Category: Railway Books
Published: Wednesday, 28 June 2017 12:30
The Kent & East Sussex Railway by Brian Hart
ISBN 978 I 905184 57 6 288 pages Casebound in dark blue boards with gilt spine, dust jacket.
Wild Swan Publications £34.95
Reputedly Lt. Col. Holman F. Stephens’ favourite line, the ‘Kent and East Sussex’ simply charmed everyone who came to know this highly-characterful railway with its remote stations, appealing rolling stock and unorthodox methods of operation.
Commencing with numerous 19th century efforts to bring the railway to Tenterden, the author lucidly explains the reasons behind the eventual arrival of the Rother Valley Light Railway. Particular attention has been paid to these formative years, whereby it has been possible to reveal many long-forgotten accounts which have never before appeared in railway books.
A similar approach has been taken with the early years of the K&ESR, as the RVLR became in 1905, when its extension to Headcorn was opened. Throughout his narrative, the author breathes life into an intriguing story of a small concern, overshadowed by the major railway companies and pitted against growing competition from road hauliers.
The Colonel’s highly-ambitious plans to expand his enterprise yet further are also explained in some detail. Particularly evident is the ebb and flow of public opinion in Edwardian days, which also provides some telling insights into Stephens’ vision and determination.
Following the ruination of the Great War with its wake of economic depression and social upheaval, this brave independent railway was pushed to the verge of collapse by 1930. Rescued largely through the efforts of Stephens’ successor, W. H. Austen, a truly remarkable renaissance then followed, thanks partly to the assistance offered by the Southern Railway Company. However, nationalization in 1948 changed attitudes, whereas the new British Railways Board clearly wished to rid itself of this anachronism as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, a somewhat agonizing demise lasted until the summer of 1961, where this history draws to a decisive conclusion.
The author’s sole intent is to offer a contribution towards our knowledge of this railway and he is at pains to stress that this book is not intended as any kind of exhaustive account. He suggests a descriptive subtitle could be ‘The Life and Times of a Local Railway’ and merely hopes that the reader might follow him on what proved to be a journey of discovery and delight through an era and a world that has now entirely vanished.
More details about the content of this book and many others by Brian Hart, can be found at http://brianhartsrailways.com
Category: Railway Books
Published: Wednesday, 28 June 2017 10:42
The Elham Valley Railway by Brian Hart
ISBN 978 0 953977 12 6 Price £39.95
304 pages, Casebound in dark green boards with gilt-lettered spine, laminated jacket.
Wild Swan Books Ltd, 3A Upper Lambridge Street, Larkhall, BATH BA1 6RY
Tel: 01225 462332 http://titfield.co.uk/
The construction of the Elham Valley Line was the culmination of the acrimonious and destructive competition during the mid-1880s between two Victorian companies – the South Eastern Railway and its rival the London, Chatham & Dover Railway. What had begun as an innocent enterprise in the middle of the 19th century merely to promote a modest local railway project suddenly erupted into one of the most vitriolic and passionate battles between the SER and LC&DR, whereupon neither company truly emerged triumphant.
From its modest origins and throughout the ‘war’ of the 1880s, there exists a captivating tale of intrigue, strategy and reprisal which embroiled the companies’ most senior figures; respectively its chairmen Sir Edward Watkin and James Staats Forbes. The struggle between these two ‘railway giants’ resulted in the construction of a main line through the loveliest area of rural East Kent, but the unresolved tragedy was its distinct lack of purpose.
Like so many railway lines, its prosperous era lasted until the utterly ruinous and disastrous World War of 1914–18. Afterwards, increasing competition from road operators gradually eclipsed the limited role of the Elham Valley as a mere ‘branch’ line, mostly confined to serving local villagers, agriculturalists and livestock farmers. Largely reduced to single track in 1931 and taken over by the War Department in 1940 for defence purposes, the line became not only a victim of rationalization, but ultimately a sacrifice in the nation’s battle for survival against Nazi Germany.
After the war, its anticipated revival was eventually thwarted through a combination of political ideology pursued by the Government of the day as well as the economic crises confronting the nation in the immediate aftermath of the second global conflict.
Unfortunately and perhaps surprisingly, the line was largely overlooked by photographers throughout most of its operational existence and even regrettably escaped the attention of Edwardian postcard manufacturers. Perhaps this explains why the Elham Valley Line maintains an air of mystery about it for many people. Even so, it still remains firmly in the affections of those lucky enough to have known it, as well as those who wish they had.
My previous book The Elham Valley Line, published in 1984 and now long out of print, was intended to be the sole venture into authorship and it was little more than an illustrated tribute to my favourite railway line. However, having subsequently been encouraged to research and write other books, I felt compelled to delve far deeper into the Elham Valley’s history, whereby a truly remarkable story was discovered.
Apart from a desire to fully explain its creation, I felt the need to describe as much as possible the everyday life of this railway in all its detail, aided by eye-witness recollections and long-forgotten accounts. Although first and foremost ‘a railway book’, it has been my desire to present a social history which exemplifies how much the line was inextricably interlaced with people’s daily lives and habits.
I hope that The Elham Valley Railway might not only convey my unwavering passion for this line, but also the exquisite landscape it traversed and the more leisurely and contented era of its existence.
More detail of the contents of this book and many others by Brian Hart, can be found on http://brianhartsrailways.com/books.html