British pre-amalgamations rail atlases -- "upsides and downsides"

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by Calthrop, 1 Jan 2017.

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  1. Calthrop

    Calthrop Member

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    Being a lover of times past railway-wise: I value having map-type documentation of British rail ownerships back 70 / 100 / more, years ago. In recent years, have had mostly two strings to my bow in this respect: the Ian Allan Pre-Grouping Atlas & Gazetteer, and Jowett’s Railway Atlas. Having in the past year inexplicably lost my years-old copy of the Ian Allan work; I acquired this Christmas just gone, the new 6th edition thereof.

    I see “pros and cons”, in both abovementioned efforts toward the same objective. Jowett’s has the advantage over its rival, that it includes Ireland (as at eve of formation of the Great Southern Railway); PGAG does not feature Ireland. Otherwise: overall I find PGAG easier and more agreeable to use than – though less meticulously detailed than – Jowett’s. Whereas the two cover Great Britain in 45, and 134, pages respectively (it would seem that “scale sizes” in Jowett’s vary, according to system density in different parts of the country): PGAG is in general -- in my opinion – clearer, and better- and more-systematically-devised, than Jowett’s – without sacrificing very much detail.

    My principal “beef” with Jowett’s, is its somewhat messy and hard-to-use set-up: to some extent inevitable, with three times as many pages as the rival publication – but this could -- I feel -- have with care, been rather less awkwardly managed. Jowett’s gives little overlap between pages (PGAG seems better on this point), resulting often in hard-to-follow / seemingly arbitrary page-to-page transitions; and often has pages of detailed urban areas, sandwiched between otherwise-contiguous less-intricate-system pages. Worth the labour, I suppose, if the more-intricate stuff interests one – just, not up my street.

    Also: PGAG found superior by me, in that it manages to have consistent colouring / signage for all pre-1922 companies’ systems, throughout. Jowett’s doesn’t: often, different colours used between one page and another, for the various companies’ systems.(And confusingly-similar colours for different companies on the same page !) Seeming to me, sacrificing user-friendly overall consistency, for the sake of short-time convenience for the maker. Can be annoying in a situation of – as happened to me not long ago – getting photocopies made (not wishing to physically take the bulky book with me on a restricted-area “bash”) of different pages of Jowett’s, and glueing them together: rail routes, “same owner”, abruptly changing colour at division of photocopied sheets !

    Although Jowett’s is clearly a labour of love on the part of its maker; it is plain to see from the work as it stands, that Mr. J. is / was not a professional draughtsman / cartographer – his mapping has a “homespun”, sometimes messy / ham-handed, quality. PGAG is a smoother, more professional job – perhaps I’m unfairly comparing apples with oranges?

    On the back cover of my recently-acquired “New 6th Edition” of PGAG, it is stated, ”For the first time the atlas includes lines not built at the time of the 1923 Grouping to show the entire historical railway network.” The only evidence of this, which I actually see in this volume: is a “rough tracing” (no intermediate stops except Watergate, shown) of the Torrington – Halwill Jun. line, marked “Built after 1922”. The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch is not shown – and the SE&C’s New Romney / Dungeness branch is shown just as it was before the RH&DR was “born or thought of” – no indication of the SR’s post-RH&D-inauguration diverting closer to the coast, and shortening its final stub to Dungeness.

    Similarly with the 1ft 11-and-a-half in. gauge in Caernarfon / Gwynedd. The PGAG 6th Edition perpetuates the, to my mind, strange anomaly of previous editions, showing the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways running as far south as Beddgelert, and terminating there. According to Wiki: as part of the Welsh Highland “renaissance”, the original NWNGR line Dinas Jun. – Rhyd-Ddu was reopened for passenger traffic in 1922: Rhyd-Ddu – Beddgelert – Porthmadog not opened for passenger, till 1923. “Beddgelert as a terminus”, would seem to be nonsense on PGAG’s part – and why does the 6th Edition not show a route throughout south to Porthmadog, marked “Built / opened after 1922?” I see Jowett’s as being more conscientious about this kind of stuff.

    Another, lesser, item on this scene, for those “weirdos” such as myself who love it, is Ian Allan’s British Railways Atlas 1947 – on the “geographical model” of the PGAG – showing the situation on the Dec. 1947 eve of nationalisation – a reprinting of an actual book produced at the time. With that time having been one of post-World War II austerity: the layout is -- “annoyingly and / or interestingly” – fairly utilitarian and crude. (Colour used for the Great Western Railway is yellow, which can make things difficult visually to pick out.) Interesting to compare with the essentially 1922-dated PGAG, in respect of lines closed to all traffic over the intervening twenty-five years, and thus expunged from the 1947 atlas (which shows lines reduced to freight-only, without differentiation from their fellows which still had passenger services in 1947).

    Would be glad to hear thoughts of others with an interest in this field.
     
    Last edited: 2 Jan 2017
  2. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    I too love Ian Allen's pre grouping atlas and gazeteer. I just wish it would differentiate between the SE&CR's constituent companies, the South Eastern Railway and London, Chatham & Dover Railway.
     
  3. pdeaves

    pdeaves Member

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    I would be interested to know if it includes the East Coast Main Line Selby diversion and/or HS1. How does it fare with the much newer stuff?
     
  4. Bevan Price

    Bevan Price Established Member

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    I have the 2nd edition of the Ian Allan PGAG, which uses a smaller page size than the recent reprint. The main problem I find is that much of the "detail" is too small, even in the enlargements of selective areas (e.g. London, Liverpool & Manchester, etc.) . It has a cluttered appearance in some locations, making it a bit difficult to follow track alignments and the boundaries between different companies.

    I have, but don't have a copy of the Jowett atlas, so will not comment further. .

    I also have a copy of CJ Wignall's Complete British Railways Maps & Gazetteer (1st edition). This has a bigger scale than PGAG, and has more selective enlargements. It includes all lines known to have existed, and distinguishes between lines open and closed (the latter as Pre-Beeching & Post-Beeching.) However, it does not show pre-grouping ownership, and sadly it shows signs of inadequate proof reading and contains numerous (mostly minor) errors. I would describe it as a worthy attempt that could have been a lot better.

    I also have a copy of the Railway Clearing House (RCH) "Railway Junction Diagrams", originally published by Railway Magazine, and later reissued by Ian Allan. A version has recently been reissued in a combine book with one of Ian Allan's atlases. Lines of different companies are colour coded, and usefully, it includes the distances between junctions and nearby stations.

    The RCH issued a series bigger scale maps covering the entire country. David & Thomas reprinted the map for Western England, but the others can only be found as second hand copies at the inflated price levels of "collectors items". Ian Allan reprinted a UK RCH atlas, but using the same page size as the (original) PGAG; unfortunately they also chose to reprint one of the RCH editions that did not include distances. A large page size reprint of the full UK RCH maps would be welcome, provided they chose a version including distances.

    In my opinion, the RCH maps are probably the best historical maps available for UK railways. A version of the 1875 RCH map of Scotland is available on line, but this of course omits lines opened after 1875. (Tay Bridge route shown as planned, but long before Forth Bridge was built.). As far as I know, no other RCH maps can be found on line.

    http://maps.nls.uk/view/74401140

    Click on map to enlarge page size.
     
  5. Calthrop

    Calthrop Member

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    The whole business, circa early 19th century -- early 20th century was, most of the time, in a state of flux -- with occasional fairly static periods, such as between about 1900 and 1920 (pace government control during World War I). My personal interest is mostly in the set-up in early 20th century, and post-1923.

    This seemed not to work for me; but beyond the most basic stuff, computers and I are not good friends.


    pdeaves writes: "I would be interested to know if it includes the East Coast Main Line Selby diversion and / or HS1. How does it fare with the much newer stuff?"

    "With the much newer stuff" -- including East Coast Main Selby diversion -- seemingly not at all. Jowett's does a much better job with such matters. From what I can see, Ian Allan's thing about "the entire historical railway network" is very largely an empty boast.
     
  6. 12CSVT

    12CSVT Established Member

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    You just about need a microscope to read the Ian Allan pre-grouping atlas, the scale is far too small in my opinion.
     
  7. pdeaves

    pdeaves Member

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    The common problem that history (is considered to have) ended with steam, maybe?
     
  8. eastwestdivide

    eastwestdivide Established Member

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    Can I point you towards Cobb, The Railways of Great Britain: A Historical Atlas
    http://www.railwaysofgreatbritain.com/the-atlas
    Currently £345 from that site (third edition).
    I bought the first edition for about £100 new, and don't regret it, despite the very occasional typo and inaccuracy.
     
  9. Calthrop

    Calthrop Member

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    With PGAG 6th edition -- not even that. As per my OP: literally the only post-1922 addition to the system which I've noticed as added into the book, is Torrington -- Halwill.
     
  10. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    My PGAG is one of my earliest railway books, now over 50 years old, a 1960s edition. Original plastic spiral binding breaking up, and pages coming out, but I'm sure the current edition hasn't changed much!

    Ian Allan (the man as much as the company) was a past master at walking the narrow line between time and production cost spent on absolute fine detail, and something which can be produced and retailed in bulk at reasonable cost.
     
    Last edited: 2 Jan 2017
  11. Calthrop

    Calthrop Member

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    My new (6th Edition) PGAG is – largely owing to my life’s ups-and-downs – the fourth that I’ve owned (as mentioned in my OP, its immediate predecessor mysteriously vanished some time in the past year – most likely, left on public transport). The first three were all basically the same size and format as yours from the 1960s; the 6th edition is in a book with pages slightly larger in area, and the book overall thinner – but the same essential format and area of actual maps, has been kept; and not looking significantly larger, than in earlier editions.

    Some small changes have been made to the symbols for some rail undertakings; but colour-coding of different undertakings is very much the same as in previous editions. One very definite “disimprovement” in my view, is as follows. In previous editions, the shade of blue employed, was a relatively light one – approx. “cobalt”, or still lighter. In the 6th edition, it has been chosen to make the blue elements, a far darker shade of blue – hard to distinguish from the black elements. Said black elements have been made dark grey, rather than pure black: nonetheless, telling “black” from “blue” is still, now, not easy; especially where an undertaking’s routes are shown with solid – rather than dashed / dotted – lines. In Staffordshire and adjoining parts of Cheshire, with solid blue lines for the North Staffordshire Ry., and “grey / black” ditto for the LNWR: if one did not already know which routes belonged to which company, one would have a struggle to extract that information from the map.

    Overall however, I'd agree about the great job done of "walking the narrow line" -- providing well-better-than-adequate detail without things becoming highly expensive and / or unwieldy for the user.
     
  12. Senex

    Senex Established Member

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    I too have owned several copies of this atlas over the years. I bought the 6th edition on the strength of the advertising with high expectations, but am very disappointed with the layout, as I find it very difficult to use without constantly referring to the indexes.

    I think it was a brilliant idea to bring together the pre-Grouping atlas and the Junction Diagrams in one volume, but I don't like the execution of the idea at all. I think it would have been far better either to have first the atlas pages and then the pages of the diagrams (in their historic order) or to do the job properly, separate out the diagrams of all the individual locations, and then use facing-page presentation, so that each "enlargement" could appear in the same "view" as that place on a map. I think they have gone for a half-way solution which does not work for me at all -- so much so that I usually use one of my older editions and a separate copy of the Junction Diagrams.

    Having got that off my chest, I'd like to say how much I welcome the way in which Ian Allan have used the digitisation of their mapping to form the basis of a whole range of new atlases (some of which I obviously find more interesting than others, as each individual user will).
     
  13. Calthrop

    Calthrop Member

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    I'll admit, not a problem for me with the 6th edition: but I'm a bit of a rough-and-ready user of atlases of this kind -- my focus tends to be on "routes rather than curves". (For my individual taste in this respect, the Jowett's atlas does its job only too well -- furnishes more information than I actually want, and tends to bring me as much confusion, as enlightenment.)

    My one big quarrel with the 6th edition Ian Allan is, as mentioned upthread, the situation which did not obtain in former editions which I've had: of "blue" and "black" being annoyingly similar, and hard to distinguish.
     
  14. DelW

    DelW Member

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    Despite its somewhat annoying foibles, I find C J Wignall's atlas (mentioned above) to be one of the most useful, it's a shame it has never been updated from its publication in 1981.

    I have often thought that it would be useful to have a railway atlas in electronic form, which could be set to show the network as it existed in any specified year. For a long time I tended to assume that the surviving network would include the most important routes and would therefore have been generally the earlier ones built, with later additions being the first ones to go. Although this does apply to many rural branches, it's far from universally true. There are well known examples like the GW/GC Joint Line (now Chiltern from Old Oak / Ruislip to Aynho Junction) which were built very late in the railway building era, and it was only quite recently that I realised how late in the day the Honeybourne - Cheltenham line was built. If anyone knows of such an atlas I'd be glad to hear about it.
     
  15. Bevan Price

    Bevan Price Established Member

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    Not quite what you wanted, and I don't think coverage is complete, but see:

    http://www.railmaponline.com/UKIEMap.php?lat=53.53306&lng=-2.38792

    and:

    http://www.systemed.net/atlas/
     
  16. DelW

    DelW Member

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    Bevan, thank you for the suggestions and links. I had actually seen those sites before, though I hadn't realised until just now that the rail map online can be set to show historic OS background mapping, which makes in much more interesting to me. Looking at that map particularly, I can see that it could be a great deal of work just to establish the opening and closing dates for each stretch of line, quite apart from any IT issues in making the software display only the routes which were in use in a given year. Then there are issues of what constitutes closure - passenger closure, freight closure, last train movement, track lifted. I think I can see why such a map hasn't yet appeared.
     
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