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Gilbert Szlumper and Leo Amery of the Southern Railway (ePub)

The Diaries of a General Manager and a Director

Military > Memoirs P&S History > British History Transport > Trains & Railways World History

By John King
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
File Size: 7.0 MB (.epub)
Pages: 221
Illustrations: 50
ISBN: 9781473870383
Published: 3rd April 2018


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Very few diaries of directors and senior managers of the Big Four railways have survived to enter the public domain. There are, however, two notable Southern Railway diarists whose records have been available in archives for some years, but have been largely ignored by historians; Southern Railway General Manager Gilbert Szlumper and Director Leopold Amery. Their remarkable diaries are addressed in this insightful book, which gives a slightly different view of the company in contrast to the almost sanitised histories by some writers.

The surviving diaries of Szlumper are far from complete. They begin in 1936 and continue into the war years, but there are several gaps. Throughout, Szlumper comments on individuals and developments, revealing little-known facts and the circumstances that meant he could never truly achieve his potential. Formally retiring in 1942, he died in 1969, after which his diaries entered the public domain.

Leopold Amery was director of the Southern Railway from 1932. A Birmingham Member of Parliament for many years, he was a statesman of some stature, his high offices including Secretary of State for the Colonies in the 1920s. In his autobiography, Amery writes very little on the railway, although he does comment on its family atmosphere. His diaries, which are in the public domain in a Cambridge University archive, have been published in two volumes but Amerys fascinating business activities were omitted by the publisher, and like Szlumper he comments on individuals and developments.

The diary information of these two exceptional men has been supplemented by information from the railway, state archives and other sources, and many of the photographs have never been published before.

As featured in

Society of Model & Experimental Engineers

This book covers a relatively sparse sector of transport literature, namely works addressing top-level management of railways as distinct from engineering biographies and lower-level operating memoirs.

Irish Railway Record Society

The diaries of Amery have been previously published but not with the railway content which add information on his work with the Southern and especially Szlumper.

Bulleid Society

Both kept diaries which John King has edited for Gilbert Szlumper and Leo Amery of the Southern Railway which challenges the belief that the Southern was a very happy family.

Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers & Firemen

This is a really quite unique book, very thoroughly researched and a fascinating read. It certainly deserves to be on every SR aficionado's bookshelf, but should appeal to anyone who wants to eavesdrop on how railways really were run in the 1930s and 1940s.


BackTrack, November 2018

As featured by

Steam World, November 2018

Occasionally you get a break which breaks the mould. This is one. Its core covering is 1936 to 1942. Leo Amery was a director of the Southern Railway from 1932, made an impression and was usually at meetings at Waterloo at least twice a week until 1940. Gilbert Szlumper was a shrewd judge of character and his opinions of people were always interesting.

These diaries give a full account of events with a fascinating story of a bygone age. Recommended.

Locomotive Club of Great Britain

The early entries are interesting for the way Walker hung on to the General Manager post in Szlumper's view because he needed the money. In the current climate of rows over executive pay, the insight's into the motivation of greed show that human nature has not changed - only the number of zeroes.

Altogether an interesting book for it's personal insights.

Stephenson Locomotive Society

John King is to be congratulated on this painstaking piece of research which provides fascinating insight into the people behind the elegant facade of the general offices of Waterloo. Pen and Sword are to be congratulated too for producing an attractive book.
It is recommended for the shelves of all devotees of the Southern.

Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society

About John King

John King spent his working days in railways and airlines where he qualified as an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Transport. In the early stages of his career, he became interested in transport history and wrote several articles and books on Irish transport, British airline and airport history, including some commissioned by British Airways and British Airports Authority. Through his research, he became interested in archives and their management, and obtained a diploma in archives and records management. His last position before retirement from Network Rail was in railway records. Johns interests also extends to local history and he is a past chairman of the Lewisham Local History Society. John has also lectured on aspects of transport and local history.

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