The Railways in Scotland: Book Reading Guide
Yet today, old lines are being re-opened, such as the Airdrie-Bathgate Rail Link and the Borders Railway, part of the old Waverley line. New stations are being built or refurbished, and passenger numbers are rising again.
BooksfromScotland.com Essentials: Top Railway Books
Most of the books on Scotland's railways look to the past rather than the future. Probably the best of these is Discovering Scotland's Lost Railways by Julian Holland, which showcases 12 abandoned railway lines with black and white period pictures, and full-colour images of the modern-day remains of the tracks, bridges and stations. Holland has followed this book with a sequel, Discovering Scotland's Lost Local Lines, which traces the history of many smaller local lines across Scotland.
The best single-volume history of all of Scotland's railways is Philip John Greer Ransom's The Iron Road, a handsome hardback which begins with horse-drawn coal wagons on wooden rails, to the height of Victorian engineering, to railway's decline in the 1960s and 70s. A.J. Mullay's Scottish Region is a history of Scottish rail during the early British Rail years, from 1948 to 1973.
There are several local history books on Scotland's railways, such as Highland Railway by Neil T. Sinclair. This book was published to mark the 150th anniversary of the Inverness and Nairn Railway, and is of as much interest to highland historians as railway enthusiasts. At the other end of the country Rails Across the Border by A.J. Mullay examines the fate of the five lines which once crossed from England to Scotland - there are only two such lines today.
One cannot write about the railways in Scotland without mentioning the Forth and Tay bridges - one an engineering marvel still standing as an iconic image of Scotland, the other a civil engineering disaster which inspired an equally bad poem. Charles McKean's Battle for the North explains how and why both bridges were built, while Peter Lewis' Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay investigates the truth behind the collapse of the first Tay railway bridge.
Specialist transport publishers such as OPC and Ian Allan publish titles such as Southwest Scotland and the Border Counties, Last Years of the Waverley Route by David Cross, and Scottish Region 1948-1967, which are generally written for railway enthusiasts.
Trains and Rolling Stock
Scotland's Railways is an updated collection of photographs by W.J.V. Anderson, featuring many photographs of the railways in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s. At the beginning of this period there were still many steam trains running on Scotland's network.
Steam enthusiasts flocked to Scotland in the 1950s and 60s as the move to diesel and electric was slower, and many famous steam engines, such as the Gresley A4 class (of Mallard fame), continued to run in Scotland. Michael S. Welch's Steam in the Scottish Landscape contains many photographs of the last days of steam in Scotland. Andrew Vines' book Diesels in the Highlands features photographs of the early British Rail diesel engines on Highland routes.
Ayrshire based publishers Stenlake have an extensive range of pictorial books about railways and steam trains in Scotland - the list is so long we have created a separate page for them.
The Railways In Fiction
Two books stand out when thinking about Scottish railways in fiction - John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps, with its famous scene on the Forth Railway Bridge, and Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting. Although the book has very little to do with trains, the film featured a scene at Corrour railway station on the West Highland Line.
The book with the longest title on BooksfromScotland.com is Andrew Drummond's An Abridged History Of The Construction Of The Railway Line Between Garve, Ullapool And Lochinver And Other Pertinent Matters; Being The Professional Journal And Regular Chronicle Of Alexander Auchmuty Seth Kininmonth - the title makes it fairly clear what it's about.
Diligent Daisy Dalrymple sets out for Scotland on an assignment for Town and Country magazine - and she finds herself sharing a rail compartment with squabbling would-be heirs, a stowaway, and a corpse.
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Richard Hannay's ennui comes to an abrupt end when a murder is committed in his flat. Only a few days before the dead man had revealed to him an assassination plot which would have terrible consequences for international peace.
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'Trainspotting' is hilarious, and profane, riddled with drugs, drunks and bad behaviour and rich with flawed characters. The interwoven stories of a group of friends and junkies, it is a trip through the highs and lows of their lives.
Other Scottish Railway Books
- Add to BasketFootsteps Of The Celts By Rail
- Hardback - Book Guild
A true rail enthusiast, William Bleasdale has written a travelogue of his three journeys through Ireland and Scotland by rail. It features steam trains, intercity services, busy main lines and tiny sections of track restored and maintained by enthusiasts.
- Add to BasketThe Forth Bridge
- Paperback - Colin Baxter
The instantly recognisable shape of the Forth Rail Bridge has become an imprint on the landscape on the Firth of Forth. This pictorial history describes how it has become a monument to the visionary daring and hard work that led to its creation.
- Add to BasketLondon's Scottish Railways, LMS & LNER
- Paperback - Tempus
This is the story of the railways in Scotland in the 25-year period before nationalisation. Controlled from London, the LMS and LNER were to have a profound effect on transport north of the border.
In This Article
- Scotland's lost railway lines
- Trains and rolling stock
- Railways in fiction
- Lost Lines and Steam Trains from Stenlake
Battle For The North
Beautiful Railway Bridge Of The Silvery Tay
Diesels In The Highlands
Discovering Scotland's Lost Local Lines
Discovering Scotland's Lost Railways
The Highland Railway
Last Years Of The Waverley Route
Rails Across The Border
Scottish Region, 1948-1967
Southwest Scotland And The Border Counties
Steam In The Scottish Landscape