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The Oxford Companion to British Railway History: From 1603 to the 1990s [Hardcover]

Jack Simmons , Gordon Biddle
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
RRP: £69.00
Price: £63.27 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

2 Oct 1997
Of all the products of the Industrial Revolution, none left its mark on the landscape of Britain, or changed the lives of the British people, more than the railway. The encyclopedic Oxford Companion to British Railway History reveals, for the first time, the full story of this remarkable achievement: the inspired pioneers, the unprecedented feats of engineering, the romance, and the reality. From the primitive wagonways of the seventeenth century, through the eras of horse, steam, diesel, and electric traction, it explores the railway's unique place in our history, and the reasons for its extraordinary and enduring hold on our collective imagination.

Unrivalled authority
Over 600 entries by 88 distinguished contributors chart the progress of rail travel from 1603 to the late twentieth century.

Comprehensive coverage
Covers not only the technical and historical development of the railway, but its social, economic, political, and artistic aspects.

Illustrated throughout
Maps, diagrams, tables, and illustrations bring the text to life and demystify technical concepts.

People, places, and politics
Covers the key figures who influenced the development of the railways, the towns that were changed forever, and the policies that brought about the network's rise and fall.

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The Oxford Companion to British Railway History: From 1603 to the 1990s + Fire and Steam: A New History of the Railways in Britain
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; First Edition edition (2 Oct 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192116975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192116970
  • Product Dimensions: 24.9 x 20.3 x 5.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 80,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


a classic work of reference and a book as rich and wide and various as its subject (Daily Telegraph)

probably] the most important book on railways in Britain ever published (Railway Modeller)

invaluable ... the kind of book any enthusiast should have always at his side for constant reference and enjoyable dipping into (The Times) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jack Simmons, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Leicester, is the leading authority on British railway history and has published widely on the subject. Gordon Biddle is vice-president of the Railway and Canal Historical Society.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This is a volume that's generated mixed reviews: in part I can share the ambivalence, and we'll come to that shortly, but in part the negative reviews criticise it for not being something that it never set out to be. First of all: this is an encyclopedia, not a connected narrative: it's designed to be used as a work of reference, or dipped into, not read coherently from end to end. Comparing it to a narrative history like Wolmar's "Fire and Steam", therefore, rather misses the point. Secondly, this is a work of Railway history, not of railway locomotive history. By that same token, it is even more definitely not a work specifically of steam locomotive history. Hardware is discussed, but not in exhaustive detail, allowing the book to give space to a thousand and one other topics.

The topics that are discussed are immensely varied - shunting procedures, freight traffic, the development of the Railway Clearing House that governed issues such as through running between companies' lines, and music being four that come to mind at random. A particularly strong strand, however, is the development of new intellectual procedures to manage the railway as it grew to dominance. In some cases these intellectual procedures were ways of running the railway from day to day, such as shunting or signalling; in other cases, they were the development of financial and legal instruments that streamlined the construction and financing of these new enterprises. All these are described in detail. Companies' histories are given succinctly and clearly, and for each major city there is a description of how different companies came to serve it and shape the network as it exists today, an extremely illuminating feature set out clearly with the aid of clear maps.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity 12 July 1999
By A Customer
There has long been a need for a one-volume reference guide to British railway history. With the publication of this book that need is, sadly, only partially answered. As a compendium of information, it is fine: it is reasonably comprehensive (although very uneven in coverage) and mostly accurate enough. The topics are generally well-chosen, and some of the articles are minor masterpieces of elegant compression, but too many of the entries are either over-amibitious and end up leaving too many questions unanswered, or too narrowly focussed to provide an adequate overview. More reference tables could have been provided; detailed summaries of the size of the system in route miles etc at different dates; comparisons of types of locomotive; tables of accidents; volumes of passengers and freight carried; acts of parliament relating to railways; significant labour disputes on the railways - if the book had been concieved as a repository of such information, brought conveniently into one place, it would have performed a truly valuable service. But, as it is, this volume contains insufficient clearly accessible factual information to be of service as a basic reference work, and insufficient analysis and interpretation to succeed as a sophisticated historical overview. It also presents a thoroughly old-fashioned view of what railway history is about: it is overwhelmingly technological and economic in its concerns, with a certain amount of business and social history at the edges; there is no recognition of the fact that for the past decade or so it is the social and cultural history of the railway that has been making all the running in serious railway historiography (which is surprising, given Jack Simmons's own long-standing preoccupation with the railway in its social context). Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine book 22 July 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Not just history, contains basic technical details of most key innovations.
Easy to read but still informative. Thorough coverage of all the main themes.
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