Sunday, 24 August 2008

1968 and all that

It's forty years since BR finished with mainline steam. I had hoped to to see the recreation of the Fifteen Guinea Special, but sadly I was working and was unable to go.

The end of steam fascinates me, it has done for a long time. I would dearly love to model the end and give a true reflection of the motive power in use. So many books do give the impression that steam was everywhere 'til August 1968 and then all of a sudden it was diesels instead! Though it is understandable in books on the subject to focus on steam and not diesels in this instance!

There have been a few publications appearing recently to mark this fortieth anniversary, some quite general about steam in Britain, others look at not just the end of BR steam but the preservation movement, which whilst an important development for the scene as a whole, but they do rather dilute the issue in this case.

One publication, which is a 'magazine special' which WH Smith's have taken a liking to, is a superb piece by Alan Castle - Steam - The Grand Finale. It is subtitled as as a tribute to the men and the machines, which is a nice touch as the railway is all about people, and in many ways is what makes railways such a rich subject. The photos are superbly reproduced and for £7.99 is it superb value!

My only real criticism is that it is produced as a magazine when really, something to this standard should really have been a book - bound in a similar to the British Railways Illustrated and Railway Bylines annuals. For all the work that has obviously has gone into the publication, being a softbound magazine seems to cheapen it slightly. However, the fact that such a superb piece has been published is the main thing and I can't recommend it enough!


  1. Essentially, the softbound thing will be a question of the publishers (who are presumably normally into magazines) a: wanting to stick to what they know, and b: wanting to keep costs down on something with a potentially limited customer base.


  2. Hi Stu!

    I hope you're well!

    I know the market is limited for publications such as this and I would rather have a softbound book than nothing at all. However, other similar publishers produce annuals and similar books which follow the same pattern, but are hardbound and only cost about £14 - £15, such as this one, which is a more limited market than the book here.

    On the other hand, I can't knock it for value for money in its soft-bound format - £7.99 is very good value!


  3. James,

    Someone has just spotted your review of my book and passed the link on to me.

    Thanks for your extremely encouraging and constructive views, which I have now passed on to the publishers. I certainly would agree that £7.99 is exceptionally good value, particularly when considering what other writers have produced, these retailing at sometimes up to nearly four times the cost! (The original price of ‘S-TGF’ was planned to be as low as £6.99 … that is, until appreciable quantities of advert pages were removed at the last minute, to be replaced with what, few would disagree, was far more welcome text!)

    I have to say that what you observe in respect of the soft-back format is something that many colleagues have also commented upon, but, I guess you get what you pay for in this world and none would disagree that, for the price, the standard of the final product is quite superb.

    The idea of such a book concentrating entirely on the events of 1968 initially evolved out of a proposal to write a series of articles commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the End of BR Steam (the latter have since been published, in any case) and it was the specific requirement of WH Smiths - who had agreed to commission/market the item through Mortons Books – publishers of “Heritage Railway” Magazine, that it should precisely follow the format of previously published similar works already on their shelves.

    Nevertheless, from what I am now hearing, there certainly does appear to be potential for a hard-back version and all I can say in that respect, at this time, is that I understand that Mortons are considering the possibilities of re-releasing in such a format one or two of the better-selling products from their extensive range of transport ‘bookazines’.

    Whether or not this will occur with ‘S-TGF’ is something that I really cannot assist with at this stage, but if the proposal does actually come to fruition, it would be my desire to include all the material that, due to space restrictions, I was forced to omit from the current version. Furthermore, there would then be opportunity to add some completely new chapters.

    We can but wait and see what transpires, but, however, if, following the agreed period of copyright upon my text having expired, nothing appears to be forthcoming, at that time I would be in a position to invite other publishers to contact me, hopefully to take the matter forward. Notwithstanding all of that, I can confirm that I am still collecting material and photographs for possible future use and will advise that intending contributors can contact me c/o 23E(at)