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Bristol Railway Panorama

Colin G. Maggs

Jacketed Hardback; 176 pages; 155 b/w photos; 17 maps; 44 line drawings

For more than 150 years, Bristol has been at the hub of a railway network. This is, to a large extent, still the case today, though only the main lines remain. Branch lines which once thrived throughout the area have closed, their tracks long ago lifted and stations demolished or converted. But here they are brought back to life. The Bristol & South Wales Union Railway, The Bristol Port Railway & Pier, The Bristol and Portishead Pier & Railway Company, The Bristol Harbour Railway, The Bristol & North Somerset Railway - all these and more are fully described, along with the GWR and Midland main lines.

Over 150 photographs and many maps, timetables and printed ephemera provide a fascinating visual record, not jus of the locomotives, but more of the railways in the landscape, the buildings and the people who worked the line. They provide a fine complement to the various stories and anecdotes which abound in the text.

Careering with Steam

Arthur Turner

Paperback; 112 pages; 17 b/w photos

This is the autobiography of a complete railwayman. Arthur Turner began his career as a junior porter at Bath (Green Park) in July 1936 aged 14, worked his way up through bar boy, cleaner, passed cleaner, fireman and passed fireman until he retired as a driver 47 years later in 1983. He worked for many years on the Somerset & Dorset and Midland lines and has much to tell about life on the shed at Green Park. He also fired on locomotives to Birmingham and the North, and has strong memories of the conditions at Saltley Loco Barracks where visiting crews were billeted. In 1956 he transferred as a driver to Westbury and in 1966 made his final move to Bristol.

This account of his steam days gives a rich acount of the everyday workings on the railways, full of incident and personal anecdote. It was often a hard life and Arthur tells it as it was for him, warts and all.

GWR to Devizes

Rod Priddle & David Hyde

Jacketed Hardback; 270 pages; 281 b/w photos; 20 maps; 70 line drawings

The Devizes Branch was originally just a short spur off the Wiltshire, Somerset & Weymouth Railway, built in 1857. Later it enjoyed semi-main line status when the Berks & Hants Extension opened in 1862 from Hungerford to Devizes, before it reverted to being a branch line from 1900-1966. With seven stations, several bridges and the wonderfully castellated Devizes Tunnel, there was plenty of scope for research.

The book concentrates as much on the staff as on the infrastructure. The authors talked to all surviving members of staff whom they could trace and there are many anecdotes and memories of life on the line to flesh out the historical bones, supported by a vast array of photographs.

Return Ticket to Minehead

Alan & Christine Hammond & Richard Derry

Paperback; 144 pages; 188 b/w photos; 1 map

Following the great success of Ticket to Minehead (now out of print) the authors have again assembled a wide range of photographs to accompany 16 anecdotes of life on the line, from both men and women who worked on the line and from those who used the line. The photographs and memories range from the early 1900s up to 1971, with one later account of railway working life in the Taunton area in the 1980s.

Families often provided successive generations of employees on the railway and many of the memories record this. But there are also accounts of working the Minehead lifeboat, the wartime exploits of a Canadian in Minehead, and life in the paper mill at Watchet. The stories and photographs together provide a heart-warming recollection of this famous branch line from Taunton to Minehead.

West from Salisbury

Steve Chislett & Mike Pearce

Jacketed Hardback; 160 pages; 112 b/w photos; 1 map

150 years ago, in 1859, the first train departed from the new Fisherton station in Salisbury for Gillingham on the initial stretch of the Salisbury & Yeovil Railway line. This was later incorporated into the Southern Railway, and eventually connected to Exeter. Sadly, the stations at Wilton, Dinton and Semley have all now closed but Tisbury and Gillingham remain in active use. This lavishly illustrated book celebrates the history of this section of the line, which passes though some of southern England's prettiest countryside.

There are many photographs of locomotives and railway buildings, but also numerous shots of the more intimate side of railway life. The men and women who ran the line, and often came from families with many generations of railway service, are seen here at work and play, posed and relaxed, in uniform and out. To accompany the images there are several stories written by people connected with the railway. Drivers and firemen (including the first female driver to work on British Rail), guards and signalmen, all recount personal, often humorous memories.

Wilts & Somerset: A Railway Landscape

Duncan Harper

Jacketed Hardback; 96 pages; 69 b/w photos; 8 maps; 8 line drawings

The tract of Somerset countryside from the Avon valley around the Wiltshire border in the north to the Cary lands approaching the Dorset border in the south, is one of enchanting contrasts. Old colliery communities and factory towns become dairy farms and spreading meadows. Across and through them in the 19th century came the railway, marching inexorably from town to town - cross-country lines wandering dreamily to the sea; branch lines carrying away valuable minerals; fast through lines reaching to London. From Countess Waldegrave's deep, dark coal-pits to the open fields of Farmer Brown, this book celebrates and documents the railways that once abounded, how they were built, the effect they had on the landscape and its inhabitants, and finally how they died. By his remarkable visual style of writing and its close link to the wide range of illustrations in the book, Duncan Harper allows us to look, with an enquiring eye, through the evidence and documentation of the landscape, at the railways which once covered it, principally the Wilts, Somerset & Weymouth Railway. Although not a definitive railway history, the real history is very much present.

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