Railway World key file

A journal which went through many forms until it expired. In some of its many manifestations it included some excellent material: this page will gradually become the key file to the project (12 April 2013). In 1964, presumably during the move to Shepperton, No. 285 was "lost" and February became No. 286. Most of the copies indexed have come from the Weybourne station bookshop and are available for sale thereat. Issue Mumber 200 contains a history of the journal up until then. In some respects the journal mirrors what it described: for a time it had plates on the outer pages which were given lower case Roman numerals and book reviews and news tended to be dumped on these pages. It was very fond of series, noatbly Locomotive Causerie and Glimpses of the Narrow Gauge. It never seemed to make up its mind the extent to which it hoped to report "the then current scene" which tended to be done more thoroughly elsewhere. Italics indicate complete volume examined

Volume 21 (1960) Volume 31 (1970) Volume 41 (1980) Volume 51 (1990)
Volume 22 (1961) Volume 32 (1971) Volume 42 (1981) Volume 52 (1991)
Volume 23 (1962) Volume 33 (1972) Volume 43 (1982)
Volume 14 (1953) Volume 24 (1963) Volume 44 (1983). .
Volume 15 (1954) Volume 25 (1964) Volume 35 (1974) Volume 45 (1984)
Volume 16 (1955) Volume 26 (1965) Volume 36 (1975) Volume 46 (1985)
Volume 17 (1956) Volume 27 (1966) Volume 37 (1976) Volume 47 (1986).
Volume 18 (1957) Volume 28 (1967) Volume 38 (1977) Volume 48 (1987)
Volume 19 (1958) Volume 29 (1968) Volume 39 (1978) Volume 49 (1988)
Volume 20 (1959) Volume 30 (1969) Volume 40 (1979) Volume 50 (1989)

Issue Numbers

Number 200

500 A FORAY IN THE FILES Basil Cooper

Basil Cooper. Railway World 500: a foray through the files. 1981, 42, 648
From the introduction of the LNER Silver Jubilee in 1935 to the outbreak of World War 2 the railways showed an enterprise and initiative which maintained their appeal against rival interests. The railway scene was of great variety. The pre-Grouping and post-Grouping generations working side by side were a practical demonstration of continuity in railway development. The present was seen evolving from the recent past, and no great stretch of imagination was needed to look further back in time. Steam was the link between the periods, and steam was seen to be capable of meeting the demands for accelerated travel from a public becoming accustomed to the idea of rumbling through the sky at a cruising speed of a hundred miles an hour or more. Nostalgia was unknown outside those areas of the Southern Railway where electrification had demoted first-rank steam locomotives to secondary tasks.
In 1939 only one publication, apart from societies' journals, catered exclusively for the railway enthusiast. With 500 numbers behind it in February of that year it had become almost a national institution, so much so that to many who paid their monthly shilling the idea of a second magazine on the same subject seemed almost shocking. The motoring enthusiast and the amateur radio constructor might wander irresolutely among a host of papers claiming their attention but the devotee of railways listened to one true voice and tended to regard others speaking on the same theme as very minor prophets. I must declare an interest here, for I was employed as a railway journalist at the time and wrote many an acid comment on the errors of what we called 'the lay press' as if we were indeed a priesthood.
I was detached from this comfortable establishment in September 1939 and relaunched as a name, rank and number. I did not see, therefore, how it reacted to the appearance of a new popular railway periodical in the depths of the first wartime winter. December 1939 saw No 1, Volume 1, of Railways; an unpropitious date. one might think, but the fact that this 500th number of Railway World is Railways' direct descendant proves that the decision to produce it in spite of the omens was correct. The Editor in his first editorial recalled his misgivings as the international situation worsened, but when the storm broke the radio' advised us to carry on with reading, hobbies and other recreations; it was these facts that finally decided us to continue with our plans'.
The first issue of Railways was published under the proprietorship of E.L Lake from an address in Radlett, Herts. From No 7 the publishing office was moved to Cricklewood, and from No 10 (in February 1941) the proprietor was shown as Railway World Limited, although the magazine continued as Railways until the name was changed to Railway World in 1952.
The aim of the magazine, as stated in No 1, was to provide 'interesting and instructive reading for all those interested in railways and allied matters', with special emphasis on illustrations, which it was hoped to make 'one of the best features of the magazine'. Railway photography had been flourishing among enthusiasts until war conditions clamped down on it, aided by what now seem absurdly cheap prices of equipment and materials. The average amateur's camera was much less sophisticated than what he owns today, but a shutter speed usually not more than one-hundredth of a second did not deter him from having a go at moving trains. In doing so he learned the importance of not only avoiding too broadside a view but of firing the shutter while the train was still a good way off. As a result his pictures took in more of the surroundings than had been customary in much of the work of the railway photographic 'Old Masters' of the 1920s, who with the advantage of their focal plane shutters could hold their fire until the train occupied a large part of the viewfinder. The photograph that was a railway scene rather than simply a record of a locomotive and train came into being out of necessity. The style is so usual today that it may be hard to believe it was once disparaged on the grounds that scenery distracted attention from the central object.
G.H. Lake, first Editor of Railways, launched a photographic competition in the first issue. Prizes were offered in three classes. Class A was to be judged on pictorial interest; Class B sought 'the most interesting photographs of a railway train, both passenger and freight'; and Class C was for technical pictures. The winner of Class A was C.M. Doncaster, whose print of an ex-NER 0-4-4T hauling five eight-wheelers on the Whitby-Pickering line near Goathland was reproduced in Railways No 2 of February 1940 (the magazine appeared at first at two-monthly intervals). It earned the commendation that 'the exhaust shows up well in the sunlight and the splendjd Yorkshire scenery makes a nice setting for the train'.
Names later familiar were beginning to appear in the credits. J. B. Hubback's winning entry in Class B of.Earl of Mount Edgcumbe on a Paddington-Cardiff express was praised for 'a viewpoint that brings out the effect of speed' and for the use of a red filter to give a dark sky and throw the train into strong relief. Both winners showed a new approach to a familiar theme, but Class C was a more novel challenge. J. B. Muir's winning print, 'waggon wheels', was a study of the suspension and brake gear of a four-wheel tank wagon. It was a pity that wartime conditions did not allow the competitions to be kept up. If photographers had been able to ramble freely with their cameras Class C might have preserved in picture form much that was once characteristic of the railway — point rodding and bell-cranks, signal wires running over pulleys, ground frames, loading gauges, and much else that is going or has gone. Class C in a later competition produced a winning print of an Elesco feedwater pump on a Canadian National Railways 2-8-2 taken by Mrs G.M. Ahern. In those days 'sexism' had not been invented but there were probably raised eyebrows at the idea of a woman competitor, and a winning one at that. In view of this evident leaning towards originality it is surprising that for his first cover picture the Editor chose a picture of the Cornish Riviera Express approaching Teignmouth.
Colour photography when Railways began was in the Dufaycolour period. It had already been used for frontispieces in The Railway Magazine of a 'Schools' at Charing Cross and of the up Night Ferry at Bickley. Railways No 1 reproduced the Editor's own Dufaycolour transparency of the south portal of Festiniog Tunnel, which was recommended as a subject for railway modellers; their interests were catered for by a special section in the magazine. No 2 had a colour plate of the ex-GN Stirling Single No 1 at Hitchin during a special run for the Railway Correspondence & Travel Society on 11 September 1938. Exercising his critical faculty, which seemed particularly sensitive to photographs, the Editor noted that it was 'not as technically perfect as could be wished for'. This incautious thinking aloud must have brought an indignant response from the photographer, for an apologetic editorial note in the next issue set forth the circumstances in which the photographer had worked: 'the picture was secured at 6.30pm ... to add to his difficulties he had no tripod available and was forced to rest the camera upon the platform edge, hence the low viewpoint'.
To one brought up in the convenient tradition of editorial aloofness such recantations and apologia still sound out of place. They are quite liberally scattered about the early pages of Railways and are, indeed, reflections of a less formal relationship between editor, readers and contributors that was beginning to develop. In other kinds of journal readers probably skip over articles on subjects with which they are familiar, or, if they read them, do so witha.shrug of the shoulders when they find a mistake. Railway journals count among their readership some who 'read what they know already, in search of errors and omissions, dashing off a letter to the editor when they are found. As they are clearly In torment at the thought of others.less well-informed beingmisled, the editor hastens to publish a.correction, but sometimes, alas, before verifying whether the 'correction' is in fact correct, or the original statement in error. Some critics simply hope that a mistake has been made. I remember an occasion when a statement of mine in Railway World was challenged. I furnished the questioner with proof from personal experience, whereupon he withdrew' with the remarkable admission that 'he didn't realise I knew anything about it'. Evidently the myth of editorial omniscience has died.
Some correspondents wrote to Railways as part of their professional duty. Among them was D S. Barrie, Press Officer at Euston and later General Manager of BR's North Eastern Region. He pointed out that a Midland Division train on the front cover was described as an express although carrying a slow train headcode, and suggested it was probably a Leicester-St Pancras semi-fast. The Editor showed unusual resource in dealing with this one, admitting it was the train suggested but adroitly quoting a smart point-to-point timing from its schedule to justify the caption.
Much more satisfying to an editor are the occasions when he can sit back to watch a clash of titans in his correspondence columns, with two or more notabilities slogging it out in this public arena. There was an occasion when a figure well-known in the locomotive world wrote to criticise the performance of a Pacific on the.Manchester-Sheffield via Woodhead line. George Dow, then Information Agent of the LNER, joined battle, concluding his remarks with the advice to the other that 'next time he feels in a critical mood he should get his facts right before committing himself to paper'.
And while on the subject of advice, this from the November 1942 issue of Railways is equally valid today: 'Will readers please note that in their own interests they should be certain to write lightly their name-and address on the backs of all photographs submitted for publication. This is essential as prints sometimes become separated from correspondence before they have been indexed and checked. up
Railways struck a balance in its articles between current and historical topics.and in its early issues carried a series.on narrow gauge railways in Wales.The promise of tinstructive' reading was fulfilled by a series on Sidelights of operation, and articles on signalling, permanent way and so on; O.S. Nock began a monthly Locomotive Causerie in April 1940. It seemed to be assumed as so often it was in those days, that readers were already informed on the details of how steam is generated and converted into tractive effort in a steam locomotive. One heard that a Monsieur Andre Chapelon in France had wrought wonders by redesigning the steam circuit of some existing !pcomotjves, and that his ideas were crossmg the Channel, but speaking personally I did not realise how superficial my upderstanding of these matters was until a year or two ago I came across his massive treatise, La Locomotive à Vapeur. in the Science Reference Library. A copy had arrived in our office for review before the war but was immediately impounded by higher authority. Probably the preservation movement today has made a higher proportion of enthusiasts aware of the technical details of the steam locomotive than was ever the case when it was in its prime.
There was much more awareness of how the steam locomotive performed, and how it looked, or ought to look. In an obituary tribute to Sir Nigel Gresley in the issue of May 1941, Railways spoke of him as aln engineer who was continually producing bold and original locomotives that were to thrill and delight us all by their fine appearance and splendid work'. But admiration was not universal. A correspondent who had been a locomotive apprentice wondered whether 'the men at Doncaster got the same thrill in the building of Sir Nigel Gresley's shapeless streamlined masses. Can they compare with the handsome engines produced by the Drummonds, the Worsdells, Raven and Holden?' This provoked a retort from George Dow, who was sure that 'there must be many of your readers like myself who, loving all locomotives, can see as much beauty in the bold, clean lines of a Gresley Pacific, or the massive proportions of an American 4-8-4 (carrying on its boiler almost everything except the kitchen stove) as in the elegant long-chimneyed grace of a Johnson single or well-balanced compactness of a Drummond Tank'.
In due course the question of aesthetics was thrown open to the popular vote. The LNER 'A3' Pacific came top of the popularity list with 22 votes and the LMS 'Jubilee' bottom with only four. The LMS 'Duchess' came second with 17, beating the LMS Compound and the GWR 'King' which tied third with 12 votes each. There had been the question of how different age groups viewed the various locomotive vintages and so the votes were classified as from the over-thirties and the under- thirties. There were some wide discrepancies. 'Green Arrows' received only one over-thirty vote but nine from the under-thirties. The GER 'Claud Hamilton' scored six from the older generation but none from the juniors. Yet the under-thirties cast five votes for the 'Castles' against only two from their seniors, while the voting for the 'Kings' was reversed, this class receiving nine over-thirty votes and three under-thirty. The Editor was disappointed at the small number who took part. and those who today see idols toppled can console themselves. like the defeated politician, with the small turn-out. Certain classes were' unplaced' with only between one and three votes all told. among them Starrier's 'Princess Coronation' Pacific and 'Black Five'.
Predictably, hard things were said about the appearance of the Bulleid 'Q1' 0-6-0, and the first 'Merchant Navy' came off little better. The Editor commented that 'majority opinion is that they are extremely ugly' and he asked: 'Will a future CME produce a loco which incorporates a satisfactory machine enclosed within a design pleasing to all rational tastes?'. The 'Q1' and the 'Spam Can' headed the list in a ballot for the ugliest locomotive, beating the 'Crab' 2-6-0 hands down into third place.
Wartime conditions were a constant worry to the publisher, although No 1 started with a bang by selling out and in No 2 the number of pages was increased from 28 to 36. From then until No 6 dated June 1940. which completed Volume I, publication was monthly. There followed 'an unavoidable break of nearly four months' until No 7, dated November 1940, started Volume 2 and the cover proclaimed Railways as 'THE Pictorial Railway Journal'. It had been described earlier in the SLS Journal as 'the Picture Post of the railway world', leading the Editor to comment that 'this is exactly what we set out to be and it is not our desire to imitate, or to compete with any of our excellent contemporaries devoted to the subject of railways real or model'.
The issue of June 1941 was an example of wartime resourcefulness, having been completely replanned at the last moment. Fire following a heavy air raid on London destroyed the whole of the photographs and line drawings which it had been intended to publish. Volume 2 was extended to December 1941, comprising 14 issues which had been produced 'under difficult and trying conditions'. With an eye on allocations from the Paper Controller, the Editor noted that correspondence showed that 'this publication forms a bright spot and an eagerly awaited monthly event in the lives of a large number of people, especially those on active service'. He hoped the magazine would be regarded as an essential for educational purposes and also as a small contribution towards maintaining morale. But the pressures were growing, and in January 1942 the number of pages was reduced to 20, while the Editor, now engaged on work of national importance, warned readers to expect some delay in replying to their letters.
In the collected edition of Sir Winston Churchill's speeches the year 1942 is called 'the end of the beginning'. It now became possible to think about 'after the war'. The Editor wrote: 'After the war we would support a fair and well-balanced scheme for the pooling of all forms of transport but we should be definitely against the idea of a mere grouping of the four companies into a "British Railways", whether state-owned or remaining as one huge company, with the road hauliers left to do pretty well much as they pleased'. And he returned to the theme in October 1942 with a vision of a transport system planned on a nation-wide basis in which steam, electric and diesel traction would be used when and where it was most suitable. He had already caused some displeasure among a section of readers by publishing an article in August in which a contributor signing himself' I. Allan' had said that 'when the Southern Railway decided on a policy of wholesale electrification it was one of the greatest strides ever taken by a British railway'.
Almost as distasteful to some readers as the thought of diesel or electric traction was 'Art'. 'No engineer based any engine on Art' proclaimed a correspondent. But the Editor was on the side of the Muses. He signed an article, A rtistic Railways, in which he dwelt affectionately on 'the row of shining levers with neat instruments and the fine diagram panel above; the ingenious interlocking frame with its multitude of bars, tappets, pulleys, etc. Here surely are examples of engineering skill which are Works of Art in every sense of the word'. Paul B. Mann, who was responsible for a series of colour plates of pre-Grouping locomotives and rolling stock in their original liveries, contributed occasional drawings. He wrote a book, How to draw locomotives, which was reviewed in the magazine. It must be an absorbing hobby for those with the ability to follow it, more satisfying than photography because it can be lingered over. The artist has to accept, however, that he has one chance in five hundred of a result pleasing to himself, and, judging from some observed reactions to railway drawings, no chance whatever of pleasing anybody else.
Pleasant hours can be spent with these early volumes, noting forecasts that were fulfilled and others that were not, testing oneself with the general knowledge questions and dreaming over items in the Strange to Relate paragraphs. But here is the Reading Room attendant at our elbow, examining his silent clientele for signs of life before locking up for the night. Away go the early volumes of Railways on a trolley, perhaps to remain undisturbed in the vaults until Railway World has clocked up another hundred issues.
Mr Cooper was Editor of Railway World from September 1971 until the October 1977 issue.

Updated 2013-04-14