A railway is not just a collection of machines, rails and buildings – it is also about people. Railway People tells of the wayward Brontë brother Branwell, and his extraordinary but short lived career as a station master. It recounts some little known episodes in the lives of the great railway engineers, including one conceming Isambard Brunel, whose barmy army of navvies took part in the last pitched battle to be seen on British soil.
There are tales drawn from the diaries of the first railway police, by turns humorous and gripping. Much relate to railway’s early days and describe the steep learning curve required of the world’s first railwaymen as they engage with the novel technology. By turn the stories are funny, tragic and often surprising. There is heroism in the mix; the heroism of men such as 16 year old John Hackworth who led an expedition in winter across the snowy wastes of Russia to deliver the country’s first steam locomotive to its purchaser, Tsar Nicholas I, fighting off packs of hungry wolves on the way.
There are twenty stories in total and all highlight some aspect of the lives of railway people, with all their quirks, faults, mistakes, genius and enterprise. Much original research went into the production of these interesting, informative stories. Most of what appears was originally published in railway magazines such as Michael Blakemore’s Backtrack and some was also published in an earlier incamation of the book titled Those Railway People.