Journal of the Railway & Canal Historical Society 2016

Volume 38 Part 7

No 225 March 2016

'Railway Returns ... for the year 1913'. front cover
see pp. 410-426

Tony Sheward. The financial state of Britain's railways in 1913. 410-26.
Mainland Britain's railways reached their zenith in the period immediately prior to WW1. This concept is confirmed with statistical data for the railways as a whole forv the period 1908 to 1913 and specific data for 1913 for each of the twenty major railways: that is capital raised; rent, guarateed and preference stocks; loans and debenture stocks; total track mileage; steam locomotives (3084 LNWR down to 100 Cambrian); coaching stock; goods and other vehicles; gross receipts (LNWR £17.2m); net receipts; balance available for ordinary dividends; rate of ordinary dividend; gross receipts from passenger traffic and goods traffic; traffic expenditure as percentage of traffic receipts

Philip Riden. Waterways history research: an alternative view. 426-40.

Nicholas Hammond. Francis Egerton's visit to the Canal du Midi in 1754 and its extraordinary aftermath. 440-9.
Francis Egerton became the Duke of Bridgewater: attempts to show how his visit to the canal du Midi in France in May 1754 influenced the structures on the Bridgewater Canal, especially the aquaduct over the River Irwell and the bridges on the Trent & Mersey Canal. 

Paul Blurton. The Eagles of Crewe – some modern myths corrected. 450-4.
A myth has grown in the past decade that the eagle sculptures situated at three locations in Crewe were originally at Llanddulas (or Llandulas) where a viaduct was washed away on 17 August 1879. It is argued that the eagles came from the Robert Stephenson bridge over the River Dee which collapsed on 24 May 1847 and shows John Romney engravings of the bridge and its collapse: an extreme enlargement probably makes the "birds" visible.  

Arnold Bennett's memories of the Staffordshire steam tram. 454-5.
Short extracts from These Twain and Clayhanger show how steam trams featured in Arnold Bennett's novels: in the latter "Bleakridge" mirrors Cobridge where Bennett resided between 1880 and 1888.

Correspondence 456

Reviews 458

River, railway and ravine: foot suspension bridges for Empire. Douglas Harper. Stroud: The History Press,  164pp, 129 b&w and colour illustrations, hardback. Reviewed by Peter Cross-Rudkin. 466
John Harper was an iron gate and wire manufacturer in Aberdeen; level crossing gates and lineside fences for railways were an important part of the business. In 1863 he obtained a patent for a fence strainer. This device, together with cambered cables at deck level, enabled him to develop a type of light suspension footbridge that was noticeably more rigid than earlier examples. The bridges could be kit-built from components designed by Harper's to suit information provided from a site survey. Over fifty of them are known to have been built, in places from Nepal via Estonia to the Falkland Islands; only five are known to have survived the ravages of time and the elements.
This book, by John Harper's great-grandson, describes the progressive improvement ofthe bridge design, at first by John and then by his son Louis. The author is not an engineer and describes the process in layman's terms, but there is plenty of technical detail. He also gives space to John and Louis in their family background, showing how the family business expanded into areas as separate as motor car manufacture. The largest part of the book however is devoted to a historical record of each bridge, the author's search for information about them in documentary sources and his travels to known sites to find what remains. It is well illustrated by photographs, old and new.
Confining himself to the history of Harper & Co, the author hardly mentions other companies such as James Abernethy & Co or David Rowell & Co, who also made light suspension bridges. Despite this, a wealth of new information is provided about a subject that has not been treated at this level of detail before. The book is well produced and excellent value for its reasonable price.

Abandoned & vanished canals of Ireland, Scotland and Wales .Andy Wood. Stroud: Amberley Publishing, 2015, 156pp, 12 b&w photographs, 11 maps, paperback, (e-book also available). Reviewed by David Pedley. 
The last book recording abandoned navigations was Ronald Russell's Lost canals and waterways of Britain in 1982. Research moves on, and where Russell's book recorded seven cases in Scotland, for example, this book has seventeen. Even then, the author has missed some, such as the short Lewis Chemical Works canal in the Outer Hebrides. He has not trawled the Society's Journal as he missed, for example, a detailed article about the Plas Kynaston Canal near Pontcysyllte.
The format is, at best, a short history of each canal's life and death, an OS reference (but no more detailed illustration of the route, even where it will not be clear from a modem map) and details of visible remains, including structures. However the uniformity of this format is somewhat variable. A major reason for buying the book would be to know what to look out for on the ground. The total omission of such details in some cases is therefore frustrating, as it is not clear if there are no remains or whether the author has not actually visited the site to find out. There are some small-scale diagrammatic maps covering most (but not all) of the listings and (curiously) the 'Burnturk Canals' in Fife, which are not dealt with in the text.
It might be charitable to regard this book as Work in Progress. It does prompt the thought, though, that it might sometimes be wise to send out a review copy before, and not after, publication.

The Victorian steam locomotive: its design and development 1804-1879. G.D. Dempsey. 177pp & 16 plates, 31 illustrations (mainly photographs), 78 diagrams, hardback, Barnsley: Pen & Sword Transport, 2015, Reviewed by Kevin Jones. 466-7.
Originally published in 1879 with the florid title A rudimentary treatise on the locomotive engine in all its phases, popularly described, with illustrations for students and non-professional men (Ottley 2965), the title page of this reprint shows an incorrect date range. Daniel Kinnear Clark provided the preface; indeed CIark is the author of the second and larger part of the book. There is no bibliographical history and the preface by Pete Waterman adds little. The plates in the centre are not from the original work but fall within the spirit of it. This is not a facsimile reprint, but is a product of a scanner and OCR software: 'Kailway', and 'Pigs' instead of 'Figs', all too clearly indicate its limitations. To an extent the book is something of a curiosity, but it does give some indication of how mid- Victorians regarded locomotive design and its history: a history in the first part which gives a surprising emphasis to the light locomotives associated with William Bridges Adams and to the Fairlie type. Chapter 9 begins with a description of D. Luiz; a Beyer Peacock 2-2-2 supplied to the South Eastern Railway of Portugal, surely an obscure choice; although it won a gold medal at the Paris International Exhibition of 1862, by 1879 it would have been rather out-of-date. This is not really a popular account as, for example, the section on reversing mechanisms is written in a highly demanding fashion.

Where to, Guv? The complete history of the British taxi service. Danny Roth. Stroud: The History Press, The Mill, Brimscombe, Brimscombe Port, GL5 2QG, 2015, 208pp. Reviewed by Brian A.L.Jones. 467
As grandson of one of London's last hansom cab operators, I looked foward to reading this book. It is a great disappointment to report that, apart from not matching the promise of the title, much of the text is difficult to read. If the publisher had chosen to separate paragraphs more clearly in the dense text, that problem might have been eased. More positive editing of the author's sometimes difficult phrasing of sentences would also have improved aspects of the flow of the story.
Despite the publisher telling us on the rear dust jacket that the author has 'a fascinating collection of images' , a significant number of pictures in the sparse sections of illustrations are identified as being sourced from the Library of Congress.
There is a great amount of information to be gained by studying the contents, which primarily relate the development of the taxi trade in London, rather than Britain. Unfortunately, while obviously diligently researched, no reference details are provided, nor is there a bibliography. A good index is included, together with 22 appendices, which include a guide to taxicab 'language', regulations and statistics plus other matters that, arguably, might have been more usefully included in the main text.
When the motor taxicab era is reached, there is a considerable amount of interesting information concerning manufacturers and their relationship with operators and the Public Carriage Office while trying to produce viable vehicles. The support of relevant illustrations could have transformed that narrative. This is essentially an interesting book with an important story to relate that is seriously inhibited by poor planning, indifferent layout and lack of appeal for the serious transport historian, let alone a general reader.

Warwickshire's lost railways. David Blagrove. Catrine: Stenlake Publishing, 2015, 82pp. 102 illustrations, softback. Reviewed by Willlam Featherstone
This book combines two bêtes noires of the railway reviewer – a misleading title and descriptions arbitrarily cut-off at a county boundary. It describes closed stations on lines, both closed and open, within the author's definition of the historic county boundary. The lines are dealt with by company – London & Birmingham, L&NWR, Midland, Great Western, and finally Great Central – and there may be a logic in this but since the book lacks a contents page, map and index, locating a specific station or line is more difficult than it should be. Each line description commences with a helpful tabulation of ownerships and dates, although these do differ on occasion from the body of the text, not itself faultless. The redeeming feature of this book, and one which recommends its purchase, despite its faults, is its photographs. These depict scenes full of the atmosphere of the rural and suburban station, and are packed with interesting details which will fascinate the social as much as the railway historian. What makes these illustrations come alive is the high quality of the reproduction values; amply illustrated in the eight double-page photographs, where the reader becomes totally absorbed in their reality, and the 'lost railways' live again.

Back: (upper) Plaque on the Cesse River aqueduct, Canal du Midi; (centre) Repudre aqueduct on the Canal du Midi, commune de Paraza; (lower) The flight of eight locks on the Canal du Midi near Beziers (all from Wikimedia Commons) (see pp. 440-450)