Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Review: An A-Z of Famous Express Trains by Julian Holland

The Bon Accord
The Comet
The Flying Scotsman
The Man of Kent
The North British
Torbay Express

Names evocative of the lost era of train travel. Days when jumping on a train and travelling from one end of the country to another was an occasion. The sort of trip you dressed for and I don't mean in sweat pants and a singlet!

At first sight, you might think this is a coffee table book for those who like looking at pictures of trains, but you'd be wrong. Julian Holland explores 95 different named express trains from the UK. I didn't know there were that many for a start and I doubt that many enthusiasts could come up with as comprehensive a list as this without serious research.

Each express is pictured, often several times, along with a brief history of the service. In addition, advertising material, timetables and even menu cards are reproduced. It's this that lifts the book from just another volume for enthusiasts to perv over the details of a particular engine to being enjoyable to a wider audience. You don't have to be particularly in to trains to appreciate the marketing material design for example.

Of course if you are an enthusiast, the book will not only suggest services that you might wish to include on a model railway, it will lead you toward the dangerous land that us collecting memorabilia. After all, if you are going to run the Golden Hind (London Paddington to Plymouth) then who wouldn't wish to own a leaflet with a fabulous stylised Western Diesel on the cover?

The book is very comprehensive and it's difficult to pick a highpoint from among the offerings. I will have to give the author top marks for including the Condor service - Britain's first express container service (the name comes from "container door-to-door"). I suspect the validity of its inclusion will keep enthusiasts arguing for hours!

Illustrated profusely throughout, the production and printing quality is very high. The printing on reproduced advertising material is perfectly readable and the photos, both monochrome and colour, as clear the originals will allow.

If I have a complaint, it's that when modern railways try to run similar services, it always seems a bit tawdry. Perhaps we just don't believe in luxury travel an more. Maybe travelling these sort of distances isn't so special in an age of cheap flying around the world. Still, I can't blame the book for making me wish for a ticket...

The A-Z of Famous Express Trains at The Hobby Warehouse

1 comment:

Iain Robinson said...

I always thought that "Condor" service was well named, but am disappointed to find out that it was an acronym...I had imagined it was the result of some brainstorming! Looks a fascinating book.