Scattered across the country, narrow gauge trains are alive and well across the United Kingdom.
From stalwart little locomotives of topographic necessity, to the maverick engines of one man’s whimsy, Britain’s narrow-gauge steam trains run on tracks a world apart from its regimented mainlines. In Small Island by Little Train, eccentricity enthusiast Chris Arnot sets out to discover their stories.
The book is packed full with unusual and interesting stories, from the miniature railway on the Kent coast, used for Home Guard military trains during World War II, and became the school commute for dozens of local school children, to the UK’s only Alpine-style rack-and-pinion railway, scaling one of Britain’s highest mountains. Then there are the five different gauges of railway circling one man’s landscaped garden, and the team building their own trains to run on it. Chris also discovers the legendary Peak District railway closed and never reopened – what, if anything remains of it?
Far more than mere relics of the nation’s industrial past, or battered veterans of wartime Britain, these are stories of epic feats of preservation, volunteerism, tourism, and local history. They are an exploration of idiosyncrasy, enthusiasm and eccentricity. Or, to put it another way, a tale of Britishness.
Chris Arnot was a regular Guardian contributor, writing on education, sport, local history and community issues. He also wrote for the Observer, the Independent and The Times, and still contributes to the Telegraph's Pint to Pint column. A former Features editor for the Evening Telegraph in Coventry, he applies a wealth of journalistic background to his research and engaging written style. Previous titles include Britain’s Lost Cricket Grounds, Britain’s Lost Breweries and Beers and Britain’s Lost Mines.
AA Publishing - 22nd May 2017, £16.99, Hardback