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Heyday of the Somerset & Dorset Railway Hardcover – 6 Mar 2008
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Alan Hammond's last five books on the Somerset & Dorset Railway have all been runaway successes. This sixth volume in the series follows the proven pattern of the previous books with the emphasis on the people who worked on the railway as much as on the locomotives and buildings. The book is arranged around the three constituent parts of the line, the Somerset Central, the Bath Extension and the Dorset Central, each with a charming introduction to its history and operation. Again there are accounts of working on the line, of firemen struggling to cross the Mendips, of children enjoying rides on the footplate, of people going about their daily lives using the railway, of pranks and fun, accidents and strange happenings. It is typical of the S&D that a travelling goat should eat all the luggage labels. These stories are accompanied by some of the most fascinating photographs yet assembled, most never seen before. Prince Michael of Kent, a keen engine driver himself, has written the foreword and there are delightful contributions in each section from singers Tony Christie (Is This the Way to Amarillo?) and Gary Brooker (founder of the rock band Procul Harum), both of whom recall their childhood trainspotting days, and from Michael Eavis (of Glastonbury Festival fame) whose Worthy Farm straddled the line, and who provides some delightful memories of his early courtship days using the S&D
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Nothing of this type of branch railway will ever be seen again and it is clear that the authors have placed much love and respect into their book. Its not just the steam that evokes such strong memories. Many commentators rally on this point, but its the scenery also, the rolling country hillsides, the lush green grass, the small cottages and the small picturesque countryside stations with the single track. Its a history that we have destroyed quite deliberately and for what, most stations are now shut and the ones that exist are rent-a-station quick fits which barely serve a purpose for services which barely serve at high prices. Its all progress, yes it is!!!!!
Anyone with a thirst for rural history or those of the railways, will find something in this book for them.
Even looking at the pictures is enough for some, for a time when the railways catered for everyone and not just for a select few.