Steamindex: mission statement & coverage
This website was created (quite a long time ago in cybernetic terms) on the assumption that some information, correctly and fully cited ("Railway Magazine" is not enough: we need volume number, issue date, and at least the initial page) and the item is thus redeemable at one of the national libraries, is better than no information. Some authors, whose works receive a five-star rating, are still capable of making citings of the "Railway Magazine" type: this sloppy practice should be discouraged. Some references are so poor that half-a-dozen volumes used to need to be brought across London to confirm one paper by somebody like Webb: this is idleness on the part of the author and the publisher, although may be indicative that the writer never examined the original (there is plenty of evidence of this questionable practice in far more erudite areas of research).
Another happenchance is that there is an ever-increasing availability of digitized information. This is being driven by the Amazon Corporation via its Kindle reading tablet where it is possible to carry a whole library in your pocket and read it almost anywhere. Readability is the key feature of this device which can be read in broad daylight: the present model is limited to black & white, but a colour version is now available. The Apple Corporation markets a similar device and the Indian Government is working towards a much more ubiquitous and vastly cheaper reading tablet. What will the effects of digitized texts be on indexing? What will the effects be on authorship, on the compilation of traditional reference tools like companions and encyclopaedias? Google books is another development which is having a considerable influence on cyber-bibliography. Look how Wikipedia has become ubiquitous yet suffers (like steamindex) from funding difficulties. There would seem to be a Rupert Murdoch Effect where might in information transfer is right. In some respects the problems and joys of the locomotive and railway enthusiast are being squeezed by the dominance of a few corporations.
Funding remains a major problem due to blunders by the not very civil service and a PayPal logo now appears on the site in the hope that donations may emerge: if not the website may have to be drastically reduced in size or shunted into a siding.
Another problem is that it is a one-man band, and the bandmaster is often guilty of too much of his own opinion and he is frequently guilty of missing the obvious. Thus until December 2010 there was a lack of any form of web-page for Ian Allan. This has now been corrected. He had also failed to note an important cumulative index to the Railway Magazine which is in Ottley and has now been seen briefly at the National Railway Museum..
Unfortunately, many reviewers are equally lax in their demands for accurate citations and for good quality indexes. The Oxford Companion to British Railway History is both very badly structured, zero-indexed and inadequately cross-referenced (sadly most of the content is excellent, but remains inaccessible). Over the years the compiler has developed a "feel" for the standards of authorship and web pages are being developed to encapsulate these views. Thus Hamilton Ellis is a wonderful writer, but could be highly misleading whilst Ossie Nock was the "light fiction" writer of railway literature, and was certainly not authorative as some miserable scribes proclaim in lesser works, including much available in bookstall magazines. Dow (both father and son) form excellent models for combining accuracy (but not total accuracy) with literary merit: both were, aware of the need for good indexes. The compiler being human is perfectly aware that perfection can only be sought in Heaven and not on earth, and that there will be errors on this website. He begs forgiveness for such, and will gladly receive chastisements from others with greater knowledge, and proximity to major libraries. West Runton has many charms, but proximity to major sources of engineering information is not one of them..
One issue now dominates work on Steamindex. Kevin has acquired access to a virtually complete set of the Locomotive Magazine which includes Moore's Monthly Record. Work has started and this is already changing some of the records, but will not be complete for a long time. To an extent this will also lead to a greater understanding on the way in which the literature of railways, and especially locomotive history, developed. For instance Acworth (who is generally highly regarded) makes several references to Peter LeCount who wrote the article on railways for the 7th edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica and a history (published in 1839!) of the London & Birmingham Railway. As has been made clear inadequate referencing is endemic.
Contemporary journal coverage is considered briefly at the end
Two factors are beginning to emerge: the great increase in other relevant websites and the question whether indexing is really essential in the days of digitized texts (the majority of which are not generally available, or not available to the great unwashed, or at a cost which does not equate with the financial returns available to railway enthusiats who may be a dying breed.
Thus, its creator updates the files at regular intervals, but is very aware that the files are far from complete, especially in respect of "polish" (the home page looks like something out of Colonel Stephens). In terms of steam locomotives many of the pages are still in workshop grey rather than in full livery with lining out. In many cases the creation of a specific web page may in itself lead to changes in strategy. Thus it now appears to KPJ that the Journal of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers should be covered in even greater depth. Almost all items of discussion should be included as these throw further light on those who contributed (such as Stanier on the need for lightweight rolling stock), as well as the topic concerned (such as Le Clair's notes on the high speed trials with Mallard). As usual in the electronic age history has overtaken this observation as the Journal, together with the Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, are now available on the Internet (an action in which KPJ was mildly involved) and this like the immediate availability of the ODNB and the Transactions of the Newcomen Society implies that Steamindex may have to change direction, especially as KPJ is now in terms of age heading tor the buffer stops, and required a major overhaul during early 2009. To a great extent this new literary wealth remains inaccessible as the pdf documents are thinly indexed and the pdf files (which are something of pigs in pokes) are far too expensive for anybody other than practicing professionals. This is now emerging as a national problem where publically financed reserach remains hidden in the equivalent of medieval scriptoria.
With the decline of the great libraries information is becoming increasingly inaccessible to the ordinary man and in the long term threatens the viability of all forms of publishing. If there is no give the future of take remains occluded. Furthermore, some of then professional institutions vending their earlier literature are guilty of placing automatically produced random texts which are presumably intended to serve as "abstracts": they do not and until programs are produced to manufacture abstracts (KPJ was involved in such efforts twenty tears ago) such tawdry sales aids should be buried: they are utterly unworthy of supposed "professional societies". Sir Robert Maxwell lives on.
The files relating to BackTrack will be maintained as up to date as possible, but KPJ is well aware that some of the correspondence and reviews may be still incomplete for a few earlier volumes. Railway Archive is highly worthy of the Steamindex treatment, but has sadly ceased publication. The Wild Swan publications, notably British Railway Journal, Great Western Railway Journal and the LMS Journal are worthy of the effort, but complete sets of the first two were not available to the compiler, but are now 99% complete. The Midland Railway Record would also be worthy, but some financial lines must be drawn (a visit to the National Library of Scotland in the middle of 2007 filled many of the gaps in this excellent journal). Moreover, the Midland built no Pacifics, although travel over the the Settle & Carlisle line was magnificent when the A3 Pacifics were showing the type 45 diesels how it should be done and why LMS locomotive policy was at the very best doubtful in terms of boiler power. There is also a burgeoning periodical literature relating to individual railways: KPJ is willing to incorporate this either by including material supplied by the organizations in machine-readable form (with some hardcopy supplied for verification) or by the direct supply of hardcopy in return for guarantee of incorporation within a stated time by KPJ.
The tighter fiscal nature from 2012 forced further work on the worthy but expensive LMS Journal to fall into abeyance. It has since ceased publication, but has been rerplaced by an even more expensive publication which has now been seen and is in effect a model railway journal. Secondhand copies or the loan of copies would be useful, or the existing set may have to be sold to provide liquidity. There will be no further work on Steam World: it is too error prone and rebarbative to justify further effort. An attempt will be made to continue the Lovomotive Magazine indexing, but there are many ludicrous hurdles to getting access to copies. Furthermore, the hosting of websites is becoming increasingly expensive and like Wikipedia financial support is not forthcoming from the Big (Bad banker) Society. Thus, it may have to come off-line and be made available on CD-ROM.
KPJ is well aware that there are two vast gaps in coverage: pre-1923 (there must be many serious missing items) and post mid-1960s when he tended to have only a superficial interest in the railway literature due to professional activities in information retrieval and the natural rubber industry. Thus he is always amazed by more recent gaps: An acquistion of an unbound set of Railway World for 1988 (at very little cost from Weybourne Station) has shown several key items which are missing: the Harry Jack booklet The LNWR Bloomers published by the LNWR Society (reviewed on page 459) and his contribution on The Bloomer Project page 482. Clearly, Jack is a serious authority and has clearly demonstrated the potential pitfalls of Stretton. Thus he would be extremely grateful if users of the website would indicate what they failed to find, or errors of any sort.
The search engine appears to be being used, but are people finding what they hoped? It would be very helpful if authors with personal machine-readable records of their own output (citations not full texts) would submit them to KPJ for incorporation into the database..
KPJ regards the listing of books as a secondary operation: Ottley and its supplements, and the large number of OPACs, serve this function far more completely, although there are some strange gaps in OPAC coverage. Most notably, no national attempt has ever been made to provide access to early patents: espacenet is limited to post 1895 literature. A substantial part of the literature in books suffers from inadequate indexing (the Oxford Companion to British Railway History being a glaring example), although some books are more like periodicals and demand similar treament.
The compiler's primary interests are the steam locomotive, notably during the period covered by a major index (Steam locomotive development) by Kevin P. Jones. This was the published version of a Library Association Fellowship Thesis supervised by Geoge Ottley and almost all of it is incorporated into Steamindex. The Thesis attempted to index all published material in books and journals on British steam locomotive development from 1923 until the end of steam, and in particular the locomotives of Gresley, Stanier, Fowler and Bulleid, and the teams who designed them. The index has now been incorporated into the website: the section relating to Ireland had to be restructured partly due to the conflict that afflicted that Island, and partly to ensure that revision and amplification will be simplified. Material relating to the Britsih locomotive manufacturing industry was excluded (this was a major strategic error). Tables attempts to show not only periodical coverage in Steam locomotive development, but also throughout Steamindex.
This earlier information is being updated and the concept is being extended back to Pen-y-Darren. Secondly, KPJ is well aware that the earlier hard copy work should have been tackled in a different way: key journals should have been covered in much greater depth and some material should have been ignored. It would have been far more useful to researchers if the subject area surveyed had not been restricted by period, and had extended back to the beginning of steam. It is still far too difficult to peruse most of the periodical literature, which really requires access to runs of journals on shelves. This used to be possible at the old Patent Office Library in the mid 1960s and the staff at Leeds Central Library tolerated my working on The Engineer and Engineering in the stack. Leather-bound journals degrade unless handled: even then (early 1960s) these volumes suffered from red rot and one returned covered in industrial-looking red dust
To a great extent steamindex is becoming less and less British bound, and also slightly less steam bound. The Locomotive Magazine had wide interests. There are excellent articles on diesel traction written 80 years ago, but in Denmark, Germany and the Argentine and Brazil. These are no longer ignored..
The earlier work was the product of a librarian (it was originally compiled to become a Fellow of the Library Association). Later the compiler became an Information Scientist with considerable expertise in the literature of natural rubber, and would now identify two distinct approaches to any literature: one total coverage (as typified by Ottley to one form of literature) and a more selective coverage that attempts to identify what is useful (which the compiler would call an "information science approach". In part this website combines both approaches: total coverage of some key sources (Backtrack because it was there) and hopefully the Journal of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers. Certain "literature" will be ignored because it does not tell us anything new, or only concerns trivia, such as numbers, or what went on at Barry. Certain literature will probably remain unaffordable or too remote (unless help can be taken on board).
The biographical section reflects the other approach, as hopefully will future sections on key locomotive designs ("biographies" of the A4, Duchess and Merchant Navy Pacifics for instance: the 90xx are far less likely candidates, although KPJ was not content until he had seen one with its outside-in frames and its "introduction-date" after the P2s, K4s and Stanier class 5s. Late design at Swindon is certainly worth exploring as is the peculiar character of Collett and his successor. Great progress has been made on the locomotives of the LNWR thanks to a magnificent study on the locomotives of the Southern Division by Harry Jack and to the works by Talbot..
Human biographies and authorship: What began as a minor activity has become a major diversion and highly diverting. It was founded on about half-a-dozen articles written on people like Hamilton Ellis and Tom Rolt and were based on in-depth assessments of a single work. Work started at about the time Backtrack started out and was intended as a post-retirement source of interest. Sadly Backtrack was not interested and rather than let machine-readable text moulder away they were stirred into the Steamindex pot. Some are harmless enough, but the one on Rolt (built around his biography of Brunel) is potentially dangerous at least as viewed by a minor Candian academic with an imposing name: Emmerson: nevertheless, what Emmerson wrote is probably true and shows the potential dangers of a counterfactual approach. A web-page on the biography of scientists would be a useful by-product, but would require greater access to sources than is currently available to someone marooned on a terminal moraine.
Handling The Locomotive Magazine has shown that Kevin P. Jones and his Steam locomotive developemt, and the vast bulk of writing on the history of locomotive development in Britain has failed miserably in its overall vision. It is impossible to neglect the contribution of the independent locomotive manufacturers (such as Beyer Peacock and North British), including their export markets, and what was going on in Continental Europe and North America. Some writers have taken a broader view notably Ahrons, and more recently Rutherford and Atkins. There is a need for a study on the development of railway historical studies: to an extent this has begun with the Early Railways series.
Form of address
In general authors are not given "forms of address", whether religious (Canon, etc), scholastic (Professor, etc), titular (Lord, etc) as the vast majority of these have no bearing on locomotive history. For instance, "Professor" Tuplin was not a professor of locomotive engineering. Canon Arman would only be cited as thus if blessing The Great Bear. Such titles are noted in biographical material where they may some bearing on the stature of the subject.
To keep the operation on its tracks it will be essential to receive some form of direct, or indirect recompense. The site could include advertising to relevant commercial organizations, such as publishers, booksellers, suppliers of model trains, railway companies (National Express or SVR), or ticketing agencies. KPJ is not prepared to act as a source of cheap photocopies (as some grey beards still think of them) and directs enquirers to the publishers of the original materials most of whom have back-copies occupying shelves at a cost which KPJ is certain that their accountants can compute, but it may be noted that the Newcomen Society charges £10 per item to download pdf files from its electronic archive. The Mechanical Engineers appears to operate a bibliographical lottery at $30 per throw. If one lives in a bibliographical desert, like North Norfolk, one becomes very aware that all information comes at a cost: 65 pence to get Barclay-Harvey from some location to Sheringham Library (where the staff are wonderfully helpful) and at least that amount in petrol, etc, if idle, or nearly as much in footwear renewal if the journey is made on foot. A trip to the British Library costs at least £30 (book in advance from West Runton to Liverpool Street). The electronic ODNB is available in Norfolk, but may not be available to all public library users.
Feedback is greatly welcomed: unlike many "National" bodies (e.g. the National Gallery of Scotland, the Automobile Association, etc, etc) he does respond to e-mails received.
Journal coverage Steam locomotive development
|Periodical||Indexing method||Period covered||Notes|
|Journal of the Institution of Civil Engineers||Index||X|
|Journal of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers||Paper by paper|
|Journal of the Junior Institution of Engineers||Index|
|Journal of the Stephenson Locomotive Society||Page by page||1944-||2|
|Locomotive Railway Carriage & Wagon Review||Page by page||1923-59||3|
|Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers||Index|
|Railway Engineer||Page by page||1923-35||3|
|Railway Engineering Abstracts||Page by page||1946-63||3,4|
|Railway Gazette||Page by page||1935-46||5|
|Railway Magazine||Page by page|
|Railway Observer||Page by page||1928-||4|
|Railways/ Railway World||Page by page||1939-||4|
|Trains Annual||Page by page||1946-||4|
|Trains Illustrated/Modern Railways||Page by page||1947-||4|
1. From 1947 Railway Engineering Abstracts used
X. Not the Minutes of Proceedings: see below
2. No pre-1944 public holding traced at that time
3. Indexed until ceased publication and see above for its dominance on indexing activity
4. Indexed from start of pubication
5. From 1935 seen as a replacement for Railway Engineeer
6. Index searched in conjuction with Railway Engineering Abstracts
Periodicals covered in Steamindex
|British Railways Journal||1983-||T/I|
|Early Railways conferences||I|
|Great Eastern Journal||P|
|Great Western Railway Journal||1991-||T|
|LMS Loco. Profiles||1999-||T/I|
|Newcomen Society Transactions||1920-||P|
|Minutes of the Proceedings. Institution Civil Engineers||1837-||P/A|
|Proceedings Institution Mechanical Engineers||1847-||P/S|
|Railway & Canal Historical Society||195?||P/A|
|Railways South East||1987-93||T|
|Transactions Institution Locomotive Engineers||1911-71||T|
F-few copies indexed
E=extensive coverage: total coverage unlikely
*=very full coverage for a few years: total coverage unlikely
Contemporary journal coverage by Steamindex
Archive total; received free from charge from publisher
Railway Archive total; received free from charge from publisher
Great Western Railway Journal: total
LMS Journal: total (ceased from Issue 33)
British Railway Journal: almost total
Steam World: problem in that amount of new information is very small in relation to effort