Enjoying the Cumbrian Coast Railway
Review by Mark Bartlett
Railscot contributing authors seem to have the knack of looking at a subject with a completely fresh viewpoint. David Spaven 's Highland Survivor covering the Far North Line is a good example, followed by his recent Insider Rail Guides . David Hindle , another established author of several books has now joined in with his newly published Enjoying the Cumbrian Coast Railway.
The book is published by Silver Link as a 'Silk Edition' with a hard cover, high quality binding and a silk ribbon book mark. It has a large number of mainly colour pictures throughout its 160 pages, some of which I was pleased to supply to David when I heard of his latest project. Some of the pictures are in black and white but these are the historic images rather than those covering the modern era. The majority of the pictures have not been published in a book before, although several have appeared on Railscot.
David is the author of a number of books, covering bird watching, social history and railway history, including his excellent history of the Preston and Longridge Railway. In this new publication he has brought all these elements together in one volume which looks at the core route of the Furness Railway, from Carnforth through Barrow-in-Furness to Whitehaven.
The book acknowledges the industrial developments which led to the lines construction, and indeed the industrial railways around Barrow, Millom and Whitehaven are described and splendidly illustrated.
However, there is a focus in the book on using the line for pleasure from Victorian times through to the present day. This includes Wakes Weeks excursions, the development of railway based tourism around the Lake District (illustrated by colour reproductions of Furness Railway
posters) and other stories through the threats of partial closure in the 1960s. The story continues right through to the present day revival of the passenger services, supported by the need for rail access to the Sellafield nuclear plant.
Chapter 4 is a thirty page description of the route starting in Carnforth. This is well illustrated but also contains some vivid historical accounts from various locations on the route. I know this line quite well but will look afresh now at the places it passes through with the new information gleaned from this book. David’s other passion is bird watching and this shines through in this chapter as he points out the various coastal habitats on the route and what might be seen there.
Another chapter is entitled 'Memories of the Furness Railway', which includes a number of anecdotes told to David in his youth by elderly residents of Millom who remembered the line, iron works and mines in times past. There are also descriptions of operations on the Coniston and Lakeside branches, including the last BR train to Lakeside, a SLS/MLS brakevan special.
Furness Railway locomotives and stock are also described, illustrated by some fine colour drawings by railway artist David Eaves and the book then covers the demise of steam (with memories of Carnforth in 1968) and the development of diesel traction services.
Not surprisingly there is a chapter devoted to excursion traffic, which of course continues to the present day as West Coast steam trips still operate over the full length of this line. There are a number of images of steam excursions in the 1970s, which are historic in their own right.
A further chapter tells the story of the famous Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, again with images from its earliest days and down the years.
The history of the line is brought right up to date with the story of the reintroduction of loco hauled passenger services in 2015 and the book concludes with eight heritage and bird watching walks that can be enjoyed from stations on the line – hopefully while the Class 37s are still powering the trains.
So, all in all, it’s quite a book that David has put together. It has clearly been a labour of love for him and his enthusiasm for the subjects he has covered shines out of every page. Highly recommended.
Silver Link Publishing Ltd, The Trundle, Ringstead Road, Great Addington, Kettering NN14 4BW