By Nigel Welbourn (hardback, Crecy, 224pp, £25, ISBN 978 0 66093, 691 6).
Here is a magnificent volume that will both inspire exploratory visits to half-forgotten locations and many hours browsing through it.
The author has previously written 15 volumes in his Lost Lines series, each covering a different region. This one takes a national overview of what has been lost following railway closures from the days of horse-drawn waggonways through the Beeching Era up to the present day.
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There are more than 400 photographs to illustrate locations that were once busy and which the world has passed by, but are all the more fascinating for it.
The first picture is that of a section of rail still to be found at Belvoir Castle near Grantham, a surviving artefact from a horse-drawn line dating from 1814 which ran from the Grantham Canal and fell out of regular use in 1918.
Next we see the surviving Stockton weigh house built to serve the Stockton & Darlington Railway which opened in 1825.
Then there comes the old station at Hampton-in-Arden – answering the perennial question posed by numerous Solihull residents who drive past Old Station Road and wonder what it was all about, not knowing that it was replaced in 1886, but served freight until 1952.
There follows a journey through the world of yesterday’s infrastructure – stone buildings, metal bridges, mineral conveyance facilities, closed tunnels, the “clever use of concrete”…
A separate chapter covers the early BR era and is followed by one on Beeching’s biggest blunders and another on the last days of the branch line, and the decaying station buildings and signalboxes that rotted away unloved and uncared for for decades afterwards.
Another looks at relics to be found on Britain’s lost main lines, such as Ruabon to Barmouth, the East Lincolnshire Line and last but by no means least, the Great Central’s London Extension.
Of course, not all railway relics are found amidst the undergrowth in the shires. Chapters are devoted to urban treasures such as Nottingham Victoria’s station clock tower and Southport’s Lord Street station.
A chapter looks at ports and piers, and first port of call is Southwold Harbour, where a length of track from the legendary Southwold Railway was still rusting away in the mud on the bank of the River Blyth in 1999. Then we have Tyneside’s Dunston Staithes, which are still with us despite a fire in 2003.
I could go on, and on, and on. Every page offers something to fascinate and enlighten, and is is certainly a welcome surprise to find how much still survives.
A GRIPPING COMPENDIUM
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