West Country Railways

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'Cornwall' Transition from Steam

Jeremy Clements    [Publisher:  Transport Treasury  2021]    Softback    112 pages

Volume 6 of the R.C. Riley archive and a very fine pictorial record of Cornwall in the latter days of steam. Photographs are many and varied, with a good number of diesel types and the St Blazey and Par area is especially well recorded, with several interesting images taken from inside a diesel cab on a china clay working. Chapter headings and the grouping of the images are imaginative and allow plenty of scope to highlight various aspects of the railway scene in Cornwall. Predominantly on ex Western lines, the overall coverage of routes and locations is impressive, with much detail for the modeller and enthusiast of infrastructure included.

The Arrival Departure and Return of the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway

John Burden    [Publisher:  Forge Books  2010]    Softback    122 pages

An account of the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway from inception to the present, with the accent on the recent history, the people involved in the preservation scheme and recollections of the railway and its impact from a local perspective.

Branch Lines To Chard

Ian Harrison    [Publisher:  Lightmoor  2019]    Hardback    320 pages

A really lovely and significant book that decribes in superb detail the two railways and their associated works which went together to form what was known as the Chard branch. Never before covered by its own book,this is the result of many years of research and interest in the subject by the author, who has been able to access a wealth of material to support his story. The photographic coverage is wonderful, there are drawings of some of the buildings included and a comprehensive track and signalling diagrams too. The wonderfully complicated arrangements of stations at Chard are exquisitely detailed in fascinating pictures, and the details of Chard Junction well covered too, including the main line station and its associated dairy, only recently demolished. There is a really nice colour section included and another very nice touch are details and photographs of some notable rail served businesses that used the line. A terrific book!

Caradon and Looe, The Canal, Railways and Mines

Michael Messenger    [Publisher:  Twelveheads  2001]    Softback    168 pages

A new (2015) softback edition of a fully researched history of a Cornish canal, the once wildly profitable mining industry around Caradon Hill, and the two railways that subsequently grew around them. Latterly operating and known as the Looe branch, this is a well illustrated and written story of a locally financed and managed railway that remained highly individual until the Great Western took it over, and even today still has trains running over its improbable permanent way. I have read this from cover to cover and can honestly say that it was enjoyable and interesting throughout.

The East Somerset and Cheddar Valley Railways

Richard Harman    [Publisher:  Lightmoor  2009]    Hardback    272 pages

At last, a comprehensively researched, well written and copiously illustrated book that covers the "Strawberry Line". The historical development and relationship with the Somerset and Dorset and its antecedents are very well covered and comprehensive plans, scale track plans and a set of the later signalling diagrams give a very full account of what the line looked like. Operation is also well covered, with train workings, locomotive diagrams and accounts of several incidents and a very good selection of photographs. The very end of operations and the move into preservation are not really covered although the various quarries and their operations are, including the by now vast Foster Yeoman operation at Merehead.

Impermanent Ways Volume 8 Gloucestershire

Jeffery Grayer    [Publisher:  Crecy  2014]    Softback    104 pages

A glorious collection of pictures, recalling the years when railway stations and infrastructure remained in the landscape in a gently decaying state, before adaption for other uses or (more frequently) demolition and obliteration for soulless new roads and industrial estates. There are a lot of views featuring the working railway also, and the last years of the Midland's Eastgate Station are recorded in a "spotlight" feature, as is the Severn Bridge and its connections. Amongst the photographs are some from the very talented Geoff Plumb, including some great shots of unusual freight trains at Ashchurch and a special train on the Dursley Branch. It is also nice to see the work of friends John Lakey and Bob Brown featured, together with some striking views recorded by artist Sean Bolan. I think this is one of the most interesting and visually varied books so far published in this series.

In The Tracks Of The Cornish Riviera Express

Amyas Crump    [Publisher:  Crecy  2014]    Softback    104 pages

Subtitled "A Journey Of Rationalisation and Closure", this is a well put together and visually interesting review of the route of the famous Great Western express, together with a few interesting "route diversions" into interesting nooks and crannies along the way. The photography includes the work of the late Mark Warburton, whose work was well above average in my opinion, and apart from the trains the whole book also provides interesting and informative views of much infrastructure and some of the local features along the route, predominantly in the West Country.

Memories Of The Withered Arm

Peter Barnfield    [Publisher:  Wild Swan  2016]    Softback    96 pages

Recollections and beautiful pictures of a lost railway network, the landscape it ran through and the people who used it. This is a new edition of a booklet Peter published 20 years ago, this book including Peter's own photographs from the period. Most of the images presented in this book are photographs that Peter took on the journeys described and relate directly to them, while others are from other visits made to the locations in the same period. It is a huge privilege to have been entrusted with publishing Peter's material, a lot of which hasn't been seen in print before, and it gives me great pleasure to see his wonderful images together in one book. The book also includes a chapter from Peter discussing the background to the story and his approach to photography, including details of the cameras used.

Memories of West Country Railway Journeys 1960-1962

Peter Barnfield    [Publisher:  Wild Swan  2017]    Softback    120 pages

Railway journeys on ex GW lines in the West Country, recalled from notes made at the time and profusely illustrated with the author's own photographs, taken on the journeys described but also on other dates too. Having said this is all ex GW, the book includes a particularly delightful journey from Evercreech to Burnham on Sea which takes us all the way from page 48 to page 73. Unlike Peter's earlier "Withered Arm" book, with which this volume is physically uniform, this book includes a number of views of diesels and multiple units, which had started to operate over Western lines by the time of these journeys.

Peter Gray's West Country Railways

Amyas Crump and Kevin Robertson    [Publisher:  Crecy  2020]    Hardback    208 pages

A fabulous large format album featuring the colour photography of that doyen of West Country railway photographers Peter Gray. A really nice guy, I used to enjoy chatting to him every year at the Exeter model railway show where he helped man the RCTS stand. Full of stories and always with a twinkle in his eye, he was a terrific recorder of the railway scene as this new book provides ample evidence. Quite a few of the pictures have been seen in print before, albeit over many years, but many have not and all are worthy of inclusion in this fine collection.

Steam South & West

Michael Messenger    [Publisher:  Twelveheads  2019]    Softback    100 pages

Michael Messenger's own black and white photographs of West Country railways, taken over a lifetime of railway enthusiasm. Well known as a founder of Twelveheads and author of many high quality books on West Country railway history, this is a personal selection of Michael's favourite shots, covering many railway lines you will have seen pictures of before but maybe from a slightly different viewpoint. Beautifully designed, produced and printed, as we have come to expect from Twelveheads.

Taunton To Minehead 50 Years Of Change

Vic Mitchell    [Publisher:  Middleton Press  2013]    Hardback    96 pages

One of Vic's "Great Railway Eras" series, this book records the pretty significant changes that this erstwhile Great Western branch has seen in the last century, from doomed BR branch through faltering preservation steps and near collapse through to a successful business with huge achievements under its belt. Currently going through agonies as the Company and supporting Association lock horns, sanity will no doubt prevail at some point in the near future and in the meantime this book records their joint achievements.

Western Steam On Bristol And Exeter Lines

Peter Waller    [Publisher:  Unique Books  2017]    Hardback    96 pages

Produced by ex Ian Allan personnel, this is a pleasing collection of large format pictures of predominantly branch lines on the old Bristol and Exeter routes of the GWR. Mostly colour with a few black and white images, subjects range from straightforward locomotive portraits to interesting views of halts and infrastructure, I particularly liked the heavily rationalised Morebath Junction shot on page 41.

The Withered Arm Southern Lines to the Far West

Peter Waller    [Publisher:  Unique Books  2021]    Softback    64 pages

Oh dear I thought, this is a well travelled route in publishing terms, almost but not quite as bad as the dear old Isle of Wight(!) Well, I was wrong, this is a very appealing collection despite the subject's familiarity, to the extent that I might even add a copy to my own "library". The pictures are well chosen and cover the whole subject well, featuring the work of several photographers including Derek Cross. The name of John Meredith crops up quite a lot, whose work is definitely a cut above average. A fascinating 1949 shot of shunting at Barnstaple, a beautiful view of unloading in the yard at Petrockstowe, complete with ex military lorry, up to a brand new railcar at Halwill on the 18th August 1966. One D.Kelk contibutes some very very nice Beattie Well Tank shots, undated here but clearly early in BR days. This is a lovely little book.