Posted by: billpurdue | October 17, 2013

Looking back at Beeching

Dr BeechingThroughout their whole history, the railways of Britain have been interfered with by politicians, probably more for the worse than for the better. The situation continues even now as different political parties promise to do different things about rising rail fares. Possibly the one thing in the history of the railways that has generated  more debate than any other is the Beeching Report. 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of that infamous document and several books have been published this year to commemorate the event. Some are just descriptions of the various lines that were marked for closure in the report, such as Dr. Beeching’s Axe, Fifty Years On by Julian Holland. This is a comprehensive list with brief descriptions of each line listed for closure, whether the line survived or not. It even includes those lines included in the report which appear not to have existed at all.

Last trainsA quite different account of the era of the Beeching report and the period leading up to it as well as the aftermath is Last Trains: Dr Beeching and the Death of Rural England by Charles Loft. This is a very detailed, but not dry, account of what led up to the decision to bring in someone with no railway background to sort out the railways and get them back onto a commercial footing. After the war, the railways were in a sorry state, no investment having been made since before the start of the war and running trains using clapped out locomotives and rolling stock. In this book we read about the various politicians who meddled or honestly tried to make the railways pay, the people who were pursuing their own agendas, the organisations like to Road Haulage Association, as well as the vociferous objectors to line closures. Before the Beeching Report, there was the Modernisation Plan for the railways which appears to have been ill thought out to say the least. It’s a fascinating story, but if you don’t need quite as much detail, then try Christian Wolmar’s excellent Fire and Steam. This is a complete history of the railways of Britain, not just the Beeching era.

Yet another new book on Sherwood Forest

 

Sherwood ForestI’ve just been reading in a local magazine called ‘The Southwell Folio’ about a new book on Sherwood Forest. In a regular column by Jo Blaney called ‘New Books at The Bookcase’, (The Bookcase’ being the bookshop at Lowdham, Notts), the October Book of the Month is Sherwood Forest and the Dukeries by Ian D Rotherham.

Jo describes the book as ‘delightful’ and ‘enticing and inspiring’: the author, a lecturer in Tourism and Environmental Change at Sheffield Hallam University, writes about the myths, legends, farming, industry, landowners, aristocracy and more. It is illustrated with paintings, sketches and photos and can be obtained for £12.99 at The Bookcase (RRP £14.99) during October if you mention ‘Folio’.

Addenda

 

In my last posting I commented on Bring me Sunshine, by Charlie Connelly and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I hadn’t finished reading either of the titles and I might have sounded a little under-enthusiastic about both of them. Well, I thoroughly enjoyed both books. A large part of Connelly’s book is about the relatively obscure heroes in the history of weather recording and research and turned out to be a fascinating read, very well written. I think I was put off early on when it appeared that that the book was going to be a little too trivial, but it turned out to be nothing of the sort.

Neverwhere is not just a novelisation of the TV series, it contains a lot of material that was cut from the series. Gaiman agreed to the cuts whilst remaining determined to restore them in the yet to written book. The author’s preferred text, as the edition is described, has lots of background information at the back. A really good read.

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