- The Birth and Death of a Highland Railway
John Murray, London, 1971.
First edition: hardcover, octavo; pink boards with gilt spine titling; 171pp., b&w plates and illustrations. Minor wear; slight rubbing to board edges with upper board very slightly fanned; toned text block edges and very mild offsetting to endpapers. Illustrated dustwrapper with well-worn and scraped edges and corners (now professionally protected by superior non-adhesive polypropylene film with white paper backing). Very good. Constructed between 1898 and 1903, the Ballachulish line was almost the last branch line to be built in Britain towards the end of the great railway era, and it has been described as one of the most imposing of them all. It runs from Connel Ferry by Benderloch, Appin and Kentallen to Ballachulish at the opening of Glencoe, passing through some of the most beautiful highland scenery to be found in Scotland, and for three-quarters of its length of 28 miles it never loses sight of the sea. The natural features of the landscape, the rugged and devious line of the coast, the encroaching sea at Connel and Loch Creran, created major problems for the engineers and Duncan Kennedy, a civil engineer, describes the building of it. As well as detailed descriptions of the methods used - the drilling and blasting of the rocks, the concreting of the bridges and the laying of the tracks - he pictures the working day of the contractor's engineer and his relationship with his opposite number on the resident engineer's staff. In addition he gives lively character sketches of the people working with him - engineers, walking gangers, gangers and navvies (many Irish among them) - describing the way they worked and the tricks that they got up to. A unique and engrossing story in railway history.
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