Think of any railway, but the Great Western Region in particular, and thoughts will invariably turn to trains like the ‘Cornish Riviera’ or ‘Cheltenham Flyer’.
But these were only a small part of the railways scene, with the majority of services made up of more freight.
The Great Western Railway was primarily a freight transporter, from the 1840s onward consistently generating more gross revenue from goods traffic than it ever did from the conveyance of people.
Many services ran during the night hours and so escaped photographers’ cameras. Newspaper trains and the majority of mail services operated entirely in darkness while of the accelerated freight services, approximately 60% had scheduled departure times between 7.00 pm and midnight, while 25% started their journeys during the small hours.
Despite working in daylight, less prestigious services might be overlooked on account of their lacking the glamour of express passenger trains and in their use of more humble motive power. However, diversity was as evident at the front end as in the loads hauled; in this work every GWR 4-6-0 class from the Saints onward makes an appearance. Bearing in mind that more mundane duties often attracted older machines, non-passenger trains thus accounted for a broader spectrum of locomotive types.
This album relies on the work of two accomplished photographers who shared an enthusiasm for the Great Western Railway and its nationalised successor, but who came to prominence through quite different means.
Dick Riley lived in south London and the Southern represented the largest element of his vast portfolio. However, his fascination with the GWR dated from the late 1930s and his pre-war work, mainly of static subjects, has a particular importance in often portraying ageing locomotive types in the winter of their careers. After wartime military service, his post-war professional career in the City largely confined his camera work to evenings, Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Fortunately for Swindon devotees, several annual holidays were spent in the West Country. The volume of images produced during those fortnights certainly prompts the question how much time he actually spent with his family. Nevertheless, those who can recall with great nostalgia the magical steam-filled summers gratefully acknowledge his personal devotion, and his family’s patience and forbearance.
Peter Gray’s images were also widely distributed but in an unusual manner. A long-time resident of Torquay with the GWR on his doorstep, he assiduously recorded operations close to home, using several favoured locations, mainly in Devon, while also paying attention to the other means of rail travel in the region. In 1984, an approach to the Editor of Torquay’s Herald Express newspaper led to a regular Saturday feature under the series title “Rail Trail”. Each week, a photograph from his collection (mainly his own work) appeared together with an extended caption that described the technical aspects of the locomotive and train portrayed, and also the broader context of its presence within the local railway scene.
In this book, respected Great Western and Western Region author Jeremy Clements has cast aside the prestige workings and instead concentrates on everything from parcels, through coal and milk, to freight train banking.
Over 120 images of renowned photographers, Dick Riley and Peter Gray, make up what is an excellent example of Non-Passenger workings.
Most of the former Western Region network is featured, reproduced on quality art paper and with detailed and informative captions.Order now
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