Reviewer: Michael Keith
Title: Adrian Shooter: A Life in Engineering and Railways
Author: Adrian Shooter
No. of Pages: 240
Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 8 ½
To quote this volume’s Dustjacket, ‘This book is the tale of a small boy from Surrey who had a fascination with anything on wheels and, also, loved to learn about people and what motivated them’. While so-doing ‘He describes his upbringing and…takes the reader on a voyage of discovery into the world of 1960’s engineering before he joined British Railway [sic] in 1970’. The narration of his experiences with that organisation ‘…Presents readers with a whole new picture of what was really going on within British Rail at various levels’. It is an accurate summation of a very readable and interesting volume.
The volume itself consists of nine Chapters. These take the reader from the author’s childhood to approximately 1992 (the exact date is not stated). As already noted, these detail his experiences in the world of mechanical engineering and within British Rail; the latter during the ‘Transition-era’ when steam was being replaced by both diesel-electric and electric locomotives, and new rolling stock was entering service It was a change of immense proportions and the author’s narrations of his experiences during that time make for always interesting reading. The Chapters are followed by a single-page Index. The volume contains numerous monochrome and colour photographs and newspaper-based images from a variety of sources. These are all relevant to the larger narrative and indicative of the author’s ever-upward progress through the British railways hierarchy. The Contents and Index pages contain no reference to their existence. No Maps are provided, and although numerous acronyms and abbreviations appear throughout the book, there is no master Glossary to provide a quick reference and so jog the reader’s memory
This is a very entertaining book, but this reviewer was disappointed by the person-centric nature of its Index. With but three exceptions (Bletchley TMD, Crewe Works and Derby Loco Works) the focus of the Index is entirely on individuals that appear within the volume. Regrettably, even that coverage is, at best, ‘Patchy’, with many of those named within the book being omitted, and in some instances (Beeching, Richard for example, referenced on pages 22 and 68) only given a single Index entry (page 22 in this example). As many railway-enthusiast readers rely on a book’s Index to learn if their favoured locations appear within it and purchase accordingly, by not including such information this volume’s Index has effectively eliminated a potential readership of considerable size. With little interest in searching for a possibly non-existent location, many potential ‘enthusiast’ purchasers will forego that privilege. The volume’s lack of maps only serves to compound the difficulty.
As it gives a ‘Management’ perspective on activities within the British mechanical engineering and railway industries during the 1960’s and ‘70’s, this volume may be of interest to transport and social historians with an interest in that time. The contents of some of the photographs may also be of use to railway modellers and to railway enthusiasts with an interest in British Railways during the same period. As an example as to how things might be done, those involved in Business Management may also find it of interest.
On a Rating Scale where 1: very poor, 10: excellent, I have given this book an 8 ½.