Curator's bookshelf...

Curator’s bookshelf…

The photo above shows the London Transport Museum’s ‘Battle Bus’ alongside Tom Fryer’s Crossley Tender – chosen as I could not get the blog template to accept a photo of a book that wasn’t leaning on its side!  I suppose I really should look at an update of software at some point…!!! Anyway…

Back in April 2011 in a post titled ‘Holiday Reading’ I listed some books that I often read or turned to as of inspirational or influential resource (  There has, recently, been a profusion of high-quality publications on a variety of transport subjects, and looking at the pile of books that are waiting to be read before filing away on my bookcase, I thought a quick look at these might be of interest.  This list is not exhaustive, nor do I have any connections with any of the titles/authors, they are just what happen to be in my ‘recently purchased’ pile and of perhaps some relevance to the blog, if not for the theme, but for the content related to forthcoming events etc.

Here are nine titles, in no particular order, that are currently being enjoyed (and cluttering up the dining table!)

Below: RCL Publications are known for their superbly produced books and the WDLR Album is no exception, the original print run having sold out and the book now being on its second printing.  For many years W. J. K. Davies book on the WDLR narrow gauge railways ‘Light Railways of the First World War’ was the seminal work, produced in a limited quantity by David & Charles in 1967 – copies were scarce and expensive (you could pay as much as £80 for a decent copy!).  This book must now have taken over the mantle of ‘definitive’ being both comprehensive, beautifully produced and showcasing what must be the best known images of the British narrow gauge railways used in the First World War.  One to dip in and out of, it also smells really nice (is it just me who likes the smell of new books?  My wife, conversely, likes the smell of old ones!  Maybe we should seek help…!!!).


Below: I came across a reference to this book, from a publisher I did not know, on a forum discussing WW1 lorries (such forums, as readers will know, are a guaranteed way to lose vast tracts of your evenings as the information contained can be truly staggering in volume!).  It is by one of the leading lights in the preservation of WW1 British lorries and is, to put it simply, stunning.  The illustrations alone are worth the price, with the informative text a bonus!  With our own plans for a WW1 themed steam fair in 2016, many views offer inspiration for views we may seek to recreate.  I was also taken by the section on lamps and lighting (as I have a small collection of such littering the living room) and also the detail views – a favourite being the blankets made for covering the bonnets during cold weather.  A limited print run will surely lead to this being a much sought after classic?


Below: Peter Johnson’s name is well known as a railway history author, and this title, his latest, essentially updates a number of previous books covering he subject of narrow gauge railways.  I was very pleased to see Beamish’s narrow gauge line feature in this – we’ve made it as a credible ng centre perhaps?!


Below: One of Camden Books’ imports, this title has appeal because it covers one of my favourite narrow gauge locomotive classes and covers areas I explored I 2004 whilst backpacking around the World.  I saw the loco now named ‘Fiji’ at Statfold Barn when it was in Fiji, with a diesel engine in the tender, and also the remains of its sister locomotive which had been cut up.  I enjoyed exploring some of the cane lines by bus and foot and sharing the local ‘cava’ with the various railway workers I met (its a sort of mouthwash in taste but is shared in the way the British share tea – socially and pretty much religiously!).  The book covers the development of the class and its dispersion across Australia and Fiji as well as individual locomotive histories and lots of colour photographs.  Sadly ‘Fiji’ is a bit on the large side for our line, but maybe one day eh…???


Below: This book has been widely reviewed since publication last year, with glowing praise for its reassessment of what was perhaps previously considered well trodden ground.  It not only looks at the locomotives concerned, but the company histories of those who built them and contains numerous references to the people who repaired and maintained them – what is particularly interesting is the real naivety of railways with regard to their steam locomotive stock, as they were created out of the 1860s ‘klondyke’ for technological development and financial reward (aspirations that were often incompatible as it turned out).  This is another book that reeks of quality (and smells nice!) and I very much look forward to Part 2 when the preservation lives of the Talyllyn locos are covered – I will be interested to see how Martin covers the subject of the various unsuccessful rebuilds of the 1950s/60s – both technically and curatorially destructive but which is now recognised and to an extent corrected, not least through a written record such as this.


Below: Not really a book per se  but a valuable and well produced record of a moment in time for the motor heritage movement.  The huge sale by Bonhams of the Michael Banfield collection last year resulted in this superbly produced catalogue, well illustrated and with copious notes.  Whilst the vehicles lay outside most of our dreams in terms of price, the subsequent publication of the sale results gives us a very useful snapshot of the market (which included many thousands of smaller objects and ephemera) and will thus be a volume I continue to consult for some time to come I am sure.  Sadly I could not make the sale (it was the same day as the Billy Etherington sale from which we, the Museum, bought a number of items) but Colin Slater did attend and as well as a copy of the catalogue (also available as a download), he has since managed to track down some of the vehicle’s new owners – so don’t be surprised if you see them at a steam fair in these parts in the not too distant future…


Below: The most recent purchase and one which I have not even begun to explore is this might colour tome from Capital Transport, written by Michael Russell.  There are hundreds of colour images of trolleybuses, all superbly reproduced (and probably having had considerable restoration applied), with comprehensive and informative captions.  Like all of the books here, it isn’t the cheapest title, but what price quality?  I do wonder if there should be  sticker we book purchasers could buy saying ‘£9.99’ or whatever, to stick over the real price and thus enable easier passage into the domestic environment!  This book looks great and with our plans at Beamish resonating with the subject matter I am sure it will become well consulted over the coming years.


Below: I have only recently ‘got into’ pre WW2 lorries (always having had an interest in the 1950s and 60s scene) and so have delved into the book lists for numerous titles to educate me in this fascinating period.  This book, which has been around for some time, is a great entry into the subject, Leyland being one of the big manufacturers and there also being a comprehensive archive of their output.  The 1914 – 1939 period is absolutely fascinating and one which I intend to explore further.  Another Leyland book ‘The Leyland Man’ by Mike Sutcliffe (about his significant collection of early Leyland buses and associated history) would also be illustrated here but is a title I often lend to people (whence I hadn’t got it to photograph the cover!) as a source of inspiration of just what hard work and determination can achieve. When its in my possession I often refer to it, and with the same publishers lining up a history of Leyland buses, this area of the bookcase looks set to grow…


Below: Finally, a practical volume that I have found very interesting and am just reading with regard to finishing the brightwork on Samson (so that it is not overly ‘blingy’ but at the same time is rather more resistant to surface corrosion).  Time will tell if the methods work for us, but this book is an example of the very many titles available to assist the restorer/engineer in their chosen pursuits.


Scarily, there is about £250 worth of books here – but they will last rather longer than the equivalent in beer so I won’t worry too much!!!