It’s funny how early versions of mechanical transport have such an emotional appeal. I’m not talking about the first attempts, but rather the point at which they gained traction (pun intended) and became something more than just than a curiosity. Sure, there were practical railways well before the end of the nineteenth century, but there’s something about the locomotives of the 1920s and 30s that stirs the soul. It’s the same with the cars. Park me beside Mallard or the Napier Railton and I just sit there in awe, even though I’m far too young to have seen them in everyday action. These are refined creations, and yet they owe more to the skill of the blacksmith than to fine-scale engineering (though they’re that too).
In a way that defies explanation, they have soul that even a modern Ferrari or a Eurostar locomotive doesn’t.
This, then, is a recreation of the dying embers of a golden age. Created largely from photographs and the imagination, it’s seen through at least slightly rose-tinted spectacles. These are not the dirty little tramp steamers of mundane mundanity, but rather the magnificent beasts carving their way through some of the more picturesque countryside, or at least the more interesting parts of towns. The representations are realistic enough without being rivet-perfect and you get the sense of action throughout. If I have a reservation (when do I not?) it’s that Wrenford Thatcher, a railwayman himself, perhaps uses a little too much black, giving some images a rather hard outline. I also spotted a couple of instances when the perspective was a tad suspect and one loco, coming round a curve, that appears to be leaning over on its chassis. Nevertheless, this is a fine and enjoyable evocation of what I think we might call an ethos that creates a sense of currency that a photograph can never quite attain.
Click the picture to view on Amazon