Specialist railway bookshops

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Specialist railway bookshops

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Modificato: Giu 4, 2007, 10:28am

It's easy to order stuff from ABE Books or Amazon, but nothing beats browsing through actual physical shelves of railway books you didn't know existed. Fusion already mentioned Ingrow carriage Museum in another thread: Where do you go to look for rail-related reading? (and can we come along...?)

To start with the most obvious: Motor Books in St Martin's Court in the West End of London. One of those shops that's bigger inside than outside. I don't go to London very often these days, but still occasionally order stuff from them.

In the Netherlands (and just down the road from me): Van Stockum, just across from Den Haag Centraal Station, has a very good range of railway books from all over the world (but mostly Germany).

Giu 4, 2007, 10:35am

Ah, you mentioned Motor Books before I could! Whenever I get to UK I like to pop in there and have a look. A mate of mine here in South Africa always asks me to bring him some World War II books and magazines too whenever I go there.

Not specialist railway bookshops but I've picked up interesting old railway books in various dusty secondhand bookshops and antique shops in Kenya, South Africa, and of course London. The latter has been mainly in Charing Cross Road, but I got my copy of Boomer a dozen years ago in a bookshop in what used to be the ticket office of the old Osterley Station on the Piccadilly Line (the old station is a few hundred metres from the current one - you can see the platforms as you go through it).

Giu 4, 2007, 11:56am

I think museum shops frequently have good selections of railway books. I will try to buy a book when I visit a raiway museum just ot give support. The problem someimtes is that I can't afford everything that I might want to buy.

Many years ago in England, in Bath, I was taken to a pretty good railway book store near the center of town. Then, I remember a shop near St. Pancras? station in London, but I think it was temporary.

Modificato: Giu 4, 2007, 2:06pm

Museums and preserved lines used to be a good bet for books, but -- in the UK, at least -- they can't afford to waste shelf space in their museum shops on books that might sit there for years: they need it for stuff that actually generates turnover, like tea-towels, genuine Welsh honey and Thomas the tank-engine merchandise.

I've bought books from the Nene Valley bookshop via ABE, so I assume that's an exception, and Fusion mentioned that the Worth Valley has a decent bookshop (tucked away in the carriage museum, not at their prime site in Haworth). The Festiniog shop at Porthmadog was so packed with kids buying souvenirs on my last visit that I couldn't even find the book section, if they have one...

Do you mean the place that used to sell off surplus British Rail property in an old office building somewhere across from Euston? I forget what it was called, but you could get things like restaurant-car dinner plates and old working timetables there, as well as books. It moved to York for a while, but seems to have disappeared again two or three years ago.

Giu 4, 2007, 3:06pm

There used to be a railway memorabilia shop just up the road from the National Railway Museum at York but I haven't been there for years and I seem to remember hearing that it has disappeared now.

Giu 4, 2007, 9:23pm


Yes, it was at Euston. I haven't been to England in years.

One thing I am struck by in LT is how many of my rail books are not shared by anyone else, or else just one person. We need more railfans on this site.

Giu 5, 2007, 1:56am

>One thing I am struck by in LT is how many of my rail books are not shared by anyone else,

Same here -- I currently have 144 books tagged "railway". 110 are unshared, 15 are shared by only one other person. Only four are shared by 10 or more people. The most popular is (inevitably) Thomas the tank-engine, followed quite closely by The Big Red Train Ride.

I suspect that a few of the unshared books would come out in the wash if we did a bit of combining. For instance, does anyone know if Talyllyn Adventure is the same book as Railway Adventure? I can't find any reference to the former in Rolt bibliographies, so I suspect it may be a US title or something.

Giu 5, 2007, 12:11pm

Good Morning

In the States there are great railroad bookshops near some of the major tourist railroads. Strasburg PA and Chama New Mexico have good shops near the rail facilities. Milepost One at Sacramento is a treasure. We just lost Como Shops, a rail bookstore in the old Northern Pacific passenger car shops at Saint Paul.

Occasionally you can find a hobby retailer with an amazing book section. Wings Hobby on the west side of Cleveland has (had) an astounding collection. The one train shop in Billings Montana also has a great train book assortment.

Several people work the flea market curcuit...most notably Dave Hickox when he is not being a Physics Prof at Ohio State.

And Colorado Railroad Museum is pretty good for books too, as is our National Railroad Museum at Green Bay Wisconsin.

Wish I had known about the Brit shops when I holidayed there 2 years back. Well, I'll ask again the next time I head that way.


Giu 5, 2007, 1:23pm

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Nov 26, 2007, 6:40pm

Back in June, thorold asked "does anyone know if Talyllyn Adventure is the same book as Railway Adventure? I can't find any reference to the former in Rolt bibliographies, so I suspect it may be a US title or something."

Talyllyn Adventure was an update of Railway Adventure, with new material written by Tom Rolt in the mid- to late 1970s. I don't have a copy myself, but I did read it from my local library when it was fairly new (back in the days when British libraries could actually afford to buy new books).

I've posted a review of Railway Adventure tonight.

Nov 26, 2007, 7:19pm

Tallyllyn Adventure has a digitized copy in Google Books (Snippet view) published in 1971. Railway Adventure was done in 1953.

Nov 27, 2007, 2:33am

>10 RobertDay: Thanks for clearing that up!

There's maybe a teensy bit of hyperbole in calling railway preservation a "mass movement" - even in the UK, where every second supermarket car park seems to have a preserved railway behind it, the number of people actively involved must be a tiny minority of the population. Especially as it seems to be the same people operating every line...

BTW: kudos for managing to work "paradigm shift" into the first paragraph of the review, and "seminal" into the first paragraph of your other review. "Ground-breaking" next? :-)

Nov 29, 2007, 4:21am

>10 RobertDay: RobertDay - nice review - thanks.

>12 thorold: thorold - in South Africa we really wish it were a "mass movement" as we struggle with very few people indeed to keep heritage steam going, although you can see a steam train, often double-headed, out on the main line almost every day around Pretoria, which can't be bad, even if most of those trains are run by a commercial operation rather than volunteers.

The heritage railway of which I am still a member in UK (Dean Forest Railway) has well over a thousand members, of whom upwards of 60 are working members if my memory serves me correctly. I think you're right when you say that many of the same people work on several different railways in UK. Our heritage association in Pretoria (Friends of the Rail) has less than 60 members, of whom around 20 are available to work trains but not much more than half a dozen turn out regularly for the weekly drudge of renovation, maintenance and repair.

Dic 16, 2007, 1:06pm

Thorold said "There's maybe a teensy bit of hyperbole in calling railway preservation a "mass movement"..." Since when has there been anything wrong with a teensy bit of hyperbole?

Seriously, though, I wasn't thinking so much of railway preservation itself being a mass movement, rather the idea that ordinary people could organise themselves to achieve a common goal that was previously seen as the preserve of the state, or big business. Given that the Tal-y-llyn preservation society was formed in 1951, in the depths of Austerity Britain after the war, I still think it stands at the beginning of the 'community action' process. I suppose the UK's National Trust was before this by a long chalk, but before WW2 the NT was seen as something of an elitist body (class and all that). The Tal-y-llyn was instead classless; what with that and its early use of the media to spread its message, I stand by my hyperbole!

Must work harder on getting buzzwords into my reviews....

Dic 17, 2007, 11:30am

>14 RobertDay:

Yes, there's something in that. Obviously there were some popular movements before the war, but they were mostly linked to churches, trade unions, or left-wing political parties (think Ramblers' Association, YHA, HF, etc.). I used to be in the LRTA, which goes back to the twenties, I think, but that was always unsure whether it was a pressure group, a fan club, or a professional association.

Modificato: Dic 21, 2007, 9:16pm

I've always thought of the Light Railway Transit Association as fan first, then pressure group. Their publications were always professionally presented, but whether enough decision making professionals in the public transport field were members of the LRTA all along, I can't say.

Dic 21, 2007, 6:46pm

I never really thought of the LRTA being lumped in with the Ramblers' Association and the political wing of the YHA!

Looking at the LRTA's journal just confuses matters. It's professionally published by Ian Allan, it carries adverts for the light rail profession, and yet if you look at the articles and notices of coming events, it comes over as being part of the fanbase.

Whilst on holiday in Austria this year, I picked up a magazine in Salzburg called 'Regionale Schienen' (Regional rails) and it, too, has a similar odd mix; at one point, it has reports back from regional transport planners' conferences, then it has historical articles, then it has a feature about running preserved trolleybuses. (In Austria, a trolleybus is classed in law as a train, hearking back to their origin as 'trackless trams'.) Perhaps light rail people are evangelists first, professionals second?

Modificato: Dic 21, 2007, 9:33pm

One of the things that I think the LRTA (and similar organizations and publications elsewhere) was to reverse a general malaise after World War II that came into the public transport industry. Pulbic transport tried to respond to the diversion to automobile driving and not going out at night (i.e. watching television) by a policy of retrenchment and disinvestment. LRTA needed the energy of the railfans, as the old professionals (those working in the 1950's and the 1960's) did not have it. This was particularly true of the United States, Britain, and France. So, now we have a real resurgence of interest and construction in many cities.

Regarding the legal status of trolleybuses, I remember hearing about a claim against the Philadelphia Transportation Co in the 1960's. A motorist saw a trolley pole fall down to the trolleybus' roof and, being frightened, drove into a tree, and wanted to collect damages from PTC. The appeals court (upholding the lower court), denied the claim, because the trolleybus (in Pennsylvania, called a trackless trolley) was a streetcar and not a motor vehicle.

Dic 26, 2007, 6:40am

Yes, I think what attracted me to the LRTA was the "informed amateurism". I picked up a few back copies of Modern Tramway, and joined because I was impressed to find that it was apparently written by (i) engineers who could string together complete sentences and (ii) British people who knew something about the Continent. The quality of the magazine was mainly due to the then editor and two or three other people who wrote most of the features: when they retired or died there was no-one interested in maintaining that standard, and it turned into a trade glossy - all the articles seemed to be undigested press releases, the "news" was all cribbed from Blickpunkt Strassenbahn, and I didn't see the point of getting it just for the pictures.

Apr 3, 2010, 4:54pm

When passing northbound or southbound on the U.S. east coast I-95, remember to stop to see, and shop, at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum (www.borail.org) in Baltimore. The museum is in a large round-house with about twenty spaces for rolling stock and is filled with mostly antique locomotives. The more modern rolling stock is outdoors since it is so large. They have a gift shop with a good selection of books. There are plenty of other museums to visit as well, including the Museum of Industry, which possesses the only surviving, and working, steam tugboat in existence. Twenty minutes north by expressway is the Antique Fire Engine Museum. And like many old cities we have a Streetcar Museum where the old cars, including the open-sided Summer cars, still travel on a private right-of-way carrying passengers. And don't forget our large Aquarium, and marine mammal show. We have many excellent art museums as well, including the Visionary Art Museum, which displays folk art by untrained but inspired artists. Check it out!