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The Heyday of the Scottish Diesels

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This review also appears on Where Worlds Collide, here.

After the end of steam in Britain 1968, a great many British railway photographers either hung up their cameras or diverted their attentions abroad, and it was the best part of a decade before a new generation of photographers began recording the current scene again. This leaves the period from 1968 to about 1975 woefully under-recorded, a great pity, because this was a fascinating time for diesel fans, seeing many surviving operating practices from the steam era, and the last years of some of the unsuccessful and short-lived ‘modernisation plan’ locomotives.

This makes this album all the more welcome. Compiled by David Cross from his father Derek’s extensive collection on 35mm transparencies, this album focuses on Scotland from the mid-sixties to the early seventies. It takes in both the highly scenic parts of the highlands and borders, and the cities and industrial parts of the central belt, and features just about every class of locomotive that operated in Scotland during that era.

We have some wonderfully evocative shots of the scenic West Highland line between Glasgow and Mallaig, many featuring the unreliable and short-lived North British class 29s, such as green D6103 in the rocky Spean gorge, and blue D6129 along the shores of Loch Eil. There’s also a couple of great photographs of the more successful BRCW class 26s on the Kyle of Lochalsh branch, with the Isle of Skye in the background.

In contrast, we have one of the classic urban locations, the line through Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, featuring a pair of class 101 DMUs. We have several views of another short-lived unsuccessful locomotive class, the centre-cabbed Clayton class 17s at work on local freight in the central belt.

The book features all four Anglo-Scottish main lines, including several photos of the now-closed Waverley route which crossed the border hills south of Harwick; the barren sparsely-populated terrain is demonstrated by the shot of two class 17s on a very long train of vans at Steele Road. We also have class 45 “Peaks” on the Dumfries route, plenty of English Electric class 40s and 50s over Beattock, and the obligatory “Deltic” on the East Coast route.

Overall, this is a great book for any enthusiast of diesel locomotives, or of any type of train running through spectacularly beautiful scenery.

Hardcover (15 August, 2002)
Ian Allan Publishing; ISBN: 0711028699

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