John Minnis

Britain's Lost Railways: The Twentieth-Century Destruction of our Finest Railway Architecture
London: Aurum, 2011. 192pp.

Saw this in Holt Bookshop: it contains superb photographs. I noted in a very quick glance pictures of stations at Mundesley, Gourock and Oban: at least the last two places still have trains. The cover shows Crumlin Viaduct.

Further inspection shows this to be a superb examination of what has been lost. Obviously the Euston Arch and the Hardwick Great Hall receive justifiable attention, although criticism might be directed towards the Author for failing to address the problem of how to construct a modern terminal and yet retain the magnificent Hardwick structure. The Arch was just wanton destruction of the sort so deprecated by twin-tongued politicians: it could have been taken apart and re-erceted. On page 18 there is a poignant reminder of the problems: the partial remains of the Battersea roundhouses and in the background the silent remains of Battersea power station: a Giles Gilbert Scott masterpiece which has still to find a second life.

Most of the structures are stations, mainly passenger, but also some freight. There are some bridges: one on the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway had claimed to be the odest railway over road structure, but it was lost when the road had to be widened. Crumlin Viaduct features on the cover and inside on page 172 in a photograph which instills a great sense of vertigo. Metal viaducts are especially vulnerable once their primary function ends: thus there are photographs of Belah, the Solway Viaduct and the Barry Railway structure at Llanbradach. There is even the Scherzer rolling-lift bridge at King's Ferry which was replaced by a lifting bridge situated between four concrete towers.

There has also been loss in terms of locomotive manufacturing, repair and servicing structures. These range from the relatively simple to the grand like the clock tower in Crewe Works, the archway into the works at Inverness and the vastness of the later erecting shops at Swindon. Coaling towers, once a common feature on most railways other than the Great Western Railway have all ceased to exist except for one at Carnforth. The one at Whitemoor is included, as well as the former automated marshalling yard with its neat control towers. Now Whitemoor is better known for its high security prison.

There is a good, excellently constructed, bibliography and a reasonably good index: Euston should have been subdivided. Photographs have been chosen with obvious great care and are reproduced well even where they date from the nineteenth century. Locomotives sometimes intrude upon the scene as in a photograph probably dating from 1905 of Perth engine shed with Caledonian Railway 0-4-2 No. 324 with its four-wheel tender.

Model review by Geoffrey Skelsey in  Backtrack, 2013, 27, 62 which shows the book's strengths and its limited number of weaknesses.