the Annie S. Swan of railway literature?
Oswald Stevens Nock was a highly prolific author: his output was exceedingly variable in quality and his most obvious lack (highly evident in his "autobiographies") is that of self-criticism. Biddle contributed a biography on him to the Oxford Companion to British Railway History. He notes that he lived from 1904 to 1994 and worked for Westinghouse. He claims that Nock's knowledge was "prodigeous", but notes imbalance in his output. He failed to record that Nock was educated at the quaintly-named Giggleswick [School] (the source of the name for 45538 which always caused a late tea for KPJ when it was on the front of the 4.47 Manchester Exchange to Hull). M.A. Vanns (author of books about railway signalling and on the railways of Newark-on-Trent) has contributed an excellent biography (but questionable bibliographical appreciation) of Nock in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography which notes that Nock was born in Sutton Coldfield on 21 January 1905 and died on 21 September 1994 in Bath. Vanns states that there were 140 books.
Nock's greatest contribution was in recording locomotive performance. The quotation taken from Out the line gives a clear indication of how Ossie was able to achieve such a prodigeous output. There it is clearly shown that the primary aim was to maximize income, rather than to make a lasting contribution to railway literature: hence the repetitive style and padding. He was not as some writers state a highly authorative writer except on railway signalling (where he was a professional engineer) and on locomotive performance. His earlier works tend to be better written than the later ones. There is ample evidence that he read considerably less than he wrote.
R.A.S. Hennessey. 'Sparks' the electrical consultants. Backtrack, 2008, 22, 564-9 notes that Nock attended lectures on electrical engineering by Philip Dawson.
Out the line page 7 et seq
In the early 1930s the great slump prevailed. There was little work for Westinghouseso little indeed that many of us lived in fear of being discharged. To try and augment my small salary I began writing articles about railways. The great majority of those early efforts earned nothing more than the editor's rejection slip; but one day I took a long shot, and it came off-and in due course I arrived at Euston with an engine pass in my pocket, to collect data for a commissioned article. My first efforts were directed towards the Railway Magazine, of which I had been a reader almost from my cradle; but, tempted by an advertisement which, if I remember rightly, was headed 'More Profit from Writing', I took a correspondence course in journalism, and gathered some pretty caustic comments upon my first efforts at writing popular articles. That course eventually taught me two important things: the need for a compelling, arresting opening paragraph and, when I was writing round technical things, to have a plentiful leavening of human interest. While the second of these necessities was essential for the popular press, it was anathema to professional engineers, who regarded it as a waste of valuable space, and quite unnecessary padding. So at first I had to learn to develop two styles, and truth to tell I had little success with either! .
The Railway Magazine was the first to publish an article of mine, entitled 'Carlisle, a Station of Changes', in its January 1932 issue, and toconvirice a somewhat reluctant editor of its attractions I had dashed up there on a winter's night to spend a Saturday morning photographing the trains. I must have been very enthusiastic about railways then, because I find on referring to my travelling diary of the period that I went north from Euston at 12.35 a.m. on the Night Scot, and logged the running in detail. The only section over which the record is missing is from Crewe to Preston. Forty-five years later I am/.wondering how I managed to keep awake! The conditions on arrival could not have been worse. It was cold, windy, and a mixture of sleet and rain was driving in through the open ends of the station all the morning. Steam was blowing all over the place. In desperation I took many photographs, but the majority were hopeless and, by early afternoon, wet and chilled to the bone, even I gave up a,nd caught the 2.42 p.m. express back to St Pancras. I sold the article, embellished by three photographs which dearly showed the climatic conditions of the day: but as for 'more profit from writing' the fee I eventually received barely paid for my frugal meals on that trip, let alone the return fare from London to Carlisle and back-even at 1931 weekend rates!
My first real success, though not exactly so financially, was when I sold one of my correspondence course exercises to the London Evening News, and it was published early in 1932 as a mini-feature under the heading of 'Hyde Park's Ghost Trains', over the cryptic initials 'C.K.S.'. I was doing something of a tightrope act at the time as far as my own professional work was concerned. My immediate boss at the time was a difficult man: intensely possessive, and jealous that no vestige of credit or prestige should come out of his department unless directly attributed to him. I felt, and from the experience of a far more senior engineer than myself with some justification, that any attempt to augment my income at that stage would have brought a veto, if nothing worse. So everything except my contributions to the 'little' Railway Magazine, which was regarded as a bit of a joke in some professional circles, had to be written under a pen name. At one time I used my second name, Stevens, prefixed by two letters from my surname, CK; other contributions were under the pseudonym of 'Railway Engineer'. The modesty of my success in those early days may be judged from the number of articles other than in the Railway Magazine that I had published. From the beginning of 1932 up to Easter 1934 there were just sixteen, and of those four were in our local paper at Watford.
There was another side to my early efforts in journalism. With the enthusiasm generated by that correspondence course I worked hard to try and develop something other than articles with a railway slant, and my love of the country and keenness on purely pictorial landscape photography came to my aid. I found an occasional market in the Motor, although while I was a driver I could not afford a car! In accepting my small articles I do not think the editor ever discovered this. Still writing as 'C.K.S.' I had such articles as 'A Lonely Scottish Lido', 'The Gateway of the Lakes' and 'The Country of St Abb', while the Riley Record published 'The Lower Eden Valley'. Almost the last of these, and perhaps in retrospect the best, appeared under my own name in the Glasgow Herald in November 1934, 'Autumn in Moidart'. But by that time the more technical side of my authorship was beginning, and such time as I could spare for writing became devoted more and more to railways. I must now tell how I came to take the 'long shot' that opened up a collateral Course in my life that has led so far to more than eighty, not articles, but full-length books.
With a few short mini-features I was lucky enough to catch the eye of Wilson Midgley, features editor of the Star. Beginning in June 1932 he took 'Signs for the Colour Blind' from me. Then followed 'A Robot Railway', 'Pacific 1933', 'East London's Searchlights', 'Speed Up to Paris'in the course of about two years. 'Pacific 1933' was his re-titling of a piece on the first Stanier 'Pacifics' of the LMS, which came out that year. I forget what my own title was, but Midgley skilfully parodied the title of Honnegger's well known fantasia 'Pacific 231', which was played recently to excellent effect at the musical night at the Albert Hall, organised by British Railways at the time of the 150th Anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1975. Anyway, right back in March 1934 I wrote to the Star and asked if they would like an article describing a footplate ride on 'Pacific 1933'. Midgley did not actually commission an article, but his reply was encouraging enough for me to ask the LMS for the necessary permission, and to my delight they gave it not only for the 'Pacific', but to ride any other engine, between Euston and Edinburgh, where I was intending to spend the Easter weekend, that year. I was certainly going in at the deep end. Drivers of those days started as cleaners, and had their first rides round the shed yard. Engineering pupils started their footplate experience on light duties; but here was I going to ride the engine of the Royal Scot express, on Special Limit timings, with the train up to maximum load. I was scared stiff, as well as being exhilarated. I remember the odd feeling of showing the guard my pass, changing into my old works 'slop' in his van, and then leaving my luggage with him and walking up to the front end-empty-handed except for my notebook and watches.
The engine was a 'Royal Scot' 4-6-0, No. 6137 Vesta, taking the train right through to Carlisle. The driver and fireman, broad Cumbrians who had worked up to London the previous day, could not have made me more welcome. I have often thought since how lucky I was to ride with Billy Charlton and Arthur Baker on my very first trip. More than forty years later, when my footplate mileage, all over the world, is getting near to six figures, I have found that a footplate pass and a love of engines will quickly break down all...
The rest is largely history (much retold in Out the line);. although Cox (Locomotive panorama V. 2) noted that the activities of Nock and Allen: "I for one, would like to pay tribute to all the faithful and accurate recording and comment in their monthly articles, which, designed primarily for the lay enthusiast, have always interested and often helped the professional locomotive engineer."
Rutherford (Backtrack 12 222) wrote "on re-reading some [KPJ's emphasis] of his work it becomes clear how a good a writer he was clear, straightforward sentences coupled with the ability to explain technical matters in simple terms". He added that "it is disappointing, in looking through his massive output, to find so little on railway signalling". Subsequently, Rutherford has been more critical: see his observations on Locomotives of the North Eastern Railway..
KPJ has produced an extended review of his Scottish Railways (below), but remains uncertain as to the extent to which Nock needs to be condemned as a "bad writer". He rarely noted sources, and tended to work on thin foundations, making maximum use of personal anecdotes. One suspects that many worked tirelessly on his behalf, not least his wife, Olivia, who may have fleshed out thin drafts. His total output was certainly excessive and has misled many into thinking that this is a sign of "authority". The few works which were compiled by him as continuations of earlier works are seldom as thorough as their predecessors.
In his Premier Line Nock could write: "Crewe was certainly kept busy during the Whale regime. London and North Western locomotive policy at this time was, as always, one of quantity production."
"It was a magnificent achievement to get 365 large new passenger and mixed traffic engines on the road in the space of five years. There was no recourse to outside builders."
An example of this in the Premier Line is the excursion into the name Luck of Edenhall (Samson class No. 90) which was a family heirloom quoted in a ballad by Uhland translated by Longfellow. So what!
Some authors are exceedingly prolix: Nock wrote over 140 books, plus over 1000 articles in magazines. Thus, it is essential to attempt to capture some of their strengths and weaknesses by an initial examination of a single work, or by a gradual examination of a limited range of works. Nock's Scottish Railways1 has always been a treasured personal possession. An examination of the somewhat diverse reasons for this should illuminate why books are sometimes "special" in an illusive way, and one which is not fully amenable to rational explanation, although book ownership is a contributory factor as multiple handling is essential.
Scotland, and its railways, have captivated several authors, notably Hamilton Ellis, and some Scots, notably John Thomas and W.A.C. Smith. The normally staid Michael Bonavia2 was capable of wondering whether: "Scotland would have done better for herself with a Scottish Railway Company". The primary reason for the magic of Scotland is the terrain which tends to be difficult, other than within the Central Valley. Even here the quest for a level route for the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway led to a remarkable piece of engineering with its great, sweeping viaducts and majestic rock cuttings which appear to go on for miles. Furthermore, even this billiard-table route enjoys panoramas of hills and distant mountains and its entrance into Glasgow is via a spectacular incline which has caused too many generations of inappropriately diesel-powered trains to cough and splutter their way to the surface at Cowlairs. It is the ultimate inter-city route as it connects the heart of Glasgow to what is obviously central Edinburgh. Queen Street Station is adjacent to George Square and the City Chambers. The route into Waverley cleaves the Old Town, with its Castle, from the New Town. Elsewhere, the railways had to do battle with mountains, or with crossing vast tracts of water, notably the Firths of Forth and Tay. The intractable Firth of Clyde was the scene for intense inter-railway rivalry by steamer for traffic from small communities situated on its rocky shores. The attempts to enter Scotland, or should it be to leave Scotland as the Edinburgh & Berwick was the first true endeavour, by rail caused Parliament to intervene, as in its wisdom, it could only perceive the need for one route, although as is so often the case Parliament's wishes were ignored.
Nock was fortunate in his choice of publisher, namely Nelson. Ronald Nelson, was a keen enthusiast and shared the author's passion for recording locomotive performance. At least one of the logs of locomotive performance reproduced is accredited to Nelson. Author/Driver McKillop was on the footplate for an Edinburgh to Newcastle run where the driver worked the regulator of the A3 Hyperion "in a most artistic way". Unfortunately, one has to look elsewhere, but again in a book by Nock3, for the same driver's remarkable performance with a D49 on a 435 ton Newcastle-Edinburgh train. This appears to be one of the very few great runs recorded with this class of locomotive.
Nock's Scottish Railways begins with an historical preamble; and is followed by chapters which describe the place of railways in Scottish industry, commerce and sport; an outline of passenger services; a description of the "great scenic routes"; the Clyde Coast; Scottish railway engineering and architecture; traffic control and signalling; locomotive building in Scotland up to 1922; Scottish locomotives after the Grouping; Scottish locomotives at work; and a Scottish miscellany. An appendix tabulates locomotive performance on several trains.
Nock takes the reader back to a lost world of herring traffic and sheep specials. "In August 1949, for example, no fewer than 29,650 sheep and lambs were forwarded by rail from Thurso in four days, and eleven special trains were required. This was, however, surpassed by the record of Lairg, on 17 August 1949, when 26,000 Cheviot sheep and lambs were exposed for sale in one day! Sheep for the south had to be despatched from the little country station on the single-track southward to Inverness. The regular station staff of three clerks, three porter-signalmen and one porter, in addition of course to the stationmaster, was heavily reinforced for the occasion; an engineers' department dormitory carriage provided sleeping accommodation for the extra staff..." It is now difficult to know whether the number of staff at Lairg, or the number of sheep, or the efforts made on behalf of them seem so far off. Perhaps, it is sufficient to be amazed that it is still possible to travel to the tiny population of Lairg by rail, although sheep have long abandoned rail for road. Similarly, Nock details the effort expended on the fish catch: "The departures from Aberdeen are timed generally so that fish will arrive in time for early markets." Now the traveller on the M6 or A1(M) will be overtaken, or overtake, those juggernauts emblazoned with the words "Fraserburgh" or "Peterhead" as they head south to catch the markets for their dwindling supplies of cod and haddock.
It is sometimes possible to forget that Nock's professional expertise was as a signalling engineer who worked for Westinghouse. There is an excellent chapter on this topic which takes the reader back to a time when the differing methods of the pre-grouping companies were still evident.
At a first glance all lower-quadrant semaphore signals look much alike, but it was really astonishing to see how greatly the arms of the old Scottish companies varied in detail, among themselves as well as in comparison with those of the English companies. The North British had the triangular-shaped spectacle glasses in which the old signalling firm of Stevens and Sons specialised; the Caledonian arms had adjustable spectacles, and in the clear' position they came off to a much steeper angle than those of most other Scottish railways. The Highland used the McKenzie and Holland pattern semaphore in conjunction with those extraordinarily elaborate 4-foot-high pinnacles that looked as though they had been designed to match the adornments of Indian and Burmese temples. But from the operational point of view one of the most salient characteristics of Scottish signalling, as practised on the Caledonian, North British and Glasgow and South Western Railways, was the use of a truly green glass in the spectacles. There is, of course, a good deal of yellow in the light from an ordinary oil-burning signal lamp, and many railways sought to counteract this by using a strong blue-green glass in order to display an orthodox bright-green light. On the Scottish lines the light displayed at night was often quite a pale yellow-green.
The same chapter (7) also describes some of the then recent power signalling systems installed at Glasgow St. Enoch and Central stations and at Edinburgh Waverley, all of which have now been displaced.
Nock also described the Glasgow Central Railway, promoted by the Caledonian to give direct access from the main line at Rutherglen to its interests west of the city on the north bank of the Clyde. This is now the Argyle line:
The central portion of the line ran under the very heart of the city , and its construction involved some exceedingly difficult engineering. Where it ran beneath streets, underpinning of the buildings on either side had to be carried out on a vast scale; sewers had to be diverted, and on some sections the nearness of the river caused trouble, in that the tunnels were made through sand that was affected by the rise and fall of the tide. Charles Forman was the engineer, and he had this unsavoury task on hand at the same time as he was building the West Highland Railway.
It is hoped that the quotations demonstrate that the author was highly capable of conveying a modest amount of technical information in a very readable manner, a quality which would be demanded by a publisher like Nelson. Furthermore, the same author had several books published by Batford, a publisher which sought a mass market with simply constructed, readable books on British topography and historical buildings. Within this context the logs of locomotive performance with their tables of regulator and cut-off settings may have been somewhat out of place in Scottish railways, although in themselves they are models of how such data should be presented for maximum clarity.
The book is illustrated with black and white and colour plates, and line drawings. The plates are excellently printed and are based on three sources: one Dufaycolor of preserved Caledonian locomotive 123 taken by Kenneth H. Leech; five based on water-colour paintings by the author, and eight water-colours of locomotives by V. Welch. Two of the author's watercolours are unusual: one is of the main "heraldic" devices for Scottish railway companies which forms the frontispiece and the other is of the ex-North British paddle-steamer Waverley on the Lochgoilhead and Arrochar service. The Nock and Welch watercolours are very different in style: the former have that relatively washy look that sometimes makes watercolour an inappropriate medium for railway subjects; the latter would be difficult to identify as watercolours and have a quality more akin to oil-paintings as the colour is dense except in highlighted areas. Subsequently, Nock was to consider his painting in a self-indulgent autobiography4 which included not only his railway-related work, but other studies (of landscapes) which did not justify more general circulation, although their reproduction does hint at a blindness within his character.
The black and white plates include an excessive number relating to the bridge wash-outs, and consequential repairs, following the East Coast floods of 1948. Nevertheless, from a personal standpoint these are welcome as a reminder of a circuitous journey on the far-from non-stop Flying Scotsman via the Border route to Carlisle, then via the Settle and Carlisle to Leeds City and onward by an extraordinary route going east, then south over what appeared to be freight-only routes, and eventually reaching Kings Cross, very late (behind Seagull, I think).
Many railway books present a picture of the past, but Scottish Railways is relatively unusual in that its past is now long departed, and much of the then present, like the sheep and fish traffic, has also disappeared. Even the passenger traffic has greatly changed. Express commuter trains no longer run from Largs. The Argyle line is a far cry from the steam trains which lingered into the early 1960s and gave some idea of what conditions must have been like on the Inner Circle in London. On the positive side, Nock would have been surprised to be able to travel to King's Cross and Paddington from Glasgow Central, and a Eurostar notice was still there in the year of the Millennium.
1. Nock, O.S. Scottish railways. London: Nelson,
2. Bonavia, Michael B. The four great railways.
3. Nock, O.S. The locomotives of Sir Nigel Gresley. London: Longmans, Green, 1945.
4. Nock, O.S. Another facet painting in water colour. Edinburgh: Pentland Press, 1993.
Biddle contributed a gloss on Nock in the Oxford Companion
The real problem is that Nock's ratio of writing to reading is highly skew. It is all too obvious that many essential works, of which he must have been aware, had not been read, and that he placed far too great a reliance upon his own recording of locomotive performance and casual acquaintances amongst railway officers to throw together his texts which can frequently be readable. Nevertheless, future writers should treat his material with caution, and in fairness to future readers and writers should note specific works quoted. Errors may not abound, but they are present.
917,426 Improvements relating to electro-mechanical display units with Westinghouse Brake & Signal. Published 6 February 1963.
895,055 Improvements relating to control desks for railway signalling systems with Westinghouse Brake & Signal. Published 26 April 1962
Institution of Railway Signalling Engineers (via Nock's book on Institution)
The relationship between signalling and brake power in the handling of modern traffic (October, 1949): also Institution of Locomotive Engineers Paper No. 491.
Signalling from the drivers' point of view (March, 1956).also Institution of Locomotive Engineers Paper No. 557
Power interlockingspast history and future prospects (December, 1956).
The protection of facing pointsa survey of practice at home and overseas (February, 1959).
The design of signalling apparatus (January, 1962).
Bond. R.C. and Nock, O.S. 150 years of uninterrupted progress in railway engineering. Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1975, 189, 589-622.
This is a far from complete listing
Another facet painting in water
colour. Edinburgh: Pentland Press, 1993.
This must be his worst book, yet perusal of it should be essential for anyone who considers that he is a major authority on anything.
Branch lines. London: Batsford, 1957. 184p. incl. plates.
Part of Nock's "Batsford" output intended for the general reader.
Britain's railways at War, 1939-1945. London: Ian Allan, 1971. 224pp.
This is not quite Errol Flynn, but one finds that Nock intrudes too far: this is not the place for personal memories. Otherwise there are some interesting observations, some good photographic illustrations and some pointers towards deeper studies, notably Robert Bell's
British locomotives at work. London, Greenlake Publications, 1947. 260p. incl. 58 plates. (incl. 1 col.) 86 illus., 30 diagrs. (incl. 22 s. els.), 13 maps.
British locomotives from the footplate. London, Ian Allan, 1950. [viii], 244 p. incl. 32 plates. 56 illus., 44 tables.
The earlier British locomotives at work covered Nock's pre-WW2 footplate experiences: this volume is mainly concerned with WW2 and subsequent journeys. The chapeters are as follows: 1. The Great Western Two-cylinder 4-6-0s: "Saints" "Halls" "Counties": 2 The L.N.E.R. "Green Arrows": 3 The Bulleid Pacifics::4 Great Central Expresses, 1948-9 (A3 and B1 performance on Master Cutler and South Yorkshireman:5 The Great Western "Kings": 6 Stanier 4-6-2s of the L.M.S.R.: 7 Peppercorn Pacific Workings:(mainly A1, but also Gresley A1 on through Edinburgh to King's Cross working: 8 Veteran Four-coupled Engines of the Southern:(T9; I3: superheated E class and L1: 9 The Stanier Class "5" 4-6-0s:(very varied including Bristol to Birmingham, Perth to Aberdeen Down Postal, and The Pines Express over the SDJR) 10 The West Highland Line (K2, K4 and V4): 11 Scottish Expresses-Midland and G. & S.W. Route (rebuilt Royal Scots in comparison with Claughtons):12 The "Stars" and "Castles" of the G.W.R.
British locomotives of the 20th century. Volume 1. 1900-1930. Patrick Stephens. 1983. 255pp.
Difficult to be certain as to how Nock viewed this as compared with the following one: he used the preface to be fairly critical of the Ahrons work, especially for the series of articles in The Railway Magazine, yet as usual fails to provide guidance to his own massive output. Sources are rarely specifically cited. There are several excellent summarizing tables. The very large number of detailed working drawings is one of the strengths of this work, although the smallness of some diagrams (notably the GWR Star on p. 155) makes interpretation difficult. He supports the work of the Claughton class. On page 129 he notes that "F.G. Smith... was one of the most advanced thinkers of the day in locomotive design" and this obviously led to Adrian Vaughan's rather trite remarks about the HR River class episode..
1. The scene in 1900
2. Evolving practice in design
3. 4-4-0 The British passenger locomotive
4. The 0-6-0 tender engines
5. Tank engines: 8-wheeled or less
6. The 'Atlantics'
7. The 8-coupled freighters
8. The large express and mineral tank engines
9. 4-6-0: the emergent premier locomotive typeI
10. 4-6-0: the emergent premier locomotive typeII
11. 'Pacific', 'Prairie', another 'Decapod' and 'Mogul'
12. Picturesque survivals in the early 1920s
13. Grouping 1923: its first effects, in retrospect
14. Interchange trials: 1923-6
15. The Gresley 3-cylinder designs
16. The bridge stress committee and locomotive design
17. In the steps of a master: GWR and Southern
The following quotation (page 215) is significant:
"...than Sir Henry Fowler himself, who was in the audience. He took the manuscript of the paper back to Derby with him, and promptly scrapped the design of the valve gear of the new 2-6-4 tank engines then on the drawing boards. He also laid aside the plans for a 3-cylinder compound 4-6-0, and began work instead on a 4-cylinder compound 'Pacific', on the lines of the Bréville type recently introduced on the Northern Railway of France. Details of the cylinder losses measured on these locomotives were communicated by Monsieur Bréville himself in the written discussion on Diamond's paper.
The year, nevertheless, was 1926, and train working on the LMS and everywhere else was disrupted, first by the 'General Strike', and then by the prolonged coal strike. To save fuel, the strict piloting regulations on the West Coast main line of the LMS were waived, and the ex-LNWR locomotives, particularly 'Claughtons', took very heavy loads without assistance, and on schedules little or nothing decelerated from normal times. The success with which they did so, and the readiness of the footplate staff to drive and fire the engines appropriately hard impressed the Superintendent of Motive Power, not to the extent of relaxing his natural antipathy to anything except Midland engines, but to oppose his former chief's plans for the 4-cylinder compound 'Pacific', which he considered quite unnecessary. The fact that a larger-boilered 'Claughton' was being planned in the Crewe drawing office encouraged him in this view.
However, the construction of two compound 'Pacifics' had already been authorised and the frames had been cut. Swift action was necessary; the weighty influence of the operating department prevailed with the high management and Fowler was instructed to stop work on the' Pacific'. Plans for the enlarged 'Claughton' went quietly ahead, but significantly enough for Cecil J. Allen to mention this development in The Railway Magazine in November 1926. To have written thus he would need to have been in possession of the information by the latter end of September.
In the meantime events had been moving in the very highest echelons of the LMS. By that time Sir Guy Granet had succeeded Lord Lawrence as Chairman, and there is evidence to show that he was growing increasingly concerned about the interdepartmental rivalries which seemed to be bedevilling progress, particularly in the locomotive departments. While appreciating the loyalty of the former Midland men to the precepts of operation originally propounded, and brilliantly executed by Sir Cecil Paget, he began to form the opinion that a blend of North Western and Midland practice would be more appropriate to the prevailing conditions in the later 1920s. It is known that Granet was a close personal friend of Sir Felix Pole, General Manager of the GWR and it is unlikely that at some time he did not confide his misgivings, particularly on the vexed question of motive power. It is also equally likely that Pole, always anxious to publicise the merits of his own company, suggested, 'Why not try one of ours?'. Whether this was the precise sequence of events cannot be said for certain; but in fact arrangements were made for a 'Castle' Class 4-6-0 to be loaned to the LMS, and Fowler was instructed to subject it to dynamometer car trials between Euston and Carlisle"
Much is asserted that may not actually have taken place: for instance, there is doubt as to whether frames were cut for the compound Pacific. It is unceratin whether Fowler was so influenced by Diamond's paper to advocate modifying the tank engine design (although he may have been more involved in locomotive design than some have alleged: he was ceratinly interested in the effect of the K class derailment at Sevenoaks). The real difficulty is that Nock does not indicate the degree of uncertainty in his statements and this is a trap for later writers..
British locomotives of the 20th century. Volume 2. 1930-1960. Cambridge: Patrick Stephens. 1984. 256pp.
"My great friend, the late Roland Bond" (Preface), but was this reciprocated?" The great Hawksworth Pacific saga. Nock could be glibly inaccurate: on page 60 it would be implied that no further tests were performed on Fury after the Carstairs accident: in fact further tests were conducted under Stanier. See extract from page 74. On page 110 Nock goes completely against the grain by stating that the [Gresley 2-8-2 P2 class] locomotives rode well.
British Railways at War, 1939-1945. London: Ian Allan. 1971. 224pp. + plates.
Although the first person singular is still over-used it does not quite reach Errol Flynn proportions: nevertheless, Nock's style is sometimes intrusive.
British Railways in action. London, Nelson, 1956. xii, 228 p. + col. front. + 48 plates. 93 illus., 2 diagrs., 73 tables.
British Railways in transition. London, Nelson, 1963 xiv, 193 p. + col. front + 51 plates. (incl. 3 col.) 95 illus., tables, maps.
British steam locomotives at work. London: Allen & Unwin, 1967. 276pp + 48 plates. 94 illus., 14 tables.
A resumé of much of his recording of locomotive performance, including some of his "classic experiences", such as the B17 on the overnight newpaper train from Marylebone to Leicester.
The British steam railway locomotive, 1925-65. London, Ian Allan, 1966. 276 p. incl. front. + 6 folding plates. 335 illus., 86 diagrs., 170 tables.
This work is designed as a sequel to E.L. Ahrons' similarly entitled work. In addition to surveying the stated period, it also surveys the period which was lightly sketched by the earlier author. The work was well received by both The Railway Gazette and Engineering.
British steam railways. London, A.& C. Black, 1961. xvi, 326 p. + col. front. + 55 plates (incl. 7 col.) 96 illus., 39 diagrs., 3 maps.
A connected series of "pictures" of the steam railway period.
British trains, past and present. London: Batsford, 1951. x, 118pp. + plates (including colour)
Preface makes it clear that was intended for the general reader and presented "what appeared to [him] the salient points of engine and carriage design". Colour plates includedAbraham Solomon's The Return and Cuneo's oil painting used at the top of this page
The Caledonian Dunalastairs and associated classes. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1968. 159pp.
The Caledonian Railway. London: Ian Allan, 1963.190pp.
The Preface gives some hint of Nock's ruthless working methods with his thanks to Orchard the Scottish Region's Chief Civil Engineer; Robert Hoggt's the Scottish Region's Archivist and to Colin Neil Mackay where Frank Jones presumably made arrangements for Nock. Also gives just a hint that Olivia Nock was a major component in the writing: "filling in those words that were in spirit rather than in the letter!" Some further consideration to this book is given under McIntosh
The dawn of world railways, 1800-1850. London: Blandford, 1972. 179pp.
Illustrated by Clifford and Wendy Meadway. Fig. 180 is incorrect: see Jack on LNWR liveries.
Fifty years of railway signalling: in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Institution of Railway Signal Engineers, 1912-1962. London: Institution of Railway Signal Engineers, 1962. 222pp + col. front + 32 plates.
Includes lists (by author and by subject) of Institution's papers, but without volume or page numbers. Portraits of some of the Institution's office holders..
Fifty years of Western express running. Bristol: Edward Everard, 1954. xii, 353 p. + col. front. + 60 plates (incl. 7 folding & 7 col.). 89 illus., 15 diagrs.
This, and the book, amount Maunsell produced by the same "publisher" (Everard was not a traditional book publisher) were produced to a much higher standards than most of his books and appear to show that Nock was seeking something extra in book production methods at that time. See also Sixty years of Western running for an austerity version of the same text with a small amount of additional material...
Four thousand miles on the footplate. London, Ian Allan, 1952. viii, 223 p. mcI. 32 plates. 62 illus., diagr., 55 tables.
Great locomotives of the GWR. Wellingborough: Patrick Stevens, 1990. 231pp.
Great locomotives of the LMS. Wellingborough: Patrick Stevens, 1989. 279pp.
This book contains some very interesting observations on the famous E.L. Diamond paper and the reaction of Fowler to it (Nock argues that Fowler ordered the new 2-6-4T being designed at Derby to incorporate long travel valves and that Fowler would have incorporated French ideas in his compound Pacific). Why Nock takes this revisionist stance is not clear, although he does not cite Cox (except for his J. Instn Loco. Engrs history). In the main the book is restricted to passenger designs, and the first 180 pages are given over to pre-grouping developments. An appendix includes an after dinner address made by Nock at the Crewe Dinner in May 1971. Nock refers to "Tommy Sackville" twice in this book: the reference should be to Sackfield. This book has been advertized on the Internet for £28 as being "rare", etc.: it is very doubtful if the book is worth more tha £5 in terms of information content.
Great locomotives of the LNER. Wellingborough: Patrick Stevens, 1988. 231pp.
Whilst this book contains some very interesting observations on locomotive performance which may have been "lost" elsewhere, it must be judged as giving a highly superficial picture of steam locomotive development by the LNER. Inspection of this volume coincided with inspection of Brian Reed's first Loco Profile LNER non-streamlined Pacifics in his brief 24pp Reed encapsulates vastly more about the A1/A3 design than Nock does in his meandering book. Nevertheless, Nock is useful for bringing some humanity into the book, such as the encounter between Bert Spencer and his great boss after Gresley had travelled on the footplate of the modified Pacific (with long travel valve gear) and the Great White Chief had ordered the entire class to be modified immediately.
Great locomotives of the Southern Railway. Wellingborough: Patrick Stevens, 1987. 216pp.
Colour photographs mainly from R.C. Riley. Contains several detailed working drawings reduced to minimum scale. This was probably the best of the four volumes in the "Great" series and may be indicative that Nock was happier when working within a smaller compass.
Great Northern 4-4-2 'Atlantics'. Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens, 1984. 136pp. (Classic Locomotives No. 2)
Suffers from some contorted passages. It is the usual mixture of locomotive performance, anecdotal comments and extracts from more significant sources without citations. Nevertheless, some useful material is contained.
The Great Northern Railway. London, Ian Allan, 1958. [viii], 192 p. + col. front. + 32 plates. 71 illus., 60 tables, 11 maps, 2 plans.
Claimed that results of the 1923 comparative tests of Gresley and Raven Pacifics were published for the first time: see Chapter 14.
The Great Western Railway in the nineteenth century. London: Ian Allan, 1962. 200pp + col. front. + plates.
In some respects an unusual book for Nock in that it begins with a short bibliography which cites MacDermot, Holcroft, Chapman, Rolt (his superb biography of Brunel), Ahrons (Locomotive and train working in the latter part of the 19th century), Foxwell and Farrer (still to enter the portal of Steamindex) and most surprisingly Tuplin (Great Western steam). Thus it is a rather better than average work and from it is possible to gain some impression of what the broad gauge must have been like, although unfortunately for those interested in the broad gauge per se the book also includes the Company's "narrow gauge" activities. It is excellently illustrated.
The Great Western Railway in the twentieth century. London: Ian Allan, 1964. 212pp. + col. front. + plates
Like the above begins with a very thin bibliography. Includes a portrait of Viscount Churchill, the decorative Chairman of the GWR..
Great Western 'Saint' class 4-6-0. Cambridge: Patrick Stephens, 1983.
The Gresley Pacifics. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1982 . 284pp. (originally published in 2 parts)
GWR steam. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1972. 239pp.
The GWR Stars, Castles and Kings. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1967/1970.
Two Parts: subsequently available as combined volume. Ottley 11981
The Highland Railway. London: Ian Allan, 1965. viii, 177p. + col. front. + 32 plates. 66 illus. (incl. 6 ports.), 2 diagrs., 10 tables, plan, map.
Historic railway disasters, 3rd ed.. London: Ian Allan, 1983. 294p.
First published in 1966: Harry Jack (Rly Arch. 30 42) notes that gives incorrect date for Abergele accident
Historical steam locomotives. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1959. 162pp. + col. front. + 32 plates.
From very early days until the beginning of the Churchward era/Ivatt's Atlantics. Error on page 77:Stroudley Lyons class was a tender 0-4-2 not tank type as stated. Criterion for inclusion, with one minor exception, was that a member of the type had been preserved. On page 94 David Jones is described as a "young Welshman": according to Marshall he was born in Manchester...
A hundred years of speed with safety : the inception and progress of the Westinghouse Brake & Signal Company Ltd., 1881 - 1981. Salisbury: Hobnob, 2006.
Posthumous work edited by Stuart Angill
Irish steam: a twenty-year survey, 1920-1939. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1982. 207pp.
This is probably one of his better books, yet on pp. 133-4 he managesd to put up two hares without giving any indication of where he got his information, or where he mentioned them in a more appropriate context::
"It was at this time also that the practice of naming locomotives began, the selection of titles being made by Miss Ida Pim, a niece of the Chairman of the company, Frederick W. Pim. More recent instances ofladies choosing titles for locomotives that may be recalled were those of Mrs C. B. Collett selecting names for some of the Great Western express locomotives in Churchward's day, and of Mrs Violet Godfrey, daughter of Sir Nigel Gresley choosing names for some of the famous A4 streamlined Pacifics of the LNER.
Ida Pim had an almost obvious choice for the first new locomotive turned out by Richard Cronin, for the 2-4-2 tank No 3 was completed on St Patrick's day 1898. Naturally it was named St Patrick, and the five subsequent locomotives of the class that became GSR F2 were made by conversions from William Wakefield's 2-4-0 tanks that dated from 1884".
Interesting observations on Gresley's daughter and Collett's wife, but they add little to Irish locomotive development and are highly detached from their correct context.
The "Kings" and "Castles" of the Great Western Railway. London, Ian Allan, .72 p. incl.. 16 plates. 32 illus., 4 diagrs. (incl.2 s. els.), 9 tables.
A concise account with accent on performance..
The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway: a concise history. London: Ian Allan, 1969. 159pp.
This is not a typical Nock book as less attention is given to locomotive design than might be expected and performance is scarcely mentioned. There is a considerable amount of material on the Company's officers, shipping services and on electrification.
The last years of British steam: reflections, ten years after. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1978. 143pp.
Interesting for Nock's views on the Britannia class and its problems (notably slipping at speed) and on the rebuilt Royal Scots. Book itself is interesting for its implication on page 107 that the work of the rebuilt Bulleid Pacifics would be discussed: "told later in this book" and it was not!
LNWR locomotives of C.J. Bowen Cooke. Truro: Bradford Barton, 1977. 112pp..
The material on the Claughtons and the 4-6-2Ts is not included in the L.N.W.R. Precursor family..
The L.N.W.R. Precursor family: the Precursors, Experiments, Georges, Princes of the London & North Western Railway. Newton Abbot (Devon), David & Charles, 1966. 160 p. incl. col. front. 158 illus. (incl. 6 ports.), 17 diagrs., 75 tables, 5 plans. (David & Charles locomotive monographs).
This is certainly one of the author's best books. It captures Nock's excitement at the performance of the George the Fifth 4-4-0s: on page 91 he wrote that the class has a "special place in the eventful history of express train operation over Shap. In relation to the total engine weight, there have never been more competent locomotives on the line... There were times, indeed, when the virtually impossible was attempted.".
Locomotive practice and performance: highlights from the celebrated Railway Magazine articles. Vol. 1: The age of steam, 1959-68. Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens, 1989. 320pp.
A badly structured book with a pretentious sub-title (the age of steam was in terminal decline during the period covered). The book lacks an overall survey of the famous series: C.J. Allen is virtually ignored. The arrangement is chronological with an arbitrary within each "year". The index is a prize example of "how not to".
The locomotives of R.E.L. Maunsell, 1911-1937. Bristol: Edward Everard, 1954. 192pp.
Includes detailed arrangement drawings.
The locomotives of Sir Nigel Gresley. London: Longmans, Green, 1945.
This originated as a series of articles in The Railway Magazine. It is one of the author's more satisfactory books, possibly because he was forced to be concise and the format forced him to re-evaluate his own already publshed material..
The locomotives of the L.N.E.R.: standardisation and renumbering. London: LNER, 1947.
Thompson standard types plus classes to be maintained. Also tabulated data on all locomotive types and lists of named locomotives.
Locomotives of the North Eastern Railway. London: Ian Allan. 1954. 199pp.
Rutherford, Michael. A Brief Survey of the Irish 4-4-0. Part 1: Genesis or how the Irish designed a "Crewe" 4-4-0 and exported it back to England. Backtrack, 2006, 20, 360 critices Nock's interpretation for the early departure of McDonnell from the NER and on page 363 notes that "Nock makes a number of points none of which makes much sense." The Publisher's Note on page vi should be noted: "By an unfortunate oversight the title of an existing publication by John S. Maclean was selected for this book" and then thank Maclean for allowing Ian Allan to retain the duplicated title. This failure is the strongest indication that Nock's bibliographical awareness was doubtful..
The London & South Western Railway. London, Ian Allan, . vi, 165 p. + col. front. + 34 plates incl. 2 folding). 69 illus. (incl. 7 ports.), 4 diagrs., 37 tables, 2 plans, 5 maps. Bibliog.
Main lines across the border; with Eric Treacey. London, Nelson, 1960. xvi, 155 p.4- front. + 62 plates. 116 illus., 27 tables, 4 maps.
The Midland compounds. Dawlish: David & Charles. 1964. 160pp incl. col. front. 159 illus. (incl. 5 ports.), l6diagrs. (incl. 3s. els.), 64 tables. (David & Charles locomotive monographs).
Quite thorough: quotes Cox for mechanical development, Powell for performance in service, Johnson for impressions of driving and Tuplin
Out the line. London: Paul Elek, 1976. 163pp. + plates.
Important autobiographical reminiscences: significant quotation from.
The pocket encyclopaedia of British steam locomotives in colour, with 192 locomotives illustrated by Clifford and Wendy Meadway. London, Blandford Press, 1964. 192 p. 192 col. iIIus., 6 maps.
A selection covering the period from 1825 to 1960, which aims to show most of the important liveries.
The pocket encyclopaedia of world railways: steam railways of Britain in colour; illustrated by C. and W. Meadway. London, Blandford Press, 1967. 195 p. 194 col. iIIus.
The Premier Line: the story of the London & North Western locomotives. London: Ian Allan, 1952. 239pp. including plates.
By a hair's breadth the mighty LNWR was even more favoured by the author than the Great Western.
The railway engineers. London: Batsford, 1955. 256pp.
See extract and comment thereon. This book raises a serious problem in introducing John Steele into the Trevitick story, but as usuaul Nock gives no indication of where he read about Steele.
The railway enthusiast's encyclopedia. London, Hutchinson, 1968. 341 p. 178 illus., 60 tables. Bibliog.
This work has been criticised for its lack of balance and the absence of an index (see Modern Railways, 1969, 25. 29). Concerning balance: the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway receives as much attention as the LNWR, and the short chronology omits the Stockton & Darling'ton centenary whilst noting that of the Great Western. Over one third of the book is related to steam locomotives. Pp. 74-188 survey British development with a series of illustrations and notes on individual designs. The arrangement is not obvious, however, and reference to individual designs is a tedious process. To further illustrate the lack of balance, pp. 189-97 survey electric and diesel progress. Pp. 201-23 contain a glossary. Many of the keywords are ineptly chosen. Whilst "pump, air" and "pick-up gear" are entries - headings for "valve gears" and individual named gears are omitted. "Reversing gear", "cut-off" and "conjugated valve gears" and certain motion components are included, however. There is a bibliography. In the sections on locomotives sixteen books are listed, of which a dozen were written by the author of the encyclopaedia. Includes thumbnail biographies of 93 "personalities" which excludes Beyer, who seems to be excluded from elsewhere in the book. Further indication of Nock's lack of true ability in authorship.. .
The railwayx of Britain, past and present. London: Batsford, 1947. 120pp.
Remarkably until upgrading the Webb web page to enhance its patents listing KPJ had made no comment on this book hereat. It is a remarkably elegant book fully up to the superb standards set by Harry Batford for his series of popular accounts of "things British". It includes some excellent coloured illustrations and a wonderful dust jacket. On pp. 88-9 there is the following delightful account of Webb's foot-warmers..
Returning once more to creature comforts it is surprising to fin? that for nearly thirty years after the inception of passenger travel by rail little or no attempt was made to warm the carriages in cold weather. And yet another thirty years elapsed before we had progressed beyond the primitive foot-warmer-water-tight boxes of oblong shape filled with hot water. These were originally supplied only to first-class passengers, but even so became quite useless when the water cooled down. F. W. Webb, when Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and North Western, applied his inventive genius to the problem of carriage heating, and from 1880 passengers enjoyed the use of a novel form of foot-warmer in which the heat was generated by the chemical action of soda acetate. The vessel containing this compound was heated in a vat of boiling water, prior to use, and the recrystallisation of the salt as it cooled down gave off latent heat. It was the job of porters at intermediate stations to shake up these gadgets when they had cooled down so as to restore warmth; the process invariably provoked conversation between passengers, often breaking down the frigid silence of convention observed for hours between fellow travellers. It has even been suggested that Webb's foot-warmers were the prime cause of our modern figurative expression "to break the ice".
Scottish railways. London: Nelson,
This work is the subject of detailed analysis in the section on Nock's authorship
The Settle and Carlisle Railway: a personal story of Britain's most spectacular main line. Yeovil: Patrick Stephens, 1992. 255pp.
Usual list of acknowledgements to the great and the good: Roland Bond, E.L. Diamond, and Derek Barrie. As evidence that he was anything but authorative he introduces the highly controlled tests of the B1 class on this route by underlining his own observations: "I rode on one of ther first of the class, then stationed at Ipswich, northwards to March, and in a letter just afterwards, and of which I have still kept a copy, I stigmatised the engine as "a viscious kicking little brute"". The book contains many of his attempts to elongate his texts: "Not very long before the period which will be under review in this chapter"; "the speed must have been almost if not quite 60 mph" and "With the evident intention of reducing the cost of transporting locomotive coal (preface to use of Cumberland coal at Durran Hill)"
Sixty years of Western express running. London: Ian Allan,
This is an "updated" edition of Fifty years of Western express running which lacks the original attractive colour plates and includes a short section on the performance of locomotives fitted with enlarged superheaters and double chimneys. The index is that from "Fifty". Disgracefully there is no reference to Edward Everard who printed (to a higher standard) and published the earlier work.
The South Eastern and Chatham Railway. London: Ian Allan, . 198pp.
The Southern King Arthur family. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1976. 96pp.
Includes both Urie and Maunsell two-cylinder 4-6-0s of classes N15, H15 and S15. The logs of locomotive performance were not set and were left in original typescript.
Southern steam. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. 1966.
Reprinted as Pan Book 1972.
Speed records on Britain's railways: a chronicle of the steam era. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. 1971.
Reprinted as Pan Book 1972. Includes an appendix given over to City of Truro's exploit approaching Wellington
Standard gauge Great Western 4-4-0s. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1977/8. 2v.
Part 1. Inside-cylinder classes, 1894-1910. 96pp.
Part 2. Counties to the close, 1904-1961. 1978. 96pp.
Typical Nock: mixture of development with performance and quite a lot of padding.
Steam locomotive: a retrospect of the work of eight great locomotive engineers. London: British Transport Commission, 1958. 59pp.
Mainly of interest of who the eight selected were: Robert Stephenson, John Ramsbottom, Edward Fletcher, Patrick Stirling, Samuel Waite Johnson, Dugald Drummond, Churchward and Gresley. Edward Fletcher would seem to be difficult to justify as there were several comparable alternate candidates: Matthew Kirtley. and James Holden, for instance. One might also question why the British Transport Commission was paying Nock to produce such a work. Further thought in 2011: Fletcher could be justifiable as his work is well-represented in the NRM collection.
Steam locomotive: the unfinished story of steam locomotives and steam locomotive men on the railways of Great Britain. London, Allen & Unwin, 1957. 233 p. + 36 plates. 106 illus. incl. 29 ports.)
A general survey.
Steam railways in retrospect. London, A. & C. Black, 1966. xx, 268 p. + col. front. + 55 plates (incl. 7 col.). 106 illus., 2 diagrs., 4 tables, 3 maps.
A bed-time book.
Underground railways of the world. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1973. 288pp..
Now very out-of-date, although it is sometimes interesting for what was novel in the 1970s. In spite of the title most of the book is devoted to lines in London.
William Stanier (1964)
Nock's personal contact with his subject appears to have been limited: nevertheless, this is one of Nock's better books and adds something to our understanding of the stature of Stanier.
Little by little we learned of the great project of Hawksworth's new express passenger lcomotive for post-war traffic, which was most unfortunately stillborn. Nothing was published about it, and Hawksworth himself shut up like an oyster when anyone even suggested there had ever been such a proposal; but at one time, within the shrouded walls of the Swindon drawing office, it was at one time a very lively issue. The two draughtsman principally concerned, who both rose to high office elsewhere in after years, told me that they had the sketchiest instructions from the then Chief Draughtsman, F.C. Mattingley. A 'Pacific' was to be designed carrying a boiler pressure of 280 lb per square inch, and having 6 foot 3 inch coupled wheels, but otherwise carrying as many standard features as possible.
"it can be realised with what good taste and artistic feeling the titles were chosen": such florid writing about the Flower class"
The legend of Stirling on the Great Northern Railway went a good deal further than the ranks of the amateur enthusiasts. He was a father figure to the men of the Locomotive Department and any successor would have to tread warily. The railway's great partner, the North Eastern, had been through a tempestuous epoch when the immediate successor of Edward Fletcher, another father figure in the locomotive world, was unduly hurried in instituting some (admittedly needed) reforms. Yet in February 1896, at the half-yearly meeting of the Company, in explaining the Board's choice of a successor to Stirling, the Chairman, the Hon F.L. Jackson, afterwards Lord Allerton, said, 'We hold, as directors, that it is our duty, in the event of a vacancy arising, not necessarily to limit our selection to servants or officers of the Company, but it is our bounden duty to try and make the best appointment we can'. And they went to the very same Irish railway from which the would-be iconoclast of Gateshead had come; not only that, but to a man who had been appointed by and served under the ill-fated McDonnell (Fletcher's successor), and who was already steeped in. the precepts that had been so successfully established on the Great Southern and Western Railway at Inchicore. This extract comes from the first chapter of Great Northern 4-4-2 'Atlantics': the text is needlessly contorted and the florid quotation from Jackson should have been paraphrased. Furthermore, the name of McDonnell, with whom Ivatt may have been being compared, is withheld for far too long.
The railway engineers.
When writing of the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway I have already mentioned Edward Fletcher. At the time the Liverpool and Manchester was opened, in 1830, he was a young man of twenty-three, and already engaged up to the hilt in locomotive engineering. Then there was Alexander Allan, two years his junior, who joined the Stephenson's at Forth Street works, Newcastle, in 1832. One can well imagine how the new form of travel appealed to the younger generation of the day, though the attitude of many parents was indifferent, if nothing else. In her girlhood my mother knew an old lady who recalled vividly the opening of the Grand Junction Railway. The quiet Cheshire countryside where she lived was agog wi'th excitement as the day approached, so much so that her father deemed it wise for his family not to attend. The younger generation protested, but Papa was not to be moved; threats of disobedience were followed by counter-threats, and when the day dawned she and her two brothers were locked severally in upper rooms in that big country house. How she escaped, and had a splendid view of the opening of the railway is a longer story than can be told here! Some years later the man she married, a draughtsman in Crewe works, was associated with the great invention of water troughs. Those were the days of John Ramsbottom, one of the greatest locomotive engineers of the mid-Victorian period, and one revels in the story of him as a lad of sixteen journeying from Todmorden into Manchester to see the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. While Alexander Allan went to Stephenson's, Ramsbottom joined the new firm of Sharp, Roberts and Co. in Manchester and was there when competition was keen for orders and the whole industry was new and thrusting.
Should one use this text to build an image of John Ramsbottom? The veracity of the story is dependent upon the recollections of the very young and the very old. Reed would also be critical of his over-emphasis of the role of Allan!
Extracts from Vann's bibliographical appreciation
Unfortunately the economic depression soon led to redundancies at Westinghouse and, although he stayed with the company, he decided at the beginning of the 1930s to turn his interest in writing into a commercial activity (italics added by KPJ). His first successful piece, entitled Hyde Park's ghost trains, was published in the Evening News in 1932. Two years later, in April 1934, a suggestion to The Star newspaper gave him the opportunity officially to ride on the footplate of the London, Midland, and Scottish Railway's newest express steam locomotive.
By the time of his death...Nock had written over 140 books, a remarkable achievement considering that the first did not appear until he was forty. Although he was no academic when compared to the railway author Jack Simmons, his books were nevertheless based on sound research (KPJ based almost entirely upon existing published records) and on knowledge acquired from inside the industry (KPJ but which lacked depth). If they had faultsrepetition and a bias towards locomotive performance were two which later critics seized uponthey arose because the author was an enthusiast who infused all his texts with his own experience. His work was always accessible and engaging. He was never a controversial writer but his strong views sometimes surfaced in his work. He was critical of the way in which Britain's railways had been nationalized in 1948, for example. ... He did, however, manage to avoid the hazard of nostalgia (KPJ: a highly questionnable assertion) and as a true supporter of railway travel he delighted in genuine improvements to railway services. .... His books and articles inspired a generation of railway enthusiasts.
© Kevin P. Jones
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