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 Book Reviews

Reviews for December 2012
 
OAKWOOD PRESS, The First 80 Years 1931 - 2011 - A Collector's Guide
by Terence A. Mullarkey

120 pages.  210mm x 148mm.  Softback with coloured laminated card covers and colour and monocrome illustrations.      ISBN 978 0 85361 719 8            £ 9.95

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 published.
 

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 BRAINTREE BRANCH
by Peter Paye

352
pages.  210mm x 148mm.  Softback with coloured card covers, black & white illustrations.     
ISBN 978 0 85361 708 2            £ 19.95
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.

Brian Dotson
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 pages.       ISBN 978 0 85361 710 5            £ 12.95

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 W.A. Camwell. 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.

John Friel
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 images.                ISBN 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 an on-track machine appeared!  I should, of course, have paid more attention because, as with all aspects of railways, things change. 

It is a subject I now know much more about thanks to this engrossing account of working on the railway. For once, the author is not. footplate staff but a locomotive fitter and his reminiscences are very enlightening indeed.

This is a very readable 240 page A5 format card-backed book revealing many interesting aspects of life behind the scenes and well illustrated with a complementary section of b&w pictures of steam and diesel locomotives, on-track machines and infrastructure.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter Happy Days at Hitchin with some reflections on the Baby Deltics about which he says that: "Only one locomotive ran trouble-free, D5907... maybe it was better constructed than the rest of the class in the first place.

He 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 revealing. A very good read.                                                                                                                    (DB)

Railways Illustrated. July 2012 

 

Under 10 CME's - 2 Vols - by E A Langridge

Steam, Diesels and On-Track Machines - by John Meredith

 

Dear Jane

You invited me to review these volumes, which I have thoroughly enjoyed reading while recovering from my recent operation.

These 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.

Langridge 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!

His move 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 refers to.

Meredith 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 of its 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.

The only 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 possess.

Both 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 .

 

Kind regards

David Butcher

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
208pp, A5 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.

The book 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 Railway Observer (RCTS)
February 2012

 

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.
 

Fascinating 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)

The Railway Observer (RCTS)
February 2012

 

Three Reviews for May/June 2011
 

SWANAGE, 125 Years of Railways  by B. L. Jackson
288
pp. 210mm x 148mm. Softback with coloured card covers, black & white illustrations.
ISBN 978-0-85361-696-2.  £16.95.

The 125th 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 later.

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 and recommended. 

Bruce I Nathan

SLS Journal May/June 2011

 

THE SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE RAILWAY  Volume 1: Dudley-Walsall-Lichfield-Burton (including the Black Country Branches)  by Bob Yate
312pp. 210mm x 148mm. Softback with coloured card covers, black & white illustrations.
ISBN 978-0-85361-700-6.  £19.95.

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.

Two particular 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 volume two.

Mike G Fell

SLS Journal May/June 2011

 

THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO WELSH HERITAGE AND SCENIC RAILWAYS  
by Mervyn Jones
192pp. 210mm x 148mm. Softback with colour illustrations. ISBN 978-0-85361-702-0.  £16.95.

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 'Journal' p.82).

This travel guide is profusely illustrated with up to date colour photographs and should prove a very handy guide to anyone venturing into Wales.

Brian Dotson

SLS Journal May/June 2011

April 2011

Dad Had An Engine Shed   by  Anthony J Robinson
ISBN 978-0-85361-707-5      £12-95

This book is described as 'Some childhood railway reminiscences of a North Wales shedmaster's son '. And it is an absolute jewel!

Anthony 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.

 

'Dad' - 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.

The 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.

 

To 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. Thereís 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.

PED

Cyfnodolyn Rheilffordd   Ffestiniog Railway Magazine
Winter 2010/2011   No 211

Five New Reviews for March 2011
 

NORTHERN NORTHUMBERLAND'S MINOR RAILWAYS: Volume 1.  Brickworks, Foresty, Contractors, Military Railways and various other lines   by Roger Jermy
128 pages, A5 softback         ISBN 978 0 85361 703 7      £10.95

This is 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.

The book 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.

Francis Terry

The Railway Observer (RCTS)
February 2011

 

NEATH ENGINEMEN - Reminiscing Steam in South Wales complied by Bryan King
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 railway wives. 

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.

Brian Dotson

SLS Journal
March/April 2011 No.868, Volume 87

 

RAILS TO TURNBERRY AND THE HEADS OF AYR.  The Maidens & Dunure Light Railway and the Butlinís Branch   by David McConnell & Stuart Rankin
304 pages, A5 format, laminated card cover         ISBN 978 0 85361 699 3      £19.95

The 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.

Many post-war 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.

Edward Hamer

Permanent Way Institution - Journal and Report of Proceedings
February 2011 Volume 129 Part 1

 

HUNSLET 1215 - A War Veteran's Story   by I.G.Hughes
56 Pages, A5 format, laminated cover        ISBN 978 0 85361 709 9         £7.95

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.

 

The 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 childrenís 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.
 

An excellent book, with much interest and historical data packed into its modest width.

Edward Hamer

Permanent 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          £19.95

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.

 

Only 18 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.

 

Edward Hamer

Permanent Way Institution - Journal and Report of Proceedings
February 2011 Volume 129 Part 1

Five New Reviews for February 2009

CASTLEMAN'S CORKSCREW Volume 2 The Twentieth Century and Beyond  
by B L Jackson
320
pages   Softback    ISBN 978-0-85361-686 3.   £19.95.

The 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

books' sub-title -"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 interest.

Brian Knowlman

Courtesy National Railway Museum Review - No 126 Winter 2008/2009

 

HARROW & WEALDSTONE 50 YEARS ON   by Peter Tatlow
128
pages   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.

Philip Benham

Courtesy 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.

I 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.

Ian Harrison

Courtesy National Railway Museum Review - No 126 Winter 2008/2009

 

RAILS TO NEWQUAY - Railways, Tramways, Town, Transport  by John Vaughan
288pp. A5. Softback, coloured covers with black & white illustrations. ISBN 978-0-85361-677-1.  £16.95.

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 line.

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 8Ĺin 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 useful index.

The author has tackled his subject with enthusiasm to produce a detailed work at a modest price.

Bruce I Nathan

SLS Journal Jan/Feb 2009

 

TORTILLARDS OF ARTOIS - The Metre Gauge Railways and Tramways of the Western Pas-de-Calais  by Martin & Joan Farebrother
336pp. A5. Softback, coloured covers with black & white illustrations. ISBN 978-0-85361-679-5. £19.95.

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 long-winded reminiscences.

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.

R.A.S. Hennessey

SLS 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 interesting books.
 

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.
 

Nigel Smith