Chase reporter ANTONY CLAY takes a look at a fascinating book highlighting railway history
OLDER readers may remember old railway lines which criss-crossed our land in large numbers, with a multitude of little rural stations and thriving big ones.
Trains chugged their way back and forth carrying people, cattle, coal, steel – much more than is ever carried by rail these days.
But times changed, and Dr Beeching came along with his axe in the 1960s, which has led to the loss of much of this network.
Some of the loss could be justified on cost-saving grounds but socially the termination of many lines was disastrous to some communities, and it could be argued has led to the popular move away from rail to roads.
But it is interesting social history to look back on the railways of yesteryear which were an important part of the country’s social fabric. During the war years, the rail network was a vital means of transporting vital equipment, food, people and raw materials around quickly, and while freight has become less important to the railways today, passenger numbers are on the rise again.
Which brings me to a fabulous publication by Middleton Press, a publisher which specialises in keeping an invaluable record of the UK’s railway heritage in a collection of books bringing together images and information from the past.
The 96-page Scunthorpe to Doncaster book by Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith contains 120 photographs spanning decades showing activities throughout the steam and diesel years.
The book also looks at the Isle of Axholme Joint Railway plus the lines between Whitton and Elsham and is part of Middleton Press’s Eastern Main Lines series.
The book is not weighed down with words and gives a brief but concise historical background, as well as offering copies of old timetables, statistics and maps. There are even old tickets.
The book is divided into sections, each covering specific areas such as Barnby Dun, Crowle, Epworth, Hatfield and Stainforth, Scunthorpe Steelworks Area, and Whitton.
Each picture has a detailed but brief explanation offering a window into what is sometimes a lost world. Some lines have gone, many of the buildings have been knocked down.
The pictures show people at work, engines of varying types busily keeping industry going, station staff and passengers in times when they were still visibly astonished to have someone taking their photograph.
There are also sailing boats on the canal at Crowle, impressive old bridges, signal boxes, trains still servicing big factories.
It is fascinating to see the variety of trains, large and small, perhaps bringing home how technologically the railways have changed over the years.
It is a very interesting book to browse through and hats off to Middleton Press for publishing such collections. Pictures say a thousand words, so the saying has it, and this collection brings history to life. Older people will remember the places shown, young readers can see how the world has changed.
This is history which we can all relate to.
* Scunthorpe to Doncaster (Eastern Main Lines series) by Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith, 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.