The Golden Age of London's Railways from Old Postcards, by John Alsop
Published by Lightmoor Press in 2018, 192 pages. Large Hardback - c.22cm by 28cm (N6896)
Brand New Book
From the rear side cover: In the first decade or so of the 20th century, the country was swept by the Picture Postcard collecting craze, with publishers and photographers competing to produce an ever expanding range of cards covering almost every aspect of Edwardian life. Prominent amongst these were railway subjects, with cards of most stations being issued, along with other scenes of railway interest such as engine sheds and viaducts, as well as the trains and locomotives of the various pre-Grouping companies. These emanated from a plethora of publishers, including large national companies like Friths, Valentines and Raphael Tuck, down to local photographers who rarely, if ever, strayed from their immediate area. They were joined from around 1905 by many of the railway companies themselves, who brought out their own extensive series of postcards – ‘railway officials’ as they are now termed – along with railway specialists such as E. Pouteau and the Locomotive Publishing Co., who issued many cards by well known photographers of the day.
John Alsop has been collecting railway postcards for over sixty years and has provided images for a growing number of books over the last couple of decades. Apart from his self-published The Official Railway Postcard Book, however, this is the first time he has ventured in to print on his own account, using some of the cards from his hugely extensive collection to tell the story of London’s railways, in what was a golden age for both the network itself and for the Picture Postcard. Steam reigned supreme and several companies competed for passenger and goods traffic, as well as for attention with their colourful liveries, stylish stations and poster advertisements. At the same time, the London Underground system was being developed further with the introduction of electric traction.
This study of the central London lines of the various over- and underground companies uses station, shed and train views, as well as street scenes featuring the railway in some respect, along with official cards of posters, maps and exhibition stands. The majority of these cards are appearing in print for the first time and all are reproduced in colour within, including the sepia real photographs, to show exactly how they appear in real life. Perhaps the most surprising aspect is how much that is shown has now gone, not just goods yards and engine sheds but whole lines and quite a number of stations. This was an age when the railway was king and road transport was only just beginning to take over. Consequently, there is much to entice and enjoy within these pages, for railway enthusiasts, postcard collectors, London historians or anyone interested in the Edwardian Age.