Sunday, 13 September 2009

More detail on the railway activities of Russell

For more detail on the railway activities of James C Russell the following books are recommended.

An Illustrated History of the Welsh Highland Railway by Peter Johnson published by Oxford Publishing Co; 2nd edition 2009. A well researched and referenced history of the Welsh Highland Railway, including the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company with which J C Russell was intimately involved. The book is well illustrated but has somewhat stodgy prose. This revised edition has more material on the activities of Russell, who effectively controlled the NWNGR company, the WHR’s predecessor. But we are still in the dark as to how Russell, a London barrister became involved with an obscure railway in North Wales.

Narrow Gauge Railways In South Caernarvonshire Volume One by James I.C. Boyd published by the Oakwood Press and currently in print. It deals with the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway, Portmadoc Beddgelert & South Snowdon Railway, Croesor Tramway and other related railways companies as well as The Embankment Tramway, Gorseddau Tramway, Festiniog & Blaenau Railway, Merionethshire Railway and Bettws-y-Coed & Festiniog Railway.

Narrow Gauge Railways In South Caernarvonshire Volume 2 published in 1989 and out of print deals largely with the Welsh Highland Railway from the 1920s onwards until closure with material on the attempts to rebuild it up to 1988. Johnson's book is more up to date and has more detail on the rebirth of the WHR.

James I C Boyd who died in 2009 was the doyen of writers and historians of obscure narrow gauge railways in Wales and elsewhere. His books, mostly published by Oakwood and sometimes by others including Wild Swan, were sometimes “knocked” because of his slightly pedestrian writing style and some alleged weaknesses in research. The latter may or may not be true. However he was a pioneer in writing railway histories based on original sources and his books brought the fascinating history of now not so obscure railways to a much wider public.
See Boyd's Daily Telegraph obituary at and Patrick Keef's excellent eulogy at - a man of many parts.

Narrow Gauge Railways in North Wales Charles E Lee Published in 1945. A good introduction to the subject. Copies can still be found and the Welsh Highland/North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways section was re-published in the 1960s by the Welsh Highland Railway Society/Company in association with David & Charles with additional photographs. It has been alleged that Lee managed to write this book without ever going to North Wales!

The Manchester and Milford Railway by John Holden published by The Oakwood Press in 2007 in their Oxford Library of Railway History series. This is a second, revised edition of an authoritative work first published in 1979. Holden presents his material in a pleasant, readable style. Early history of proposals for rail routes through the challenging topography of the Cambrian mountains is fascinating. He goes on to describe the construction and financial difficulties of the railway, and its operation. The route, stations, locomotives and rolling stack are well illustrated with maps, diagrams and many interesting photographs.

No comments: