Pictures from our railway heritage

Chase reporter ANTONY CLAY gets nostalgic over a new book on Mansfield to Doncaster railway history

WHEN I was a child I was a trainspotter. There, I’ve admitted it and can now move on with the rest of my life.

But whilst the hobby seems to have fallen somewhat out of favour these days with the younger generation, and is only kept going by older men standing on station platforms with cameras and heavy bags, interest by the public in railway history is as strong as ever.

There is an appetite amongst folk to find out about the long-gone stations, signal boxes and lines which once served their area.

Publisher Middleton Press has certainly tapped into this nostalgia for both steam trains and diesel by bringing together a wealth of pictures in its Country Railway Routes series, as well as other collections on topics ranging from Branch Lines and Great Railway Eras to London Suburban Railways and Narrow Gauge lines.

A recent addition to the Country Railway Routes tomes is Mansfield to Doncaster via Shirebrook and Shireoaks by Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith which was published on October 20.

Packed full of photographs, maps, plans and timetables, the book is a fascinating dip into the area’s railways of the past.

History and rail buffs can enjoy images of stations, trains and lines at Anston, Dinnington and Laughton, Doncaster, Maltby, Tickhill and Wadworth, and locations further afield such as Pleasley, Langwith, Mansfield and Sutton-in-Ashfield.

Each picture has a detailed caption so the reader can see when and where it was taken and the book is helpfully divided into areas so you can find out about the place where you live or are interested in.

The fascinating book starts off with a potted history of how railway lines developed over the area, beginning with the Mansfield and Pinxton Railway in 1819, which eventually linked up with the Midland Railway.

The first railway to reach Doncaster was a Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways route from Knottingley in 1848.
Coal and other business transport objectives were the spark for most lines being built, but the growth of passenger services became more significant over time.

The book is an interesting read, detailed but not off-puttingly technical.

Seeing old stations standing proud in the dim and distant past in places like Anston and Dinnington sparks a sense of nostalgia and the impression that something was lost through station closures during the Beeching era and similar axe-falling times.

Seeing pictures of long trains hauling coal at Harworth Colliery and at Langwith Junction Station Shed takes the reader back to a time when freight was a major reason for the railways existing. Today, carrying people takes up the bulk of rail time and effort, and the roads are full of lorries.

Images of steam trains alongside diesel engines reflect the transition from one era to another. A cultural change for a modernising country. I recall seeing a steam train rush through Arksey railway crossing north of Doncaster when I was very young but that must have been the last time I saw one on duty, as it were, rather than being sent out as some sort of historic totem.

I also attended the launch of the Blue Peter steam train at Doncaster Works, conducted by the programme’s legendary presenters John Noakes, Peter Purves and Valerie Singleton and watched by literally thousands and thousands of people on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve just checked and it was 1971. Ah, memories…

Anyway, Middleton Press have done us all a favour by catching these little nuggets from the past. These images show our industrial and historical heritage because the trains and buildings caught in these black and white pictures actually affected the lives of our parents and grandparents.

It’s great that this information is available in book form and I hope that Middleton Press keep up the good work.

* Mansfield to Doncaster (Country Railway Routes series), published by Middleton Press £18.95. For information on local stockists, telephone 01730 813169. Books are available post-free from Middleton Press, Easebourne Lane, Midhurst, West Sussex. GU29 9AZ. Contact http://www.middletonpress.co.uk.

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