General interest railway books

This list of books is added to at regular intervals. To read the FULL review of any book you are interested in simply click on the book cover illustration.

British Railways Past and Present: Manchester and South Lancashire. This volume covering an area centred on Manchester and the routes radiating from it, takes in some 90 locations and features more than 250 photographs in the usual Past and Present format. Contains many images of steam at work.

Britain's Historic Railway Buildings: An Oxford Gazetteer of Structures and Sites. This gazetteer of structures and sites examines and catalogues the railway legacy left to us by the Victorians and their predecessors—and what a rich and fascinating one it has proved to be.

Modelling Aspects of the Coal Industry. Includes detailed picture captions and explanations of what the principal pit structures were and the roles that they played in what used to be one of the country's biggest industries, plus a comprehensive modelling guide complete with 4mm/ft scale drawings.

Rail Liveries: Privatisation 1995-2000. Illustrated throughout with excellent colour photographs and supported by an authoritative text this is a useful book for modellers. An interesting appendix section covers experimental and unofficial liveries, and lists colour definitions using standard or manufacturer's paint identification codes.

British Railways Past and Present: Surrey and West Sussex. Surrey and West Sussex, compiled by Terry Gough, contains more than 200 photographs and covers an area that includes Woking, Guildford, Dorking, East Grinstead, Horsham, Chichester and Littlehampton, Much to interest Southern fans.

West Country Engine Sheds. Varied and interesting selection of photographs illustrating all steam era locomotives sheds in the West Country that draws on author Maurice Dart’s own photo collection and the work of other photographers such as R. C. Riley and R. J. Buckley. Many pictures are monochrome, though some colour — all excellent.

Diesels in the Midlands. The 85 or so coloured photographs in this attractive book reflect the changing scene in the Midlands, where rationalisation has removed many ‘competing’ routes and underused stations. A fine selection of pictures taken during the late 1950s and 1960s that ‘green diesel era’  enthusiasts will find especially rewarding.

British Railways Past and Present: Dorset, a second selection. This book follows the same general format as others in the range and features more than 230 photographs, which, where possible, visit locations not previously visited. The pictures contain much to interest the modeller and include a number taken in the early 1900s.

Rail Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland. This is the tenth edition of this useful atlas and comes four years after its predecessor. It includes recent additions to the network, such as the high-speed line linking London to the Channel Tunnel and newly electrified sections of the West Coast Main Line. An essential reference work.

London, Brighton and South Coast Miscellany. This book offers the Southern enthusiast a fresh and detailed insight into the operation of this largely self-contained railway system. Great use made of archive photographs to illustrate locomotives and structures unique to this pre-grouping railway.

British Railways Pictorial: First Generation DMUs. As might be expected from the title, the development of the Modernisation Plan diesel multiple units is outlined and illustrated in this Ian Allan title. All of the manufacturers’ types are listed along with original regional allocations and the units later classifications .

Diesels in Wessex. A collection of previously unpublished photographs by co-author Tony Molyneaux covering an area to the south of the Thames Valley, bounded by the GWR main line in the north and the Channel in the south. Modestly priced book that covers the changeover from steam to diesel traction. Includes SR DEMUs.

British Rail Main Line Electric Locomotives. Exceptionally well illustrated (all in b/w) and containing more than 130 (4mm/foot) scale drawings. The authors provide a description of each class along with a detailed history of modifications, livery variations and technical specifications. Extremely useful book for modellers.

British Railways Past and Present: South Wales Part 3. As a companion volume to others in the series it completes the coverage of the South Wales lines and concentrates West Glamorgan and the Brecknock and Camarthen boundaries. Past views are mainly from the BR era. Contains some stark contrasts.

Introducing TRAX: Wiring the Layout. A brave attempt at demystifying the art of wiring up a model railway, but not an ideal starter for those new to the subject. Authoritative text, though not an easy read, makes it better suited to those with an understanding of the subject. Comes with virtual track-building CD ROM.

An Illustrated History of Southern Coaches. An essential starter for anyone interested in modelling Southern Railway coaching stock and typical of the high standard achieved by books in this OPC series. Well illustrated, the pictures are complemented by a range of excellent 4mm/ft scale drawings.

British Railways Past and Present: Worcestershire. A 2003 reprint of a title originally published in 1999, which features a wide range of engine types and DMUs in action on both branch and main lines. There is a degree of ‘sameness’ about  the pictures, but coverage enlivened by some from author Roger Siviter’s collection.

Great Western Branch Lines: 2—Rural Wales. Excellent photographic reproduction, coupled with a wide range of subjects make this book from Michael S Welch a worthy addition to the modeller’s/rail enthusiast’s bookshelf. Images of long neglected station provide great inspiration for the modeller.

British Railways Past and Present: Cheshire. One of the more recent additions to the Past and Present series (Volume 40), features a wealth of pictures reflecting the mixed parentage of lines in the area and the varied locos and stock that worked over them. Interesting area for modellers wanting wide range of locos and stock.

Britannia Pacifics. A short history, coupled with pictures of each member of the class makes this book a must for those with an interest in the BR Standards. Well researched and eminently readable it is a truly useful pictorial reference work

British Railways Past and Present: West Wales. Volume 38 in the series boasts more than 200 photographs and 55 locations. It has much to interest and inspire the modeller, especially if they are looking for a less well know location on which to base their layout.

Lost Lines: Western. First published in 1994 and reprinted a decade later its contents are based on author Nigel Welbourn’s rail travels across the country in the 1960s. Picture selection (excellent) might have been carried out with modellers in mind and features a range of structures.

A Professional’s Guide to Railway Photography. Author Roger Siviter is well known in railway circles for his breadth of photographic technique. This well illustrated book outlines some of the basic skills needed to capture the railway scene and to improve technique.

West Country Branch Lines: A Colour Portfolio. The South West of England has always been popular with railway enthusiasts and its lines a source of inspiration for modellers. This book features around 80 locations, covering many of the branches in the area including the Looe, Sutton Harbour, Fowey, Kingswear and Kingsbridge.

Great Western Lines & Landscape: Business, Pleasure, Heritage and Landscape.  Not a book for the casual reader, perhaps, but one which delves into the way the company saw itself and the way it hoped other would see it. Rather academic in tone, but filled with the results of considerable research.

Designs for Urban Layouts. Excellent book that provides a convincing argument for modelling the ‘town railway scene’ arts and all. A range of solutions, both large and small are provided with accompanying layout plans and sketch representations. A truly inspiring work!

Working Steam: Collett Granges and Manors. An indispensable book for those with an interest in Collett’s smaller wheeled 4-6-0 locomotives, seen in a wide range of locations across the breadth of the former Western Region network. Colour photographs well reproduced.

Railway Stations From the Air. Having a bird’s eye view of your favourite location can be extremely useful for modellers and this book, with its double page spreads, maps and ground level views was obviously published with railway modellers in mind. Locations covered include Kidderminster and Cowes.

Modellers’ Guide to the Great Western Railway. Generously illustrated throughout with models and prototypes, this guide also includes a number of line drawings of typical GWR structures. Originally published in 1990, this revised edition has a slightly dated feel to it, but still has much to commend it.

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway—Snow Hill to Cheltenham. If you are planning a model based on the North Warwickshire line and want some general reference pictures of GWR structures you will find plenty here, though a preponderance of 1950s/60s  motive power images limits its appeal.

The Power of the Castles. Richly illustrated, this book will prove a spur to the memories of those who sat watching Castle hauled trains to the West Country or to the Midlands in the 1950s and 60s. Each member is illustrated, though the captions are on occasions lacking in detail.

Southern Railway Miscellany. Contains 250, or so, photographs covering both the Southern and BR periods including a number of pre-grouping shots. Captions are factual and well researched, though the book shares the limitations of all miscellany collections.

Oxford Worcester and Wolverhampton—Portrait of a Famous Route, Part One: Oxford to Worcester. Fascinating book that combines a short narrative with a mass of pictures—all accompanied by detailed captions. In all a readable and well researched book about a GWR constituent.

Heyday of the Westerns. An interesting and nostalgic read about a class of locomotive that captured the imagination of rail enthusiasts. Contains around 75 colour photographs covering the ‘life’ of the Westerns from their introduction in 1962/63 to their demise in the late 1970s.

The Diesel Shunter. Lavishly illustrated with black and white prints and supported by concise captions, this is a book that will appeal to modeller and rail enthusiast alike. Crammed with facts it traces the development of the humble diesel shunter from its early beginnings on the LMS of the 1930s.

British Railway Goods Wagons in Colour 1960–2003. As the title suggests this book concentrates on the post 1960 period and contains many colour illustrations, on average two to a page. Modestly priced, it is a fascinating read and contains much of specific interest to the modeller.

British Railway Pictorial: Black Country.  An area of the country often ignored by modellers, the Black Country, was—and still is— exceptionally busy, both in passenger and freight terms. This collection of photographs gives a flavour of the area and provides a wealth of information for the modeller.

The Great Northern Railway. Ireland’s second largest railway has, like its rural  counterparts in Britain, been subject to economic pruning. At its peak it operated 600 route miles and the pictures show it to have been a busy and well loved railway. The book provides a rich source of information for the modeller.

Southwest Scotland and the Border Counties. One of those rare books that includes not just pictures and text, but also track diagrams, timetables, maps and gradient profiles. Picture content and quality varies but there is much to interest the modeller. Well researched and unlikely to disappoint.

London’s Underground. One of those hard to put down books that rewards careful study. There is no shortage of action shots of both steam and electric, as well as views of buildings and line side structures; a selection of track diagrams and drawings is also included. A useful starting point for the ‘underground’ modeller.

Rail Centres: Shrewsbury. First published in 1986 by Ian Allan and now reissued under the Booklaw Publications banner, this book remains a seminal work covering the period from the mid-1840s to the 1980s. Unfortunately, no attempt has been made to update the book and the events of the past three decades are missing from what is otherwise a comprehensive history of railways in the area.

Birmingham to Derby: Portrait of a Famous Route. The route from Birmingham to Derby, though not quite as famous as some of the lines covered in this series, is a vital link in the route linking the South West with the North East. This is an eminently readable book and its photographs will reward careful study.

Brunel. Author Jonathan Falconer, examines the life and career of the great Victorian engineer. Illustrated throughout with many contemporary photographs and line drawings this is a book likely to appeal not just railway enthusiasts, but a wide range of readers with an interest in things Victorian.

Brunel: An Engineering Biography. Adrian Vaughan’s offering is no mere history of the man; it examines his life from an engineering perspective. Profusely illustrated with drawings and photographs the book offers the reader a critical analysis of the engineer’s achievements, his methods of work and the life of the man himself.

Britain’s Railways: Rail Atlas 1890. This excellent atlas, compiled by Tony Dewick, provides the rail historian with a snapshot of British and Irish railways as they neared their zenith. It includes all stations open to passengers, goods stations, viaducts tunnels and other railway features.

Profile of the Westerns. Originally published in 1980, shortly after the withdrawal of the Westerns, this classic pictorial tribute from authors Dave Nicholas and Steve Montgomery features some 160 black and white illustrations . The book records the career of the class from construction at Crewe and Swindon in the early 1960s through to final workings and withdrawal in 1977.

Profile of the Duchesses. First published in 1982 David Jenkinson’s classic book, Profile of the Duchesses, traces the history of the class through black and white photographs and extended captions. This new impression provides a good starting point for those who have come to know the class solely through the exploits of preserved examples of Stanier super power.

Locomotives in Detail: Gresley 4-6-2 A4 Class.  David Clarke’s excellent treatise has been written with the modeller in mind and provides a fully illustrated, comprehensive history of the class. Split into seven chapters the book deals with Design, Construction, the Running Plate and Cab, Tenders, Liveries and Names, and the operation of the class in service and in preservation.

County Donegal Railways Companion. The books tells the story of the railway from its early days, placing it firmly in its social, economic and political context, examines its relations with neighbouring lines and draws on the recollections of those who worked on and used it. In addition, the book provides a guide to what survives today.

British Railways Past & Present: North Staffordshire. This contribution to the Past and Present series covers a small area of the county and looks at the lines of the three major pre-grouping companies that operated there: the LNWR, the North Staffordshire Railway and the GNR. This is one of the better books in the series and features a wide range of black and white photographs.

The Heyday of the Class 40s. Gavin Morrison has selected more than 70 excellent views for this book in Ian Allan’s ‘Heyday’ series. They encompass a wide range of locations and workings across the full range of the classes’ activities and all are of an exceptionally high standard.

The Heyday of the Peaks. The 80 colour pictures have been selected to show Peaks at work across the network with a wide range of workings, though passenger trains predominate; many provide excellent reference images for modellers.

British Railway infrastructure in Colour. Robert Hendry’s book ‘for the modeller and historian’ from Midland Publishing takes a close look at the fixed structures of the railway that are so often taken for granted. The book follows the same pattern as other members of the series and makes extensive use of colour photographs—many from the steam age—and detailed captions.

Abc British Railway Locomotives Combined Volume 1950. Ian Allan’s series of Locomotives guides were long considered an essential part of the ‘train spotter’s equipment’ and many modellers will have a copy or two from their schooldays. As a facsimile reprint the quality of some of the photographs is a little disappointing, but the book is nonetheless welcome.

Diesel Days: Devon and Cornwall. The book is lavishly illustrated (though sadly all the photographs are in black and white) with the images arranged thematically; loco classes, type of train, livery weather, railway structure, etc. The captions are concise and informative and the 280 images are of high quality.

London Transport in Colour 1950-1969. Illustrated with around 80 colour photographs, author Kevin McCormack provides a colourful reminder of a period in which LT wen through a major upheaval. There is no denying the quality of the illustrations, but railway modellers may well find there are too many trams and buses for their taste.

Class 50s in Operation. This book chronicles the history of the class from gestation through to withdrawal and contains pictures of each member of the class in various guises. There is an appendix at the rear of the book that gives a history of each member of the class, including its eventual fate

Simple Model Railway Layouts. Strictly speaking, having first been published in 1987, it is not a new book, but this 2004 version has been thoroughly revised and re-illustrated and limits itself to presenting ideas for small, fairly simple layouts that are inexpensive to construct and easy to house.

Scottish Steam. Every once in a while one comes across a book that is of such worth that its price tag becomes irrelevant. Scottish Steam featuring the impeccable photo works of the late W. J. Verden Andersen is one such book. Put together by his son, Keith, and photographer Brian Stephenson, it is a fitting tribute to the vision and photographic skill that marked his work out from that of others.

British Railways Past & Present: Sussex. Sussex boasts a complex rail network even by today’s standards, yet it is but a pale shade of the network that existed before the rationalisation of many of its competing north-south routes. As always the pictures present a mixed picture with the past scenes often in stark contrast to the present.

Odd Corners of the GWR from the Days of Steam. Author Kevin Robertson has brought together a fascinating collection of unpublished photographs that shed new light on the history of ‘Gods Wonderful Railway’. It is an excellent choice for whiling away the winter nights and luxuriating in the nostalgia of the moment.

More Odd Corners from the GWR from the Days of Steam. Unlike the author’s previous book, Odd Corners of the GWR (reviewed in the December), which had a series of themed written chapters with illustrations, this is a collection of photographs. If you are interested in the GWR it is a good buy. If you plan a model based on the company it is essential reading!

British Railways Past and Present: North West, West and South West London. This volume in the Past and Present series restricts itself to the lines running to the North West, West and South West of the city—those routes radiating from St Pancras, Euston, Marylebone, Paddington, Victoria and Waterloo. There is something in this book for modellers, though the illustrations are reproduced at below optimal size.

All in a Day’s Work: Life on the GWR. In this book author Tim Bryan pays tribute to the vast army of workers, who in a wide range of roles, made up the workforce of the GWR, and chronicles the activities that were ‘All in a Day’s Work’. It is a wee bit expensive, but GWR modellers will no doubt think it worth every penny.

British Railways Past and Present: East Anglia. The railways of East Anglia were hit especially hard by rationalisation in the aftermath of Beeching and his followers. The pictures, taken largely in the 1950s and 60s, show a wealth of stations, signal boxes and lineside features that have been swept aside to make way for housing estates, or, at its worst, wasteland.

Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton—Portrait of a Famous Route. Part Two: Worcester to Wolverhampton. As in the earlier volume, the story is told through pictures, many of which are in sharp contrast to those in part one, for the line passes through the heavily industrialised areas of the Black Country. Strongly recommended for both modellers and rail enthusiasts.

Past and Present: West, East and North Lancashire. This nostalgic and comparative look at railways in the North-West has clearly defined sections: Southport and West Lancashire, East Lancashire, The Fylde, around Lancaster, and Furness. This is one of the better books in this series and contains much of interest for the modeller.

Past and Present: Kent. This volume concentrates on the county of Kent itself with more than 80 locations covered using 230, or so, photographs. Steam power dominates the ‘before’ shots, the balance being made up of extinct diesel classes, 4-CEP/CAP, 2-HAP and other early first generation BR multiple units.

Past and Present: Kent and East Sussex. This book features more than 260 photographs covering some 125 locations, including the major centres of population—Brighton, Lewes, Maidstone, Canterbury, Margate, Ramsgate and Dover. As might be expected of a region that held on to steam until almost its end on BR there is an excellent selection of begrimed locos at work.

British Railways Steam Locomotives 1948-1968. The book contains full technical details for each class, a short potted history and an indication of the variations within the class, such as changes in cabs, boilers, and rebuilds. Details of each locomotive’s introduction, BR renumbering, any name it might have, carried and the date of its scrapping are listed in table form

Railways Restored 2005.  Not a book that the reader will read from cover to cover at one sitting, but if you are planning a number of visits to heritage sites it will prove invaluable. In addition to the information on sites, the book also contains a full list of the members of the Heritage Railway Association (HRA) along with addresses and contacts were available.

50 Classics—Railways. Railway enthusiasts and historians have good cause to be grateful to the Victorian photographic pioneer, Francis Frith, for the collection of photographs he created gives a rare insight into a time that has passed. Many of the images capture scenes that have long disappeared and as such are a wonderful source of inspiration for modellers.

Model Railway Detailing Manual. Books that set themselves the task of being ‘source books’ invariably make a rod for their own backs, for it is virtually impossible to produce within the confines of a single volume all that may be required to fulfil that bold definition. This boasts a useful index, a list of references to aid further study, and a list of abbreviations.

Railway Operation for the Modeller.  The bulk of the book is devoted to those elements that make the railway work: track formations, signalling practice, traffic, stations, engine sheds, shunting, lamps and signs, and train movement. For steam era enthusiasts and modellers it should be regarded as a must!

Mainlines in Modest Spaces. The book is the second in the layout design series by the author and looks at the practicalities of scale and its limitations, the compromises necessary to produce a convincing representation of a main line, and the planning and presentation of the layout. On the whole this is a competent sequel to the author’s similar book on Urban Layouts.

Constructing and Operating Semaphore Signals.  Aimed at laying the foundations for a correctly signalled model layout, the author takes the reader on a brief tour of how the prototype railway signals trains between signal boxes. Profusely illustrated with photographs and line drawings the book contains signalling layout plans and photographs of prototype and model signals.

Signalling in the age of steam. This reprint of the classic Ian Allan abc provides a simply written history of the traditional methods and mechanisms used to control movements on the railway, including block working, interlocking, lever frames and signals. Fully illustrated with photographs and line drawings the book forms an essential guide to this vital aspect of the railway industry.

Industrial Steam in the ‘50s & ‘60s. The majority of the photographs are in classic portrait style, featuring locos at rest rather than straining to move their usually heavy loads, but nonetheless form a valuable record. Modellers with a keen interest in industrial, or narrow gauge, locations will find this book particularly valuable.

An Illustrated History of Southern Wagons, Volume Two: LBSCR and minor companies.  Every now and again a book comes along that has ‘for modellers use’ stamped over it and the classic OPC four-book series on Southern wagons was obviously conceived with modellers in mind. As might be expected, it is well illustrated and has 4mm/ft scale drawings of most of the wagons described.

London & South Western Railway Miscellany. The railway’s day-to-day life is revealed through a series of photographs covering the early days (1838-1880), through the elegance of the Edwardian era (1901-1910) to its eventual absorption into the Southern Railway.

Historical Railway Modelling. This is not a 'how to' book, though the author uses his own layouts (and those of other selected modellers) to illustrate his take on the subject and to show how basic ideas may be developed to produce prototypically correct models, that lend themselves to prototypical operation.

British Rail Main Line Diesel Locomotives. Authors Colin J Marsden and Graham B Fenn, have, in this revised edition, brought together facts, pictures and plans for all of the classes of locomotive that have graced BR metals, including more recent classes such as 66 and 67. Of especial value to modellers are the 250 or so drawings in 4mm to 1ft scale.