By Edward P. Willingham
Published by the Halstead and District Local History Society in 1989, 256 pages. (N7875)
From the foreword: Here, after many months of detailed research and careful thought to presentation is a definitive history of the Colne Valley and Halstead Railway. The author...has carefully drawn detailed station plans from authentic sources and an intimate personal knowledge, and many of the illustrations have never previously been published. The combined service of the author and his family on the Colne Valley and Halstead Railway is unique, and his lengthy practical experience has undoubtedly been of inestimable value in writing the authoritative text. The factual history is interspersed with detailed explanations of the day to day working of the CVR and the procedures involved - often in defiance of the statutory regulations then in force. Much of this previously unrecorded information could only have been written by a man who has actually executed the practical railway work himself.
He has also recorded many amusing factual anecdotes of his personal experiences, and those of his relations and many former colleagues who are all featured in his book. It is vital that such reminiscences and surrounding social history are recorded before they are lost forever. These fascinating interludes make exceptionally entertaining reading.
The author has incorporated much valuable and previously unpublished material about the Contractor who built the line in 1858-63, William Munro, induding remarkable detail concerning his several other contracts in the area. A searching analysis of the method used in constructing the line, the recorded intimate details of many of the navvies employed, and the subsequent beneficial effects enjoyed by the local inhabitants all makes compelling reading. The railway served not only the residents of this attractive part of North Essex, but also the industries and institutions of the town of Halstead and the extensive villages along its route. Incensed by the often repeated assumptions that the CVR. was a failure as no dividend was ever paid on its Ordinary Shares, the author has shown that the venture was in fact a success which ensured a century of prosperity in the Colne Valley.
The careful analysis of the Acts of Parliament involved, time-tables, annual accounts and reports have all assisted the author in accumulating and verifying the contents of his book. His comprehensive wages tables down the years, and details of strikes are vital information, and I am convinced this extensive work will become, and remain, a reference book of immense value to students of railway history. Contents include:
Maps & Station Plans
Invention to Construction
On the Block
Station Offices and Telegraphs
Signalling and Rolling Stock
Workers and Wages
Accidents and Disputes
Timetables, Fares and Excursions
Inducements and Benefits
Offences and Finances
William Munro Departs
Company Livery and Lighting
Personalities - Great and Small
Strikes and their consequences
The Daily Round
End of the Line for the Colne Valley
Rules and Regulations - Appendix A
Acts of Parliament - Appendix B
The condition of the book is generally very good. The covers have one or two minor scuffs, and some light wear along the edges and corners, but the spine is tight and intact, and all pages are clean, intact, unblemished and tightly bound.