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  • Type 4 Locomotives of British Rail by Andrew Walker

    Type 4 Pioneer at Sheffield. The first of what might be called BR's 'production' Type 4s, the 2,000 hp English Electric Class 40, entered traffic in 1958. (Type 4 Locomotives of British Rail, Amberley Publishing)

    Discovering the ‘Type 4s’

    There was a time when, as a novice train spotter in the mid-70s, I was not quite able to distinguish between the various types of diesel locomotive found on the BR network. My brother John had recently purchased an Ian Allan ‘Locoshed’ book, the 1976 edition, and we had pored over the lists of numbers, wondering when we might see examples of each particular class of engine. We soon realised that certain classes of locomotive were, at that time, allocated to depots on a regional basis. So for example, to see a Class 26 or 27 one had to go north, to Haymarket or Eastfield, whereas to see a Class 33 one had to go south, to Hither Green or Stewarts Lane. This accounted for the fact that these locomotives never put in an appearance on our regular visits to Leeds, Sheffield or York, our regular spotting haunts then. Early on though, we began to see plenty of Type 4s. We did not know they were Type 4s at that time, as the objective was simply to discover if we’d seen something new and to tick it off in the book. I well recall the time on one of the very first visits to Leeds, when looking at a Class 40 in profile, that I suddenly realised it had an ‘extra’ pair of wheels compared with the similar-looking Class 37s. It may have been on the same day that I saw a Class 45 for the first time and noted that it had the same wheel arrangement as the Class 40, but although superficially similar in appearance, with the three cab windows and the protruding nose, there were some differences – the large body side grilles, a slightly flatter and shallower bonnet.

    No more freight duties for these Type 4s. In the industrial surroundings of the works at Crewe, numerous Class 40s await their final visit to the scrapyard. In this early 1984 view Nos 40115 and 40088 stand in the sidings while in the background are Nos 40065 and 40023. (Type 4 Locomotives of British Rail, Amberley Publishing)

    If you are interested in something, it doesn’t take long to become knowledgeable about the subject. Those early experiences of trying to figure out what made a ‘45’ different from a ‘46’, and realising that a ‘40’ had more wheels than a ‘37’ seemed to last mere days – and perhaps they did. The nature of the discovery evolved into a more focused process – more like a quest I suppose. Finding out that a Stratford-based Class 47 might appear on a passenger turn at Sheffield led to routine heightened anticipation on visits there. Likewise, it was always a bit of an event when one of the Western Region’s named 47s, perhaps ‘Odin’, or ‘Cyclops’ turned up. The 46s contrived to make themselves slightly more interesting than the 45s, largely because there were fewer of them in service, but then the 45s provided a counter-balance because many of them were named, and that always added a new dimension which the 46s could not offer (with the exception of the mysteriously singular 46026). So it did not seem to take very long to start to mentally categorise the various classes and the individuals therein, to a kind of hierarchy of interest, much of which was based on rarity, actual or perceived. This has probably always been an intrinsic aspect of any ‘spotting’ hobby, whether it be trains or birds. To a Yorkshire-based enthusiast with limited travelling capability, a Western Region 47 from Old Oak Common was always going to rank above say, a Knottingley-based classmate. No doubt if I’d lived in Devon it would have been otherwise.

    Backdrop of Wild Boar Fell. A Carlisle to Leeds service approches the summit of the Settle & Carlisle line at Ais Gill on 17 June 1989. Large logo-liveried Class 47 No. 47597 provides the motive power for this service, which has been strengthened to ten coaches on this occasion. (Type 4 Locomotives of British Rail, Amberley Publishing)

    The 47s were always up against it, so to speak, in desirability terms. ‘Just another Brush 4’ was an oft-heard remark, understandably so when they outnumbered all other Type 4s by a substantial margin. Not only that, but the 47s did not even offer the differentiation factor that the 40s and Peaks achieved by having a range of headcode panel configurations. Until their conversion to uniform sealed-beam marker lights, the Peaks offered four possibilities in this respect – if one includes the original discs of the Class 44s. The ‘split headcode’ Peaks were perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing, but the two central headcode types, a singular panel or two square-ish adjacent panels, looked nicely balanced.

    An early revelation concerned the Class 40s. Pictures of some of these locomotives in the railway magazines would say, for example, ‘…40013, formerly ‘Andania’…’ and it became apparent that a sizeable contingent of the class had once been named but at some point the nameplates had been removed – every single one of them. Then I spotted the bolt-heads on the side of 40020 at Leeds, and on 40012 at Sheffield, and realised that these marked the spot. I read in several magazines and books that a decision had been made by BR to remove the nameplates, but there was never really a satisfactory explanation, nor was any responsible individual ever identified. I read that the motivation was to do with corporate uniformity, or perhaps that the 40s were no longer seen as top-link motive power and therefore unworthy of carrying names, but these seem very weak arguments. Why not just leave the plates where they were? There were no operational or reputational implications. Not long after finding out about the removal of the Class 40 nameplates, I discovered that the same had been done with the Class 44s. All ten were named shortly after construction, lending the collective nomenclature to the class, but again, someone somewhere in the BR hierarchy deemed it best to remove them en masse. Maybe it’s no big deal, but why do it? What benefits accrued? I would say none, but that’s just my opinion.

    The disappointment at being too late to see the 40s and 44s with their nameplates in situ did not, nevertheless, prevent a great affection building for them. The consolation was in trying to ‘collect the full set’ of named Class 45s, and in the excitement of seeing for the first time one of the 47s with truly gargantuan plates – ‘Isambard Kingdom Brunel’ and ‘George Jackson Churchward’, their appearance making a day at Sheffield always truly memorable. They were the celebrities of their day.

    Andrew Walker and John Walker's new book Type 4 Locomotives of British Rail is available for purchase now.

  • The Fifties Railway by Greg Morse

    No. 7037 Swindon at its namesake depot. It was the last Castle class to be built, though the Works which bore it would also produce the last steam locomotive to be built for British Railways, a Stndard class 9F, which would be releashed to traffic in March 1960. (The Fifties Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    A bit Janet and John.

     Just a museum leaflet.

     Little more than a Wiki entry.

    These are just three of the comments I’ve seen aimed at the short summary book like those that form Amberley’s Britain’s Heritage series. And I daresay the writers of those reviews felt themselves to have done a great job in alerting the world to what anyone could ascertain within a few moments of web surfing or bookshop browsing: that books of this type are short, and are intended as naught but a first step in a subject: the alpha, not the omega. As an author of a number of these “tome-ettes”, I think there are two things that need to be said. (Actually there are three, but this is a family blog.) First, just because a short book ‘adds nothing new’, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t add something new. There may not be enough room for footnoted first-hand scholarship, but the broad brush can often paint interesting juxtapositions that might not be made manifest by those authors blessed with more pages to fill. Secondly, there is an implication that no research can possibly have been undertaken. Not so.

    Early BR splendour as ex-LMS 'unrebuilt Scot' No. 46148 The Manchester Regiment takes a Carlisle-Glasgow service past Harthope in July 1953 (with a little help from a 2-6-4T at the rear). (The Fifties Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    Take my latest book (please – take as many copies as you like to the counter or basket). The Fifties Railway is about 12,000 words long. Like the rest of the Britain’s Heritage series, there’s a list of further reading at the back. All those books were re-read during the writing of it. More than this though – and it’s a technique I used in The Sixties Railway and The Seventies Railway too – are the insights that reading old magazines can evoke. We all know that later research can reveal the falsehoods that are sometimes unwittingly pervaded by contemporaneous journalism, but period periodicals are superb windows on what the world was like then, back before we “knew better”.

    What I want from a book like The Fifties Railway is what I want when I go to a heritage line: a time machine. This is why I will avert my gaze when my steam-hauled special passes its owner’s twenty-first century carriage shed. Glance upon the architect’s pet project and the illusion that I can party like its 1959 is gone forever. With a magazine, I can read what an enthusiast or railway employee might have read when the world was changing, but had not yet changed. The 1950s was a decade of great change on the railway, for it marked the beginning of a truly concerted effort to abolish steam – an effort that came so soon after the erection of so many new steam classes for Britain’s newly nationalised rail industry.

    Thus we can see the real, original, reaction not only to the coming of the Britainnias and 9Fs, but also the appearance of Deltic, the first of the ‘Pilot Scheme’ diesels and the apparent revolution offered by the diesel multiple units. This is to say nothing of what passengers thought of British Railways new carriages, the reactions to the Harrow & Wealdstone accident of 1952 and how the staff took to General Sir Brian Robertson when he took over at the British Transport Commission. I could go on of course… but I won’t, lest I run the risk of writing a blog that’s longer than the book!

    Greg Morse's new book The Fifties Railway is available for purchase now.

  • London Traction by Hugh Llewelyn

    Class 52 C-C diesel hydraulic No.(D)1065 Western Consort prepares to leave Paddington in July 1975. (London Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    For me, London is without doubt the most interesting rail centre in the UK – it has the densest network of lines, the largest number of services, the greatest number of major termini and suburban stations and, above all, the greatest variety of traction.

    I have lived and worked in, commuted to and visited London and its environs since the 1950’s, although my interest in railways didn’t start until about 1960/61. Initially I had no camera to record what I saw and my knowledge of what I was looking at was hazy to say the least! But from 1962 I started taking photographs with a very basic Brownie 127, soon progressing to a Halina 35X Super (though it wasn’t very ‘super’) and eventually various SLR’s and DLSR’s.

    BREL/GEC Class 90 Bo-Bo No.90 042 in Freightliner two-tone grey rumbles past Carpenders Park on a Coatbridge - Felixstowe container Freightliner service on 2 July 2008. (London Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    My main interest in the early years was steam but, unlike most of my friends, not confined to that. My friends thought it a little treacherous that I photographed the early diesel locomotives – even the diesel hydraulics – that were replacing our beloved giants of steam. But they thought me mad to be exhibiting even a slight interest in DMUs and Southern EMUs; the latter as objects of interest was beyond their comprehension! But how glad I am that I ignored their bewilderment and peer pressure to photograph only steam – and preferably Great Western steam! Even though I have dreadful shots of LMS No.10001, DP2, 20001, 4-COR’s and 2-BIL’s because of my poor cameras (I always blame my tools), at least I have a record of them. Photographs of these classes do not feature in my book because of their poor quality but other shots of what might still be considered ‘gems’ in the traction world are included.

    Fast approaching Haringey on a Peterborough - King's Cross service on 12 May 2012 is ABB Class 365 ‘Networker Express’ 4-car Emu No.365 508 of First Capital Connect in ‘urban lights’ livery. (London Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    There are several pictures of diesel hydraulics, one of the ‘Blue Pullman’ (sadly a ‘near miss’ in preservation), BRC&W Class 30’s before they were re-engined and became Class 31’s, Baby Deltics, the short lived BTH and North British Type 1’s, the last ‘Bournemouth Belle’ and loco-hauled Moorgate/Kings cross commuter trains. Such photographs date from my youth in the years BC – Before Cids!

    Following the end of my student days in 1972, I left South Wales for East Sussex and my modest knowledge of Southern EMUs swelled immeasurably. A few years later, I moved to various northern and south western suburbs of London which led to me commuting on SR, LMR and ER EMUs into Victoria, Waterloo, Euston and Liverpool Street. This resulted in the growth of my interest in not just those termini but also the traction which got me there.

    The Dollands Moor-Hams Hall ‘Norfolk Line’ Intermodal service is hauled by Brush Class 56 3,250 hp Co-Co No.56 312 Artemis of Hanson in its unique purple livery on the 12 October 2009. (London Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    The locations of the photographs in my book reflect my favourite stations or ones which were convenient to visit at a particular time. Having been brought up in South Wales, inevitably Paddington and stations on the former Great Western lines were a firm favourite. But running close was Kings Cross. Although not as large or as spectacular as Paddington, Kings Cross is such an architecturally well-balanced building that I find it the most attractive London terminus. Moreover, although the uniquely-styled ‘Westerns’ remain my favourite diesel locomotives, the ‘Deltics’ were nonetheless a huge attraction – the most powerful diesel locomotives in the world at the time. Hence Paddington and Kings Cross are probably over-represented in my book.

    The era of HST’s and the electrified West Coast Main Line and East Coast Main Line added to the great variety of traction to photograph and again, some classes I found more interesting than others, most notably the HST’s and Class 90’s. These therefore tend to feature more in my book than others.

    There were periods when I was not working in London and rarely visited because of family and career commitments, so there are large gaps in the timeline of my railway photography there. It was only later in my career when I worked a lot in London (though based and living in Bristol) and after my retirement when I had more free time that I had the chance to enlarge my photographic collection of London traction.

    The changing nature of the traction and locations over the decades is evident in my book. And changes continue apace with the electrification of the Great Western Main Line and, maybe, the rebuilding of Euston as the London termini of HS2.

    Hugh Llewelyn's new book London Traction is available for purchase now.

  • Midland Railway Stations by Allen Jackson

    The Midland Railway was a latecomer to London, so some statement as to power and wealth had to be made. November 2017. (Midland Railway Stations, Amberley Publishing)

    A Journey - Episode 1

    The starting point of the journey is the iconic and recently restored and extended St. Pancras station which sits cheek by jowl with the understated Kings Cross in an area of London that had a reputation for ‘ladies of the night’ in the nineteenth century but which has now expanded its late night seediness to include the peddling of class A drugs. London main line termini have usually attracted negative comment and Waterloo is often held up as a centre for the homeless and rough sleepers.

    St. Pancras though has a new sophistication with a champagne bar that seems a world away from the Burton’s brewery trains that used to enter Midland Railway St. Pancras underground as if the worker’s tipple should be not only not seen but not heard.

    Of course beer was not the only import from the Midlands and the bricks from which the station was built were brought there by train for the first time.

    The Eurostar terminal underlines this new up-market image and ordinary travellers are segregated from the supposed international elite by a glass security fence. This simply seems to echo the past in the 19th century provision of 1st, 2nd and 3rd class waiting rooms except that in modern times the concern is more to do with international terrorism than the class war.

    Leicester, Rutland, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and London. (Midland Railway Stations, Amberley Publishing)

    We start our journey on the poorer side of the tracks and soon head north through the London borough of Campden and the restored Roundhouse theatre which had been the Midland Railway’s Campden engine sheds bustling with Royal Scot and Jubilee locomotives to haul the crack steam expresses.

    Kentish Town with its large Irish population, founded from the people who built the Midland Railway into the capital also had a steam era engine shed mainly for freight locos. The area has acquired a new gentrification although described as ‘edgy’.

    Cricklewood is the next slice of the metropolis and there were the MR marshalling yards and engine sheds for the freight trains that kept part of London supplied with fuel in the shape of coal and pollution in the shape of smog. The coal trains ran day and night and seemingly ever larger engines would be produced to haul them from the LMS Beyer Garratt to the British Railways 9F 2-10-0 and the windcutter trains of the 1950s.

    Out past Hendon and Edgware and further north and into Hertfordshire now, but still in commuter land, the station of Elstree and Borehamwood is convenient for the film and television studios, a sort of Home Counties Hollywood. It has seen the likes of the original Stars Wars film and the current BBC TV success Strictly Come Dancing.

    North of Radlett station the line is crossed by the M25 motorway and this was the site of Radlett aerodrome and the Handley Page aircraft company who manufactured Cold War nuclear bombers in the shape of the crescent winged Victor of the V force.

    The city of St. Albans had connections with the rival London and North Western Railway, on the West Coast Main Line, it even named one of its Duchess Class Pacific locomotives after the place.

    But the city was also home to the MR at its City station where the former goods yard, where an LMS 4F freight engine shunting coal wagons could be found is now the station’s car park. The station is now part of the Thameslink network.

    To be continued next week via our Amberley Facebook page…..]

    Allen Jackson's new book Midland Railway Stations is available for purchase now.

  • Cornish Traction by Stephen Heginbotham

    Number 45059 (formerly D88) Royal Engineer stands at the blocks at Platform 2 in Penzance station after arrival with the Down Cornishman on Monday 21 February 1977. Penzance Station has changed little in the intervening years since this iconic picture was taken. But the type of traction regularly in use throughout Cornwall certainly has changed. (Cornish Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    Well, after nearly forty years of getting up at 04:50, or sometimes earlier, and arriving home at any time around midnight off a late shift or being called out in the middle of the night, I thought retirement might bring some rest and leisurely days, but alas dear reader, that appears to not be the case.  Compiling and writing a book of any size or layout, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, is not something that throws itself together overnight.

    However, when the subject is close to my heart and beliefs, the task at hand becomes so much easier.

    I have a lifelong interest in all things transport, including many years studying railway accidents and incidents that have led to the signalling systems and rules we use today.

    I have also been very fortunate to work in an industry which is both my hobby and my career, and for the most part it has been an absolute pleasure to go to work every day, even though that meant thirty-eight years of unsociable shifts, early starts and late finishes, though a quarter century of working in Cornwall and Devon as both Signalman and Supervisor was a privilege.

    I do feel though that changes in recent years within the industry have fragmented the ‘big family’ that was once BR.

    Born in an age of steam, I well remember the transition from steam to diesel and electric and was fortunate enough to see steam to its demise in August 1968, Stockport Edgeley (9B) being one of the very last steam sheds.  As a child I watched named trains, with named locos, thunder past my school, and at weekends or school holidays I watched the Woodhead Electrics at Reddish, the trolleybuses in Manchester, or Pacific’s on the West Coast or Crewe, making the journey there by either steam train or pre-war bus.

    Ironically, travel seemed easier in those distant days from our past, several decades ago. Aside from there being more trains to more locations, the lack of restriction of travelling alone in one’s younger days did not impinge on the more adventurous of us that struck out to locations that could only be dreamed of now by anyone of a similar age. I say ironically, because unlike today, with our modern communications, when one left home for an adventure in the 1960s, even as a twelve or thirteen-year-old, you had little chance of contacting your parents unless you used a public phone box, and assuming home actually possessed a telephone.

    An HST power car from set 253001 is connected up to the mains in Ponsandane Yard at Penzance during the HST crew training period in Cornwall. Friday 3 November 1978. Ironically, this livery has been reprised recently in a nostalgic nod to a train that helped save both BR and express services to and from the West Country. (Cornish Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    This collection of photographs depicts many of the traction types that were seen in their daily duties around the West Country during the 1970s and 1980s. Of course, at the time, they were common traction types and not thought of as anything unusual, but, like all things in everyday life, complacency creeps in and one just never thinks that this status quo of things is one day not going to be there. I can recall the same feelings about seeing Black-Fives, 8Fs, and WD locos in the 1960s, and just sitting waiting for a Jubilee, or Royal Scot, or Patriot, or Britannia, to name but a few. To be fair, when the ‘Peaks’ arrived along with the English Electrics (class 40) and names started to appear on some of them, they became nearly as exciting to ‘cop’ as a steamer. Of course, in those days, the names were as interesting as the locomotives, and the management of the time put a great deal of thought into the naming process. This generally still applied in the 1980s and it was only when privatisation got a grip did we start to see names that were both dubious and uninteresting, much like the monotonous and boring liveries that assault our senses daily.

    Whilst I accept that modernisation was desperately needed throughout the network, it has not happened everywhere and it is very much a post-code lottery of investment in technology and innovation, and many routes are still in the pre-BR era of rolling stock, signalling and infrastructure. At least the era covered by this book shows some variety of livery as opposed to BR corporate blue and the yet to come liveries of the private sector, but it is more about remembering the variety of traction still around in in the West Country during that period, and with it sometimes the audible cacophony accompaniment.

    People used to vilify BR, for its service, but having worked for BR, I can tell you that the service delivery shortfalls of BR pales into insignificance when compared to the abysmal service of the shambolic British railway we have today. In my day working as a Signalman and later as a Signalling Inspector and MOM, I can assure you that cancelling a train was a very last resort.  In general, the duty of all railway staff in those BR days was that the service will run if at all possible. It was considered a disservice to the public not to run a service and if a service was run late. Drivers and Signalmen in particular took pride in trying to get services back on time where possible.

    The photos in this book are not arranged in any particular order, so dates and locations are randomly arranged to try and keep the reader interested. David in particular, being a Cornishman, spent many days, weeks, months and years photographing trains within the Duchy.

    So, having said all that, here is my third book on Cornwall’s Railways.  After much tapping of keys, extensive research, photo preparation and hundreds of hours writing and compiling the book, I hope you find it enjoyable, and that there aren’t too many mistakes.

    Stephen Heginbotham's new book Cornish Traction is available for purchase now.

  • British Railway Accidents and Incidents in Maps and Pictures by Jonathan Mountfort

    The Midland train heading south towards Hitchin from Bedford. Note the chimneys on the maltings in the background, which enable us to locate this view on the map. (British Railway Accidents and Incidents in Maps and Pictures, Amberley Publishing)

    I became immediately hooked on the study of railway accidents when, at the age of ten, I borrowed J A B Hamilton’s British Railway Accidents of the 20th Century from my local public library – I think I read it five times in the next couple of weeks. But I can’t really explain why that should be – I’m not obsessed with death or killing people and I don’t read books on wars or battles, nor do I play shoot-em-up video games. I think it must come down to the power and majesty of a train rumbling along the tracks and then suddenly, for almost any trivial reason one can imagine, succumbing to a tearing crunching disaster – splintered carriages and wheels of steel littered around the scene, and bent and ripped up rails to be swiftly replaced by the permanent way gang, usually within 24 hours of the incident occurring.

    So, over the many years since then, I have read most of the books on the subject, including of course Tom Rolt’s “bible” on the subject: Red for Danger. But for me, there was always something missing. I could read about what happened, the names of the railway staff involved, what went wrong, and what the accident inspector recommended… but none of these books gave me any context, especially maps, so I could see where they happened and how the track fitted into the landscape. Well, I have a motto (which I’m sure is not just mine) which is: “write the book you would like to buy”. So when Amberley asked me if I had any suggestions for new titles, I straight away suggested British Railway Accidents and Incidents in Maps and Pictures. The reason for the “incidents” part is that I didn’t want to be restricted to just writing about serious mishaps, and indeed I wanted to be able to include events which were not mishaps at all. But I wanted it to have all the context that was available from contemporary maps and postcard images.

    Ordnance Survey 25-inch map c. 1900 showing the probable location of the train and flood shown in the picture postcard dated 30 April 1908. (British Railway Accidents and Incidents in Maps and Pictures, Amberley Publishing)

    Which brings me onto my next subject: postcards. Local photographers were usually on the scene of an accident within minutes, getting pictures for the local newspaper, or even the nationals if the event was serious. They also published their work as postcards, and the public of those days, with no TV or horror films, were eager to lap up the images and send accompanying notes to their friends and loved ones. We see Victorian and Edwardian society as much more macabre and ghoulish than we are today, but actually, this was the  only excitement they got in their mainly humdrum lives, while we now have, as I said, TV programmes and films. But what do we watch? Murder and mayhem and we lap it up – so actually human nature has not changed at all and we are just as obsessed with death and destruction now as ever we were – just look at the success of Game of Thrones!

    As I mentioned, people bought the postcards and sent them to their friends, often with the usual tedious postcard message on the back saying, “I hope mother is well… we’ll come and visit soon… isn’t the weather foul/lovely, etc”. But some of the backs of accident postcards have wonderful commentary on the event shown on the front – and in this book I have included the ones I own which give this insight into the event portrayed. Now to me, this is fascinating: here you have, in your hand, a unique (and I use the word correctly and not in its usual muddled sense) contemporary record in ink or pencil of what the person writing, usually around 100 years ago, saw and thought about what had happened, often giving invaluable information which no other research into accident and newspaper reports could ever reveal – I shall call this “research through serendipity”, because it really can be nothing else!

    The message on the back of the postcard reads: ‘This is a photo of the accident just outside Salop station it was on a viaduct higher than the house tops there is twenty killed and one have died since I went to see the wreck it was awful they had got most of the dead away they were smashed out of all recognition. I expect you will see it in print’ and at the top of the card: ‘where I put the cross is a carriage reared right on top of another one side smashed clean off’. (British Railway Accidents and Incidents in Maps and Pictures, Amberley Publishing)

    Unfortunately, this means I have exhausted my own supply of on-the-spot personal commentary, but if anyone out there has a postcard with a relevant message written on the back, then if we can gather enough together we can use them in a sequel – you never know.

    Anyway, I hope you like the book, and of course, there will be a few errors in it which I am sure you will soon let me know about, but that is just inevitable when putting together detailed work of this kind. And at this point, I shall flag up an error which I made and which I failed to spot in time before publication: I therefore apologise here for spelling Courtney Atkin’s name wrong – he is the author of the fabulous book A Significant Accident which he wrote about the Connington South derailment of 1967.

    So, I’ll just conclude by saying what this book is not:

    It is not a book about the history of British railway accidents – there are many, many of those already out there.

    It is not a book about the Railway Inspectorate and the Royal Engineers and their work to make the railways of Britain safer.

    It is not a book about the changes which were made to effect these improvements – all of these subject are covered in detail in Tom Rolt’s book and others.

    So thank you for listening.

    Jonathan Mountfort's new book British Railway Accidents and Incidents in Maps and Pictures is available for purchase now.

  • Bulleid Pacifics by Nigel Kendall

    My favourite Merchant Navy, No. 35008 Orient Line, rockets past the New Milton goods yard with the eastbound 'Bournemouth Belle' on 13 May 1966. I was travelling behind No. 35008 when it broke the record for fastest run between Southampton and Waterloo without exceeding the 85 mph speed limit. (Bulleid Pacifics, Amberley Publishing)

    Before my introduction to Bulleid Pacifics in 1960 my memory of an early growing interest in railways was when as a boy in New Zealand I would travel to school by train. I lived on the slopes of the Waitakere Hills, west of Auckland, and so the process of getting to my destination near the centre of the city tended to be a complicated affair.

    My daily commute started on a rickety old bike, which carried me the three miles downhill to New Lynn Station on an awful unsurfaced road, coasting practically all the way. Then, throwing the unfortunate machine onto the pile of other bikes in the station yard, I would dash onto the station platform and join my school mates as a big oil-burning ‘Ja’ 4-8-2 rolled into the station with the 8am school train.

    The homebound trip entailed a similar routine, except that my bike ride was an uphill slog that I always hated.

    So eight years later, having moved to England, the weekly journeying between southwest Hampshire and Waterloo behind Bulleid Pacifics seemed a natural progression from my daily travels behind NZ steam. But the biggest difference, of course, was that within the intervening years my interest in railways had turned into a strong passion for all steam locomotives, and it’s a passion that lives with me to this day.

    I was so lucky that my new home in New Milton, Hampshire, was just 5 minutes’ walk from the station, which served the Waterloo to Weymouth main line, mainly with its large stud of Bulleid Pacifics. Apart from being able to nip down to the station whenever I had a spare 15 minutes, it also meant I got to know the station staff very well. Bob and Len, the signalmen, were particularly useful when I started to use my camera, and gave me the freedom of the lineside within their vision provided I never ventured onto the actual track.

    Driver Alf Boston of Bournemouth waits for the guard's green flag at New Milton on 27 December 1964. Battle of Britain No. 34085 501 Squadron was a Bournemouth 'good'un' during the 1960s. It was frequently seen hauling the 'Pines Express' following re-routing in 1963. The loco was introduced in November 1948 and rebuilt in June 1960. It was withdrawn in September 1965. (Bulleid Pacifics, Amberley Publishing)

    On my frequent London trips I would often catch a local train from New Milton to Southampton and connect with the 7.30am from Bournemouth Central. It was a well-patronized service headed by the usual Merchant Navy and loaded to 12 coaches including a restaurant car. Apart from a stop at Winchester it was non-stop to Waterloo, timed to arrive at the tail end of the rush hour – not an easy task for the crew.

    With all this railway travelling to London it wasn’t long before I got quite familiar with the Merchant Navies, West Countries, and Battle of Britain’s shedded at either Eastleigh, Bournemouth or Weymouth. Names that spring to mind are ‘Orient Line’, ‘New Zealand Line’, ‘Royal Mail’, ‘Swanage’, ‘Lapford’, ‘Combe Martin’, ‘Ottery St Mary’, ‘Dorchester’, and ‘501 Squadron’ or ‘Fighter Command’ with its Giesl Ejector. I travelled behind most of these locos, and more.

    Bulleid didn’t worry too much about coal consumption – he just wanted locomotives that would do all that was asked of it, and more when necessary. This philosophy brought about arguably the finest locomotive boilers ever produced in Britain. The fact that in the final months of Southern steam theoretically run-down Pacifics were achieving some of the finest performances of their careers was ample testimony to the concepts Oliver Bulleid laid down at the start of his reign as the Southern CME during the Second World War.

    It therefore goes without saying that I arranged my 1967 summer holiday to coincide with the end of Southern Steam on 9 July. In the last fortnight l travelled on as many Bulleid Pacific-hauled trains as I could – the cost was enormous! But I would not have missed it for the world.

    Within a week of the withdrawal of Southern Steam I logged two of the best runs I have ever experienced. It has to be said that a degree of irresponsibility was displayed in the quest for a 'ton' in those final days, however, who am I to stand in the judgement on the passing of an era.

    Nigel Kendall's new book Bulleid Pacifics is available for purchase now.

  • The North British Locomotive Company by Colin Alexander

    Urie's London & South Western Railway Class N15 express 4-6-0 was perpetuated by the Southern Railway after the Grouping. (Author's collection, The North British Locomotive Company, Amberley Publishing)

    In July 1980, aged 16, during a family holiday in the Cotswolds I made the pilgrimage to South Wales and the legendary Woodham’s scrapyard on Barry Island. As well as wishing to photograph the rusting hulks of over a hundred ex-British Railways steam locomotives which had languished there since the 1960s, there were two other items of interest that I was keen to see. They were the last two remaining ex-BR main line diesel locomotives built at the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow.

    One was D601, once the pride of BR Western Region, and previously carrying the name ARK ROYAL. She was one of five 2000hp ‘Warship’ class diesel-hydraulics ordered as part of BR’s Pilot Scheme. Delivered in 1958 she and her sisters would last in service only until 1967, when withdrawn due to their non-standard status. They had never been the most reliable locomotives and after initial use on glamorous services like the ‘Cornish Riviera Express’ they were quickly demoted to secondary duties. Upon withdrawal, D602-D604, named BULLDOG, CONQUEST and COSSACK respectively, were quietly cut up at Cashmore’s scrapyard in Newport. D600 ACTIVE and D601 however made it to Barry.

    Of almost 300 BR locomotives consigned to the legendary Dai Woodham's scrapyard at Barry in South Wales, only one was an ex-LNER engine. Thompson Class BI 4-6-0 No. 61264 arrived there after departmental service and was fortunate enough to be one of the 213 locomotives to be rescued from Barry for preservation. (Author's collection, The North British Locomotive Company, Amberley Publishing)

    Dai Woodham famously tried to avoid cutting up locomotives, as he knew that the preservation movement would salvage most of them for posterity so as much as possible his workers concentrated on cutting up redundant mineral wagons and the like. Indeed all but two of the steam locomotives I saw that July 1980 day would escape to preservation, and many have since steamed.

    ACTIVE, proudly wearing the new BR Blue livery she wore in service for a few short months was dispatched after a few years in the open air of Barry Island but ARK ROYAL hung on until 1980.

    Meanwhile back in the 1950s, North British had also built a much more numerous class of fifty-eight diesel-electric locomotives numbered D6100 and D6157. They were of 1100hp and found work on the Eastern and Scottish Regions, although before long all were concentrated north of the border.

    They were just as unreliable as their illustrious named Warship cousins and despite twenty of them being re-engined to extend their lives, all were gone by 1972. All that is except for D6122. Following withdrawal in Scotland she found herself dumped at Hither Green in Kent and there she suffered the indignity of being used for re-railing practice. She ended up at Barry with D600 and D601 and like ARK ROYAL she lasted there until 1980.

    A rare NBL diesel success came with the 3 ft 6 in. gauge diesel-hydraulic 0-8-0 for East African Railways & Harbours. (Author's collection, The North British Locomotive Company, Amberley Publishing)

    Unfortunately for me, when I got there, the cutters had beaten me to it and all I could find was one solitary rusty NBL/MAN diesel engine on the ground. It could have been D6122’s or it could have been one of the pair of identical units from D601. I will never know. I had missed them by a matter of weeks. There ended the story of BR’s NBL main line diesels.

    NBL was formed in 1903 by the merger of three established Victorian Scottish locomotive manufacturers, and it became the largest such concern outside of the USA. It gained an excellent reputation through the export of countless dependable locomotives all over the world and for many domestic railway companies. That reputation was shattered when NBL’s BR diesels began to fail and the company closed down due to the cost of repairing its errant products under warranty.

    Many North British steam locomotives survive globally as a living testimony to the company’s success and influence, but the burgeoning diesel preservation movement in the UK came too late to save D601 and D6122, just as I arrived too late to take their photographs.

    Read more about the North British Locomotive Company story in my new book The North British Locomotive Company, published in May 2018. You can still purchase a copy of my other book The British Railways Pilot Scheme Diesel Locomotives. Proceeds from sales of this title contribute directly to two related heritage diesel projects. They are the restoration of a true diesel ‘dinosaur’, the unique surviving Metropolitan Vickers Co-Bo D5705 at the East Lancashire Railway; and the recreation of another extinct class, a Napier Deltic engined English Electric Type 2, being built by the Baby Deltic Project at Barrow Hill Roundhouse.

    Colin Alexander's new book The North British Locomotive Company is available for purchase now.

  • Merseyside Traction by Doug Birmingham

    On 15 March 2017, at a rarely photographed location, Rail Operations Group, Class 47, No 47815 arrives at Edge Hill Wapping with 5V67 12.17hrs Allerton Depot to Long Marston empty coach stock move. The train consisted of two Class 319 EMU’s No’s 319218 and 219 which were being returned to storage pending possible further use. This image was originally considered for the front cover of the book before the present cover was selected. (Merseyside Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    I think most people during their lives have wishes, some would call it a bucket list but more often than not they remain just dreams. Occasionally some dreams do happen which fortunately for me some on my bucket list have actually come true, mainly by good fortune rather than preplanned. One of my wishes, has been to publish a book with a selection of my railway images, but approaching any publisher with such a proposal has always been put on the back burner. Consequently, as the years go by, it has remained just a dream. By sheer coincidence and out of the blue on my birthday in 2017, Connor Stait on behalf of Amberley Publishing emailed me asking would I be interested in compiling a book, entitled ‘Merseyside Traction’. At first, I thought this may be a little wind up but in reality it was not, as Connor had viewed my 8A Rail Flickr photographic site and thought I would be the ideal person to compile such a book.

    Connor had agreed that it was up to myself what the contents would be as long it was related to Merseyside. In due course, the formalities were agreed upon, along with providing two previous published book examples to give myself an idea what the layout and format of the book should look like. On viewing these book examples, I knew that I could complete the project given a little time with the brief of a maximum of 180 images and 10,000 words, along with the front and back cover images too. I also had to consider that other authors had published books on a variety of rail related subjects linked to Merseyside, some whose knowledge and experience I would acknowledge well beyond my own.

    Now the hard work began with a completion date set for December 2017. I had to choose the images first and foremost. That was not an easy task, as I have been photographing trains in Merseyside since 1980 with a total of images taken running into five figures! This figure did not include other images I have taken around the UK, let alone the thousands I have taken of preserved steam too. Clearly I had to decide a time spam to cover, as realistically it would take more than one book to cover almost 40 years to give the locality some justice. Having decided to cover a 20 year period from 1998 to 2017 rather than say the last 10 years as example, I wanted to include the variety of motive power and liveries that had operated in Merseyside during that time, as well as the variety of photographic locations too.  Basically I needed to make the book as interesting as possible to attract wide attention as Merseyside is not exactly known as a mecca of railways within the United Kingdom. However, I knew different and maybe this was an opportunity to prove otherwise?

     

    Another image that did not quite make the final cut but still provides a good representation of the contents of the book is GBRf Class 59, No 59003 working 6F27 12.47hrs Liverpool Biomass Terminal to Tuebrook Sidings Biomass were the Class 59 will detach before heading to Drax AES Power Station behind a single Class 66 locomotive. It is seen here on a nice autumn day approaching Edge Lane Junction on the Bootle Branch line. 29 October 2015. (Merseyside Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    However, the hard work was only just about to begin with the process of selecting images for the book given the thousands of images to choose from! Why I selected the last 20 years was an easy decision as one of the images I wanted to show, was the last occasion a ‘Peak’ class locomotive hauled a Freightliner train in May 1999 and I was one of the few to record the working(s). I had also established early on, that over that period of time, numerous different locomotive classes had appeared in the area, not forgetting the variety of multiple units along with all the different liveries too. However, what I needed to avoid was the repetition of the ‘much loved’ EMD Class 66’s as that alone would be prevent people looking at the book let alone purchasing one! So a balance had to be met in order to make a fair representation of the motive power operated in Merseyside. Also during the 20 year period I had chosen, many locations and lines had changed, especially with regards to the railway infrastructure, basically out with the old, in with the new. Non-more so than the Liverpool & Manchester line with the introduction (and long over-due) of the overhead electrification. In consequence this allowed me the opportunity of one or two before and after images to be presented in the book.

    While compiling the images for the book, it was only then I realised the extent of the actual Merseyside county boundaries, where I thought a couple of locations were in Cheshire, were actually in Merseyside. However, I also then noted that the ‘Merseytravel’ transport boundary did actually go beyond the county boundary which gave me good reason to include, for example, Rainford which is in Lancashire. I had also noted at least twenty-six locomotive classes had been recorded as well as the appearance of twenty-two classes of multiple units most of which are regular visitors to the area. Merseyside is currently regularly served by seven Train Operating Companies, including Arriva Wales, Arriva North, East Midlands Trains, London Midland (now LNWr), Merseyrail, Trans Pennine Express and Virgin Trains with three Freight Operating Companies operating daily in and out of the area including DB Cargo, Freightliner and GBRF. However, Colas, Direct Rail Services, Network Rail, Rail Operations Group, and West Coast Railways do pass through the area too. So there is much variety to be recorded and that does not include the amount of liveries that have appeared too. It would also beg the question, how many areas around the UK actually provide such variety too? Not many I imagine!

    Passing the closed but now preserved Rainhill Signal Box on the Liverpool and Manchester line, Direct Rail Services Class 37, No 37194 with sister locomotive No 37667 on the rear hauling 1Q14 08.52hrs Derby RTC to Crewe 'Network Rail’ Measurement train. Since this image was taken, this line has now been fully electrified. 17 September 2012. (Merseyside Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    In selecting the 185 images which took me 3 months to complete and no easy task either (not including the captions), I then realised how many images that were excluded rather those included, that gave me the feeling that this project had only just began. This is also not forgetting the numerous images taken from 1980 to 1998 which could produce another book or two also? However, I need to wait to see how ‘Merseyside Traction’ is received first and foremost, along with the sales too! Added to this is the thousands of other railway images I’ve taken around the UK including preserved steam, which makes me wonder are there other book projects could be in the offering especially as I enjoyed putting ‘Merseyside Traction’ (Part One??) together.

    Finally, I must thank Connor Stait, Commissioning Editor for considering me for this project and hopefully his faith is rewarded in due course. I also wish to sincerely thank various staff at Amberley Publishing for their time, patience and support. Also to Gordon Edgar whose words of wisdom and encouragement were much appreciated. Now it remains to see how the book is received and hopefully it becomes a popular book, but more importantly, I have done my local area proud? Fingers Cross.

    Doug Birmingham's new book Merseyside Traction is available for purchase now.

  • Anglo-Scottish Sleepers by David Meara

    The Northbound London-Fort William Sleeper approaching the Cruach Snowshed between Rannoch and Corrour stations on the morning of 7 January 2010, running an hour late due to iced points. (Norman McNab, Anglo-Scottish Sleepers, Amberley Publishing)

    Paul Theroux’s amusing quotation, from his book The Great Railway Bazaar, sums up the sense of anticipation that a long railway journey encourages. I remember very well that sense of excitement when as a twelve year old boy I boarded the Royal Highlander at Euston Station to travel north to Inverness at the beginning of our summer holidays. It is an excitement that I was keen to recapture when I began writing my book on the Anglo-Scottish sleeper trains about two years ago. I knew that Serco, the new operator of the Caledonian Sleeper, was committed to improving the service, and together with the Scottish Government were investing £100 million into an enhanced experience and brand new rolling stock, and it occurred to me that no attractive and accessible history of the sleeper service existed. Having spotted a gap in the market I decided to do some research and see what I could find.

     

     

    Sleeping cars waiting for their passengers on Platform 1 at Euston station. (Author's Collection, Anglo-Scottish Sleepers, Amberley Publishing)

    The National Railway Museum was my first port of call, as they hold a big archive of books, leaflets and posters, of all of which I made good use of. Much of the detailed history is to be found in specialist railway magazines and books on the rolling stock of the individual railway companies that existed before nationalisation. There are also a few preserved sleeper carriages, both at the National Railway Museum and elsewhere. I wanted to write a social, rather than a technical history, and the atmosphere and style of the heyday of sleeper travel is best captured in period photographs and the wonderful posters which the ‘Big Four’ companies commissioned, often from well-known artists, to advertise and promote their services. The National Railway Museum holds a comprehensive collection of railway posters, and thanks to the help of Philip I have made good use of these in my book.

    I also wanted to describe travelling on each of the Highland Sleeper routes, to Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen. So I booked myself onto the sleeper and did a round trip, travelling north to Aberdeen, across by train to Inverness, and on by bus to Fort William, from where I took the southbound sleeper back to London Euston. There is nothing on our railway network quite like settling into the sleeper lounge car, with a glass of malt whisky beside you, haggis, neeps and tatties being prepared in the galley, and the glorious expanse of Rannoch Moor unfolding before you in the evening sunshine.

    The northbound London to Fort William Sleeper passing through the remote Gorton loop on 1 May 2015 at 8.28 a.m., pulled by a Class 67 locomotive, Cairn Gorm, in the new Serco Midnight Teal livery. (Norman McNab, Anglo-Scottish Sleepers, Amberley Publishing)

    But one element was missing, and that was a selection of stories from the many thousands of people who have used the sleeper over the years. Their experiences would bring a book like this to life as well as providing valuable insights into the experience of the sleeper operation.  Happily a letter to ‘The Times’ helped to solve that problem, and thanks to a friendly ‘Times’ columnist I was inundated with all kinds of stories and anecdotes, funny, saucy, romantic and peculiar, which brings the story of the Anglo-Scottish Sleeper service to life, and reveal the great affection people have for the service.  From being the exclusive preserve of the grouse shooting gentry it has evolved over the years into a wonderfully democratic community of travellers, from business people to backpackers, and just occasionally the sportsman off to his Highland estate to escape the rigours of City life. The lounge car remains the social centre of the train, and has been the setting for many convivial gatherings, late night conversations, even an impromptu ceilidh or two. Hopefully the impressive improvements which Serco are introducing will not spoil this special feeling of being both on a working train and on a journey with a real sense of occasion and excitement about it.

    David Meara's new book Anglo-Scottish Sleepers is available for purchase now.

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