This book is such a treasure. Like many people, I have a nostalgia for vintage train travel (even though I never experienced it). I even got married at an old roundhouse. There is something very elemental about iron, steam, fire and coal getting you from one place to another.
The Railwayman’s Pocketbook is a compendium of indispensable information for anyone who worked on or for the rail system. The contents include engineer’s drawings of the steam valves and couplers, which are beyond my understanding but fascinating nonetheless. But there is plenty for the layman — like the signal codes for both lanterns and hand signals. I was particularly captivated by the guidelines regarding the conduct of the employees, even down to how they should apply brakes or release valves to as to minimize lurching for the passengers.
Some examples of the guidance:
To prevent ordinary Hand Lamps being mistaken for Signals, men must avoid waving them when moving about, unless when absolutely necessary, taking case in all cases to hold the dark side as much as possible towards the Engine-driver. Loc. 458
Under no pretence are enginemen allowed to meddle with safety-valves, to obtain higher steam pressure. Loc. 481
The engine whistle must not be used more than is absolutely necessary, the sound being calculated to alarm and disturb passengers, and the public residing in the vicinity of the railway, and to frighten horses. Loc. 525
Basically, don’t flash your lights, don’t speed, and don’t honk — but it sounds so much better the way they wrote it. These are from the late Victorian handbooks, but this compilation includes regulations all the way up until 1947.
This is a perfect addition to a railway or vintage travel enthusiast’s library.
Read via NetGalley
Publication date: 11/1/2011