Review of British Transport Treasures

Dad’s briefcase formed my introduction to railway literature. The two most regular items were the orange-covered and rather dull Railway Gazette and the slightly less dull Modern Transport. Both contained occasional items of interest. Hidden in odd corners of the case there might be more exciting items like the publicity material prepared for the LNER streamlined trains and one especially memorable item from the LMS a frontal view of a streamlined Pacific with doors which opened to reveal the smokebox, or was it text? It was the opening doors which impressed.
Remarkably some of these items still form part of a chaotic personal collection: these include all of George Dow’s histories, On Either Side and the Nock booklets to “celebrate” Thompson’s standard classes. On Either Side contains a remarkable map of the LNER’s main lines to Scotland, Manchester and East Anglia: the last terminating in Yarmouth with Norwich being served by a network of branch lines.
On Either Side has recently been reprinted, but many of these items are now available to download from the British Transport Treasures website for modest cost. They range from single page publicity items to quite substantial books: and prices range from about 50 pence to £5. The latter include most of Dow’s histories published by the LNER: these must have been a difficult task to scan as extensive use was made of flimsy folded pages for diagrams and tabulations. A few quite substantial books with hard covers are also available notably Bird’s Locomotives of the Great Northern Railway, Chapman’s Twixt rail and sea (a Great Western publication) and Burtt’s classic The Locomotives of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway of 1903.
Limited sampling is provided; and there are the usual basket and check-out facilities. A percentage of the takings is given to Help for Heroes. It appears to be an excellent method of building up a collection of railway literature without the problems of physical storage. The collection is always growing; and its creator, Stuart Rankine, a retired railway officer, is a frequent contributor of e-mails, most recently about bloomers committed by Hamilton Ellis on his carriage panel painting of a Bloomer. He has now scanned Pettigrew's Manual of locomotive engineering. 3rd edition. London: Griffin. 1909. 356pp with many illustrations and it deserves to be added to many collections.
Recent additions include Sekon's excellent late Victorian history of the stream locomotive (an excellent counter-balance to Stretton's questionable history published a little later and the beautiful book of LMS posters which includes the work of Norman Wilkinson published before the Company imposed an austerity regime.
GWR Centenary
Paper covered magazine supplement,13”x 10”, pp. 64,numerous illutrations,maps, plans and Art Deco adverts by suppliers and contractors to the GWR. There were three main ”Railway Centenaries” celebrated between the two World Wars. In 1925, the London & North Eastern Railway held the “The Railway Centenary” celebrating the opening of the Stockton & Darligton in 1825, which it claimed as its ancestor (albeit by “marriage” in 1863) and implying that it was the “First Railway In The World” which it was not. There were some 1500 miles of primitive railway, some even using iron rail, in Britain by1800, but not of course worked by locomotives. These were basically private lines limited to one user – coal mine, quarry, etc. The first railway for public use, the Surrey Iron Railway for goods traffic, obtained its Act of Parliament in 1801, while the first successful long term use of steam locomotives began on the Middleton Colliery Railway near Leeds, in 1812. The first passenger trains were not steam hauled on the S&D until the 1830s, this innovation began on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in when it opened in1830, As a descendant, also by amalgamation, this centenary was marked by the London Midland & Scottish Railway in 1930 as “The Centenary of Railways” just as misleading a title. The Great Western was sometimes rather ambivalent about its heritage. In 1921, with nationalisation, or takeover by another company possible threats, it commissioned and published a monumental two-volume history from an accomplished writer, E. T. MacDermot. Yet in 1906, it had calmly scrapped two priceless broad gauge locomotive relics,”North Star” of 1837and “Lord of the Isles” of 1851. because the vast Swindon Works was “short of space”. It was also reticent about where the sudden excess of surplus cash arose in Bristol, which went a long way towards funding the first stages of the railway. It came in fact from the cash compensation paid by the government to Bristol owners of slave worked estates in the Carribean,when slavery was finally abolished in the colonies.