Off the shelf: 29 September 2011

Published: 11:58AM Sep 29th, 2011

Reviews this issue include:
• Britain’s Lost Railways

Off the shelf: 29 September 2011

This month's book reviews by Heritage Railway.

From models to the real thing, you’ll find much to inspire you in our selection of good reads & DVDs.

If you have a title you'd like us to review, please drop the HR team a line from our contact page.

Britain’s Lost Railways

By John Miniss
(hardback, Aurum Press, 192pp, £25, ISBN 978 1 84513 450 1).

The modernisation of British Railways not only saw the demise of the steam locomotive in regular service. The past half century has seen large-scale acts of vandalism in the name of progress.

We live in an age where legal action can result for even minor infringements of planning permission regarding listed or protected buildings: however, in the case of the railway network, so much classic architecture was swept away in the name of progress. We will forever have caused to bitterly regret that.

This book contains around 200 photographs, many previously unpublished, of magnificent railway architecture that is no more. Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the destruction of the Euston Arch, it contains numerous examples across the length and breadth of Britain, the loss of which have made us as a country normally proud of its heritage so much the poorer.

There is the ‘old’ Birmingham New Street, oozing with character, and such a dramatic contrast with its utterly soul-less concrete replacement we all suffer today.

Then there is Manchester Victoria, which lost much of its 19th-century richness when it was partially demolished in 1992-5 to make way for the Manchester Evening News sports arena.

Numerous smaller stations are featured too, such as the frontage of Kenilworth, bulldozed not in the Beeching era but as recently as May 1983: today, there is talk of opening a new station to serve the town, but would not the old one have sufficed even better?

Then there were the stupendous viaducts of Belah, Walkham and Crumlin, the great railway hotels like Glasgow St Enoch’s, the Old Oak Common engine shed, the magnificent Caledonian Railway warehouse at Buchanan Street, and so many more.

Had many of these, especially the smaller station buildings, been allowed to survive, they would no doubt have found alternative uses, such as luxury houses, flats or offices, at least preserving the fabric.

Gathering so many examples together in one volume serves as a warning that just because we believe we are in an enlightened age regarding old buildings, there is no guarantee that they will survive in perpetuity. For every St Pancras or King’s Cross upgrade, there are many more waiting to be swept away as soon as the chance arises.

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