Forest of Dean Lines & the Severn Bridge
ISBN 13: 9781899889 98 3 http://lightmoor.co.uk
This is Volume 2 of British Railway History in Colour from Lightmoor Press. Volume 1 dealt with the Wye Valley lines and north Gloucestershire, volume 3 as I understand it, will cover south of the River Severn. The book is hardback with 328 pages of colour illustrations of the Forest of Dean, both the Severn and Wye lines and the Forest of Dean branch. It also covers Bullo Pill the Severn Bridge and Lydney Docks also get coverage in this volume.
Neil Parkhouse has compiled and written this volume, using various sources for the illustrations. Most haven’t been seen before, very few are of poor quality but that loss of quality is made up for with the interest of the subject matter. The majority of the images are by necessity from the last few years of steam operation, colour film being relatively expensive in the 50’s and 60’s and the pages are well laid out including informative captions and some ephemera shots of tickets. The Forest lines get little coverage in passenger traffic in this volume, this has a historical twist to it in that passenger services finished before colour film was more widely adopted, so normal service shots are rare finds indeed. The passenger images in the FoD section then are primarily the enthusiast specials, but are none the worse for it. There is also coverage of the brake van specials too. These images may seem superfluous to the story of the FoD lines but there are some gems in them too. Not only are there plenty of colour shots of the autotrailers, but the brake van special shows one of the rare, (not ebay rare), LMS short wheel base fitted brake vans. I now know what that unfinished Parkside kit is going to be, it having languished on the ‘to do’ shelf since the excellent Bachmann version was released.
He real benefit of this book is the fact that its colour. Whilst that may be of a statement of the bleedin obvious, does what it says on the tin etc, there were for me some unexpected gems. The Bitumen storage tanks at Whimsey were a red oxide colour, I’d assumed they were black. Tufts Junc. Signal box was built from blue engineers brick, in black and white it has all the appearance of a standard brick build, the colour image shows an interesting variation. Both these locations being considered for the Severn and Dean scheme I want to build. The insides of coal and ballast hopper wagons are visible, as are images around Northern United Colliery, all giving valuable insight into the colour and weathering of vehicles and structures. The same goes for the buildings inside and outside of the railway fenceline.
Coverage of Lydney Docks gives an intriguing look at an area very rarely shown, the fact they are all in colour makes them all the more interesting. It also shows that if you want to consider a port environment for a layout, it doesn’t need to be massive warehouses and huge ships. The Severn Bridge chapter is well illustrated and tells a fascinating and tragic story in its own right, the book closing with the promise of coverage of the Sharpness branch and docks and the coverage of the Midland Lines in Gloucestershire.
For me, and if you like ‘off the beaten track’, subject matter, this book is invaluable for the mass of data and detail it covers. It is pretty much a colour template or palette for the Forest of Dean and Western Region branch line freight operations for the late 50’s through to the late 60’s. As I read it more frequently, I see more information, not ‘nuts and bolts’ technical stuff, but visually, the weathering on a disused signal arm, that sort of thing. If like me your interest covers this era and region it’s an invaluable source of information. It makes me want to build models, inspiration is often overused around the hobby at the moment, but this book for me, genuinely provides it in abundance.
Apart from that, it’s just a really, really nice book. Buy it.