This is How to Run a Railway!
This, the twenty-fourth book from specialist publisher Xpress, is a reference work about the minutiae of railway operation.
It deals, in great detail, with the carriage workings, working timetables, train formations and carriage siding arrangements of the Torbay Branch in the summer of 1957.
The first thing one realizes from it is the sheer complexity of running a railway with an intense service on an inadequate infrastructure. It is also a tribute to those whose daily efforts was to provide a public service. Would that our current system was run by such people.
This is no bedtime read but a serious text book itemizing every passenger train, its formation, origination and next destination.
The layout shews the book's origins in the working timetables and instructions used by its writers. There is enough information here to model, say, Paignton and run the services exactly as they were run in the 50's.
Whether its operators could run the model as well as the real thing is a moot point.
The author is renowned for his trenchant views but, though strictly speaking a text book, the narrative is written with compassion and humour. There are some 22 b/w photographs - mostly half plate - with many diagrams, charts and tables in a well-produced document (I spotted only four typos).
The major part of the book deals exhaustively with each up and down train. One section is devoted to weekday services and the other to Saturdays. Each entry's notes demonstrate that the author and collaborators have an encyclopedic knowledge.
Some surprising facts emerge; for instance, the prestigious Bristolian set was used on summer Saturdays as part of a Paddington-Paignton working.
We should be grateful that this knowledge of a bygone era is being painstakingly and permanently recorded.
An essential reference book for any student of railway operation generally and in the Western particularly.