Civil Engineers Wagons - Volume 1 = Book Review

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Civil Engineers Wagons - Volume 1 = Book Review

Postby Richard Oldfield » Sun Apr 08, 2012 11:47 am


This is the latest book added to my collection:-

Civil Engineers Wagons, Volume 1, British Railways: 1948-1967 by David Larkin. Published by Kestrel Railway Books in 2011. ISBN 978-1-905505-23-4. List price is £14.00 though my copy came from Amazon for £9.52.

Softback - 90 pages with 138 black and white photographs

Having a more or less complete set of all David Larkin’s books ranging from the early works published by Bradford Barton through the Working Wagons series published by Santona and, more recently, the five part revenue freight wagon study published by Kestrel, I suppose I’m a willing victim for his latest offering. David Larkin has now turned his attention to the wagons used by the Civil Engineers and this 90-page softback book covering the period 1948-1967 is the first of three volumes.

The book is very much consistent with the layout established in the earlier Kestrel series with sections for each wagon type including basic details and a number of black and white photographs. The photographic reproduction seems patchy in places and it can be hard to pick out essential modelling detail from some of the darker and less crisp images. I prefer the style of the Santona volumes but that may be because they are like old friends, permanently on hand when the modelling bug bites.

For me, one of the most valuable aspects of the book is the fact that the author has extended the remit of the book back in time beyond Nationalisation. For ‘Big Four’ designs which were built on into the British Railways era, this gives the reader an understanding of the continuity of manufacture despite the change in ownership and numbering systems. For example, the BR Starfish Diagram 1/566 single production lot of 80 wagons in 1949 becomes more logical when viewed together with the hundreds produced to GWR diagrams earlier in the 1940s. You get the sense that some designs gained BR Diagrams and BR numbering for no other reason than an order was being processed through works across the date of Nationalisation.

The inclusion of Big Four and BR revenue wagons transferred into the departmental fleet is also included towards the end of the book and this further emphasises the complexity of the fleet being managed by the engineers. There are even photographs of some pre-grouping relics eking out their final years.
It is easy to see this book as yet another volume of wagon pictures with captions, build details and initial allocation lists but, the more I delve into it, the more I learn and the more I admire the author’s marshalling of detail. I’m less impressed by the sub-titles on each section which inform the reader that an Oyster, for example, is a bivalve shellfish, genus Ostrea – this is quirky at best and distracting at worst.

Overall this book is highly recommended, a comprehensive review of the title subject and I look forward to the following two volumes in the series.


Richard Oldfield
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Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2010 8:08 pm
Location: Bidston near Birkenhead

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