Geoffrey Williams

Stars of steam: clasic locomotives and their engineers. Penryn: Atlantic, 2000. 144pp.

Short "engineering biographies", including a brief biographical precis and tabulated data on major locomotive designs, plus the author's assessments which sometimes appear to be excessively judgemental in relation to what is presented. Williams has a disconcerting habit of comparing locomotive engineers with footballers, football managers and so-called "singers" of popular music: this adds absolutely nothing to the subject. The overblown and dishonest football industry of the late twentieth century is an absurd paradigm for locomotive engineering. Although some external sources are quoted, they are not cited. Williams can also be glib: in his assessment of McIntosh Williams failed to find the papers and patents attributable to McIntosh and implies that he could not be bothered with such frivolities. Williams regards the "stars" worthy of extended treatment as Daniel Gooch, Churchward, Collett (a very questionable star), S.W. Johnson, David Jones, John McIntosh, Webb, Stanier, James Holden, T.W. Worsdell and Wilson Worsdell, Patrick Stirling, Gresley, Stroudley, Dugald Drummond, Maunsell, Bulleid and Riddles

His chapter on Webb is trite and must mark a low point in Atlantic's publishing activities. Authors like Williams should realise that if deep criticism is to be made then it must be based on a thorough examination of the literature available (especially the Author's own) and not be based on secondhand anecdotal material. The same treatment metered out on Henry Alfred Ivatt as a trailer for this miserable book (Backtrack, 2000, 14, 335) led to a very stern response (page 550 same volume) from the highly knowledgeable J.T. van Riemsdijk who considered that Williams grossly under-estimated the significance of Ivatt's work, especially that of the large Atlantics which represented a "quantum leap in locomotive power" which in Britain was only achieved by Ivatt and Churchward. This also notes how D. Drummond (one of Williams' "stars") failed to achieve this change. Also notes how Ivatt progressed from 4-2-2 to 4-4-0 to small 4-4-2 to large 4-4-2 providing footplate crews with a progression. On the Continent Ivatt and his large Atlantics were regarded as trend setters..