BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Turbomotive Stanier’s Advanced Pacific’

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Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: The Turbomotive Stanier’s Advanced Pacific

Author: Tim Hillier-Graves

Total Number of Pages:  206

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 7


Technology advances in various ways and enroute to its final ‘success’ can sometimes follow paths that are ultimately fruitless. Such was the fate of the subject of this monograph; the London Midland and Scottish Railway’s (LMS) ‘Turbomotive’. The “Turbomotive’ was the physical form of an idea that, in theory, had lots to offer, yet which, due to circumstances outside the control of its proponents, ultimately proved a technological dead-end.

The motivation behind what became known as the ‘Turbomotive’ was a simple one: economy and simplicity. Its premise was that, by incorporating a miniaturised version of a highly-successful maritime propulsion system (the steam turbine), costs could be reduced, greater efficiency achieved, and money saved. The idea was not a new one, but the way that the LMS dealt with it was. This volume records what was designed and why, the results of actual ‘in service’ experience, and, ultimately, what happened to the chief participant: LMS locomotive No. 6202; the ‘Turbomotive’. It is a very interesting tale.

An Acknowledgements section follows the Contents page. Within it the author thanks those who contributed to the volume. Curiously, the sources of the volume’s photographs are also indicated within this section, rather than in a ‘Sources’ section as might be expected. For ease of use, when notating the photographs, the author has used abbreviations to indicate their sources.  He has placed the abbreviations in brackets after each ‘source’ that is named within the Acknowledgements section. Where photographs appear within the volume, these abbreviations appear below the individual captions. An Introduction section follows. Within it, the author details his reasons for writing the volume and his familial relationship with the locomotive. The Introduction is followed by the 10 Chapters comprising the main part of the volume.  The locomotive which is the subject of this volume was involved in a major three-train railway accident (known as The Harrow Railway Disaster) at Harrow on 8 October 1952; an accident which ultimately led to its scrapping. The scale of the disaster prompted an Official Enquiry, and Chapter 1 is devoted to this, with particular reference to the actions of its crew during the accident. Chapters 2-8 detail the reasons for the creation of the locomotive and its ‘in service’ history. Chapter 9 returns once more to the accident, discussing it in greater detail, and describing the circumstances which ultimately led to the subject locomotive’s withdrawal from service and scrapping. Chapter 10 discusses the locomotive’s historical relevance. Eight Appendices follow.  These cover a wide variety of topics relevant to the larger narrative. They include The Science of Steam Turbines (Appendix 2) and 6202 – Evolution of a Locomotive (1935-1952) (Appendix 7) amongst their subjects. The latter uses plans to depict the evolution of the locomotive throughout its life. A single-page Reference Sources section is placed behind the Appendices. This lists the sources of non-photographic material used within the volume. A three-page Index completes the volume. Numerous monochrome photographs and plans appear within the book, together with two half-tone advertisements.  There is however no indication of their existence on the Contents page. An eight page ‘colour’ section is also provided. This contains illustrations relevant to the narrative, but again, its existence is not acknowledged on the Contents page.

This reviewer found this volume to be both informative and well-written. It was however let down by the ‘small details’. Of these the most obvious concerned punctuation. Although the spines of both the dust jacket and the volume itself have the title correctly written as The Turbomotive, Staniers Advanced Pacific, inexplicably the comma following Turbomotive omitted from both the ‘face’ of the dust jacket and the volume’s two title pages, In addition, the apostrophe is omitted from Stanier’s on the same two title pages. The absence of both the comma’s and apostrophe’s from such important locations implied (perhaps unfairly), that similar ‘carelessness’ might be found within the work. It was not a good introduction to a volume purporting to be an ‘authoritative’ narrative. That the Contents page carried no indication of the existence of photographs etc. did not help. It was also noticeable that although the word ‘Pacific’ was used frequently throughout the volume, no explanation was given as to exactly what a ‘Pacific’ might be. As non-railway readers might not know that, at its most basic, the term refers to a steam locomotive with a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement, an explanation would have been helpful. A Glossary to explain technical terms could also have been of value.  .

This volume is likely to appeal to several different groups. These could include devotees of the LMS and those with an interest in both British Railways (the LMS successor) specifically, and British rail transport in general. Railway modellers and artists interested in ‘trains’ are likely to find the images and diagrams informative. Transport historians interested in British transport history and the machines that were employed could also find it worthy of their attention. Engineers with an interest in turbines and turbine development vis-à-vis rail transportation might also find the volume of interest.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given it a 7.


BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Turbomotive Stanier’s Advanced Pacific’

I’m saying ‘What’???

The reason for the title will become evident in due course…

In my younger days, I gave serious consideration to emigrating to another country (which shall remain nameless) , and as part of this attempted to learn the local language. I say ‘attempted’ advisedly, since I was unable to locate any ‘natives’ of the country on whom to ‘practice’ on or from whom I could obtain information concerning such important things as grammar and nuance. I was very dependent on textbooks, and while they could give pointers on grammar, they could not, despite their best efforts, produce ‘sound’. However, I persevered and could eventually produce a noise which I fondly-hoped approximated the words I was attempting to say.

Unfortunately, due to situations beyond my control, I was ultimately unable to carry-out my intentions, and the language lessons quietly expired and were filed away in the recesses of my memory.

Time passed and I did the usual career and family things, and found that, curiously, the ‘filed’ words would occasionally resurface come to mind. For ‘old times sake’ I would ‘practice’ them, before allowing them to subside back into the archives.

However, and due to the marvels of technology, I also discovered the internet and found to my amazement, that tutorials were available in  ‘my’ language; at least I could now at least ‘hear’ how I was supposed to speak it (although my accent still remained as bad as ever). Progress indeed, but still no contact with any ‘native’ speakers!! Frustrating; to be able to make the noises, but not being able to be sure if they were the right ones.

A seemingly-insurmountable problem.

International politics is a strange creature and can produce some strange results. In the town in which I reside, one such result was the gradual appearance of people from the previously-mentioned country. Driven from their homeland, they arrived quietly, unobtrusively, and kept themselves to themselves. They were also hard-working and quickly integrated themselves into the community. It was at that point that I made their acquaintance.

An organisation I was involved with, brought me into contact with community members and after several meetings in a social setting I very tentatively tried out the three words that I could recall. These constituted a very simple greeting; although, because I was not ‘native -born’  it was very badly accented and must have sounded appalling!!

The response was surprising; a broad smile!! This was followed by an enquiry as to ‘where I had learnt the greeting’ and, more importantly, ‘Why?’ I explained my reasons, to some incredulity, especially when I expressed a desire to learn their language; to fulfill a long-held wish.

And so it began; my linguistic ‘education’.

I should at this point point out that I am actually a qualified ‘English as a Second-Language Teacher’, with the qualification permitting him to teach ‘Emergency’ (‘Get-by’) English to non-English speaking immigrants into his country.

When gaining this qualification, it never occurred to me that I might actually be able to use it on myself!

The result has been illuminating. I have become a ‘project for for four very tolerant and kind native-speaking teachers. They correct me with patience, and help me when I mangle their native tongue. We are all learning, and I get the very distinct impression that I am regarded as something of a ‘pet’, and shown tolerance as a result.

Curiously, my linguistic training has little relevance! Taught  that grammar was everything, and that knowledge of verbs, adjectives and compound phrases was crucial to learning and language use,  I have found that in fact they aren’t! These are ‘incidentals’; things to be learnt about AFTER  the word has been used. One has to ‘survive’ before one deals with the ‘finer’ points. Being able to convey what one wants (to purchase food, for example) is far more important than knowing that ‘I’ comes before ‘E’ or that it is simply not linguistically-acceptable to place words out of their correct grammatical sequence.

So what can I now do? I can greet those I am meeting; both ‘formally’ and ‘informally’. I can count from zero to infinite millions. I can also name some common vegetables / fruits and even some cutlery. Very small things, but, to me, very important things. And I can even understand what is being said to me (or, at least, some of the things; I’m still not fast enough in my understanding; or in replying).  My accent is still appalling however, to the extent that one of my tutors very kindly described it as being ‘Cute’.  I still don’t know exactly what i am saying  (hence the title of this post), but I  am progressing; one ‘mangled’ word at a time. It’s fun and yes, I actually am enjoying the  experience. Most importantly, it is keeping the ‘Little Grey Cells’ working.Long may it continue.

Finally, a story. Three days after my recent birthday (about which I had said nothing to non-family members), I was with a group of this language community at a business function. Two of them came up to me and after we exchanged greetings (correctly I should add), they looked at each other, then at me, nodded to each other then sang me ‘Happy Birthday in their language.  How they knew of my recent ‘event’ I had no idea, but the experience was surprising, endearing and very, very, special. I even understood one of two of the words…

Thank you.

I’m saying ‘What’???

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Maginot Line: History and Guide’

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Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title:  The Maginot Line: History and Guide

Author:  J.E. Kaufmann, H.W. Kaufmann, Aleksander Jankovič-Potočnik and Patrice Lang

Total Number of Pages: 308

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 8


This volume narrates the story of the Maginot Line; a series of fortifications constructed along the Franco-German border after World War I. In concept, the ‘Line was well-thought-out and constructed. It was built on the premise that should hostilities ever resume between France and Germany recommence, the German invader would be contained by the supposedly-impregnable fortifications and would be unable to enter La Belle Francoise. Unfortunately for the French, when the Germans did eventually re-enter (during World War II), they did so through an area of the border which the French considered to be impenetrable and through which the ‘Line did not extend.  The much-vaunted and highly-expensive Maginot Line was thus neutralised and ineffective. Despite this, the Maginot Line did subsequently see combat, although this was between German and American forces and did not occur until the latter period of World War II,  The  Maginot Line continued to play an ever-decreasing  role in French defence plans, although it had been overtaken by technology (especially with the development of nuclear weapons). In 1968 it was deemed surplus to French military requirements, with such structures as remained being sold-off to non-military organisations and individuals. This well-written and researched book is the Maginot Line’s story, and is a reprint of a volume originally published in 2011.

A two page Contents section appears at the front of the volume. Unusually, this is followed by a single-sentence Dedication. Why this should be placed where it is, instead of in the more-usual front of the book (and ahead of the Contents pages) is not explained. An Acknowledgements page then thanks those who contributed to the volume. A Glossary of Terms section is next. It provides English-language interpretation for the numerous French-language terms that the book contains, The Glossary is followed by the eight Chapters which form the main part of the book. These are divided into two sections, The first (titled ‘Part I : the Maginot Line) consists of Chapters 1-5 and provides historical and technical ‘background. The second (titled Part II: The Maginot Line and Other Sites Today), consists of Chapters 6-8 and is intended as a ‘guide book’ for use by interested visitors. Where necessary, sub-headings appear within each chapter. Additional information is provided within each chapter by chapter-specific end-notes. These are arranged sequentially within each chapter; the citations being placed at chapter-end. To assist visitors to what remains of the Maginot defences, the second section (titled Part II: The Maginot Line and Other Sites Today) contains ‘… A list of sites that can be visited today and that we recommend’ [Author’s italics]. Associated with this is a star-based system that ‘… Indicates accessibility in the main tourist season’. Six Appendices are placed after Chapter 8. They information they contain supplements that appearing within the main part of the volume. A Bibliography then details the printed and electronic sources which were used when the volume was being written. A six-page Index completes the book. In addition to the above, this volume contains numerous Photographs, Half-tone drawings, Maps, Plans and Tables from a variety of sources. There is no mention of their existence on either the Contents pages or within the Index.

Military historians with a specific interest in either static fortifications or the Maginot Line itself, are likely to find this volume of interest. It may also appeal to both military and ‘civilian’ historians with a more generalist perspective. Readers interested in World War II’s European Theatre may also find it worthy of inspection Part II of the volume may also be useful to holiday-makers with an interest in the Maginot Line, while war-gamers and military modellers could find the volume’s diagrams and photographs of use.

This volume is impressively well-researched and full of information. As previously noted however, there is no mention of the existence of Photographs, Half-tone drawings, Maps, Plans and Tables on either the Contents pages or within the Index. This absence makes searching for specific information time-consuming, with no guarantee that the information being sought will even be found. Although this reviewer found such omissions frustrating, how important they are will depend on the individual reader.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume an 8.


BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Maginot Line: History and Guide’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Severn Valley Railway’

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Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title:  Severn Valley Railway

Author:  Michael A. Vanns

Total Number of Pages: 104

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent) 8 ½


According to its author ‘This book provides a brief history of the Severn Valley Railway, from its earliest days through to the twenty-first [sic] century, providing a guide for all those who love the sight and sound of steam engines making their way through a particularly beautiful part of the midland landscape’. It is a fair summation.

The volume is prefaced by an Introduction which summarises what is to follow. Although not specifically defined as such, four Chapters follow the Introduction and form the main (and central) part of the volume. They cover specific periods of the railway’s history from its Eighteenth Century origins to its state in 2017. They also introduce the reader to the various industries which sparked the Severn Valley Railway’s (SVR) creation and the economic and social factors which contributed to both its existence and its demise. The events which resulted in its passing into preservation are also covered as are events and experiences on the ‘Preservation’ journey. The narrative is well written, the facts both well-researched and presented, and the over-all story an engaging one. A Bibliography follows the final Chapter (Preservation) and is, according to the author, ‘…A list of those [books] used as references in the compilation of this book’. An Index completes the volume. The book is copiously illustrated with well-captioned photographs, the colour images in particular being a delight to view. While the majority of those taken in the railway’s industrial heyday are monochrome, a small number of colour images are also present within those sections (Chapters 1-3) In contrast (and with only two exceptions) all the ‘Preserved’ images  (Chapter 4) are in full colour. The volume contains but one map. This dates from before World War I. As it shows all the railways in the vicinity of the SVR rather than just that line itself, its usefulness is questionable. There is neither a large-scale ‘General’ Ordinance-Survey Map of Great Britain nor maps relating specifically to the SVR. As a result, unless they are personally acquainted with the SVR, the reader can have no idea of its location. While for some, this will not be a problem, this reviewer believes otherwise, since if one does not know where the SVR is located, how can one visit and support it by doing-so? International readers in particular are also likely to find the absence of maps frustrating and may question why it is necessary to consult an atlas when the information should be readily available within the volume.

The matter of maps notwithstanding, the combination of information and photographs is such that this book could well become an authoritative volume on its subject. While definitely a ‘souvenir’ volume; suitable for taking home after a visit to the SVR, it also has value as a provider of historical and social information for those interested in such matters. Railway modellers and members of the railway enthusiast community may also find it worthy of their attention.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume 8 ½.


BOOK REVIEW: ‘Severn Valley Railway’


Although the Inktober 2017 Challenge has passed, herewith another example of the work I submitted for that contest.

The theme for the day was ‘ Run’ which I interpreted as ‘Last Run’ It was based on
based on personal experience

Technical Details: Drawn using Unipin 0.3, 0.5 and 0.8 nib black ink pen on white 80gsm A4 paper. Measurements: 7.0 in. x 6.5 in.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Wartime Standard Ships’

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Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: Wartime Standard Ships

Author: Nick Robins

Total Number of Printed Pages: 177

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 8


In wartime, the impossible tends to become commonplace, with previously-insurmountable obstacles suddenly being overcome. Such was the case with the merchant vessels of all shapes, sizes and varieties used by the combatants during both the First and Second World Wars. Large numbers of such craft were needed, quickly and at low cost. This is their story. As it was the Allies who had the greatest need for such ships (to carry all sorts of materials essential to the war effort), the main focus of this volume is inevitably on vessels produced to meet their need. Axis merchant-vessel production is not however ignored. Although primarily concerned with the ships themselves, the volume also provides the ‘…Political and military background’ that resulted in the creation of these vessels; something not previously attempted’. The result is a well-written, exhaustively researched and very readable volume about a hitherto-neglected area of maritime history.

A Preface opens the volume. It briefly summarises what follows, while also relating the reasons that this book was written. A Foreword elaborates on what has gone before, and is in turn followed by the 16 Chapters which form the main part of the book. Within these, the reader is taken in logical steps through the history and development of mass-produced wartime merchant vessels. As they epitomise the success of wartime shipbuilding (at least by the Allies) specific reference is made to the Liberty and Victory ships; arguably the best known of all the many types that were produced by any side. Chapters devoted to German and Japanese efforts to build similar cargo vessels are also included. The volume includes numerous clear, informatively-captioned and clearly-sourced monochrome photographs,. However, the Contents page carries no acknowledgment of their existence, while the Index states that ‘Page numbers in italic refer to illustrations’. Tables and half-tone illustrations also appear where necessary, but again, neither the Contents page nor the Index, acknowledge that they exist. Within some Chapters, clearly-delineated subsections contain reprinted articles that provide additional information relevant to that specific Chapter. A single-page References section is placed after Chapter 16. This acts a Bibliography and is in turn followed by the Index; the volume’s final section. Despite mentioning many shipbuilding locations, the volume provides no maps to show where these might be.

For this reviewer this volume was let down in two areas: article sources and the explanation of freely-used technical terms. Of these, the most important was the absence of source citations and, (specifically) page numbers, for the numerous articles that are quoted within the text.  Although when quoting an article, the author refers the reader to its source volume, when the latter is many pages in length, the futility of searching for a small paragraph within it becomes evident.  Provision of specific page numbers within the source volume would have been of considerable assistance. The absence of any Glossary of the nautical terms used within the volume was also surprising, the author evidently believing that he was writing to an already technically-familiar audience. Unfortunately, not all potential purchasers will be so-equipped. What, (for example), is a ‘Scantling’ (p.68) or ‘Deadweight’ (p.102)? In the absence of any definition and without recourse to a dictionary, a reader with no maritime knowledge can but guess, and, baffled by jargon, could well decline to purchase.

Although aimed primarily at those interested in wartime shipping, this book could well be of value to any merchant-shipping enthusiast. Modellers of ‘Emergency’ cargo ships could also find it of use. Finally (and despite the previously-mentioned ‘limitations’), for this reviewer it is in his (very rare), ‘Must have’ category.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume an 8.




BOOK REVIEW: ‘Wartime Standard Ships’