by Jeffrey Wells
40 photographs, 15 reproductions of lithographs, 34 drawings and maps
Softback – ISBN 978 0 901461 21 6
h = 224mm, w = 250mm, 96pp
(Despatch to UK POST FREE; Europe airmail add 15%; rest of world airmail add 30%)
The Manchester & Leeds Railway Company was the first to build a line across the Pennines which offered considerable engineering challenges due to the rugged landscape. Its chief engineer George Stephenson and his assistant Thomas L. Gooch forged a railway which closely followed the course of the Rochdale Canal and the sinuous valley of the river Calder. While numerous bridges, viaducts and tunnels were built, the Summit Tunnel captured the interest and imagination of contemporary observers. At almost 1¾ miles long it was the Company’s pièce de résistance and a wonderful achievement for the 1840s.
Few contemporary visual records exist of this early line. However what has survived is a series of lithographs drawn by Arthur F. Tait which were published with text by Edwin Butterworth soon after the line was opened. These have not been reproduced together as a set for many years and fifteen of these illustrations are now included as a supplement in this book.
As well as the story of construction, the author has included pieces on two notables whose lives touched upon the railway: Thomas Edmondson, while employed by the M&L, developed what was the precursor of the present ticketing system; and Branwell Bronte, brother of the famous sisters, who starting as a station clerk eventually became clerk-in-charge of a station in 1841 before his unfortunate demise.
Jeffrey Wells has long had an interest in the Victorian railway scene and to relate this story has drawn on contemporary reports and official documents, from which copious extracts have been taken – a hallmark of his work. He has had several books published and frequently contributes articles to the transport press.
“well written, with liberal transcriptions of much of the source material” – The Journal of Transport History