on 13 November 2011
This book samples the wealth of maps of British railways over the last 200 or so years. It is well produced and the maps chosen are almost all of interest. Some of the best pages are those contrasting the railway system at various times in the past with now; but there are also some revealing maps detailing the effect of the 1960s closures, some of the plans issued at the time, and what has actually happened since. I found the text a little stolid and repetitive (especially in the later parts of the book), but it is the maps that count, and if you have any interest in railways and maps this is a must-have.
on 10 November 2011
A must for any geographer who travels by rail in the UK. A fascinating insight into the history of everyday travel and the geography of how it came about. The maps lay out the mistakes, the dreams, the confusion and the determination of our ancestors to travel more quickly and sometimes in comfort to the four corners of the UK.
This book depicts all types of railway maps including those that were for use by the public and those that were for internal use, from all parts of Britain and spanning about 200 years. Some were very functional while others were very artistic, although they all served a practical purpose. Co-authored by David Spaven (a new name to me) and Julian Holland (a name that I have become familiar with), I doubt that this book will be my last purchase of either author.
Although this is supposed to be a history of railways through maps, some of the supporting text has nothing to do with maps, but presumably the co-authors felt it necessary to include it anyway. I could have done without some of this stuff, but it's not excessive and the main focus is on the maps and the stories around them. I found the oldest map featured to be one of the most interesting, and not just because it features an area of Scotland that includes my ancestral homeland. (Glamis, where some of my ancestors lived between the 14th and early 18th centuries, is right there in the middle while Montrose, where my recent ancestors come from, is on the coast.) What really makes this 1819 map interesting is that it marks out potential routes that could be used for either a railway or a canal. The routes marked never emerged in that form, and in any case, by the time the railway reached Aberbrothock, it had become Arbroath.
One of the interesting aspects of this book is how railway operators regarded their rivals through maps. Some maps showed only their own routes while others acknowledged the existence of their rivals, but the extent of acknowledgement varied, in part according to whether they were bitter enemies (because they were competing for some of the same traffic) or on friendly terms (because they were mostly providing complementary services and it was in their interest to encourage interchange traffic). Anybody wanting an unbiased map needed one from a general publisher rather than a railway operator.
One of my favourite maps is the glazed tile map of the North Eastern Railway. When I lived in Newcastle, I sometimes visited Whitley Bay or Tynemouth at the weekend and I used to admire the map while waiting for a return train, and this was one place where I enjoyed the wait. I remembered the map as being at Whitley Bay, but the book says that one of the surviving maps is at Tynemouth. Maybe both stations had the map in the seventies. No matter, I was impressed and I was so pleased to find it discussed and illustrated here.
Just as with the 1819 map mentioned earlier, some of the most interesting maps are for railways that were proposed but never built. Another Scottish map, this time a diagrammatic map of the entire country with the entire existing network outlined, includes proposals for light railways mapped as dotted lines. None were ever built. Even more interesting is the 1890 map showing alternative proposals for a Channel Tunnel from south-west Scotland to Northern Ireland. Although never built, I wonder if proposals for such a tunnel will one day be revived, I don't think I will live long enough to see it happen anyway
Of course, no book of this kind could overlook the 1933 London Underground map, which revolutionized railway map design, particularly for urban networks. A 2010 version is also illustrated. While noticeably different in some respects, the family likeness is obvious. Some of the changes had already occurred by the time I started visiting London in the sixties, but evolution has continued since.
Another important, albeit disastrous, aspect of British railway history is Beeching. His maps are given due coverage, including one showing receipts by route and another showing proposed closures. The book also includes a map showing routes proposed for closure but reprieved, together with routes closed despite not being proposed for closure by Beeching. In some cases, it may be that a reprieve of one route caused the closure of another, but in most cases there were other reasons for overriding Beeching.
Among the more artistic maps, I particularly like the hand-painted 1949 map of Yorkshire's railways, showing major industries as well as tourist attractions. Sport is represented too, as the artist associated football with Huddersfield, cricket with Leeds and horse racing with Doncaster.
My review focused mainly on Scotland and northern England because the maps that grabbed my attention the most are of those areas, but the book covers the whole country and your favourite maps may be those covering Wales or southern England. There are some extracts from the long out of print Jowett's atlas, which I regard as a bit of a tease. The library copy that I formerly used to view regularly is no longer available (they may have sold it) so I would appreciate it if some publisher reprints it as I cannot afford the price that used copies command.
If you are interested in either British railway history or historical maps, you will find this to be a fascinating book.
on 21 February 2012
This book is a beatifully produced record of the development of Britains railways. It is full of interesting maps with sections of extra interest enlarged.
Because it covers such a wide scope, it necessarily doesn't go into minute detail of every line but is an absolutely fascinating overview of the railway heritage of this country and would be a good starting point for anyone interested in this subject, or indeed a reference book for those with more knowledge of the subject.
The format of many maps interspersed with sections of text means that, if desired, one can "dip" into it at any point and read a section rather than ploughing through from start to finish.
I have certainly learned a great deal about the system even in my local area.
Definitely priced to sell, I can thoroughly recommend this publication.
on 29 January 2013
The authors do an excellent job of reviewing the growth ,achievements and decline of the railways--as always, they have the difficult problem of how to deal with the subject and do it very well. Maps are well reproduced (which can lead to some visual problems) and there are a number of photos etc as well as the explanatory text.
Of course, the big problem is scale--repro in even coffee table sized books is difficult, and the authors get round this by showing the whole map then 1 or 2 blowups of selected parts. This of course means the area you are interested in is not blown up--hence my initial ref to a really good magnifying glass--the quality of print means you can eyeball in good magnification the section you want on the whole map.
A really good dip and read choice for cartographers and railway enthusiasts.
on 8 October 2012
I've always had a passion for geography and cartography, as well as for reading about design, history and technology, so this volume has captured my interest for a number of reasons. The quality of the cartographic reproduction is exceptional, from the intricate Batholomew maps of the Victorian era, to the iconic diagrams of the London Underground. There are a number of oddities too, such as the 1890 map showing alternative proposals to link Ireland with Scotland by tunnel or causeway, or a 1919 map showing proposed routes on Scottish offshore isles. Yet the srongest praise is reserved for the simplicity, hierarchy and familiarity of the Beeching-era British Rail map of 1968; a product which the authors argue has not been emulated since.
As uncertainties over H2S and the future of freight traffic dominate the news, it's hard to imagine what a contemporary rail atlas will look in 20 years' time. What we can be certain of is that much of the surviving network will still be based on the efforts of the Victorian pioneers who surveyed and mapped the railways.
on 20 April 2013
Although happy with the price I paid and the speed of delivery, the book itself is very disappointing. The maps are very small and hard to see, are cluttered and unclear. There are mostly only extracts, and only ones that seem to interest the author. The GWR barely gets a mention.
on 10 March 2012
The Times publishers are to be congratulated on publishing this volume, despite one or two niggles. I agree with the previous reviewers comments that the text rambles a bit, thus losing some of the thrust of this useful reference book. The maps are wonderful, providing a good spread of United Kingdom areas. Additionally, the change from national to local maps at different periods is also very useful. In general I liked this publication and overall it should be a useful addition to any railway enthusiast.
on 17 March 2012
This is a really great book if you want to explore how the railway system of Great Britain evolved from its early beginnings, through its heydays and operations under the 'Big Four', the impact of the Beeching cuts and into today's railway system. With a love of maps/cartography and Steam this was the perfect gift for me.
There are plenty of colour maps, many showing then and now, together with a good amount of text to explain the maps and the events that shaped the railways.