Some Inspiring Railway Reading and Viewing

Having seen some interesting Pathe footage about the one man operation that was Port Victoria railway in the 1930s and 1940s, Alan Tradgardmastre Gruber as part of his 16mm (1/19 scale) garden railway plans asked on his blog about railway memoirs and manuals that give a ‘squad level’ picture about how a branch line runs, especially in the inter war years.

We chatted in the comments and email about inspiring films – Oh Mr Porter!, The Ghost Train, The Titfield Thunderbolt, The Railway Children – as well as various railway sitcoms such as Oh Doctor Beeching!

In terms of inspiring railway reading, I was a little more stumped about memoirs. My railway reading tends to be a little more fantastical.

The Punch illustrator and cartoonist Rowland Emett

Lots of inserting wartime railway cartoons in this Emett compilation. Emett famously designed the Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Branch Railway for the 1951 Festival of Britain.

This attractive Fifties colour children’s book uses railway model layout photographs

Several other books that I find interesting are railway historian Jack Simmons’ The Victorian Railway (Thames and Hudson) and Full Steam Ahead by the BBC team that did Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm and Wartime Farm. The series is out on DVD and a few clips can be seen here:

Mixed Train Daily by Lucius Beebe and photographer C.M. Clegg is probably my favourite railway book, published in America in 1953. It is based on the vanishing Short Line Railroads of mixed freight and passenger trains that connected the rural communities, industries, small towns and workplaces of America. Many were vanishing as Clegg and Beebe hurried to ride and photograph them before they were broken up. This was much the same process as happened in Britain during the infamous Beeching era. In many parts of America, cars and freeways, airplanes and freight lorries replaced railways.

This poignant and celebratory book is worth a future blog post by itself and worth buying just for the quirky names of the railroads and the photographs.

I was pleased to find that some of the Railways photographed in the 1940s and 1950s have survived as the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA). You can look up different railroads by state, town or destination here with links to each company’s website:

The original Thomas books that circulated in my family were interesting enough scenes (colour illustrations!) and at some point I acquired Rev. Awdrys poster map of Sodor. I found Sodor fascinating, slotted in the sea between Furness in Cumbria with the Isle of Man where my late Dad had taken part in the cycle TTs in the late 1950s. Another ImagiNation. I like the theme or hashtag here on this short lived 2008 blog of Topographic Tuesday, an occasional chance to share ImagiNations maps or landscapes

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 27 May 2020

Lastly BBC I-Player have a small Steam Collection of BBC Archive programmes including this one by John Betjeman


Author: 26soldiersoftin

Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures. I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures. Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules. To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...

2 thoughts on “Some Inspiring Railway Reading and Viewing”

  1. Interesting and helpful post. I really like the Emett cartoons and their style. The Emett based model trains out there look excellent and one could have a splendid model railway using them. I have seen pictures of layouts with appropriate buildings too, great fun. The fifties book is lovely and quite charming.


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