Published 12th November 2012
Publisher: David & Charles
Pages and dimensions: Hardback. 192 pages. 235mm X 220mm approx
Cover price: £22.99
Available from: David & Charles
Julian Holland is a self-confessed lifelong railway enthusiast and has written, edited or contributed to many railway books. This is very evident in the way this book is presented which he shares his childhood train-spotting memories with the reader.
If the truth be told, many will now be rueing the day they lost their trainspotting books, notes and pictures as they grew up. For whatever reason they no longer have any of their childhood railway memorabilia, this book will to a degree recreate that collection.
Railway Top Spots is a journey across the UK’s railways illustrated by a very well selected set of photographs taken in the last decade of steam traction. This was a time when diesels and some electric trains were also being introduced and by and large, ignored by ‘spotters’.
The pictures will remind many readers of their youth and what now, seems a long lost way of life. They will also bring back wistful memories of how life in general used to be when you could go out without worrying about what might happen to you, unlike today’s perception of things.
The author immediately says in the introduction “Some very rude things were said about trainspotters and I’m not having it!” The reality was that it was a social and harmless activity that could assist one’s education. For example, locomotive names were researched offering a snapsot of history and the geography of the World.
A few people have managed to keep their notes taken on spotting excursions such are described in this book, and some of these are reproduced along with examples of Ian Allen spotting books such as Locoshed books and Combined Volumes for example. Railway Top Spots will effortlessly transport those people back to those what are now seen as halcyon and innocent days.
One clever departure from the usual type of book is the inclusion of shed passes and letters of introduction which show how it was possible to visit sheds and Railway Works, the latter usually notoriously difficult to get round without being apprehended. Indeed, the reviewer was once arrested in Doncaster works in 1976, so can attest to this personally!
The author has joined up different information sources extremely cleverly and made the book flow seamlessly across the six geographical regions on the railways at this time providing a superb look at how the railways were 50 years ago.
Long lost stations and railways are depicted with informative photo captions showing locations across the UK in colour and black and white ranging from the 1950s to the 1980s. The background to a given route or shed is given with interesting supplementary notes adding to the general ambience of the publication.
Places like Crewe and Doncaster are given several pages looking at the station and the Works, both a huge magnet for enthusiasts at this time. Some might consider other places like Basingstoke and Oxford not to be of much interest but are included as locations where many different types of locomotives could be seen on cross-country services.
Barry scrapyard is allocated a double page spread and tells the story behind this marvellous place which meant the UK steam movement could thrive 50 years after the end of steam.
A great book which should solve many Christmas present problems! Highly recommended indeed!