Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review: Dr Beeching's Axe 50 Years On

Marking the half-century since Dr Beeching's famous report on Britian's Railways - a report infamous for suggesting a drastic pruning of a much loved network - Julian Holland has listed every line closed at the time and provided a short history.

The book begins with a background to the report and it's effects. Holland is an enthusiast and this shows throughout the text. He points out that the statistics upon which the network was condemned were gathered in a single April week. Tranport Minister Earnest Marples is described as "motorway mad" although pedants will point out the motorway construction company was run by his wife and in no way will have influenced his decisions.

Barbara Castle gets off lightly despite the Labour Party campaigning against closures, a policy abandoned the moment they got into power. Personally, I'd have got far more ranty...

Beeching himself comes out things fairly well. He was asked to do a job and that is exactly what he did. In many ways, Holland proves his point - most of the line histories describe run-down and very lightly used services. They might have been valued by the communities that they served but often those same people preferred to use the new and shiny Ford Popular on the drive than a wheezing steam train that ran infrequently with old and uncomfortable rolling stock.

An optimistic note is struck where possible. History is brought up to date in places and some of the lines are being re-opened either by preservation societies or even local groups undoing the work of BR.

Photographs illustrate each line and these will be valuable resources for modellers looking to show the railway in the 60s and 70s. Amazingly, some of the closures didn't take place until the so we have both steam engines and blue and grey DMUs. The book design is very pleasing to the eye too. Everything is well laid out and clear. There's even a comprehensive index at the back.

Dr Beeching's Axe 50 Years On at Hobby Warehouse

1 comment:

lnrmodels said...

Looks like a great book, Thanks for the review, Phil