Simon Bradley

Railways: nation, network and people. London: Profile Books, 2015.  [viii], 645pp + 16 plates

Written by someone born of an age where engine-spotting meant collecting Deltic names, rather than those of A3s and dependent to a great extent on earlier writers and on observations of a railway which was emerging as something very different from what was visible in the 1940s or 50s. Sometimes the author fails to observe that certain operating methods vastly predated the British Rail Modernization Programme. There is also a failure to appreciate that the concepts of railway operating, like marshalling yards and permanent way, have entered the general literature in spite of many cub reporters referring to train stations and "locomotives" as "trains"

The book is unpleasntly bulky and one suspects is aimed at the e-book market. The text is frequently flacid and is not helped by the failure to provide diagrams (most of the figures within the text are decorative rather than informative). The text lacks that concision which characterizes those from a scientific or technical background where reference to a good diagram can save useless verbiage. There is a better than usual index and a vast number of sources quoted, mainly from non-technical literature; that is from literature in general and from newspapers. The list of sourcces is remarkable for excluding Ahrons. 

The normally greatly respected Geoffrey Skelsey hsa a very different (and admiring view):  see Backtrack, 2016, 30, 190