Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review: The Wonder Book of Trains by Paul Atterbury

Christmas is coming and the presents are arriving in the shops. Paul Atterbury has produced many books that the railway enthusiast might like to find under the tree. Now he has served up one for the enthusiast's grandson.

In the 1950's and 60's, when trainspotting was fashionable, many companies produced books for young boys that showed railways to be wondrous things. Accurate paintings were the order of the day rather than photographs and the subjects were not restricted to the British Isles.

This book emulates these even down to the type of paper used within the covers. In fact the only thing that differentiates it from an old volume is that the hardback cover is somewhat better than the pasteboard normally used.

Inside, there are 120 pages profusely illustrated with colour paintings that I assume date back to contemporary publications. A few black and white photos do make it on to the pages as well.

This isn't just a picture book though, each chapter covers a topic such as building trains, mail trains, guards and signals. The text is written at a level suitable for youngsters and seems to be pretty accurate. OK, it's not an exhaustive primer of any subject but then that's not the point. When you are under ten, you need enthusiasm, not lots of detail.

One slight problem I did spot was a photo captioned “One of Britian's earliest, most distinctive and still surviving narrow gauge lines is the Ffestiniog Railway” is showing the very distinctive and still surviving Vale of Rheidol.

Apart from this, the pictures are wonderful. The Khedive's personal train or the Tay Bridge disaster, the later shown to child-friendly dramatic effect, certainly grab the eye. Many show a world that no longer exists but we try to recreate in miniature. Perhaps the book is just the thing to explain to the Playstation generation, what we are trying to do !

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