Sunday, 22 November 2015

Mile By Mile, travelling our railways in 1947

“The object of this book is to encourage the passenger to anticipate his progress, and to enable him to know to a nicety, what he next will see from the window at any and every stage of the journey.  

It is such a pity to sacrifice this experience to idle slumber, or to concentration on a magazine that would be better enjoyed at home.”*

Now this seems a pretty neat idea to me, and I have to say it is one that I try to practice, whether I am on a train, tram or the bus.

But I rather think it is an ambitious project that few would undertake, especially when what is being described is nothing less than the routes of the main railway companies in 1947.

But this is what Mr Pike set out to do in a series of little books just as the railways became nationalized.

The publications covered the L.N.E.R, the LMS, and Southern Railways but for reasons which have never been established he failed to keep his promise of one on the G.W.R. **

Nevertheless for the other three here were details of “the gradients of the lines, speed tests and mileages,  viaducts, bridges and embankments, along with tunnels, cuttings, crossovers and streams, rivers and roads.  

For good measure there were also lists of towns, villages, churches and mines, factories and works and an account of features of interest and beauty to be seen from the trains.”

It was all of the information which made a train journey worthwhile.

And of course with the passage of time and the end of both steam locomotives as well as many of the branch lines his guides have become a piece of history.

As you would expect I looked for Chorlton-cum-Hardy and there it was in the L.M.S on a map which included Didsbury, Withington and Central Station, along with the gradients of the line, miles from London and rivers roads and much else.

The London Midland Scottish was a family favourite, with its maroon coloured locos, and brown and yellowy cream painted coaches.

This I suspect had something to do with my dad and uncle’s Scottish roots and for me because LMS Duchess of Montrose was my chosen Hornby Dublo loco on the model railway my father built for me and lovingly maintained.

But I also had a real interest in the Southern Railway which became the Southern Region of British Railways.  It was the one I used from being a child till I left London.

And however unfashionable it is today I remain fascinated by our nationalised railway company which was making its first bold steps soon after Mr Pile began publishing.

All of which brings me back to those railway books and the fact that they are once again available in a single volume, MILE BY MILE ON BRITAIN’S RAILWAYS, S.N.PIKE, published by Aurum Press Ltd, 2011.

It is a book I regularly go back to and one that brings alive that lost age.

Pictures; from the cover of MILE BY MILE ON BRITAIN’S RAILWAYS, S.N.PIKE, published by Aurum Press Ltd, and original Mile by Mile on the L.M.S. 1947

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