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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars LEGENDS OF THE WEST
Nostalgia is all very well, but this kind of thing is not mainstream these days, even in England `It would, presumably, be beyond the wit of the fast-buck, annual-bonus merchants who run trains in Britain today, to think of serving fresh food'. Or try this, part of the final peroration `...passengers busy eating, text messaging, eating, making vital calls on their...
Published on 30 Jun 2012 by DAVID BRYSON

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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much Glancey, too little Betjeman
I bought this book because I wanted to hear a great poet talking about trains and the era in which they reached their zenith. The synopsis refers to "ten letters selected by his daughter each describe a journey that he made or that he planned to make or that he planned for a friend or relative. Jonathan Glancey has added his own words to each letter; words that set the...
Published on 17 Nov 2007 by Andrew Walker


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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much Glancey, too little Betjeman, 17 Nov 2007
By 
Andrew Walker "Andrew Walker" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: John Betjeman on Trains (Hardcover)
I bought this book because I wanted to hear a great poet talking about trains and the era in which they reached their zenith. The synopsis refers to "ten letters selected by his daughter each describe a journey that he made or that he planned to make or that he planned for a friend or relative. Jonathan Glancey has added his own words to each letter; words that set the scene, bring the letters to life, etc." and there's the problem. The letters are all too brief, some only a couple of pages long. Some of them are really just writing to state what train the authour would be on and when he would arrive. Others only touch on a railway journey very briefly in the context of a description of a visit or holiday.
Jonathan Glancey fills the gap with speculation about what Betjeman might have seen, explanation of the frankly dull social relationships he alluded to in the letters, Glancey's own opinions and whatever else comes along.
A more honest title would be Jonathan Glancey On Trains. I gave up on the text halfway through but the pictures are superb, although very small as the book itself is two-thirds the size of a "normal" paperback.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars LEGENDS OF THE WEST, 30 Jun 2012
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: John Betjeman on Trains (Hardcover)
Nostalgia is all very well, but this kind of thing is not mainstream these days, even in England `It would, presumably, be beyond the wit of the fast-buck, annual-bonus merchants who run trains in Britain today, to think of serving fresh food'. Or try this, part of the final peroration `...passengers busy eating, text messaging, eating, making vital calls on their mobiles, eating, spreading their legs out as far as possible into the aisles, and eating...' It's all going to the dogs, I tell you, to the dogs, d'you hear? I wonder what the offenders can have been eating to offend the author quite so grievously, but presumably it can't have been fresh food served by the types who run the trains. I'm not sure why not, because the sandwiches they serve me are always fresh on Virgin Trains between Manchester and London, pricey in standard class I admit but free in First, which can actually be a good bargain if you can pick your time of travel and book on-line in advance.

What this little book consists of is letters from Sir John Betjeman on railway-related matters interspersed with little essays by Jonathan Glancey, and the old-fogey-style sentiments that I have just quoted are from Glancey. Betjeman was a railway sentimentalist, and so am I. I bewail the loss of the branch lines, but I am in two minds what I think about all that. On the one hand there was the economic case for their closure, often strong indeed but sometimes rigged by loading the entire cost of junctions with the main trunk lines on to the branches. On the other hand Britain's haphazard 19th century railway development is part of our national culture like canals and even like mouldering manor houses. It has enormous charm and aura about it, and I strongly suspect that even from the accountancy point of view a bit of imagination and vision might have preserved a lot that went under the axe. The promised `bustitution' has not materialised and was never going to, the `great car economy' so beloved of Margaret Thatcher is now choking on its own carbon emissions plus road congestion and the cost of road fuel. Railways are back, they are in private hands, they are eye-wateringly expensive for those who have to use them in peak hours, and they cost the taxpayer more to support the private operators than it cost us to subsidise them directly. Tell me again, what was the problem supposed to be with socialism?

Betjeman got around, and not entirely by rail. The one occasion when I encountered him in person was in the departure lounge of Glasgow airport. However he was fixated throughout his life on the railway network in much the way I had been at age 10 or so. He rendered yeoman service in various ways, but I just wish he had not squandered so much of his enthusiasm on steam engines. I expect he did a lot to save the railways in his native West Country (Cornwall and Devon for non-Brits), and I can well understand his enthusiasm for the magnificent though quaintly designed Great Western Railway steam locos. I like them too, but let's face it steam had far too long an innings in Britain. I would have sadly scrapped them all (saving a few for museums and enthusiasts' outings) if I could have traded that for saving the line to Moretonhampstead and a few others, just looking at Betjeman's home turf let alone over the length and breadth of the nation.

The photographs are good quality b/w, if you don't mind the A5 format of the pages, and as you would expect by now they are more focused on locomotives than on the rail scenes that I crave. I enjoyed the book thoroughly, and to say the least it's an easy read if one is interested. It rambles I suppose, but it's all about expressing an attitude or a couple of men's attitudes. Myself, I would put up with the ghastly flat-pack-assembly station architectures that they provide these days for new or replacement stations if they would just restore the rail service from Bury to Bacup in my own neck of the woods. Why in God's name was it ever stopped? I'm for nostalgia too, but presumably not everything new equates with decline. I'll improve on that: there is a sort of railway renaissance of a strange kind these days for reasons that I have sketched in above. Whether Betjeman could have adapted emotionally I don't know, but we greatly miss his PR genius.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars eccentric but charming, 31 Mar 2010
This review is from: John Betjeman on Trains (Hardcover)
This is a great little book. While it may be true that the text is 95% Jonathan Glancey to 5% John Betjeman, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Glancey's pithy commentary on Betjeman's letters is a delight to read. Each chapter begins with a short, train-related letter from Betjeman, followed by Glancey's explanatory notes - Betjeman's relationship with the characters involved, the story behind events referred to, etc. All this would be interesting enough, but what really makes this book is the way Glancey uses these vignettes as a starting point for an entertaining meander around contemporary railway history, usually ending with a justified rant about the ghastly state of our modern, post-privatisation railways. It's a beautiful little book in itself, too: handsomely bound and printed, text and illustrations well laid out. Betejeman would surely approve.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Railman, 20 Jun 2013
By 
cairns (Haddington) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: John Betjeman on Trains (Hardcover)
This is an interesting format, publishing the great mans letters and then providing an insight to what was communicated. I don't think that this concept could work with anyone else but the wonderful Sir JB. The former Poet Laureate and avid fan of and defender of the Railways. Even the most phillistine of us has heard of him, much because he had a common touch. This is portrayed within the book. This book could appeal to readers in a lot of areas. The text is accompanied by some b&w photo's. I think that the bronze of him at St. Pancras is wonderful and a fitting gesture to a great Briton.
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5.0 out of 5 stars JB fan, 10 Jun 2013
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This review is from: John Betjeman on Trains (Hardcover)
just so remisent of times gone by I could almost smell the smoke and hear the music of the trains.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A little book to give lots of pleasure., 15 Mar 2013
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This review is from: John Betjeman on Trains (Hardcover)
I bought this book for my husband, who is a fan of Betjemen, it was well worth the money and anyone who likes trains should have a copy.

Well priced and packaged and was sent within a day or so of ordering.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sir John Betjeman, 11 Dec 2013
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This review is from: John Betjeman on Trains (Hardcover)
What a nice little book, fits in the pocket and ideal when out and about on the railway. Sir John is a hero to the railways of Britain; if not for him then St Pancras would now be a distant memory, probably a bankers empty purchase rather than the International Gateway to Europe.. Well done Jonathan for getting this published.
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4.0 out of 5 stars interesting TRains book, 21 Sep 2014
This review is from: John Betjeman on Trains (Hardcover)
very interesting worth reading
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John Betjeman on Trains
John Betjeman on Trains by Jonathan Glancey (Hardcover - 24 Aug 2006)
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