Traction Times: an early BR Traction Miscellany

Traction Times: an early BR Traction Miscellany


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by Andrew Royle

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The Transport Treasury archive tells a railway story which is dominated by steam traction. In the 1950s, most railway photographers were aware that change was coming and being enthusiasts, understandably tended to concentrate on recording what they thought was going to disappear. However, closer inspection of many collections in the archive reveals that not all chose to keep their lenses capped whenever a DMU or any other form of modern traction hove into view.

 We are certainly lucky that men such as Dr Ian Allen and Alec Swain made a point of recording the railway scene, whatever the motive power involved, but others would also take the odd shot of modern traction too. Whether they did it to finish a particular roll of film, exercise their camera or even to stave off boredom, they often unwittingly captured railway scenes that would come and go in a remarkably short period of time

Dieselisation of lines in the late 1950s/ early 1960s period often provided scant relief from the shadow of the Beeching Plan of course, so views of DMUs at Verney Junction or class 21s in Aberdeenshire are now just as fascinating as any that featured steam. Readers are invited to study the Transport Treasury website to gain a flavour of what is in the archive.

This book is a selection of views which have stood out to me as being of interest to both the railway historian and modeller. I have deliberately sought out some of the lesser-known diesel shunters, together with locations on lines which either no longer exist or have changed out of all recognition on today’s network. Also, expect to see certain classes of locomotive that were clearly off their beaten track.

I have been keen to include shots which feature railway staff going about their work, as well as passengers or onlookers; this can remind us how fashions have changed over the years. For example, at the beginning of the 1960s, it was unusual to see a man in public without a hat but by the end of the decade, the situation was practically reversed!

The quality of the photographs inevitably varies much more than we are used to seeing today. It can be frustrating to find something quite unique in the archive, only to realise that the image itself is blurred or poorly exposed. We forget that photography was something that wasn’t affordable to many and not everyone possessed a camera with a quality lens and shutter speed sufficient to arrest all movement, quite apart from the skills required to use a light meter. Even the famous names went through a learning process in their photography!     

Whilst trying to write as objectively as possible, my own take on what is seen is bound to show through and I hope that readers will forgive that approach – you will doubtless have your own views too. It has been a fascinating and enjoyable task, both to put together the selection of photographs and to carry out the research necessary to provide relevant detail for their captions.

Most of the images in the book have never been seen before, making it a must-have for railways enthusiasts.

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Additional information

Weight 540 g
Dimensions 273 × 215 cm









273 x 215 mm




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