My (KPJ) wife is a reader of the Saturday Telegraph which other than the Christoper Howse's column does not appeal to me: Charles Moore's right-wing drivel is bad for my blood pressure; and its failure to review music is a sad reflection on the type of readership which it aims at. Nevertheless, the Issue for 12 August 2017 did contain a feature which was so good that it is reproduced below prior to the long-standing item on Glancey's Giants of steam which remains a gem of a book. The new item is brilliant on its transit of Shap in a Pendolino (whivh Eileen & Kevin traversed in this manner for the first time earlier in the summer).
Poetry drawn from the prose of commuting
Crossing a sunset border, my express train from Glasgow scythed through Penrith towards Shap. With soft rain, and the M6 momentarily out of sight to my right, a sublime sweep of the North Pennines was washed in numinous, heart-stealing colour. It was easy enough to imagine Turner, hat and coat defying wind and rain, sketching the scene in watercolour. Yet while he might have caught the spirit of this lustrous landscape, the reality would surely have eluded even our finest painter. I willed my fellow passengers to look to their left, over the Eden and up Cross Fell, yet they were all executives, students and soldiers glued to screens. Nature's evensong was unsung. Perhaps they had all passed this way too many times before. In any case, had I shouted, "Look over there!" I would have been thought either drunk or nuts.
I wonder, though, if those taking trains, morning and evening, to and from Paddington, Victoria, Liverpool Street or Waterloo, ignore the landscape on either side of their tracks, too? With each passing month, new residential towers sprout indifferently alongside London's main line railways, creating deep shadowed alleys robbing passengers of views of the Thames, church towers, parks and sky. We are told, blithely, that these fast-breeding towers all but innocent of architecture are necessary to house London's even faster growing population
The reality is property development and buy-to-invest homes on a prodigious, troubling scale. If this means building over or destroying familiar buildings and landscapes, then so what? If, glued to our digital screens, we have no time to take in views from train windows what does it matter if Victorian chapels and workshops, or a gem of a modem building like Southwark Underground station, currently under threat without support from Historic England, are destroyed to make way for a proposed 30-storey block of flats?
I mention Southwark because, like the generous and dignified Underground stations Arnos Grove, Southgate and Sudbury Town created by Frank Pick, chief executive of the London Passenger Transport Board, and his architect, Charles Holden, in the 1930s, it was designed to lift the spirit while being generously scaled and eminently practical. Its architect, the late Richard MacCormac, who was also responsible for fine extensions to Oxbridge colleges, social housing and the soul-stirring Ruskin Museum at Lancaster, wanted to inject some joyous, if subtle, theatricality into his design. MacCormac collaborated with the artist Alexander Beleschenko, to create a beautifully realised top-lit blue glass wall along the underground concourse passengers met at the top of the platform escalators. The effect, MacCormac said, reflected his delight in the gloriously romantic, star-studded stage set designed in 1816 by the German Neo-Classical architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel depicting the Hall of Stars in the Palace of the Queen of the Night for Act 1, Scene 6 of Mozart's The Magic Flute.
This was poetry drawn from the prose of commuting by London Underground. Southwark was just one of several distinctive new stations designed for the Jubilee Line extension, completed in 1999, under the direction of the inspired Anglo-Italian architect Roland Paoletti, that raised the flag for public design in the very era that witnessed the promiscuous rise of fast-buck residential towers along the Thames and main line railways.
No matter of it. The idea that special buildings and views should not be allowed to hold up what, cunningly, is called progress when it is nothing of the sort is hardly new. In The Face of London (1932), a book celebrating the most garish new offices, hotels and apartment blocks, Harold Clunn questioned the "glaring anomaly" of a Baroque City of London church by Nicholas Hawksmoor "occupying what is perhaps the most valuable site in the whole city ... why this extraordinary reluctance to sacrifice St Mary Woolnoth when the site must be worth something like £1,000,000?"
"If every building with a claim to antiquity", railed Clunn, "is to be suffered to exist for perpetuity, where is the space to be found in the course of time to allow for any future propress in the world?"
Given the current nature of architectural progress and rampant property development, we need architectural sonnets, whether by Hawksmoor or MacCormac, more han ever before. I don't think anyone plans to build above Penrith or Shap stations or to pepper the North Pennines with lackadaisical residential towers, or at least not yet. But you never know and, in any case, would we look up from our screens if they did?
Giants of steam. London: Atlantic Books, 2012 (Paperback 2013). 376pp.
This is a "popular" book (Norfolk County Libraries bought several copies of the paperback version) and I was able to pick it off the shelf in Sheringham. The author is a Guardian journalist and the work may be regarded alongside that of Christian Wolmar, but extended to mechanical engineering which Wolmar largely avoids. Sometimes Glancey appears to take a rather too opinionated stance, for instance in his condemnation of Lord Stamp as being pro-German.
The paperback cover title includes a sub-title: "the great men & machines of rail's golden age". This "golden age" appears to be the inter-war period with the embers still glowing in the post Second World War period, but the period prior to WW1 is thinly covered and concentrates on a few notably Churchward, Schmidt, de Glehn and Garratt. It covers steam locomotives on a global basis, but with British development considered first. This period is well-known to Kevin Jones (and steamindex is cited) and to Phil Atkins (who is listed in the index). There is a list of (presumably key) people in bold type which excludes Fowler and T. Henry Turner (who is listed in the index). Golsdorf is a key omission. Webb is included (but not in the "list of people", whereas Ramsbottom is excluded. This omissuion is so serious that one wonders what the author considers happened between 1830 and 1890. Ahrons is a very serious omission from the bibliography.
The writing is enjoyable to read and one is made to feel the sight, sound and feel of that brief period just before the Second World War when the streamlined steam locomotive was routinely capable of running at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour hauling luxury trains on which only an elite could afford to travel. Glancey also considers the steam freight Goliaths, notably the giant American Mallets which culminated in the Big Boys on the Union Pacific Railroad.
Louis Armand (1905-71),
France: Chief Mechanical Engineer, Western Region SNCF; chief of Resistance-Fer; General Manager SNCF
Max Baumberg (1906-78),
Germany: Chief of Locomotive Design, Deutsche Reichsbahn (East Germany). Was not in steamindex
Roland Bond (1903-80),
Great Britain: Chief Mechanical Engineer, British Railways
Jean Gaston du Bousquet (1839-1910),
France: Chief Mechanical Engineer, Chemin de Fer du Nord
Alfred W. Bruce (1879-1955),
USA: Director of Steam Engineering, Alco (American Locomotive Company). Was not in steamindex, but badly handled by Glancey who includes him in his list and bibliography, but not otherwise in text.
Oliver Bulleid (1882-1970),
Great Britain: Chief Mechanical Engineer, Southern Railway and BR Southern Region; CME (Coras Impair Eireann)
Kenneth Cantlie (1899-1986),
Great Britain: Consulting Engineer, Chinese Ministry of Railways; technical advisor to Locomotive Manufacturers Association
George Carpenter (b. 1923),
Great Britain: Locomotive engineer, historian
Marc de Caso (1893-1985),
France: Principal locomotive design engineer, Chemin de Fer du Nord, SNCF. Was not in steamindex
Andre Chapelon (1892-1978),
France: Principal locomotive design engineer, P.G-Midi Railway; Chief Engineer, SNCF
George Jackson Churchward (1857-1933),
Great Britain: Chief Mechanical Engineer, Great Western Railway
Daniel Kinnear Clark (1822-96),
Great Britain: Locomotive superintendent, Great North of Scotland Railway
Tom Francis Coleman (1885-1958),
Great Britain: Chief locomotive draughtsman, London Midland & Scottish Railway; chief locomotive and rolling stock draughtsman, BR London Midland Region
Ernest Stewart Cox (1900-92),
Great Britain: Executive officer design, British Railways
Thomas Russell Crampton (1816-88),
Great Britain: Civil and locomotive engineer; inventor of the Crampton locomotive
Ctesibius (fl. 285-222 BCE)
Pioneer of pneumatics
Nicolas Joseph Cugnot (1725-1804),
France: Inventor of steam vehicle
Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913),
Germany: Mechanical engineer; inventor of the diesel engine. Was not in steamindex
Joseph B. Ennis (1879-1955),
USA: Senior Vice President, Engineering, Alco. Was not in steamindex
Lawford H. Fry (1874-1949),
USA: Director of research, steam locomotive research division, Steam Locomotive Institute
Herbert William Garratt (1864-1913),
Great Britain: Mechanical engineer; inventor of the Garratt locomotive (KPJ: Sam Jackson, the Tom Coleman or Bert Spencer of Garratt design and Cyril Williams fail to receive their justifiable mention)
Adolph Giesl-Gieslingen (1903-92),
Austria: Locomotive design engineer; inventor of Giesl ejector
Alfred George de Glehn (1848-1936),
France: Chief Mechanical Engineer, Societe Alsacienne de Constructions Mecaniques
Herbert Nigel Gresley (1876-1941),
Great Britain: Chief Mechanical Engineer, Great Northern Railway, London and North Eastern Railway
Russell G. Henley, (1884-1953)
USA: Design engineer, Norfolk and Western Railway. Was not in steamindex
Hero of Alexandria (c10-70 CE)
Inventor of first steam powered device
Otto Jabelmann (1891-1943),
USA: Vice president, Research, Union Pacific Railroad
Ralph P. Johnson, (1890-1980)
USA: Chief Engineer, Baldwin Locomotive Works. Was not in steamindex
Paul Kiefer (1888-1968),
USA: Chief motive power engineer, New York Central Railroad
Kyosti Kylila (1873-1938),
Finland: Inventor of Kylala steam/gas exhaust
Lev Sergeyevich Lebedyansky,
Russia: Head of Construction, Kolomensky Machine Building Design Bureau
A. I. Lipetz (1881-1950),
USA: Chief consulting engineer, Alco
Anatole Mallet (1837-1919),
Switzerland: Inventor of Mallet articulated locomotive
Vlastimil Mares (1896-1979),
Czechoslovakia: Chief Mechanical Engineer, railways, Czechoslovak Ministry of Transport
Raoul Notesse (1898-1944),
Belgium: Locomotive design engineer, SNCB
John Pilcher (1868-1949),
USA: Design engineer, Norfolk and Western Railway
Livio Dante Porta (1922-2003),
Argentina: Steam locomotive engineer; inventor of gas-producer firebox
R. A. 'Robin' Riddles (1892-1983),
Great Britain: Railway executive member for mechanical and electrical engineering, British Transport Commission
Wilhelm 'Hot Steam Willy' Schmidt
Germany: Inventor of practical superheater
Hideo Shima (1901-98),
Japan: Head of rolling stock, Japanese Government Railways, Vice president or engineering, Japanese National Railways; President, National Space Development Agency
William Stanier (1876-1965),
Great Britain: Chief Mechanical Engineer, London Midland and Scottish Railway
George Stephenson (1781-1848)/Robert
Great Britain: Mechanical and civil engineers; creators with Marc Seguin (1786-1875) of mainline steam railway locomotive
A. J. 'Bert' Townsend (1892-1953),
USA : Chief engineer, Lima locomotive works
Richard Trevithick (1771-1833),
Great Britain: Inventor and builder of first steam railway locomotive
Richard Wagner (1882-1953),
Germany: Reichsbahnoberrat: Chief of design, Deutsche Reichsbahn
Egide Walschaerts (1820-1901),
Belgium: Mechanical engineer; inventor of Walschaerts valve gear
David Wardale (b. 1946),
Great Britain: Locomotive engineer; famous for Red Devil and SAT Project
James Watt (1736-1819),
Great Britain: Inventor and mechanical engineer; revolutionized the early steam engine
Friedrich Witte (1900-77),
Germany: Chief of Locomotive Design, Deutsche Bundesbahn (West Germany)
Adolf Wolff (1894-1964),
Germany: Chief design engineer, Borsig Lokomotivwerke
William E. Woodard (1873-1942),
USA: Chief Engineering Director, Lima locomotive works; originator of 'super-power' steam
John Betjeman on trains. London: Methuen, 2007. 112pp.
Tornado: 21st Century steam. Warmington : Books on Track 2010 205pp.
The train. London: Carlton, 2005. 256pp.
This is a most disappointing book: it is excessively large; the captions are backed by coloured panels which make reading difficult. Some of the illustrations which are predominantly photographs, including many colour. The coverage is global.