Somerset & Dorset

The R C Riley Archive 1955-1965: vol 2 Compiled by Jeffery Grayer

£14.50

112 pages / 158 illustrations / paperback cover / 978 1 913251 01 7 ISBN / 273 x 215 mm dimensions / portrait format

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About This Book

The second book in the pictorial series features Dick Riley’s photography of the famous Somerset & Dorset railway.

The cross-country line, also known as S&D, is one of several much-lamented lines and perhaps the most missed today.

Dick’s photographic archive held by The Transport Treasury runs to some 18,000 images taken over a span approaching 30 years. Of these, over 350 relate to the S&D during the period 1955-1965 with the vast majority taken in the traditional summer holiday months of June to September. These months of course ensured that Dick was able to see the many through expresses from the North and the Midlands which characterised the line at holiday times. Working in the banking industry, for many years with Glyn Mills & Co. which became part of RBS in 1969, enabled him to travel widely. A lineside pass and a number of contacts in the railway industry, such as Richard Hardy, also meant he was able to access locations denied to many other photographers. 

A considerable number of his images, both black and white and colour, have been published over the years, and whilst the best of these are deliberately included in this selection, I have also endeavoured to choose others that are not so well known in an attempt to illustrate the wide variety of locomotives, train services, landscape and stations that all contributed to the enduring appeal of the S & D. Close examination of his negatives, which were invariably pin sharp, often reveals some fascinating detail of the railway scene of half a century ago and I have highlighted these where possible. This selection of 160 of his black and white photographs, showing close on 100 locomotives from 22 different classes in more than 35 locations, bears testament to the wide variety of motive power that the line could offer to the enthusiast.

As an alternative to the more traditional North-South geographical treatment of the railway used previously in many photographic albums, a chronological approach has been taken in the presentation of his views of the line to reflect more readily the changes in traction and services witnessed over this period.

As it is now more than 50 years since the sad closure of the S&D line and more than 13 years since Dick passed away, this album is presented as a respectful tribute to a master photographer and his portfolio of black and white images taken on perhaps one of the best loved and most photogenic railway routes in the country.

As the author of several books on the line myself in the ‘Sabotaged & Defeated’ and ‘Impermanent Ways’ series, which mainly concentrated upon the S&D in its death throes and the sad aftermath of demolition and track recovery, it has been both a pleasure and a privilege to compile the captions for these views which seek to capture the atmosphere of the line in its final decade of operation.

‘Somerset & Dorset’ lets you travel in time to the glory days of the line.

Riley usually recorded S&D during the summer months, treating us to a wealth of views, from the ‘Pines Express’ to more humble passenger workings, freight, and even shunted and banking duties.

The infrastructure or the staff are not neglected either. Whilst the S&D may have been one of the most photographed lines in the country, Dick Riley’s views break new ground. His photographs were often taken from vantage points, rarely visited by others. His unrivalled skills make this a unique collection, a true record of one man collating the story of this once a truly remarkable railway.

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