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Dr Beechings Remedy
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 27 September 2013
I wanted to like this book.

I was around when Beeching was happening but too young to understand it, so I hoped this would help. A forensic accountant-cum-rail enthusiast ought to be able to shed a lot of light on the business realities underpinning the issues. And he does.

But it's still a disappointing read. Quite a lot is given over to taking issue with previous writers on the subject rather than stating his own case. Although each chapter has a theme, an intro and a summary, the content doesn't have any sense of telling a story - it's just stuff plonked down. And he spends very little time on the real test of Beeching's influence: what happened in the ensuing 50 years. This book cries out for a more skilful editor.

The photos are profuse and gratuitous - unless you carry a detailed map of the 1960 rail map in your head you'll not learn much from captions like:
"This photograph at Round Oak, close to Dudley on the GWR Stourbridge Junction to Wolverhampton line, shows a three-car Derby Class 116 suburban DMU, complete with 'white cap' over the cab roof, heading for Wolverhampton in 1962, the year in which the service was withdrawn. In the left background is what appears to be a Midland-pattern signalbox, which controls access to the adjacent factory. Although the GWR route was abandoned, the LMSR line, which made an end-on junction at Dudley and led to Bescot Curve Junction (for Bescot yard) and Darlaston Junction, near Walsall, remained open until 1993, primarily to service Round Oak steel terminal, which was opened in 1986. Access to the terminal is now from the Stourbridge Junction direction"
...and that's by no means the longest or most obscure. It's as if the publishers got cold feet about the subject matter and turned it into rail porn for the enthusiast market without changing the title.

And as a piece of book production it's a disgrace. The text is really small to make room for the photos, making it hard to read. One paragraph stops in the middle (end of page 12). Text on some of the early pages appears to have been printed out of sequence. Body text on page 124 is in a different typeface from the rest of the book. Captions refer to left when they mean right. And those are just the blunders that stick in the mind.

A sad disappointment.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2013
I was disappointed overall by this. Out of 160 pages in the book, just 34 pages of text (most of them also shared with photos) are directly concerned with Beeching and his two famous reports.

Much of the back story is interesting nevertheless. I hadn't known that the massive rushed investment in a multiplicity of diesel locomotives wasn't a direct result of the much-derided 1955 BR Modernisation Plan, but rather a panicked response to BR's fast-rising deficit in the late 1950s. Strangely, this example aside, much of the wider evidence cited by the author as evidence of the basic failure of the Modernisation Plan - namely that it re-equipped the railway without properly considering what markets it should really be competing in - is then ignored in his conclusion that it was the implementation that was the problem, not the plan itself.

Many of the photos are fascinating, but in later chapters they feel like padding to make up for the lack of detailed analysis of the pros and cons of what Beeching actually did to the railway system.

The editing is poor in places - surprising for such an established railway publishing name as Ian Allan. There are two instances where chunks of text have just disappeared, and there are at least seven basic mistakes in text / photo captions.

The author seems rather too keen to knock other railway writers who in fact have generally applied a more comprehensive and rigorous approach to the analysis of the Beeching era. And he doesn't mention once the thoroughly researched work of Charles Loft in his 'Government, the Railways and the Modernization of Britain: Beeching's Last Trains'. Certainly, anyone who concludes a book with such a gratuitously nasty final sentence as this, deserves the full glare of critical analysis:

"It is now for the reader to decide whether Dr Beeching was a saint or a sinner and whether his remedy for the railways was efficacious. Just bear in mind that virtually all his critics have commented from the armchair or the academic chair and probably couldn't manage their way out of a paper bag, let alone manage a nationalised railway."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2013
Great pictures but the text has its limitations - including that very little of it is about Beeching or his impact. Also the value of this as history is damaged by too many 'opinions' about trades unions, military officers and managers in general. This gets in the way of the more interesting and reflective sections. With some judicious editing and more detailed coverage of the actual Beeching era, it could have been a good book. But there are several books on Beeching to choose from.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2013
That the railway network was over-expanded in the 19th century is nowadays generally accepted. The author follows this through in detail, concentrating particularly on post war events. The whole is depicted as a rolling disaster, from which few emerge with any credit.

Accountancy issues are well and extensively treated, which gives the reader much in the way of useful figures. The people identified as being concerned are little more than names; one gets little impression of what they were like, or the pressures to which they were subjected. Even Beeching receives little more than faint praise. The general tone of the book is dispiriting; to end with the suggestion that most of Beeching's armchair critics 'probably couldn't manage their way out of a paper bag' speaks for itself.

Very little is said on the social issues raised by the Beeching closures, or the effects these had on government policies in the years that followed. Curiously, the book virtually ignores railways south of the Thames.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2013
When this book arrived it was beyond my expectations with a fine balance between informative text and splendid b&w photos of varied sizes on almost all pages. Too many books choose poor quality colour pics rather than excellent b&w; in this case the latter seems almost essential and the book is thoroughly recommended.
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on 1 May 2014
Records the work of Beeching and how railway was cut back and failure of Labour and Tories to safeguard tracks and allow for future development. Does cover freightliner and Phase 2 report . GCR gets special mention and there is an appraisal of Beeching. No index but lots of B+W photos with notes
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on 8 March 2014
The author details the state of the economics of the railway system, explains the intention of Beeching's appointment. He outlines the actions after the report and analyses them in relation to the recommendations. Written in clear, readable and non technical language.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2013
This is a fascinating book about a man who is often demonised in the railway world for his apparently aggressive axing of many railway lines and stations back in the 1960's. However, this author looks at the so called "Beeching Axe" from both sides, explaining exactly why Dr Beeching made these recommendations but also pointing out that that is exactly what they were - recommendations. It was the government and railway bosses who actually carried out the cuts (and more). After all, if a station or line is running at a loss it would be madness to keep it operating. The author points out where Dr Beeching could have made better recommendations, for example, by cutting staff numbers where there were too many which may have saved some lines, but he does so without bitterness or bias.

The hardback book is full of glossy pictures, fascinating information and kept me engrossed all the way to the end.

If you are a fan of the railways and/or its history then this really is a must have book worthy of addition to your personal library.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 July 2013
The author weighs up the pros and cons of the Beeching Report and its implimentation. On balance he seems to conclude that the axe was wielded with reasonable precision, though with some unecessary casualties, and that the positive effects of train load and containerised freight have been given too little attention.

If you are strongly of the view that Beeching got it totally wrong and tried to destroy the railways, then this book is probably not for you. But if you approach it with an open mind, then it may provide evidence in favour of the Good Doctor's treatment.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2013
A well produced book both in terms of text and photographs. The level of research is of a high standard
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