day.
We are still only half
way through the book and the subsequent chapters detail the history and
development of each section of the lines to Newquay which, as well as the
existing line from Par, include the line from Fowey to St Blazey (now a road
exclusively for china clay lorries), Par Harbour, various mineral branches,
and the line from Chacewater via Perranporth opened by the GWR between 1903
and 1905. The text is supplemented by many photographs ranging from early
views of Newquay including what is supposedly a passenger train taken on 29
June 1876 to present day scenes. There are maps, a gradient profile and a
The author has tackled
his subject with enthusiasm to produce a detailed work at a modest price.
Bruce I Nathan
ARTOIS - The Metre Gauge Railways and Tramways of the Western
Pas-de-Calais by Martin & Joan Farebrother
A5. Softback, coloured covers with black & white illustrations. ISBN
A tortillard is
French argot for a narrow gauge railway, probably from tortiller,
to twist. This is one of the many revelations in this excellent book which
could stand as a model of how to do it. For example, it has clear maps at
the start of each section; it helps the reader with glossaries, conversion
tables and a detailed index. Like all sound histories, it knows how to
relate primary and secondary sources, and it sets its narrative in context
- not too heavily, but enough to assist the reader in getting the hang of
a railway culture, history and geography, and even jargon, very different
from that of, say, Kent - only some 21 miles away.
Although the authors
state that writing this chronicle was 'fun', be not deceived, for it is
the fruit of long and deep research. It is in a different and far
superior league to those dread albums of steam three-quarter shots, or
The subject matter is
the network of local metre-gauge lines (with a few 60cm exceptions), at
various times steam, electric or diesel powered, that filled gaps left by
the Nord system in the Calais-Boulogne area and its hinterland. Some were
fully-fledged railways with their own rights of way, others a species of
interurban tramway. Their corporate histories, routes, motive power and
rolling stock are covered thoroughly.
The area in question
suffered two massive historical discontinuities, WWI and WW2, and these,
in their way, disrupt the narrative. The Great War found the British
constructing a system of their own, well described by the authors. But,
breaking the narrative at 1914 and 1939 has prevented them from carrying
the story of each line through from start to finish, unbroken.
In practice, the
logical organisation of the book and the thorough index guide a reader
through this unavoidable labyrinth. An abundance of illustrations .serves
the text, as do numerous, painstaking tables. Locomotivologists will have
a fine time studying motive power that included products of SACM, Corpet,
SLM Winterthur (two unusual 2-10-0Ts and Renault.
Anyone wishing to see
what remains of these yanished systems is supplied with a useful and
up-to-date guide. Tortillards is remarkably good value, a tribute
to painstaking and animated scholarship.
Journal Jan/Feb 2009
- - - o o
o O O O o o o - - -
I want to let you know how
impressed l am with this book.
I take an interest in all
things historical (having been a history teacher and author) but I am not
a particular transport enthusiast. I bought the book - having come across
it by chance on the web. The book is far better than I had expected and I
found it quite exciting! Plus the fact that this is in English as my
French is rubbish and therefore I miss out on all kinds of other
I am most impressed with the
research and scholarship and the amazing amount of detail that has
resulted. Research is enormous fun but can be very time-consuming.
These railways obviously played an important part in everyday life and
this book really brings them back to life. The inclusion of timetables and
photos past and present are really fascinating. Obviously a great deal of
work and passion has gone into this book. I'm sure the authors enjoyed
writing it but at the same time it must have been quite daunting. I don't
know how many words there are but there are a lot!
Inclusion of the walks and the
photographs are great. I have so far only managed limited exploration at
Rang de Fliers but we did go and seek out the abri at Renty and the old
station at Merlimont that we had otherwise not recognised. We certainly
plan to look more closely around Montreul.
Well done. Fantastic job. I
will certainly show it to other Brits that I know have an interest in the
Pas de Calais.