Book Series Review – Neil Parkhouse: “British Railway History in Colour”

Over the last few years I have been collecting and reading a series of books written by Neil Parkhouse and published by the Lightmoor Press, an imprint of Black Dwarf Lightmoor Publications Ltd.

The author of the series is Neil Parkhouse. He and Ian Pope are the leading lights of the publishing house. Both are experts in railway history and infrastructure, and they publish some of the best railway history literature on the market.

I have quite an extensive library of railway books, but if you were to tell me that I could only keep say 15 to 20 books from the whole library. This series (5 books so far) would make up one third of the total and books by Ian Pope would also be included, specifically the two books on the Forest of Dean Railway and the five volumes which make up the series on the Severn & Wye Railway. (The earlier volumes in that series were jointly authored with Bob Howe and Paul Karau). I guess thatI’d probably also want to keep the books I have about the Railways in and around Hereford which I model in N Gauge.

Neil Parkhouse has, for many years, been collecting colour photos of the railways of Gloucestershire and this series of books is the result. The series is ambitious, and I can imagine that it is a labour of love for Neil Parkhouse. His enthusiasm shines out from the pages of each book. The series title is ”British Railway History in Colour” and Neil Parkhouse hopes soon to broaden the series out beyond the immediate area of Gloucestershire.

I have the full series up to and including Volume 4A and cannot recommend them highly enough. A very short introduction to each volume in the series follows here, a longer introduction can be found on the Lightmoor Press website:

Volume 1: West Gloucester & Wye Valley Lines: Second Edition – if you purchase the first edition, be sure to pick up the supplement which contains all the changes between the two editions.

This volume, and those which follow, relies on an army of photographers who from the late 1950s onwards determined to record the railway scene, and particularly on those who chose to use the medium of colour transparencies. In this volume he concentrates on the Southwest of the county, an area of striking natural beauty with a long history of industrial activity.

The Lightmoor website introduces this volume by saying that, ”The aim has been to show the infrastructure – stations, signal boxes, goods yard, engine sheds – which has been lost, as much as the trains and their motive power. Along the way, some of the other locations which were once railway served – such as docks, quarries and industrial works – are also illustrated.” [1] The book certainly achieves those objectives and, in effect, is a pictorial commentary on life in this part of Gloucestershire in the middle years of the 20th century.

This volume has colour images from the 1930s through to the mid 1970s. It is a feast for sore eyes!

Volume 2: Forest of Dean Lines and the Severn Bridge – the horse operated tramroads of the Forest of Dean were later turned into railways and for a time provided both for passengers and freight. By the time embraced by this series, these Railways were drafting toward their final years. This volume covers the full range of routes within the Forest and also looks at the Severn Bridge.

The period covered by this volume is, ”from the late 1950s to the mid 1970s, when traffic on the branch to Parkend finally ceased and the Dean Forest Railway took over.” [1]

Volume 3: Gloucester Midland Lines Part 1 : North – the Midland Railway surprised many at the time by transgressing, in the mid 1840s, into what was Great Western Railway territory.  It bought the Birmingham & Bristol Railway and as a result gained access to Gloucester. Neil Parkhouse had thought to cover the Midland line and its associated branch lines in Gloucestershire in one volume but the material has ultimately provided three really engaging volumes of colour photography. This first volume focuses on the routes on the north side of Gloucester. The subsequent volumes look at the Midland lines on the South side of the city.

Volume 4A: Gloucester Midland Lines Part 2: South – I have just finished reading this volume. It covers the Midland Mainline between Gloucester Eastgate Station and Stonehouse. Its illustrations come from the period between 1959 and 1975. It also looks at a number of other lines as well.

My brother-in-law lives in Nailsworth, and it has been good to see images of the station in the 1950s/60s. For a time he lived in a flat in the Railway Hotel which can be seen in at least one of the photographs which Neil Parkhouse has drawn together. I was, however most interested in the three ancillary lines in Gloucester itself that Neil Parkhouse explores: the Tuffley Loop; the High Orchard Branch serving the docks; and the Hempsted or New Docks Branch. [4]. I want to explore these areas more, when times and opportunity permits.

These books do that to you. They draw you in, not only in your imagination but in a way that begs you to explore not only the past but the present as well.

Volume 4B: Gloucester Midland Lines Part 3: South – This is the one book in the series that has been published so far that I have yet to purchase. I am looking forward to getting it in the near future. Lightmoor Press say of this book that, “The pictures range from circa 1959 to 1975, illustrating the end of the steam age, the dawn of the diesel age and the start of the BR blue years in colour, whilst also showing the huge amount of railway infrastructure that has now gone, much of it within this period.” [5] If it is anywhere near as good as the earlier volumes, it will be an absolute delight.

The personal reviews of this series posted on Amazon, are very positive, almost every review posted is a 5* review! ………………..

“Yet more wonderful photographs bringing the age of steam back to life. Every time I look at [this book] something new appears in a photograph – truly evocative.” [2]

“Packed throughout with excellent, unseen before (especially in colour) photographs.” [2]

“Excellent, wonderful photography, congratulations to all that contributed to this book, it evoked precious memories of the happiest childhood, I could smell the engines again and see the excited faces of lads around the stations or sheds, after school or on weekends.” [2]

“A lot of the photographs in the book put the train in the landscape, giving you a great sense of the railway within the Forest. However it’s the captions that go with the photographs that for me make the book, they are incredibly detailed and do much to enhance the book.” [3]

“Absolutely brilliant book full of high quality colour photographs I own many books on British Railways but none as good as this one. This book is a comprehensive [g]em on the Forest Of Dean Lines, cannot get over the high quality photographs from times long past 100% recommend.” [3]

“An excellent book.” [6]

If you want to sample the contents before purchase, then the Lightmoor Press website provides a few photographs from each volume in the series.

References

  1. http://lightmoor.co.uk/category.php?section=CatBRColour, accessed on 17th April 2020.
  2. Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gloucester-Midland-Lines-Part-British/dp/1911038184/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&qid=1587155094&refinements=p_27%3ANeil+Parkhouse&s=books&sr=1-4#customerReviews, accessed on 17th April 2020.
  3. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forest-Dean-Lines-Severn-Bridge/dp/1899889981/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&qid=1587155094&refinements=p_27%3ANeil+Parkhouse&s=books&sr=1-3#customerReviews, accessed on 17th April 2020.
  4. http://lightmoor.co.uk/books/gloucester-midland-lines-part-2-south/L8665, accessed on 18th April 2020
  5. http://lightmoor.co.uk/books/gloucester-midland-lines-part-3-south/L8672, accessed on 17th April 2020.
  6. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gloucester-Midland-Lines-Part-Westerleigh/dp/1911038672/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1587155094&refinements=p_27%3ANeil+Parkhouse&s=books&sr=1-1#customerReviews, accessed on 17th April 2020.

 

 

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