Railway books for the literate
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I've dealt with this mostly by buying books from German, Swiss, or Dutch publishers, or British stuff from before 1970, but I'm sure there must still be some readable British and North American railway books coming out. Any suggestions?
There are a few North American railroad books that I, a fairly literate person, enjoy and can recommend without reservation.
My favorites would include The Modoc by Jack Bowden, a very comprehensive study of one component of the Southern Pacific
2. The Interstate Railroad by Ed Wolfe
3. Some of John Norwood books on the Rio Grande Narrow Gauge, but not including his other works.
4. James Fair's books on medium sized railroads in the South.
5. The Gilbert Hoffman books on logging railroads in Mississippi.
6. Boomer Railroad Memoirs by Linda Niemann.
7. The Colorado Railroad Annuals
8. Robert Richardson's memoirs of his railfan days, Chasing Trains
9. Jay Cooke's Gamble by M John Lubetkin
I could add more, and probably will in the next few weeks.
There is plenty of the badly captioned photo book available on this side of the Atlantic too. But there are a few with real words, and the ones cited above have some literary merit.
Dave in Duluth
#1 - thorold, I hear what you're saying - I'm in transit between Kenya and Sudan at the moment but will have a look at my list when I get home in a week or two.
All Aboard! Tales of Australian Railways - Jim Haynes
The art of the engine driver - Steven Carroll (fiction)
Behind the Steam - Bill Morgan (old footplate memories)
La Locomotive a Vapeur - Andre Chapelon (English translation)
Lunatic Express - Charles Miller (Uganda railway)
Passengers - Sue Lightfoot (erotic railway fiction, believe it or not!)
Permanent Way Vols I&II - M F Hill (Uganda and Tanganyika railways)
Platform Souls: The Train Spotter as Twentieth-century Hero - Nicholas Whittaker
Playing with Trains: A Passion Beyond Scale - Sam Posey
(both the above already mentioned in another thread in this group)
Railway Children - Edith Nesbit (timeless children's railway fiction)
The Railway Man - Eric Lomax (Burma railway)
Railwaywomen - Helena Wojtczak
The Red Devil and other tales from the age of steam - David Wardale
Tales of the Old Railwaymen - Tom Quinn
The Thirty-Nine Steps - John Buchan (fiction with a fair bit of railway action)
When life was rusted through - Owen Letcher (Africa)
When There Was Steam - Tony Barfield (footplate memories)
And of course The Blackpool High-flyer railway detective trilogy (fiction) by Andrew Martin (see a separate thread on this group). Also various books by Paul Theroux.
Hmm - didn't realise I had so many!
A couple of North American rail journey books I've liked:
Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America by Henry Kisor, as well as Making Tracks: an American Rail Odyssey and Last Train to Toronto: a Canadian Rail Odyssey by Terry Pindell.
I recently acquired acopy of Hunter Davies' 1982 book on walking Britain's disused rail lines: A Walk Along the Tracks.
"Hey John. Thanks for the heads-up. I checked out the railroad group, but it's a bit more nuts and bolts than I had in mind. I'm looking more for literary passages that evoke the thrill of train travel and that offer glimpses of the landscapes and cultures they pass through. I love trains, but I don't know one from another."
Maybe some of us on LTR can oblige lorsomething with some literary railway stuff? I kicked off by posting W H Auden's famous poem "Night Mail".
'A Book of railway journeys,an anthology compiled by Ludovic Kennedy' 1980
'The Trains we loved' by C.Hamilton Ellis, 1947,et seq.
a bit 'nuts and bolts' but a classic evocation of the pre-1923 scene in elegant prose and delightful pictures.
'Great Railway journeys of the world' B.B.C. 1981.
Based on a television series, but containing 'literate' essays by Michael Frayn,Miles Kington and Michael Palin ('Confessions of a train-spotter') among others.
Here are a few more suggestions for train books for people who actually enjoy reading.
Snow on the Rails by Dennis Boyer is a regional collection of short pieces on the railroad experience. Boyer is a very good writer who deserves wider distribution.
Almost any book by Don Hofsommer is a good experience. I am very partial to his Katy Northwest and the Tootin Louie.
Going north of the border, I love the five volume set on the Newfoundland Railway by Mont Lingard.
My favorite Brit train book found during a delightful crawl down Charing Cross Road is Coming Up with the Goods.
There are good books out there. Hope we can all keep sharing this information and demonstrating that there is a market for the quality product.
Dave in Duluth
I didn't know about the Newfoundland Railway books. I did ride the "Newfie Bullet' (Officially, the "Caribou") in 1966. I was stationed in the U.S. Navy at Argentia, which had a branch of the Nfld Ry. I did look up at Amazon one of the volumes, Next stop, Trinity Loop, and a used copy was listed at $116, and then I went to worldcat, and found the nearest library to Long Island that has it is Yale University. So, maybe I'll do an interlibrary loan, and see if I can't get it.
Having started it, I suppose I should add one or two myself...
I like books that show evidence of thorough research and do something creative with it. The Waterloo and City Railway by J.C. Gillham is one of the few recent books in this category I've come across and is maybe a bit too obsessive -- 460 pages for a line that's barely 2km long and has only two stations -- but he presents the information in an intelligent way and takes time to analyse it, so you don't feel you're being hit over the head with facts.
I was thinking of new books when I started the thread, but since Andre Chapelon and C. Hamilton Ellis have been mentioned already (I second both nominations!), I suppose it's worthwhile adding some other classics of the genre.
The British steam railway locomotive, 1825-1925 by Ernest Leopold Ahrons is a beautiful example of a book written by an engineer, for engineers(*), without any literary frills, but in elegant, straightforward technical language that's a pleasure to read. O.S. Nock's sequel is good too. They are available in various reprint editions, but are big and contain lots of drawings and photographs, thus tend to be expensive.
The railways of England by W. M. Acworth is a survey of the main pre-grouping railway companies in 1900 written from the point of view of a non-technical journalist who went around and got the full PR treatment from the various companies. It's particularly interesting because he focusses on the railways as businesses, and isn't bowled over by the magic of the steam locomotive. It's instructive to read it side-by-side with the romantic Hamilton Ellis.
Nobody's mentioned L.T.C. Rolt yet, but his account of the beginnings of the railway preservation movement on the Talyllyn in Railway Adventure is definitely a classic among 'readable railway books' (and was in part the inspiration for the great railway film "The Titfield Thunderbolt"). His biographies of Brunel and the Stephensons are very readable too, if a bit dated.
(*) to avoid the inevitable confusion: I meant engineer=someone who designs and builds engines
edited to correct touchstones
The postman brought me Boomer: Railroad Memoirs and Jay Cooke's Gamble on Saturday. I'm about halfway through the latter. I wasn't too impressed with the early chapters -- jumping about all over the place and very much in need of the editor's red pencil -- but once he gets on to the real narrative, describing the various surveying expeditions, it becomes quite gripping. Boomer looks very interesting, too.
Jay Cooke's Gamble makes me think of a (much more political) book I read years ago about the crooked land deals associated with the building of the Union Pacific -- could it have been Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow by Dee Brown?
Thanks once again for the tips, Dave and John!
Edit: Correction - I didn't add this one manually - I was getting confused with the book which I added immediately afterwards (a workshop manual for my pick-up truck). But I see that the ISBN I added has identified my copy as hardback when in fact it's paperback - I must correct that.
If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the book from your library, ask if you can request an Inter-Library Loan via your own library - surely all of those Worldcat holdings can't be reference-only? Although for $4.00 ($.01 + $3.99 shipping @ Amazon for a hardcover copy), I'd buy it.
He also talks a little about his African locomotives. I operated his South African 15F no 3052 in 2003 when we moved it in light steam from Mason's Mill in Pietermaritzburg to Ficksburg, towed by Spoornet electric units, and again in 2006 when I fired it as it ran under its own steam on several trips between Ficksburg and Kommandonek with David on board. He comes across as a very decent bloke despite his fame.
It begins, "Sadly, given the importance of the railway to the history of Britain, lots of books about trains are frankly dull. They have titles like Branch Lines To East Grinstead, which, with the best will in the world, do not make riveting reading on the beach. Here are 10 which do."
I've read ## 2, 3, 6 and 9 and all of them are excellent.
(Was it Marchant or the Grauniad that slipped the greengrocer's apostrophe into 8? And isn't "Talyllyn" written as one word when it's the name of the railway?).
Someone lent me Marchant's own railway travel book Parallel lines a while ago - it isn't bad, if you can put up with his retired-hippy persona. But I think most of us would prefer more trains and less politics...
The most satisfying railway book I've read this year is definitely Dow on the Great Central. But there wasn't much competition, given that it took me about six weeks to get through all three volumes. And probably falls outside Marchant's terms of reference as being too specific - but as a railway history written by a railway manager who knew how to read between the lines of the minute book (and knew and worked with many of the people mentioned in the later part of the story), it's extremely interesting.
Another very readable book by a railway manager that hasn't come up yet on the thread is I tried to run a railway by Gerard Fiennes - most of it is rather dated now, as it's largely an attack on Beeching and centralisation, but some of his ideas have come back into fashion (e.g. local authority support for passenger services on rural lines).
Dow's "Great Central" is indeed one of the classic histories; somewhere, I have a letter from him, written on real Midland Railway headed notepaper! Gerry Fiennes' "I tried to run a railway" is also well worth reading, if you can locate a copy - I've not seen one for years.
The thing is that most railway books are not intended for light reading, but are rather more scholarly. My current hot rave, The narrow gauge railways of Bosnia-Hercegovina by Keith Chester falls into that category (as well as being large format and very heavy - it put me to within 250 grams of my baggage allowance when I brought it back from Vienna!)
I read Fire and steam quite recently: I have to agree that he writes well, although I was a bit disappointed in other ways (see my review). But I doubt if it would be possible to write a general history of railways in Britain that pleases everybody - all credit to him for attempting it.
Another well-written book in a similar sort of genre I read recently was The world the railways made by Nicholas Faith - a lot less systematic than Wolmar, but he spreads his net rather wider, and therefore ends up covering rather more material that was new to me.
As I mentioned recently on another thread, if I look at my overlap with the other people who use the tag "railway" a lot, there are never more than three or four railway books in it (my biggest overlap on railway books is with JohnTheFireman, because I've followed a number of his recommendations on this thread!).
You're not the only one - look at Pythagoras! Astérix seems to be very popular among railway readers as well, for some reason. I suppose you'd get different results if you looked at people who use tags like "Railroad", "Eisenbahn" or whatever - "Railway" probably pre-selects Anglophile or Anglocentric users.
Thanks for the tip about "Wodehouse in Hollywood" - I'd missed that.
One reason for the low number is that tags are split between "railway(s)" and "railroad(s)".
Railways have 2,844 entries put in by 264 users, and railroads have 3,688 entries oput in by 631 users. As an aside "chemins de fer' has 408 entries put in by 2 users (3 titles by myself -- so there is an avid railfan in France), and eisenbahn has 221 entries put in by 20 users. I once combined these two tags, but the splitters won. Like humor and humour (also split), railroad is the American term and railway is the somewhat more British term.
In any case, most railfans that have deigned to join LT have lots of singletons.
...a few more:
spoorwegen 65 times by 14 users
ferrovia 2 times by 1 user
jernbane 2 times by 2 users
rail 142 times by 49 users
trains 3,487 times by 925 users
treinen 15 times by 6 users
Züge 0 times
Probably doesn't tell us very much, but quite fun. "Trains" seems to bring up a lot of children's books, whilst "rail" brings up quite a few atlases and timetables - there clearly is some difference between these and "railway"/"railroad", which seem to differ from one another only in geographical scope. Why do English and Dutch speakers have books about both railways and trains, whilst German speakers only have books about railways...?
ETA: there are a couple of books tagged "Zug" but it looks as though that refers to the Swiss canton
For UK publications you might try searching the University of York (I happen to know that they include the catalogue of the National Railway Museum) or the Talis Union Catalog, which aggregates catalogues of lots of UK public library services, and would include local history type books.
The issues cover a broad spectrum of topics, (including railways outside NZ) so I thought it might appeal to some here.
...except that it is by CW and it has a "How X changed the world" subtitle, both of which suggest that you should expect a book that addresses you as though you were a television camera.
Wolmar's good at what he does, which is writing interesting, lively books for people who don't know much about the subject. A modern C.J. Allan or O.S. Nock, but with fewer hard facts. If you do know something about railways already, then you stand little chance of learning something new, or of getting in-depth analysis of what you know already. From the press review, it sounds as though this one will be covering similar ground to Nicholas Faith's The world the railways made - I don't imagine he'll have found any material that Faith didn't already cover.
If there is one thing about this book that irritates the modern reader, it is Morgan's habit of dismissing something that (in the 1950s) seemed fairly humdrum - he will say something like "On the way there, I passed the Schmalspurbahn Aktiengesellschaft Bad Homburg, but as they only had some nondescript engines and a few ancient coaches of indeterminate origin, I gave them a miss for something more interesting." And he makes a mysterious comment about there being something dark and mysterious and evil in the Berchtesgaden Alps unconnected with the area's Nazi past, and which he says is only equalled by a feeling of mystery and ancient terror that overcame him on the Great Western between High Wycombe and Banbury. What could he mean?
Otherwise, a fine book; and I must now hunt down a copy of my own.
I'd forgotten that - I must have read it 40 years ago. Thanks for mentioning it, Robert - I'll look out for it. When I first read it, I'd visited very few of those places; in the mean time I've travelled a bit more, so it should be more interesting.
As far as Germany is concerned, there are a lot of minor lines that would have been active in his time that closed (to passengers) in the sixties, but have reopened in the last 15 years or so.
The American Railway, first published in 1889 and subsequently reprinted by various publishing houses (this edition is a 1988 edition published by Castle, a division of Book Sales), is a summation of the state of the railroad business in 1889. By 1889 U.S. railroads had a combined mileage of over 150,000 miles which was more than all of Europe combined. Railroads were the high tech of the day and the size and scope of the industry impacted (for good and ill) all aspects of American life and interest in all things railroad was high, not only in the U.S. but also overseas. This interest resulted in the publication of numerous books (of varying quality and depth of understanding). The fact that this particular book has been reprinted several times could be viewed as a testament to the quality of its content.
This summary is divided into 13 chapters; The building of a railway, Feats of railway engineering, American locomotives and cars, Railway management, Safety in railroad travel, Railway passenger travel, The freight -car service, How to feed a railway, The railway mail service, The railway in its business relations, The prevention of railway strikes, The every-day life of railroad men, and Statistical railway studies. Each chapter is authored by a then recognized expert in the field of the chapter title. Each chapter has a byline for the author followed by an outline of chapter contents and each chapter contains illustrations and tables.
While this book is an overview of a technical enterprise it is not a dry read. The attention to detail and the description of events and practices long since vanished from the American scene hold the readers interest. If you know anything of present day railroading just reading the chapter outlines provides an appreciation of how much things have changed. I would recommend this book to anyone desiring a better understanding of the state of 19th Century railroad technology and practice.
Steam Locomotive Design: Data and Formulae by E A Phillipson is precisely what the title says - a heavy duty textbook full of data and formulae.
The Engine Driver's Manual - how to prepare, fire and drive a steam locomotive by Brian Topping is a bit populist.
I have some old manuals from steam days which are quite readable:
Handbook for railway steam locomotive enginemen - British Transport Commission - an original UK manual from 1957.
Handbook on the Steam Locomotive for enginemen and running shed staff - a 1956 original from South African Railways.
Locomotive Management: Cleaning, Driving, Maintenance: Section 1 by Jas T Hodgson, a 1996 reprint of a 1939 edition.
2-10-0 Austerity Engine and Tender - brief description with hints on maintenance and repair - Ministry of Supply, a 2005 reprint of a 1945 edition. An interesting and rare piece of history - an "owner's manual" for a steam engine. Very few (if any?) other steam locos came with such a manual - it was apparently assumed that the railway company which designed and/or built them would know how to run and maintain them. A War Department Austerity engine would be used by all sorts of different railway companies and by the military, so presumably that's why it has a manual - the poor squaddies would have been lost without orders to follow!
Yes, those late 19th century overviews often have good stuff in them. I've browsed through on or two on Google Books. The one you mention sounds like a US counterpart to . Acworth, whom I mentioned in post 12. He's technical in economics terms rather than engineering, so some bits are a struggle to get through. From about the same period, I have a couple of modern reprints of monographs (in German) by Ludwig Troske on the London and Paris underground railways. He was essentially a German spy sent to find out all that he could about metro systems in other countries before they went ahead with building one in Berlin. Incredibly detailed reports, going right down to the level of things like doorhandles and non-slip treads for staircases.
It occurred to me after posting that there was at least one person in this group who would be likely to own a few footplate manuals!
I wonder what happened if you bought a steam engine "off the peg" from Baldwin, Beyer-Peacock, SLM, Henschel, or whoever for use in some distant part of the world: did they ship it with documentation, or would they always send out a fitter from the factory to commission it and train the local staff? I suppose the danger would be that they got head-hunted and never came back, like the man from Newcastle who drove Der Adler.
The modern UK rule book is online, in sections which can be updated easily and individuals can download it free. I have the current South African manual which is not online nor publicly available but is similarly made up of several sections.
I have a BR rulebook from about the same time, given me by a signalman great-uncle (no doubt he should have handed it in when he retired, but...). It's nice to have, especially because of the personal association and the evidence of long years of pasting in addenda and correction slips. And occasionally almost poetic (I remember a lot of stuff about "fog, rain and falling snow").
Electronic versions of rulebooks have taken away one of the great pleasures of bureaucratic life. When you've spent the last couple of hours of a Friday afternoon carefully inserting the new pages into your loose-leaf binders and throwing out the superseded ones, you know your week hasn't been entirely wasted...
Anyway, I think most are within the realm of what you are looking for. I've probably duplicated a few already mentioned but I figure it's easier just mentioning them all, just so I don't miss one. I've also included a couple of books on subways.
Fire & Steam
Kings of the Iron horse
All Aboard! The Railroad in American Life
The Impossible Railway: The Building of the Canadian Pacific
Orient Express, the life and times of the world's most famous train
Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad
Conquering Gotham: A Gilded Age Epic: The Construction of Penn Station and Its Tunnels
How Steam Locomotives Really Work
Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean
Nothing Like It In the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869
Blood, Iron, and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World
To the Great Ocean, Siberia and the Trans-Siberian Railway
The First Tycoon
Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West
To the Wide Missouri: Traveling in America During the First Decades of Westward Expansion
American Railway: Its Construction, Development, Management, and Appliances
Building a great railroad : a history of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company
The Victorian Railway
Engines of War
Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America
722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York
Labyrinths of Iron: Subways in History, Myth, Art, Technology, and War
Death railway (Ballantine's illustrated history of the violent century. Human conflict)
The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street Jay Gould, Jim Fisk, Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Erie Railway Wars, and the Birth of Wall Street
There seem to be an awful lot of "and" and "how" subtitles in that list (Subtitles: one annoying cliché and how it ruined non-fiction publishing). Generally those are a very powerful indicator of low-quality non-fiction. But I could be wrong...
I don't have anything against subtitles per se. Where I see a problem is with the formulaic approach to non-fiction publishing based on the notion that every successful non-fiction book must take some apparently minor fact and demonstrate that it was actually earth-shatteringly important. To indicate to the potential purchaser that the book does this, it gets a snappy title with a ": X and how it transformed Y" subtitle.
I'm sure that there were some worthwhile books that started this trend off, but mostly the effect of having such a subtitle is to distract the author into a silly game of cherry-picking any piece of evidence that looks as though it supports the assertion in the title (I can't think of a railway book I've read that does that, but it happens a lot in general history books). In other cases, the author seems to be blissfully unaware of what the publisher claims the book is setting out to prove. Wolmar's The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground Was Built and How it Changed the City Forever is a good example: quite apart from the "forever", which is a word you associate more with preachers than with historians, the book is mainly about how railway construction reacted to urban development, the opposite of what the title suggests. The subtitle has the effect of making a not-bad book into a ridiculous one. And I'm sure this trend is making it harder to publish proper, scholarly books that give you a comprehensive view of one particular subject.
(Good Heavens, this thread is nearly five years old....)
If the topic is still "...train books for people who actually enjoy reading", I'd like to put in a word for Eric Newby's The Big Red Train Ride.
I was trying to update the ck on Bryan Morgan: he was born in 1923, is he still living?
I'll keep my eyes open for more info...
If you can find an old member of St Catharine's, they should be able to check if there's an obituary in the college magazine.
How about ephemera in this area, primarily related to the West and National Parks prior to 1940?
I do most of my posting on the Friends of the Rail Forum, a South African-based forum of which I am an administrator, which concentrates on African railways but has quite a lot of world interest too. I read various Yahoo groups (East_African_Steam, sar-L, Garratt, sa_transport, Railroad_Brake_Equipment) and post occasionally, as well as Railroad.Net, a huge US commercial site which has some interesting conversations on it. I'm also aware of Steam Tube in the UK, but I dropped out of that as I couldn't handle too many online fora. I also occasionally look at Railpictures.net, where some of my friends post photos from time to time. Rob Dickinson's International Steam Pages is another site I go back to from time to time to see what's new, and some of my pictures and information have appeared there.
Like John I haven't been reading a lot of railway books lately, and it's a while since I came across one that would fit in this thread. Yesterday I was reading a pot-boiler O.S. Nock produced to order for the British Rail board in the 60s: it was quite a reminder of why one should avoid reading books by technical journalists...
Interesting that the subject of women rail-workers comes up again: I think that's more-or-less where we came in, with Linda Niemann and Helena Wojtczak, up at the top of this thread. Maybe that's the answer: if there were more women writing railway books, we might have some sort of common pool of knowledge...
I have the books by Linda Niemann and Helena Wojtczak, and enjoyed both of them. I suppose we all have some more general interest railway books which are not connected to our specific focus.
>96 vpfluke:. The bookstores I visit seem to have lots of the general interest trade books, better known as door stops at the auctions I attend, or very specific items. For what it's worth, Denver and Seattle have been good hunting areas for me! I can't forget Victoria, BC either! A lot of these visits were over 10 years ago and bookstores have gone through multiple generations by now. I'm thinking a generation in the book business is about two or three years!! Enough of my unrelated wanderings!
Nock could write what he knew (and to be fair, he knew a lot). The trouble is, he tended to do that every time he had a book to write: so, for example, when he wrote a book called Great locomotives of the LMS, he started fifty years before the LMS was formed and didn't get onto the subject matter of the book until he was two-thirds of the way in!
I've been inspired by Bryan Morgan's The end of the line, which I'd point to as highly literate railway writing; but then again, Morgan was also a novelist. I'd like to try to bring that book, written in the early 1950s, up to date; but so far, I've not been able in interest a publisher in such a seemingly esoteric project.
Railway enthusiasts are almost as tribal as football fans (British ones more so); and the market for serious books that are about railways first and tribalism second appears pretty limited no matter where you are.
Thanks to the revival of this thread I finally remembered that I meant to get myself a copy of The end of the line. When I got it, I realised that I had read it a very long time ago as a library book. I agree with Robert: very literate railway writing. Sometimes frustrating in its lack of detail about things that have now gone for good, but very enjoyable to read. It might be fun to bring it up to date, but I doubt if any publisher would go for it. It seems to be the rule nowadays that you’re only allowed to be lyrical or whimsical on television... Anyone writing such a book would have almost as much fun as Morgan complaining about the complexities of the timetables of those lines that have survived into preservation. Is the second Tuesday in August a lime green day or an orange one? Not to mention the impossibility of reaching most museum railways without a car.
When I buy secondhand books over the Internet I usually have a look to see if I can order something else from the same dealer to save a bit on the postage. That way I ended up matching Morgan’s book with Philip Bagwell’s 1968 history of The Railway Clearing House. Maybe not a literary treasure, but some very good solid historical writing that doesn't hesitate to make you think a bit. Bagwell is clearly convinced that the railway industry is in a mess (who wouldn't be, in Britain in the sixties, apart from O.S. Nock?), and that most of the problems are the fault of Victorian private enterprise and the reluctance of governments to intervene. Railway companies (apart from the Midland) wanted to keep investment down and focus on small volumes of high-value business; they had absolutely no incentive to get involved in throat-cutting price competition, so Britain ended up with ridiculously expensive passenger and freight rates, whilst the companies managed to block or delay expensive safety improvements. The RCH, although good at its job of dividing up revenue between companies, seems to have been a classic example of totally ineffective “industry self-regulation” in its other role as a central coordinating organisation.
Several months ago I went on to websites with the UK government documents and after several hours decided I was even more confused. I did get a subscription to Today's Railways UK and have started to piece things together a bit but I'm still feeling ill at ease in my lack of understanding.
Does anybody have a picture, drawing, PP, or the like that shows the way this works? I understand the track maintenance more or less but it is the control of what I'll call slots for trains. I'll even buy a book if there is one that helps!
In that case, Bagwell won't help you much: he only goes up to 1922 in detail. Victorian capitalism is much simpler to understand. There were essentially no rules at all, and it was all secret deals between men in top-hats...
If you're persistent enough, you can find most of the official documents and rules on-line: the Office of Rail Regulation (http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/) is one possible place to start. Or Wikipedia. But it's not for the faint-hearted. Christian Wolmar has written a couple of books on the political background to rail privatisation, but they are probably out of date by now.
A book I have read at least twice and will probably go back to again is Set up running : the life of a Pennsylvania railroad engineman, 1904-1949 by John Orr. It is a biography of this father running steam on the middle division and the division going up into NY State on the PRR. I found it enjoyable and to this day makes me wonder how anyone who worked freight ever kept a family together. I'm sure the same applies today although on roads it may be getting a bit better today. Am I reading too much between the lines?
I saw a review for Principles of Railway Operation by John Glover published by Ian Allan in the UK. The last line of the review says ". . . it is recommended reading for all railway industry professionals." Would it help someone like me to understand the UK operations a bit better than I do now? I thought it was me but it sounds like even the professionals over there get confused as well.
Past my bedtime! Thanks for the reminders.
Curiously, your touchstone for John Glover seems to point to Beowulf! Lets see if I have better luck...
Glover's best known for his book about London Underground, which Ian Allan like to re-issue every few years with a different title and a new set of pictures. I have the version called Principles of London Underground Operations, which was probably the basis for the one you were looking at. It's interesting, but not very sophisticated: rather basic stuff about predicting line capacity in terms of timetables, signalling equipment and so on. And quite a bit (important for London but maybe not in a more general book) about designing stations for passenger flow. Nothing much about the economic side.
The Modern Railway, Key Publishing,£25 ISBN 978-0-94621-9384
sub-titled The definitive guide to the UK's railway industry in 2013, this takes a look at the state of play in numerous companies and sectors and focuses on their view of 2012 and their aspirations for the future.
Loco Review 2013, Freightmaster Publishing, £18.95, ISBn 978-0-9558275-6 - aims to cover,mainly by way of colour photos and captions, as many notable loco-hauled workings as possible during the previous 12 months.
Rail Info, Lily Ubs, £18 ISBN 978-1-907945-18-2 - gives a broad overview of the UK rail industry, it is intended to provide a reference tool for those who work in the industry, being strong on tables,graphs and other other statistical data...a very useful addition to the busy rail professional's library.
Railway Directory 2013, DVV Media £295 (that's right) - a 'bible' for the railway industry.
Also a new edition of Track Atlas of mainland Britain, Platform 5 Publishing, £24.95 ISBN 978-1902336978 - a fantastic reference book that deserves to be on the bookshelves of every self-respecting railfan.
Hope this is of interest. F/H
>123 Foxhunter: Thanks for the suggestions. I was thinking about the Track Atlas as my only other one for Britain is pre WWII. I think I'll pass on the one for 295 pounds(no symbol on this keyboard!). I'll see if I can find the review to read on "The Modern Railway".
Steaming To Victory: How Britain's Railways Won The War by Michael Williams
It also claims: "In an age where a faulty door button brings your train to a standstill, this book recalls the era where 40 tons of exploding TNT triggered only a small delay..."
There is also a school of thought that says that the privatisation was made so Byzantine to prevent a future Labour government re-nationalising it easily (or at all).
I mustn't say any more, or I'll veer so far off-topic that I'll get justified grief from all the rest of you...
Now we have proof nationalised railways are better run, invest more and save taxpayers cash
Hmmmm. If it proves anything, it's that even sentiments you agree with sound false and unconvincing when they're argued for solely by blustering and pulling statistics selectively out of the air...
Can't say I have been behind any lately. I did go to Chicago last month for the the 75th anniversary of Central Electric Railfans Association and rode in a lot of early trolleys and elevated cars primarily from the Insull era. I also went to Kenosha, WI and rode all of their PCC's (6!) that are painted for different lines in the US.
Maybe next year when I go to CO or I may go out to Strasburg and ride the cabin car on their local freight that moves 3 times/week. Once in a while it is steam but usually it's diesel or a doodlebug.
I was surprised to see that John, our footplate fireman had nothing on the fabulous ‘Blue Train’ which I first rode back in the 1990’s and I had heard that there was a new bio-book about this train and it’s wonderful experience.
May I offer a few good reads that I have enjoyed from my own collection (I’ll only list those I have reviewed). Firstly the series from a true railway-man, Adrian Vaughan (no relation but a fair doppelganger!):
Signalman's Morning (and his excellent Bio on that great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel: Engineering Knight-Errant
On the English rural trains, that Paul Theroux says all English grew dreamy about:
Eleven Minutes Late: A Train Journey to the Soul of Britain which has a fabulous nostalgic cover.
The On The Slow Train series by Michael Williams and a nice series from the BBC on Great railway journeys and the books by Ludovic Kennedy and, of course, John Betjeman.
A true ‘gricer’ book I own because it was my own “local’, useful, quaint, charming and of value to it’s community – so of course, it was closed The Sheppey Light Railway
Good travelling (with a book) all!
The only book I have found was a fictional story The mystery of the Blue Train and I read little fiction.
Nice pastiche 1930s-railway-poster atmosphere, but it's a rather puzzling image. What is actually going on?
The first odd thing is that we see a train apparently approaching us, but we know that in the UK trains usually run on the left, not the right. I thought at first that the cover designer had simply flipped the image, but you can see the figures on the clock in the higher-quality example on Amazon, and it's the right way round.
The train could be arriving "wrong-line" in the platform - unusual, but not unknown, especially since in this case the tracks have unfortunately been laid so close together that it wouldn't be possible for two trains to pass in the station - but then why is there a railwayman on the platform giving it the "right-away" with a green flag and a whistle?
Alternatively, it's just departed on the right track, leaving the guard behind (he's facing away from the train, so he might not have noticed it setting off...). But that doesn't fit with the happily-expectant waiting passengers. And it would have to be a light engine or an autotrain propelling, as the engine is at the back. And surely the fireman would have noticed the guard had been left behind on the platform and stopped the train...
There's an old railway ditty, told to me by a fifty-years-on-the-footplate man, about the relationship between driver and guard:
The guard is the man who sits in the van
And rides at the back of the train.
The driver up front thinks the guard is a ****
And the guard thinks the driver's the same.
Apologies for including that in a thread which includes the term "literate" in its title.
I'm not well up on British railway rules, but in South Africa a stationmaster could display a green flag to an approaching train to give the driver authority to pass a semaphore signal at danger, but he should be at the signal, not in the middle of the platform, and he should be carrying both red (furled) and green (displayed) flags. He can also display a green flag to an approaching train if his station is booked as a conditional stopping place (ie if the train only needs to stop if there are passengers to pick up or set down) and he has no passengers to be picked up.
But, as I think you were hinting, this picture is probably an example of artistic licence!
The book looks interesting, anyway. It's not every railway book that opens with the author fantasising about Juliette Binoche...
If you want a real groaner with respect to railroads you can read my review of On the Blue Comet. As I noted in the review the list of mistakes goes on for pages and the list I provided in the review is not exhaustive. As an additional item since we are talking book covers - the Lionel Blue Comet used for the cover of that book is the very last version of the engine which was made in 1936. The 1931 version is quite different.
John, I read this morning ..."Kenya formally launches a new Chinese-financed railway which should eventually extend across East Africa to reach South Sudan, DR Congo and Burundi." But I do not think there can be a book about it yet!
When an author purports to use meticulous historical detail to establish time and place and then gets those facts wrong, anorakism is, in my view, wholly justified.
I spent 3 days back in September in Chicago at the 75th anniversary meeting of Central Electric Railfans Association with one whole day devoted to riding Insull cars up and down the IRM electrified line - - - what a hoot!
The best place, though, was the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin, IL. Here are grown men playing with their 650 volt DC layout. Every car has a story and its own running personality. They even have a pair of CTA cars they converted from 3rd rail to trolley pickup! Riding the front seat on those was easy and fun!!
Now is someone would just get a Brill Bullet running like they did on the P&W (I loved riding those cars) along with the Liberty Liners from the North Shore Line back running on the P&W (before they figured out they were too heavy for the bridges) I would really feel like a 10 year old in the drool-er seat!!
Oh for PRR GG1's to run again. . .
It's interesting how everyone seems to be so impressed with Berlin Hbf and the rebuilt St Pancras. Probably the result of tireless PR by the architects and developers. When you actually use those stations as a passenger, they have all the character and beauty of a giant shopping mall. The spot where the classic St Pancras photo is taken from isn't anywhere you normally pass on the way to or from your train (I think it's the terrace of one of the bars). From the main circulation area all you see are retail outlets, fast food, and a nice roof. The three actual stations are miles apart in walking distance, and the trains are tucked away out of sight. (But I do like the easy connection between Eurostar at St Pancras and the ECML at King’s Cross.)
Berlin Hbf is worse: it's a characterless concrete and glass hole, filled with escalators, lifts, and balconies full of shops. It hits you over the head with its size, but it doesn't make you feel like a welcome guest of the railway. If I had to select a big German station for that sort of top ten it would have to be either Köln or Hamburg Hbf - the first for its amazing setting, the second for the way the building manages to be both train-centered and relatively welcoming for the passenger.
If I had to nominate a recently-built or rebuilt station, then it would be Antwerp, where you still get a strong sense of the character, purpose and scale of the old station even though it has been hollowed-out and lined with raw concrete. I think they have a few rather splendid new stations in Spain too, but I haven't actually used any of them yet.
and for comparison, a few of Köln:
This book only arrived yesterday and I have read and shelved it with the others by this writer, a conscientious and professional railway worker and thoroughly 'readable' author.I am already missing his quite , clear 'voice' and am so saddened by his account of the passing of such a lifestyle that I will probably decline to read the last part of this trilogy.
In this work the author (no relation) continues his auto-biographical account of his career from a young an very unofficial signalman's helping hand (Booking Clerk)to the demise of both his career and the GWR (God's own railway)and the passing of those efficient and evocative steam engines, surely the clipper-ships of rail.
The book has many great photograph's by both the author - who remains to this day a steam enthusiast - and his father. His prose-sketches of the wonderful characters who were his work-mates make the reader feel that they were part of his life too, and he grows lyrical in his descriptions of not just the marvelous engines, but the early dawn and surrounding country-side. Lots of witty "tales", great research, as well as recalled and detailed memories - a great read for railway-lovers and just readers of plain good prose.
That appears to be what main line termini are all about these days.
The top picture on this page is the current "tower"; the second picture is the nx panel they used from 1975 to 1996 (when they widened the approach lines to six tracks):
The black and white photo near the top of this page shows the interior of one of the two mechanical boxes that controlled it until 1975:
If you want to see some more entertaining Dutch signal box architecture, google "seinhuis Muiderpoort"