Railway Race to the North By O S Nock Soft Cover 1959, This edition 1976

Railway Race to the North By O S Nock Soft Cover 1959, This edition 1976

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Railway Race to the North By O S Nock Soft Cover 1959, This edition 1976
 
Railway Race to the North By O S Nock Soft Cover 1959, This edition 1976  168 Pages
Preface
WHEN Mr Ian Allan and his co-director Mr G. Freeman Allen first put to me the idea of a book about the Race to the North the prospect, though exciting in itself; seemed rather bleak when it came to practical possibilities. What was there new to be written about it? At best could one hope for more than a modern re-hash of `Kinnaber', with a reappraisal of the locomotive work involved? However, a little canvassing among friends in the railway service brought some heartening results; the editors of The Railway Gazette, The Railway Magazine, and the British Railways Magazine kindly published letters from me asking for information, anecdotes, and reminiscences, and although in volume the result was, perhaps, less than I had hoped, some of the material that did come to light was of first-class importance. In this I am indebted above all others to Mr E. G. Marsden and Mr R. F. Harvey, for the information they put at my disposal. The correspondence and telegrams between the East Coast General Managers during the critical weeks of July and August 1895, which I have been able to include in Chapters VIII, IX and X, throw a vivid light upon the attitude and policy of what may be called the unwilling participants in the struggle. Unfortunately nothing of a similar kind has been preserved on the West Coast side, though the policy of Euston and Buchanan Street from July 15th onwards now seems clear enough.
From such reminiscences, from letters, from newspaper comment, and from the occasional touches of local colour in the factual writing of such enthusiasts as Rous-Marten, the Rev. W. J. Scott, and Norman D. Macdonald I have been able to build up something of a picture of the scene against which the race was run; a scene in which business men still wore gilled shirts and gold seals, in which a man making a privileged trip on an engine would not think to discard his tall hat, and in which the telegram was the fastest means of communication. Yet in such an age both sides showed an amazing speed in organizing their resources to produce unparalleled feats of running at the shortest of short notices. Men were travelling faster than ever before, by any medium; night by night the record was going higher and higher, until the final West Coast achievement, with its average of 63.2 m.p.h. over a distance of 540 miles, set up a British record that has not yet been broken. Although the whole affair, together with the earlier skirmish in 1888, could be dismissed as a stunt, and far removed from practical business, both sides won fame and honour in the process, and without any doubt gathered in a wealth of experience.
The spirit that animated the contests of 1888 and 1895 is not dead, even now. One could understand a healthy rivalry between the East and West Coast routes in grouping days, when the streamlined engines of Sir Nigel Gresley and Sir William Stanier were vying with each other for the British maximum speed record; but even after nationalization the sparks of 1895 are not finally down. After the great run of the 'Caledonian' from Carlisle to Euston on September 5th, 1957, when the overall average speed for the 299 miles was 701 m.p.h. start to stop, one found The Railway Gazette commenting, rather apprehensively: `. . it is to be hoped that inter-Regional rivalry will not lead to a revival of the races to Scotland at the end of the last century. On the other hand, occasional very fast runs are a stimulus to mechanical and operating staffs, and serve a useful purpose if they result in appreciable improvements in the timetables.'
Be that as it may, this backward look to the great days of i888 and 1895, with the research involved, has been an exhilarating task, and I must thank once again all those who have contributed to it, by their letters, their telephone calls, and by their pictures, some of which we have been able to reproduce.

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