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Somerset & Dorset Railway
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.
Jacketed Hardback; 200 pages; 99 b/w photos; 18 maps; 6 line drawings
Most railway histories concentrate on locomotives, with perhaps an occasional brief mention of the engine drivers or firemen. Too often the men and women behind the scenes are forgotten - the fitters, tube blowers, shunters, booking clerks, refreshment room staff, without whom the railways could not have functioned. While not neglecting the locomotive scene - several train workings feature such as The Fish and Chip Special, The Ghost Train and The Rabbits - the emphasis is on describing how one small part of Britain's railway network operated, and what life was like for all the employees on the railway. Bath Green Park station and motive power depot provide the basis for the story, with the Somerset & Dorset in partnership with the Midland Railway's Mangotsfield and Bath Branch, a relatively little known but equally hard-working component of the railway scene in Bath.
Paperback; 160 pages; 115 b/w photos; 14 maps; 3 line drawings
The exploits of the Somerset & Dorset Railway's maritime interests are little known. The story of their ships plays a full and exciting part in the railway's history, with a fleet including paddle steamers, screw steamships and ketches creating a fascinating montage where rail met sea. For nearly a century from the 1850s, the ports of Burnham and Highbridge saw a wide variety of shipping; regular ferry services to and from Cardiff, linking by rail and sea across the English Channel for excursions to Paris; coasters bringing rails and coal from South Wales to Somerset; Baltic traders unloading vast quantities of Scandinavian timber; and much more besides.
Jacketed hardback; 160 pages; 137 b/w photos; 13 maps
Radstock is perhaps best remembered for the regular Summer Saturday confrontation at the infamous level crossing gates where a main road and vital holiday route from the north bisected one of the busiest railways to the south coast. The tremendous traffic jams are now only a distant memory and it is difficult to imagine the bustling scene at Radstock's Somerset & Dorset station and yard. No trace now remains and gone are the collieries too, only their dirt batches reminding us of a past way of life.
Radstock was an industrial, mining community, set incongruously amidst some of the most beautiful countryside the south has to offer. Chris Handley tells the comprehensive story of the S&D at Radstock, from its canal and tramway predecessors through its development, its trials and triumphs, to its final slow decline and closure. The railway's relationship with the whole variety of industries in the town is fully covered, in particular its dealings with the collieries. And all is meticulously illustrated.
Jacketed Hardback; 160 pages; 119 b/w photos; 12 maps; 46 line drawings
This second volume develops the history of the Somerset & Dorset Railway at Radstock in greater detail by taking a much closer look at the real estate as it evolved and at the motive power department and its locomotives. All major structures of the station and the yard are described and in most cases there is a detailed scale drawing and photograph which will prove invaluable to modellers. A working history of all resident locomotives is given in addition to illustrations of each class. Accounts of accidents and further anecdotal material are included as well as details of the colliery workings - 'Up to Clandown, Out to Braysdown'. What emerges is a picture of an active and busy railway which for very nearly a hundred years played a vital part in the economy of this Somerset market town.
Hardback; 96 pages; 58 b/w photos; 1 map
Social history has for too long been one of the neglected elements of railway literature; the tremendous response to Alan Hammond's first two books (both now out of print) produced an extraordinary amount of further material from ex-S&D employees. The result is a completely fresh collection of experiences - humorous and sad, everyday and unusual - from 32 men and women whose working life covered the last five decades of the S&D's life.
Paperback; 48 pages; 33 b/w photos; 1 line drawing; 6 maps
The Somerset & Dorset Railway was not a financial success. It was a single-track, cross-country line that had come into being in 1862 as an amalgamation of the Somerset Central and Dorset Central Railways. It ran from the small Bristol Channel ports of Burnham and Highbridge, across the Somerset Levels to Glastonbury, and on, down through Dorset, to Wimborne. Despite the pretension of being a Channel to Channel link, it was essentially an agricultural railway, tapping no major resources and linking no centres of commerce and population.
From the beginning, the company realised that in order to survive, it would have to build its way out of trouble. Ten years later, after much financial scheming, that dream became a reality. Blasted through Mendip limestone, tucked into winding, wooded valleys, came a railway that was to fill the S&D with renewed purpose - a link into the Midland Railway's empire at Bath.
Centred around an 1874 description of the line by D.H. Gale, with other contemporary accounts, this is a truly fascinating and beautifully compiled book.
Originally issued as a limited numbered edition of 1,000, a small quantity of extra copies are being sold as 'out of series'.
Alan and Christine Hammond
Jacketed Hardback; 160 pages; 275 b/w photos; 2 maps; limited, hand-numbered edition
This seventh book in Alan Hammond's series on the West Country's much loved branch line unashamedly provides a further collection of photographs and memories in a similar vein to his previous volumes (all now out of print). There are accounts of going to school from Templecombe to Cole with the inevitable schoolboy pranks, and of growing up at lonely Catcott Crossing on the Somerset levels. A driver recalls a typical trip on the Pines Express and firemen tell of many an escapade, while Mike Beale recounts the lives of his father Cyril at Bath and grandfather Vic at Blandford, both with many wartime memories. A Concorde pilot remembers using the S&D line to navigate when training on Chipmunks, while John Simms provides a delightful history of the 7Fs working on the S&D - 'mountain goats' as some railwaymen called them.
But it is the fascinating range of photographs covering over 60 years of working on the line that forms the core of the book. Obviously there are shots of trains and sheds, of stations and signalboxes, but it is the people who stand out, going about their working lives. Formally posed or relaxing with colleagues, they were the heartbeat of what many remember as essentially a family line.
Jools Holland, who used to travel south on the Pines for his holidays as a child, has written the foreword.