After the Second World War, Britain’s railways were rundown and worn out, requiring massive investment and modernisation. The ‘Big Four’ railway companies were nationalised from 1948 and the newly formed British Railways embarked on a programme of building new ‘Standard’ steam locomotives to replace older types. These started to come on stream from 1951.
This programme was superseded by the 1955 scheme to dieselise and electrify many lines and so the last loco of the ‘Standard’ types was built in 1960 – and the steam locomotives had been swept entirely from the BR network by 1968.
This series of books, ‘The Geoff Plumb Collection’, is a photographic account of those last few years of the steam locomotives, their decline and replacement during the transition years. Each book covers one of the former ‘Big Four’, in the form of the BR Regions they became: the Southern Railway, London Midland & Scottish Railway, Great Western Railway and London & North Eastern Railway, including some pictures of the Scottish lines of the LMS and LNER.
The books are not intended to convey a complete history of the railways but to illustrate how things were, to a certain extent, in the relatively recent past and impart some information through comprehensive captions, which give a sense of occasion – often a ‘last run’ of a locomotive type or over a stretch of line about to be closed down.
The photos cover large parts of the country, though it was impossible to get everywhere given the overall timetable of just a few years – mainly when the author was still a schoolboy with limited time and disposable income to get around.
Pictures are of the highest quality that could be produced with the equipment then available, but they do reflect real life and real times.
In simple terms, a look at a period not so long ago but now gone forever.