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The Golden Age of London's Railways from Old Postcards

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The Golden Age of London's Railways from Old Postcards


John Alsop

208 pages. 275x215mm. Four colour throughout on gloss art paper with printed board covers.

ISBN13 : 9781911038351

£25.00


contents and extra information for this book »

In the first decade or so of the 20th century, the country was swept by the Picture Postcard collecting craze, with publishers and photographers competing to produce an ever expanding range of cards covering almost every aspect of Edwardian life. Prominent amongst these were railway subjects, with cards of most stations being issued, along with other scenes of railway interest such as engine sheds and viaducts, as well as the trains and locomotives of the various pre-Grouping companies. These emanated from a plethora of publishers, including large national companies like Friths, Valentines and Raphael Tuck, down to local photographers who rarely, if ever, strayed from their immediate area. They were joined from around 1905 by many of the railway companies themselves, who brought out their own extensive series of postcards – ‘railway officials’ as they are now termed – along with railway specialists such as E. Pouteau and the Locomotive Publishing Co., who issued many cards by well known photographers of the day. John Alsop has been collecting railway postcards for over sixty years and has provided images for a growing number of books over the last couple of decades. Apart from his self-published The Official Railway Postcard Book, however, this is the first time he has ventured in to print on his own account, using some of the cards from his hugely extensive collection to tell the story of London’s railways, in what was a golden age for both the network itself and for the Picture Postcard. Steam reigned supreme and several companies competed for passenger and goods traffic, as well as for attention with their colourful liveries, stylish stations and poster advertisements. At the same time, the London Underground system was being developed further with the introduction of electric traction. This study of the central London lines of the various over- and underground companies uses station, shed and train views, as well as street scenes featuring the railway in some respect, along with official cards of posters, maps and exhibition stands. The majority of these cards are appearing in print for the first time and all are reproduced in colour within, including the sepia real photographs, to show exactly how they appear in real life. Perhaps the most surprising aspect is how much that is shown has now gone, not just goods yards and engine sheds but whole lines and quite a number of stations. This was an age when the railway was king and road transport was only just beginning to take over. Consequently, there is much to entice and enjoy within these pages, for railway enthusiasts, postcard collectors, London historians or anyone interested in the Edwardian Age.

The Golden Age of London's Railways from Old Postcards - Sample Images

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A fine coloured view of an express departing from St. Pancras and about to pass the gas holders that for so many years dominated the line here. Note again that both engines are applying sand to the rails. The Midland Railway had a ‘small engine’ policy with the result that, as new heavier carriages were introduced, it was not unusual for two engines to be used. The pilot engine, No. 672, was one of the Midland’s ‘Spinners’, graceful single driver locomotives. Built in 1897 and rebuilt in 1909, withdrawal came in September 1926. The train engine, No. 559, was built in 1901 as No. 2597 and is seen here as rebuilt in 1906 and probably shortly after the 1907 renumbering. Substantially rebuilt to ‘483’ Class in 1914, the engine survived until December 1957. The last remaining of these iconic gas holders, No’s 8, 10, 11 and 12, were finally decommissioned in 2000 and dismantled a decade or so later, as they were in the way of the new high speed line from the Channel Tunnel. The parts were taken away for refurbishment and No. 8 gas holder has now been re-erected on a nearby site named Gasholder Park, whilst the frames of the other three have been used to enclose new gas holder-shaped blocks of apartments.
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The conveniently situated The Three Kings Hotel remains next to West Kensington station today, although it now trades as the Famous 3 Kings. It has been modernised at ground floor level but the advertising panel remains, albeit it is now plain white. The station, which faces west on North End Road close to the junction with Talgarth Road, was rebuilt in the late 1920s to the design of Charles Holden and is the building still in use today. This is the original District Railway station which opened on 9th September 1874 as North End (Fulham), becoming West Kensington on 1st March 1877. In this picture from about 1912, the District Railway name has been demoted to the side panels and ‘UndergrounD’ is now emblazoned over the entrance, with each letter in a separate panel. The Midland Railway goods office just creeping in to view on the right stood above the company’s twin tracks leading to their Earl’s Court coal depot. This was established in 1878, after the Midland had acquired an interest in the District Railway’s Richmond extension three years earlier, allowing their coal trains in to the heart of west London. The policeman watching the D & Co photographer is standing in front of the offices of Spenser Whatley Ltd, coal merchants. Note the right-hand Midland poster is the one that features on the official postcard shown on page 24.