Archive for the ‘steam engines’ Category

The book I read to research this post was Thomas Telford by L T C Rolt which is an excellent book which I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. Telford has the unusual distinction that the new town of Telford is named after him. He is also one of the greatest British people of all time. He isn’t as well known as Brunel but where as Brunel did much in the Industrial Revolution, Telford built fine roads, canals and bridges. Telford also lived near the beginning of the Industrial Age but for example didn’t see the full potential of the steam engine. He started out as an architect who later learned about engineering. Among his early work the bridge that spans the River Severn at Bewdley in Worcestershire is his finest. He raised the entire bridge in one season which was unheard of. There was a church at Shrewsbury in Shropshire and he was asked to repair the roof. He realised the foundations weren’t adequate and graves had undermined what foundations there were. He reported this and they thought he was trying to create work for himself. The church collapsed soon afterwards. He built the Ellesmere Canal, the Gotha Canal in sweden, the liverpool & Birmingham Junction Canal & the Shrewsbury to Holyhead road. The Gotha canal cuts straight through Sweden. He built a formidable bridge for Holyhead across the Menai Straits. He died before the Liverpool & Birmingham Junction Canal could be completed. He built many harbours and bridges in his native Scotland. At that time the Highlands were largely inaccessable. He was asked to judge designs for a Clifton Suspension Bridge across the Severn and turned down a design by a young Brunel along with all the others and submitted his own design. Interestingly Rolt has also written a book about Brunel.

The book I read to research this post was A History Of The L M S 1923-1930 by O S Nock which is a very good book which I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. O S Nock has written around 150 books and is widely considered the definitive author on rail travel. This book is quite old and was published in 1982 so is probably out of print. In 1923 the rail network was merged into a small number of large companies of which London, Midland & Scottish was one. There had been a lot of mergers of small companies into larger companies so this arrangement didn’t make a huge difference. In this nationalization some standardization of what shareholders were paid occurred and shareholders with L M S companies generally lost out. In some other companies like the ones that comprised L N E R they generally gained. In 1948 of course the separate companies would be merged to form British Rail.

The book I read to research this post was Kings & Castles Of The G W R by O S Nock which is a very good book which I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. This book is quite old and probably been out of print for several decades but you never know you may see it somewhere. The book is about the King and Castle class steam engines used on the Great Western line which went from London to Cornwall and South Wales in the early part of the 20th century. They got their name because the locomotives were named after the castles most of which were Welsh and the later class was named after kings and queens of Britain. The Castle class was older and one of them Launceston Castle broke the world record for a steam locomotive. The Castle class was suited more for speed but the King class was more suited to pulling heavy loads and nowadays there are few examples of these engines left. This book is only short only around 80 pages but is interesting and I enjoyed reading it.

The book I read to research this post was Rail Centres: Manchester by Stanley Hall which is an excellent book which I bought from Amazon. This book is a little bit more expensive and a longer book than the rest of the series. Manchester was at the heart of the Rail Revolution & Stanley does say he could easily have written several volumes on the subject. He has concentrated on the rail network within 5 miles of Manchester. One of the earliest railways was the Manchester to Liverpool railway. Obviously Liverpool was a major port and Manchester was a major industrial centre so the potential was obvious. In the old days Victoria was the main station & Manchester Piccadilly was built later on. In 1948 a Labour Government nationalized the railways but considered the many loss making routes a mill stone around their neck and closed many of them. There has been talk of a channel express to Manchester which will take people to Brussels, Amsterdam or Paris. Also recently they built a metrolink which is a 2 car tram that seats 96 passengers and has standing room also. Manchester is at the forefront of transport networks even nowadays. It also has one of the most important airports in the country which is well served by trains. There was a bit of a hiccup with an earlier metro network where they used class 141 trams where as 210’s which would have cost around the same amount would have been a better choice. The 210’s were more reliable, had a longer working life & seated more passengers with plenty of room for standing passengers. The 141 by contrast had very little room for standing passengers and they had to install extra seats to cope with demand at extra cost.


The book I read to research this post was Rail Centres: Edinburgh by A J Mullay which is a very good book which I bought from Amazon. Edinburgh which has Britain’s most famous castle which is built on an extinct volcano and is Scotland’s Capital City can’t compete with Glasgow & the West Coast in terms of industry but is a great tourist centre. Most people are employed in service industries although there were nearby coal mines & iron ore deposits. Especially since Scotland became self governing, Edinburgh has become a great administrative centre. In 1888 there was a race from the North West Line & North East Line to reach Edinburgh first. The same thing happened with Aberdeen in 1895. After that they progressively tried to shorten the travel time. The North West Line had the edge because it was a slightly shorter route. At one time there was always a stop for passengers for get refreshments and for the engine to take on water. These stops were gradually done away with. There was a factory that built steam trains in Edinburgh and prior to the Forth Bridge being built these were often sent by sea to places like Aberdeen. There was also a shed for servicing the trains and the one in Edinburgh was reputed to be the best in Britain. Waverley station in Edinburgh was the biggest railway station in Britain at one time. The trains to Edinburgh have always mostly transported passengers.


The book I read to research this post was Rail Centres: York by Ken Hoole which is an excellent book which I bought from Amazon. This is a fascinating book about a railway super centre York. It’s often called the capital of Northern England & for many years was the regional headquarters of first the North Eastern Railways & then the Eastern Railways. In the very early days of railways there was a line from Leeds to Selby & York was linked to this railway at Mitford. George Hudson was the big railway boss in this area for many years & didn’t do anything by half measures. He built the glorious station here. Everyone saw the potential of linking Edinburgh to London via York. Initially they had to settle for a Gateshead to Darlington then York line. York had a huge railway works and was the best place in the country for train spotters. Scarborough which isn’t too far away became one of the first seaside towns. Prior to the railway it was very difficult to get there and you had to be very rich. In the summer there were trains from far away to that destination. In winter there was just trains from Leeds via York. York houses the National Railway Museum which I was told among its highlights has a carriage from the Japanese Shinkansen or Bullet Train.

The book I read to research this post was Rail Centres: Crewe by Rex Christiansen which is an excellent book which I bought from Amazon. Crewe is the equivalent of a victorian new town & was just greenbelt land prior to that. In 1974 it merged with nearby Nantwich to form a bigger. It would have probably not existed had it not been an important junction between Holyhead, Liverpool, the Midlands, London & the North West. The route to Holyhead was delayed for 6 years mostly due to problems building the Menai Straits Tubular Bridge. Trains tend to stop at Crewe & passengers change trains but rarely go into the town. The night train to Holyhead The Irish Mail is the oldest named train in the world & has always stopped at Crewe. There is a non stop train to Swansea which is the longest non stop train from Crewe & is only 2 miles nearer than London Euston. Crewe is named after a nearby stately home called Crewe Hall. Trains were manufactured here and the railway company provided decent accommodation for their workers. More recently it has become a major freight centre. The railway station was also rebuilt in the 1980’s.