Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: British Rail 1948-83 A Journey by Design by Brian Haresnape

Let's start with the cover - an arresting design that grabbed my eye as I walked by a second hand book stall. The cover is based on a poster by the Danish artist Per Arnold and is part of series of BR posters from the 1980s.

Inside we have an introduction from Sir Peter Parker (no relation) where he pays homage to the place high quality design has always held on the railways but also includes the words:

It is perhaps unfortunate that much of railway hardware tends to last a long while - rather too long in present circumstances with restrictions on new investment. But herein is a challenge; good design will likewise last a long time, so we must never relax our efforts to apply the highest standards of design.

The railways in Great Britain have always had access to the highest standards of mechanical design - even if they haven't always been allowed to use the - but this book covers the visual impact and design.

Starting off with a little history, we quickly get on to the late 1950s and establishment of a Design Panel who do their best to turn the ugly early diesel duckings in to something akin to a swan. Sometimes they succeeded, the Hymeks being particularly attractive, other time the start point was beyond saving such as the CoBos. There are also the inevitable conflicts between the engineering and operating sides of the business and the design panel. An example given id the Class 50 which suffered from a lumpy headcode box and face festooned with cables.

Much of the book concerns the HST and APT programmes and it's an excellent reminder just how design-lead the APT was. Rea efforts were made to produce something modern. Several design studies are shown, most well know now but it does show just how much effort went in to the process.

We also look at the Leyland railbus project (another fascination of mine) and as a reminder that railways are more than just trains, Sealink vessels and buildings. We tend to forget just how much detail there is to look at. Staff uniforms, class 20 cabsides and advertising material also appear on the page.

 
The most fascinating design study, apart from the bubble dome highland observation car, has to be this one. Captioned, "A tentative deign proposal for a double-deck suburban carriage with APT-type four wheel suspension; seen in the model form developed by the Design Panel in 1976 at the request of the Research Department."
 
Imagine this - a double decked Pacer or "Nodding Donkey". That would have been an interesting idea! It does have a striking look not unlike the Class 67 diesel of today.
 
This book is an excellent addition to the shelves of modellers or railway enthusiasts. Sadly, as far as I can tell, it is long out of print, my edition dates from 1983, it's well worth looking for on those pre-loved book stands and shops.

2 comments:

neil whitehead said...

There has always been a high standard of industrial design on Britain's railways that continues to this day. Design Week has a an article on the design of future stock- www.designweek.co.uk/news/designers-unveil-trains-of-the-future/3038854.article?cmpid=dwnews_447520
PriestmanGoode and SeymourPowell are among those shortlisted for the FutureRailway competition to design new passenger carriages for the UK rail network.

neilsidea said...

There has always been a high standard of industrial design on Britain's railways that continues to this day. Design Week has a an article on the design of future stock- www.designweek.co.uk/news/designers-unveil-trains-of-the-future/3038854.article?cmpid=dwnews_447520
PriestmanGoode and SeymourPowell are among those shortlisted for the FutureRailway competition to design new passenger carriages for the UK rail network.