43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Illustrated history of British railway maps,
This review is from: The Times Mapping The Railways (Hardcover)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.