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Peter Durward Harris
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I have plenty of books on Britain's lost railways by Paul Atterbury, Julian Holland and others, so I wondered what an author hitherto unknown to me might have to say that the others hadn't already said. The sub-title sums it up nicely, as this book concerns itself with stations, bridges, viaducts and other structures that once served the railways but which are now only a part of history. Some former station buildings have found other uses as offices, homes, warehouses or whatever, but this books focuses on those that have long since been demolished, even though some of them were used for other purposes after they became surplus to railway requirements.
The book's chapters give a fair idea of what you'll find; their titles are Introduction, Early railways, Major terminal stations, Major stations, Urban and suburban stations, Country stations, Standard designs, Modern stations (defined by the author as anything built or re-built after 1918), Goods warehouses and goods sheds, Signal boxes, Railway works engine sheds and engine handling, Viaducts and bridges, ending with The railway environment (a quick round-up of refreshment rooms, bars, hairdressing, marshalling yards, gardens and cottages) followed by acknowledgement, bibliography and index
Much of the book focuses on passenger stations, illustrating many excellent station buildings in a variety of styles from all over England with some from Scotland and a few from Wales. It seems that the author's interest in railway architecture began when he saw the Doric Arch at Euston for his first and only time shortly before that structure was demolished. Although slightly older than the author, I never saw it for myself at all. I read somewhere else that tentative plans are being drawn up for the rebuilding of Euston when finances permit, which may include the building of a new arch, but I'll believe it if and when I see it. St Pancras cost a fortune to restore, but could be more easily justified on the basis of its new status as an international gateway.
This book contains three pictures of the arch, one of them taken during demolition with a caption hinting at its possible return that I first read somewhere else, and other pictures of Euston and other features of London termini consigned to history, then goes on to look at the rest of the country. Despite substantial changes as a result of the St Pancras restoration, no pictures of how it used to look are included. I'm glad about that, because when I saw St Pancras in 2011, it was far better than the station I remembered from the seventies and eighties despite the East Midlands trains being somewhat marginalized.
The pictures include stations that became obsolete more than 100 years ago, including Farnborough (before the main line from Waterloo was quadrupled in 1900-03), the original Leicester station (replaced in 1892 by the current station, itself rebuilt in the 1970's; the pre-rebuilt station is also illustrated elsewhere in the book) and the first two stations at Lewes (replaced in 1857 and 1889) among others.
Perhaps my favorite picture is of Woodhead, which had a station building that looked like a small castle, until it was demolished to allow a new tunnel to be bored. Other highlights for me include Glenfield (on the old Leicester and Swannington Railway), Botanic gardens (a Glasgow station that looked more like a pavilion, presumably deliberately) and Killearn (a picturesque Scottish station), but there are plenty of other great pictures and your favorites may be different from mine.
The lengthy introduction (25 pages and really a full-blown overview) discusses how railway architecture has often been neglected as a subject of interest, having been mostly ignored by railway enthusiasts (who generally focus on trains generally and locomotives in particular) and those interested in architectural history (who tended to leave it to railway enthusiasts). It took the mass-destruction of old railway buildings in the sixties and seventies to focus minds from all sides. The author goes on to explain that things are much better going forward, as the various heritage bodies have all the surviving important buildings graded.
The author doesn't seem all that interested in level crossings (but Level crossings (Stanley Hall) covers that subject superbly) or footbridges (for which I know of no book), but this book seems to cover everything else that could be classed as railway architecture, with plenty of great black and white pictures. Level crossings and footbridges appear in some of the pictures included for other reasons, but rarely merit a comment themselves. Despite this, it is still an excellent book of its kind. I'll keep a lookout for a book that features a significant study of footbridges, though it's not a huge priority for me.
If you're looking for pictures of old steam trains, this is not the book for you. Trains appear is some of the pictures, but they are not what this book is about. If you are interested in lost architecture with a railway theme, this is exactly your kind of book.