Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Review: Along Main Lines by Paul Atterbury

Another book from the prolific Mr Atterbury pops up on the shelves of my local WH Smiths. When he's not appearing on the Antiques Roadshow, I assume the man must just spend his time wallowing in piles of old train photos. Well, that and buying sports jackets with patterns based on seaside rock.

On the dust cover, the blurb runs Paul Atterbury offers a rare insight into the mainline story all over Britain, using little known or hitherto unseen photographs, postcards, ephemera and other evocative railwayana, drawn from his own and other private collections.

Which pretty much sums the book up. There are lots and lots of photos, all captioned, and most of them aren't the traditional three-quarters view of a train. As an example, eight pages are given over to carriage interiors. Outside of a serious carriage book, I've never seen so much space. Since I'm not sufficiently interested in coaches to own serious books, this will do me very nicely. In addition, another eight take care of restaurant cars including the wonderful tavern cars complete with faux wooden beams in the ceiling. Sleeper cars only qualify for half as much but then who models the interior anyway ?

After a miscellany section, the book is split into geographical areas: Southwest England, Southern England, Wales, Central England, Eastern England, Northern England and Scotland. That's handy if you want to focus on a particular area. Those wondering why the split isn't the tradition Big Four companies need to remember that the world carried on after 1948 and this book has lovely shots of diesels as well as chuff chuffs. The two Leamington Spa shots for example are a large logo class 50 from the 80's and the wooden train planters that are still a feature of the station today.

Diesels actually make up a significant number of the images. If you love a Deltic or a Western, there are pics to drool over, the former being lifted in works is particularly nice. Maybe this is because pretty much every steam engine photo has been published, or maybe it's just that the author wanted to give a fully balanced view of railways and understands that there is a quite a lot that has changed even after the last steamers in 1968. As someone who remembers the 80's railway scene a little, I look at the pictures now with increasing nostalgia - once upon a time we used to think a Class 47 on a train wasn't that exciting. Now I wonder why anyone would bother to spot trains as they are mostly motorised coaches.

Anyway, the photo reproduction is excellent. For the most part, the designer has been restrained and not gone all arty with effects or overlaying images to obscure the best bits. Of necessity, most of the images are black and white but there is plenty of colour too, some of it quite ancient.

Best of all, there is an Index. Why so many books that purport to be reference works leave the publishers without one I don't know, but here we are with something many enthusiasts will dismiss as coffee table material and we have a comprehensive four pages of it.

More on this book from The Hobby Warehouse.

The full range of railway books at The Hobby Warehouse.

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