Another excellent book

I’m afraid that I have another book to add to the already overloaded shelves.


I saw this was coming out and pre-ordered it, thinking that it would have some good photos of Earlswood and Redhill – and I was right.  Lightmoor Press’ blurb says:

This book charts the developments of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway through the Southern Railway to British Rail, from Brighton to Coulsdon North, with particular focus on a signalling perspective. With a wealth of illustrative detail, the historical progress of the railway is recounted – from steam to electric motive power, and mechanical to colour light signalling – using original documents and photographs from national and regional archives, supplemented by material from personal collections including the author’s own. Whilst the author’s technical and professional expertise as a signalling engineer is employed to the full, this book is also about a way of life. Giving access to the proudly polished interiors of historic signal boxes with glimpses of signalmen’s domestic routines, the triumphs and tribulations of life in the S&T (Signalling and Telecommunications) maintenance department, and the liaisons with fellow departments, this book is as much a history of railwaymen as of the railway. The story of the surrounding landscape encroaches, too: the railway adjusts from racegoers to airport traffic at Gatwick and accommodates the building of a motorway; signal boxes encased in brick protect against wartime air raids; elements of the skyline change whilst others remain. Documenting a time before passengers became customers, when performance targets and train operating companies were unheard of, this book celebrates the work of the engineers who built the railway, recognises those whose aim was to maintain and run an excellent service, and honours the photographers who took time to capture evocative images of architecture and infrastructure from construction to demise. While thoroughly research-informed, it is threaded through with the author’s inimitable personal commentary.

There are some excellent pictures of Earlswood.  I hadn’t realised that the track was rationalised in the mid-1980’s, just before we moved to the area, and that there was a large signal box close to where I live.  There is a fine picture of Redhill station in the early part of the 20th century, that shows how much the town has changed.

But the whole volume from Brighton to Coulsdon North is full of high quality photographs, signalling diagrams and interesting information.  I was especially interested in Coulsdon North.  Once the limit of the LBSCR overhead electric services, it only closed in 1983 – again just a few years before we moved here out of London.  Wikipedia sums up its demise:

The situation of Coulsdon North on the so-called “fast track” of the Quarry Line posed pathing problems, as the route had to give priority to express services heading for the South Coast. Accordingly, through services to the coast were withdrawn, and the fast platforms saw only occasional use for special trains. Furthermore, the opening of Smitham (now called Coulsdon Town) in 1904 had created 3 stations in the same area and, by the 1960s, the decline had begun to set in. Only the terminal platforms were regularly used, for stopping trains from Victoria or London Bridge. Weekend passenger services were withdrawn in 1965, the goods yard was closed in 1968, and from May 1970, passenger services only operated at peak hours on weekdays. The station finally closed in 1983 as part of the resignalling of the Brighton main line.

This sample image from Lightmoor Press’ website gives an idea of the quality of photograph included.  A book full of local pictures, track plans, signals, and personal stories – what isn’t there to like?  Strongly recommended.


About snitchthebudgie

Secretary of the East Surrey N Gauge railway club
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