Dawn Smith

The Biographical Dictionary of Britain’s Railway Personalities, Organisations & Events, 1597 - 1923: excluding Ireland, Isle of Man & Channel Islands. Glebe Publications, Peterlee.

A biographical dictionary usually implies an alphabetical listing and this implies the application of rules for dealing with prefixes and titles: for instance should Alfred De Glehn be filed at “D” or at “G”“. The late John Marshall solved this in his modest Biographical Dictionary of Railway Engineers by placing the entry at “D” with a useful cross reference from “G”“. Few aristocrats became engineers, but the landed gentry were closely involved in railway scheming. Sadly, the flummery of their titles completely overwhelmed the compiler of this new work and there are entries beginning Baron, Duke, Earl, and so on. This is not helpful and it would be far more helpful if they were entered at their main title, as in Chandos or Sutherland.

There is a problem with errors. Ottley is always misspelt with a single “t”: should we be generous and suggest that this was a general editing fault, or suggest that only limited use had been made of this magisterial bibliography. Having worked for many years at Brickendonbury it was Kafkaesque to find it mentioned as “Brockendonbury” in an entry under Pearson. In an entry for Dugald Drummond, Eastleigh is relocated to be near Ashford in Kent. Sir Stamford Raffles becomes Sir Samford. It also seems improbable that William Lewis Meredith was an “FRS” (a complete listing of Fellows is available as a pdf file and he is not on it).

Review not quite complete and final assessment it is hoped will appear in "Back Track" (style adopted in item under review).