Book & DVD Reviews

Hendry R (1999): ‘British Railway Goods Wagons in Colour: For the Modeller and Historian’
Midland / Ian Allan: Hersham ISBN (10) 1-85780-094-X ISBN (13) 978-1-85780-094-4
96 pages, 217 colour photos, glossary, facsimile wagon diagrams (21),lamp head-codes

I have only just acquired a copy of this book, but as it was reprinted in 2003 and 2007, copies should still be available It is a detailed history of the British goods wagon from the days of the small, wooden-framed vehicles up to the 1970’s. I gather that a second volume covers the period 1970-2000, but I have not come across this yet. There are separate sections for general merchandise opens; vans; cattle wagons; tanks; bulk traffic; conflats; bolsters; brake vans; service stock and “special vehicles.” The book is very good on the transitional BR period from steam to diesel and the introduction of block and liner trains. It is in fact a history of freight handling as well as the wagons themselves, with a few bits of social history on labour and union relations included. The Irish content is quite small, and since the author seems rather strict on the geographical term “British” limited to Northern Ireland, but as published photographs of Irish wagons are rather rare, the five shots are still interesting:

p. 5: an ex-BNCR 3-plank open, presented as a late survivor, with many primeaval design features.
p. 6: a more modern NCC van
p. 6: another NCC van but one that quite foxed the experts, being an obsolete Midland (of Derby) design, turned out by LNER shops as a stop gap for service in Northern Ireland in World War Two.
p. 54: Shell Mex & BP tank wagon 271, Adelaide Yard
p. 55: Irish Shell & BP tank wagon 2617 at Grosvenor Road Depot [AO’R]


RJA Pue: ‘Steam Locomotives of Irish Railways’
Published by: the BCDR Museum Trust, 9 Kilbright Rd, Carrowdore, Newtownards. Co. Down BT22 2HQ Tel: 0870 740 9311 E-mail:

No. 7 The PP Class 4-4-0s of the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) ISBN 978-0-905196-13-8 56 pages £8-95 softback

No. 8 The Locomotives of the Ulster Railway ISBN 978-0-905196-15-2 60 pages, £10-95 softback

The seventh book in this series has now reached one of the more numerous groups of GNR 4-4-0s,the PP class of seventeen engines built between 1896 and 1911, the last scrapped in 1963. As with the earlier books in this series, each of these begins with a brief survey of the class, and then tables of key dates, dimensions and rebuilding. There follows a portrait and “bibliography” for each engine in the class, although much of this information is repeated in summary tables. About half of the book is a photographic album of the class, with a good mix of in-action, on shed and makers’ photographs, spanning the whole history of the class, the various metamorphoses these engines passed through, and with several shots of some of them running in the pre-World War I livery of lined green with name plates. Despite the use of un-glazed paper, reproduction of the photographs is generally good. There is a very diagrammatic outline drawing, which shows dimensions, but which is neither detailed nor accurate enough on its own to support building a model of one of these engines.

The eighth and most recent addition takes a step back in time from it usual format of describing one specific class of relatively modern engines, to review the entire motive power of the Ulster Railway, which lost its independence in 1876. As with such remote periods of railway history, there is little to add to what has already been published, allowing for the gaps in the extant records, and most of this topic has already been covered in Norman Johnston’s detailed history of GNR locomotives. There is a short history of the Ulster Railway itself, followed by a description of its engines, in the form of tables of dates, rebuilding and renumbering of each machine. The author has classified the stock his own way into twenty types. This nomenclature includes two classes delivered during or shortly after the formation of the GNR, and one which did not emerge until 1881 being three rebuilds of older engines into a small class of 0-4-2s.There are some 68 photos in the book, again finding unpublished ones for this period is rather hard, and slightly over a third have already appeared in Mr Johnston’s book, in some cases several enlargements from one of the shed scenes providing illustrations of different classes. The author, however, does find some shots from the FitzGerald Collection which I have not seen before, but as with earlier books in the series, reproduction on un-glazed paper, while keeping costs down, impairs reproduction of some photos.

These booklets are produced as limited print runs, on a subscription basis, with future plans to cover the U2 and W classes of the NCC; the Q, and S classes of the GNR; the DNGR 0-6-0STs; and the Queens. [AO’R]


Jeremy Clements & Michael McMahon: ‘Locomotives of the GSR’
384 pages, 346 photographs, colour dust jacket pictures, 2 line drawings, maps, tables etc
ISBN 978-1-906578-26-8 £35-00 From: Colourpoint Books, Jubilee Business Park, 21 Jubilee Road, Newtownards, Co Down BT23 4YH

Wow! For some time, Southern locomotive fans have cast envious eyes at the Colourpoint histories of the GNR and more recently NCC engines. Well, their own volume has proved well worth the wait At first sight it sounds expensive, but taking account of size and photographic content, it is actually very good value for money. Of course, a book limited to the machines built for or by the GSR would be rather slim, and this covers all the stock inherited in 1925, even if some never carried a GSR number plate. As much pre-group stock had long lives, it is a really a history of locomotives built from about 1880 onwards for the constituent companies. The authors have done their homework very well, and although there may be room for a bit more scholarship on the mechanical dark ages at Inchicore and Broadstone, as regards the post 1925 era, this really is the definitive account. Some material has appeared before, but is well integrated, such as the 1948 summary of each surviving class, a pithy, unsentimental few lines saying what the operating department thought of its antiques on day-to-day basis, and often far removed from dewy-eyed enthusiasts, coming across some ancient engine, or logging a spectacular one off run.

This is of course an era now slipping from living memory, and some decisions may not have been “minuted,” so there has to be a bit of reading between the lines. Here the authors are very perceptive. One problem was that in the newly formed GSR, MGWR men took many of the administrative positions, and to even up the power balance, the chief mechanical post went to Bazin, whereas Morton, your man from the Midland who had already proved himself an astute fellow in spotting bargains off the shelf, had a much more enlightened view on superheating the better older classes. In fact, Broadstone seems to have thumbed its nose at Inchicore on this issue, and quietly finished superheating the 650 class: in 1948 they were about the only Midland engines to get an unqualified thumbs up, the larger 4-4-0s being damned as poor timekeepers on the DSER section.

However, for a company that prided it self on thrift, GSR locomotive practice was decidedly wasteful at times, with each CME determined to produce “something new,” although this lead more to technological vanity than genuine progress. 850, always an engine to provoke partisan views, but the one genuinely innovative design was doomed to be a one off; the 670s were a retrospective step. In fact, Inchicore should have adopted a Darwinian “survival of the fittest” approach to selecting the best of the later pre-group designs: a dozen more 257 class would have been more welcome to the operating department than “improved J15s.” A few more DSER moguls and B4 Bandon tanks would also have been useful additions to the fleet. Maybe nothing illustrates this principle more than the 4-6-0s: the 500s did everything required of them, and more, for thirty yeas, with only minor modifications, whereas the mechanically more sophisticated 400s needed radical and expensive rebuilding to make them efficient engines. The cost of reconstructing them might have been better spent on a few more 500 and Woolwich class engines. The authors even take on the legend of the 800s, suggesting that their main value was boosting morale and for publicity, whereas from mechanical point of view, they were a luxury the GSR could ill afford and minor changes to working practices would have made them un-necessary. But, as the authors comment for much or their period, passenger traffic was actually in decline on the GSR system, whereas goods receipts held up much better, and so, while the company fiddled around trying to produce “fixes” for the Cork mails and the Bray suburban services, it was just as well that it had inherited a fleet of hardy 0-6-0s, which could handle the bread-and-butter traffic.

The photographs are generally well reproduced, just a few for obscure engines are a little soft, and for “spotters” there are good shots of some rather camera shy specimens, like 211, 250, 441, 618 and 621. Sadly, the only scale plans are of two patterns of WLWR tenders, from the Stephenson Locomotive Society book on Robinson’s work: there may be a book of drawings later if there is enough demand (hint, hint!). There are chapters on tenders; the fuel crisis (a detailed account of a difficult time, which bridged the GSR/CIE transition); and a brief account of steam loco policy under CIE (for more details of this period see the Decade of Steam book). Wisely, the turf-burner is left to its own specialised books, but the authors take “locomotive” as a broad term for any self propelled vehicle, so the Claytons, Sentinels (both shunting engines and railcars), Drewry vehicles (broad and narrow gauge) and Drumm trains are all covered. All narrow gauge engines extant in 1925 also feature, but these are well documented elsewhere, and I think the real strength of the book is the detailed accounts of the pre-1925 engines, their rebuilding and modification, and the critical discussion of GSR locomotive policy down to 1940. For the not so technically minded, there is also a very clear and illustrated account of the working of locomotive valve gears and superheating. Finally, the book also includes detailed tables of GSR and GNR returns, which suggest that the GSR was not quite so economically backward as followers of the “enterprising” cross-border line would have us believe! In fact, allowing for the fact that GSR engines and rolling stock were older (and in many cases fully depreciated), the return on capital may have looked even better for the GSR. [AO’R]


DVD: ‘The West Cork Railway  1958, 1959 & 1961 Cameo Memories’ by Brian Baker
Produced and distributed by: Signcraft, Bretby, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire DE14 0PS UK Tel. 0044(0) 1283 551581 E-mail:
Running time approx 60 mins Price: £18 including p&p 

Included with this DVD is a section of the 1897 Railway Clearing House Map of southern Ireland showing the west Cork railways, in order to help the viewer visualize the lines depicted.  The reverse side carries additional notes which give mileages for the different sections, a very brief history and a list of books on the  west Cork lines. From the turning of the first sod of the Cork & Bandon Railway on the 16th September 1845, up till the complete closure on the 31st March 1961, the west Cork railways served a large area on the southern coast of Ireland.  The story is recorded in full colour on the DVD with both cine film and still photographs taken in 1958, 1959 and 1961,  and including the final four days of operation, and brings to light some very interesting footage and photographs of the west Cork system.  It also covers the Shannon Vale Mill, showing the working of the line by horse power.  It will be of interest to people who knew the system and people with a general interest in Irish railways, but above all will  be of immense value to modellers of Irish railways as it shows the  many different operations that were typical of the period, including shunting, running, and some beautiful landscape that will inspire modellers of any of the Irish railway systems.

It also includes cab rides for the sections Clonakilty Junction-Ballinascarthy- Courtmacsherry-Clonakilty, Skibbereen-Baltimore and Cork-Bantry. Starting at Albert Quay with steam locomotive No.90 shunting the diesel railcar set, the film takes us through the rural and beautiful countryside that is west Cork, and over some of the best kept track on any railway of the period, as well as over some extremely neglected rails.  The line had the distinction of serving the most southerly railway station in Ireland, and also boasted the first tunnel in Ireland to have steam working through it. The line was worked at this period by diesel railcar sets and C-class Metro-Vick locomotives, with short mixed trains made up of as few as two coaches plus a wagon of pigs, and strengthened on Thursdays by an ancient six-wheeler.  The line also saw excursion traffic as well as loose coupled freight trains which since the 1930’s include beet trains for Mallow sugar factory.  Running through one of the most tranquil scenes in Ireland, this is surely a modeller’s dream railway, with the variation of changing landscape as well as delightful stations along the line and at the termini. There is also an extract of an interview by Brian Baker with 96-year-old Mr. Champion who was a former employee of the railway, man and boy, who recalls some of his railway memories.

The material is professionally produced and narrated by Brian Baker who grew up in west Cork, his father having spent his working life on the west Cork lines apart from a short time at Charleville, and being station master at Clonakilty in the 1930’s. His final appointment was stationmaster at Bandon.  The programme deliberately does not set out to be a source of reference but simply a shared record of a once proud system.

After production and distribution costs, all profit is being donated to the Railway Children charity. [POS]


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