Book Reviews

Model railway product reviews can be found here.

As They Were, Book 1, Southern England
The Book of the T9 4-4-0s, Richard Derry
The Crystal Palace High Level Railway, John Gale
Illustrated History of the North Cornwall Railway, 2nd Edition
Maunsell Locos, by John Scott-Morgan
Original Bulleid Pacifics, John Scott-Morgan
Ramblings of a Railwayman, Geoff Burch
Southern Electric Album, by Michael Welch
Southern Region Engineman, by Jim Lester
Southern Way Special Nº8, Kevin Robertson
Views of a Changing Railway: Edward Hopper - Railwayman from 1925 to 1968, by Maurice Hopper
Waterloo West, by Roger Siviter
Britains Lost Railways, by John Minnis

The Book of the T9 4-4-0sTHE BOOK OF THE T9 4-4-0s
Richard Derry, published by Irwell Press, h/b
ISBN 978-1-906919-12-2,
208pp, detailed histories of every member of the Drummond T9 class of locomotives of the LSWR, £27.95.

Yes, they've done it again! Richard Derry and Irwell Press have produced another winner in the form of "The Book of the T9 4-4-0s", the iconic class that more than any other epitomises the Drummond engines of the LSWR. Why these "Greyhounds" should have captured the public imagination so much more than, say, the very similar L12 class was probably the result of their early prowess on the Bournemouth and Portsmouth lines, followed by the sojourn at Exmouth Junction for many of the class, working over the Withered Arm lines during their final years, but capture it they did.

The book follows the proven format of the others in this series with the first section devoted to an in depth introduction to the locomotives, detail differences and changes, followed by a comprehensive record section with photographs and a potted history of every single member of the class. This section draws attention to many of the individual differences that various locos had at different times, something that is vitally important for modellers wishing to have their model historically correct. For those with an interest in the LBSCR AC electric system there is a very good photo of Nº314 underneath the wires.

At £27.95 this isn't a cheap book but the wealth of detail to be found within the covers makes the expenditure worthwhile. The quality of the paper used is as good as in all the other Irwell Press books and, quite honestly, it is difficult to find fault. For me there is just one tiny little niggle - the book frequently refers to the "quarter to three" position 14 headsignal of locos on the North Cornwall line as "typical West Country" when in fact it was specific to the North Cornwall route from Exeter Central to Padstow.

PJR, 26 December 2009

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The Ramblings of a RailwaymanTHE RAMBLINGS OF A RAILWAYMAN, Geoff Burch
Hardback with dust jacket, 12" x 8½", 186 pp on fine art paper
ISBN: 978-0-9567967-0-7
Published privately, £20 + £5 UK postage. Available only from the author by E-mail:

Arguably the best known of an engineman's reminiscences in recent years is 'Southern Region Engineman' the splendid work by Jim Lester (see previous page). That publication seemed to have brought an end to such books where the Southern is concerned but Geoff Burch had his own tale to tell and what a splendid effort he's made to bring it to us in the absence of interest from the railway publishing fraternity. That in itself has been both a boon and a blessing as everything about the book comes across as being personal without the encumbrance of outside influence on design and photographic contributions but the latter, although displaying considerable scope of subject matter, is sometimes pushed beyond what an art editor would deem to be feasible. Don't be put off by that as the range of the photographic reproductions is commendable and few images have been previously published.

Geoff had fallen in love with the concept of becoming a steam driver following a visit to a working footplate and so, in 1961 at the age of fifteen, he applied to become an engine cleaner at Guildford mpd his local engine shed. The tale itself is a familiar one but his early ambition would be curtailed by the end of steam in the south of England in July 1967 an event in which he would play a part. His railway career extended beyond his time at Guildford as he slowly climbed up the established footplate ranks but this book deals only with his career whilst working during the steam era at Guildford.

The book opens with acknowledgements followed by the foreword written by the renowned artist David Shepherd who has written many such over the years. However, this one sets itself apart because David had close links to Guildford shed with many of his best known sketches and subsequent paintings being based on his time on site in the dying months of the steam era. The foreword is followed by the author's commendably brief but inspirational c.v. from engine cleaner up to his retirement.

Geoff begins his own story with an illustrated potted history of Guildford mpd and there then follows the chronological tale of his work, his colleagues, techniques and many enjoyable anecdotes. The next chapter is a brave attempt to describe many of his driver and fireman colleagues together with an amazing amount of photos of those very people mostly in colour. The following chapter on the locomotives is devoted entirely to a plethora of mostly newly discovered photos with captions appended for added interest.

The final part of the book covers the end of steam on the Southern and includes the author's small but significant part in it when he and colleagues were rostered to drive a pair of Standard class 5MT's (73118 & 73155) from Guildford to Salisbury via Woking under their own steam on Sunday July 9th 1967, the final day of steam operations in the south. Included in this chapter are some splendid colour shots taken at Grateley station where the crews had a beer break!

All-in-all this book is a worthy contribution to the lexicon of railway historical background with its presentation, illustrations and erudite text making it worth its place on the enthusiast's bookshelf.

MM, 21 October 2011

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The Crystal Palace High Level RailwayTHE CRYSTAL PALACE HIGH LEVEL RAILWAY, John Gale
Card covers, 10¾" x 8¼", 116 pp on fine art paper
ISBN 978-1-899889-62-4
Published by Lightmoor Press.
Available for £13.50 plus P & P from the publisher at:
Black Dwarf Lightmoor Publications Ltd., Unit 144B, Lydney Trading Estate, Harbour Road, Lydney, GL15 4EJ Order on-line here.

"The three mile long Crystal Palace High Level railway, running from Nunhead junction to Edward Barry's magnificent £100,000 terminus station alongside the Crystal Palace, was opened in 1865. Promoted by the Crystal Palace & South London junction Railway, a company backed by the London Chatham & Dover Railway, the ownership of the line was transferred to the LC&DR in1875. Although the original intention was to extend the railway southwards, traffic levels never really justified the initial optimism and such plans were not to be realised. Difficult to construct - there were two lengthy tunnels and most of the route was either in cutting or on embankment - the railway never made a profit, was closed temporarily during both world wars and even electrification by the Southern Railway in 1925 failed to lift passenger numbers enough to save it, with final closure occurring in 1954. Little is left of the line's stations today, although much of the route survives as a footpath. Within these pages, John Gale documents the history of this forgotten railway backwater, the text being illuminated with numerous historic photographs, maps and other illustrations."

So says the publisher's promotional blurb and a fair description it is too although it provides but a foretaste of the feast of historical background and images contained in this fine and erudite work. The author's quest for excellence has been supported by the publisher's own efforts in providing a platform that emulates their well know Archive and Railway Archive 'bookazines' which have been with us for a number of years and are well known for the quality of their production.

There is little point in this reviewer describing the book in any detail as the summary above gives an inkling of what to expect and reading the book is a rewarding experience. What is worth mentioning additionally is that the book's contents contain the results of years of dedicated research, extensive lists of references and a collection of images that has astounded this writer because of their range of subject matter as well as the variety of sources with the renowned Lens of Sutton Association's collection being the primary one. Waxing lyrical over the images isn't out of place as the CPHLR was little more than a rural branch line isolated in what would become part of the Greater London conglomerate and little attention was bestowed upon it by railway photographers.

The history of this short branch line has never been described in depth before which makes this book essential reading for those with a deep seated interest in the railway history of London, the LCDR, SECR and the Southern Railway as well as those whose interest lies within this small corner of this nation's capital territory. It is an excellent read, finely illustrated and deserves its place on the bookshelf of anyone interested in our railways' history.

MM, 23 November 2011

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The Original Bulleid PacificsTHE ORIGINAL BULLEID PACIFICS, John Scott-Morgan, Haynes Great Locomotives Series
ISBN 978 1 84425 9540,
160pp. Over 200 photographs many are in colour, £25.00.

Bulleid enthusiasts have plenty of books covering the great man and his locomotives and consequently we do not expect any significant new facts and figures in future publications. However, in this fine book the author looks at the subject afresh and describes and illustrates all aspects, from how the Railway Executive was convinced to give the go-ahead for construction during the war through to the delight of Southern drivers who suddenly found themselves in charge of a modern unique high performance locomotive.

Of over 200 photographs many are in colour including a superb selection of colour 1940s shots, the quality of some of these is rather poor but given they were taken nearly 70 years ago that must be taken into account. We do rather get spoiled by today's digital photos.

This book includes chapters by drivers and fireman and an interesting introduction by owner John Bunch currently the operating engineer at West Coast Railways. He relates when in July 2011 Tangmere was called at short notice to haul the Crewe Scarborough train over the Pennines and he quotes one of the drivers "I have never had to shut off here before to comply with speed restrictions. My God it accelerates like an electric train!"

The final part of the book details all the preserved locos and touches on the rebuilding program and we are promised in due course another volume dealing with the modified Bulleid locos.

All in all a good book for the Bulleid enthusiast and it will prove of interest to younger enthusiasts as it brings together a vast amount of Bulleid history into one easy to read volume.

GP, January 2012

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Southern Way Special 8SOUTHERN WAY SPECIAL Nº8, Kevin Robertson, Card covers, 10¾" x 8¼", 100 pp, Published by Noodle Books
ISBN 978-1-906419-80-6,
Available for £16.50 plus P & P from the publisher at:
Noodle Books, PO Box 279, Corhampton, Southampton SO32 3ZX
And other booksellers.

This is the first instalment of what is intended to be a two part review of what is sub-titled as "Accidents, Incidents and Occasions" and interesting it is, too. The contents are a mix of both monochrome and colour images starting with the latter on the front cover which features a subject much loved by Bulleid aficionados in the form of an original light pacific, 34057 Biggin Hill, bathed in the aftermath of one of those infamous oil bath fires. Indeed, there is an entire section within the book devoted to that subject together with a number of photos which are new to this reviewer. This is a good start for a book that avoids concentrating on the better known major mishaps on the Southern's metals.

The book is organised alphabetically by location with the exception of "Extracts from the SR Traffic Committee 1933" which seems to have been slotted in randomly although that doesn't detract from the contents.

There are many plus points to this publication with, naturally, many rail mounted cranes in evidence plus other delights such as a brake van in LBSCR livery. The author has obviously gone to great lengths to amass a superb range of photographic material culled from many sources including, refreshingly, pictures taken by railway enthusiasts who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

It is with some reluctance that this reviewer sees fit to openly criticise one aspect of this book but it needs to be said: the overall content and image choice are excellent but the reproduction quality of the colour images between the covers is nothing short of downright poor in most instances. The colour balance with all the colour images is off key and the actual printing in one instance suggests a quality control problem at the printing stage. This has long been a issue with the Southern Way series and should be addressed now that we have moved on from £12.99 to £16.95. It's not unreasonable to suggest that the buyers deserve better value for money in this regard.

The above criticism apart, this is a fine attempt at documenting the mishaps genre on the Southern and is a worthy addition to this reviewer's books collection.

The "occasions" documented in this publication are:
Addlestone 5/8/1966
Barnes 2/12/1955
Barnham 1/8/1962
Bermondsey 19/12/1899
Borough Market Junction 28/1/1960
Bournemouth Central 29/6/1958 and 2/12/1961
Bournemouth West 17/8/1956
Burning Bulleids
Cocking 19/11/1951
Devon Belle incident 22/9/1947
Eastleigh 8/2/1956 and 23/1/1959
Farnborough - Fleet 4/11/1926
Forest Row 3/3/1954
Gomshall 20/2/1904
Halwill Junction 16/6/1944
Hither Green 20/2/1966
Itchen Abbas circa 1954
Littlehampton 4/8/1920
London Bridge 11/11/1953
Maze Hill 4/7/1958
Midhurst - Cocking 9/9/1904
New Cross 6/1/1923
Ryde 2/6/1965
St. Denys 29/10/1959
St. John's 21/3/1897
Shawford 20/7/1952
Southampton (Town Quay) 7/1950
Southampton Docks 2/1950
South Croydon 24/10/1947
Staines 9/8/1957
Wallers Ash 6/1946
Waterloo 10/6/1947 and 11/4/1960 and 28/9/1966
West Croydon 5/11/1922
Wimbledon 11/1952

MM, April 2012

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Views of a Changing RailwayViews of a Changing Railway: Edward Hopper - Railwayman from 1925 to 1968 by Maurice Hopper
ISBN 978-0-7552-1439-6,
The work is available either as an e-book at £4.95 or as a paper copy at £14.95.
Go to Printed copies may also be ordered at any good book shop.

Covering a wide sweep of the railway story in the twentieth century, this book chronicles an insider's view of the changing scene. Joining the Southern Railway in 1925 as a junior clerk, Edward Hopper left the railway in 1968 from the position of Training Officer at the 222 Marylebone Road headquarters. His experiences on the Southern included working in the General Managers Office, eventually becoming the personal assistant to John Elliot when was Deputy General Manager. Edward Hopper was also the Major in charge of the Home Guard at Waterloo.

He was a railwayman through and through, being involved with and committed to all aspects of railway life. He was especially concerned to bring about a reshaping of the railway through the development of its staff and good decision-making.

The story illuminates a neglected part of the railway: the way it trained, informed and consulted with its staff, often with approaches that were advanced for their time. This changing process is illustrated both by the example of his early career as well as the later responsibility he had for the education and training of railwaymen. At times this story may offer new insights for the more traditional reader of railway history.

Chris Green (formerly of Inter City and Virgin Trains) says the book "paints a fascinating picture of the contrasting life in a private and nationalised industry, with pithy examples from the time, but above all because it traces the life of one senior manager at a time of huge change and shows just how much a determined individual can achieve in a large organisation."

"Edward Hopper was one of those modest men whose achievements were in danger of being forgotten by history. I commend his family for preventing this from happening and for ensuring that both his achievements and his memory will live on. I commend their book as an excellent and worthwhile read."

MH, May 2012

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Britain's Lost RailwaysBritain's Lost Railways, ISBN 978 1 84513 450 1 John Minnis Aurum Press Ltd. 189 pages

Roger Marler submitted this review and although not specifically related to Southern matters I nevertheless felt that the book covers a field which would be of interest to enthusiasts and modellers alike. - Webmaster

The very title of this new book suggests yet another compendium of locomotives and other rolling stock. But, the subtitle: The Twentieth Century Destruction of our Finest Railway Architecture tells us that it as something rather different. This is a well researched, written and notated record of structures that have succumbed to the wrecker's ball, and other forms of destruction. It covers all kinds of buildings that adorned the early years of British railways and their development: major stations, much smaller and more remote buildings, goods sheds, signal boxes, viaducts and bridges, some light railways, and more.

Mr. Minnis is obviously well versed in the language and intent of architecture, especially as it applies to railways, and introduces the book in a meaningful way. Thereafter, he highlights individual buildings and structures, each with a knowledgeable comment about its history and eventual loss. All of the very many photographs - there must be at least 200 - are black and white, not surprising given their age, and none of the buildings stand today. This is a chronicle of what we have lost.

There are shots of some grandiose and ornate station interiors that some may remember and mourn - Euston Great Hall; there are also photographs of impressive viaducts - Belah on the North Eastern Railway; signal boxes of all types - Melton Mowbray; industrial buildings that catered either directly or indirectly to the business of running a railway - Glasgow Buchanan Street; buildings in their very best bib and tucker - Ivybridge; and some that had clearly seen better days - Midhurst station building, and Middlesborough's great roof of iron that took a direct bombing hit in WW2. However, the greatest accolade is reserved for a very rare photograph of the Merthyr Tramroad (Penydarren) in operation, with the Taff Railway's viaduct in the background during widening for double track accommodation; it dates from 1862.

This is, in some ways, a homage to Victorian architecture that quickly lost favour when a new order of architects took the reins in Britain. Mr. Minnis takes no favourite location or railway into consideration, instead he captures all geographic regions of Britain for his "personal project". The majority of the demolition took place in the 1950s and 1960s; but much of what has been removed happened more recently. Plenty has been lost because of the demands of business plans, reduction in staffing, modifications to the lines themselves, and simple redundancy, not just the loathing of one style by a later generation.

Among the many citations is this by Simon Jenkins: "No group of British architects have had their work less cared for than railway architects. No aspect of British craftsmanship has been less conserved than that of our railway engineers." Whether or not you appreciate Victorian architecture, this is an invaluable addition to any enthusiast's library. While it may bring tears and sad memories, it is a rich source of detail and material to inspire builders of model railways and their associated paraphernalia

Roger Marler, March 2013.

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This page was last updated 20 May 2012

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