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Railway Travel in World War Two (Hardback)

Transport > Trains & Railways WWII

By Peter Steer
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 272
ISBN: 9781399063173
Published: 23rd October 2023



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The popular image of railway travel during the Second World War is that of a sparse service of dirty and grossly overcrowded trains that were forever being delayed. The iconic ‘is your journey really necessary’ poster campaign is credited with discouraging the public from travelling by train. This book questions these assumptions and examines the mobility requirements of the British public during the war years and aligns these to the level of service provided by the railways. Throughout the war the railways were managed by the Railway Executive Committee (REC) whose members were all senior railway officers. The conflicts between the REC and the government in respect to controlling passenger numbers on the railway system, which was overcrowded with essential additional war related freight traffic, are examined; as are the propaganda campaigns aimed at restricting ‘unnecessary’ travel. The public’s response to the travel restrictions are analysed to determine how railway passengers’ attitudes and reactions corresponded to the publicly accepted mythology. Many British citizens did reduce their railway journeys, but for others who had previously had little need to travel by train, the exigencies of war resulted in them having to make long and often difficult journeys by rail.

"This is a really good book on its subject and I thoroughly recommend it".

The Railway Correspondence and Travel Society - The Railway Observer, March 2024, Volume 94, Number 1141

Review as featured in

Highlight: 'This valuable history brings together the Home Front and the military in one volume.'

Gun Mart Magazine

"...overall this a well-researched and highly readable work. This book will appeal to a wide readership including rail historians and enthusiasts and historians and readers interested in WW2."

Martin Willoughby, The Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

"...this book shows a welcome approach to show how passengers really travelled during the Second World War. It was generally not as the myths suggest."

The Society of Model Experimental Engineers Journal - Vol32, No1, February 2024

"...I found this a very interesting of wartime operation and the challenges faced. It brought out some things I’d never thought of, and challenged some preconceived ideas about railways operations during the Second World War."

London North Western Railway Society

Peter Steer has produced a most valuable book and I am very grateful to him for doing so. I think anyone interested in WWII or railways would agree.

NetGalley, Colin Edwards

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My husband and I really enjoyed reading this. I am a bit of a history geek and my husband is a train and war geek so this book was more up his street than it was mine.

It was an enjoyable and interesting read with some good photographs and sources. My husbands grandad worked on the railway during the second world around the Ilkeston, Derbyshire area and it’s where my husbands interest in the railway stemmed from. He has recommended the book to a few of his work colleagues as he works on the railway and also his model train group.

NetGalley, Charlotte Grainger

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Railway Travel in World War Two is interesting, informative and very "readable" (that said, due to my eyes, I have my tablet or phone "read aloud" as many books as possible ... including this one).

There is a tremendous amount of information in this book. Towards the end of the this book, i had the thought that historical fiction authors will be using this book as a way to provide more depth to their novels.

I do like to mix non-fiction into my reading and this is the type of book that I would recommend to my "Somewhere In Time" (non-fiction/history) book club. I really liked how the author intermixed stories of travelers into the narrative.

If you are a WWII or railroad enthusiast, you would really enjoy this book and I would highly recomment. Note though that although the book indicates that it is Railroad Travel in WWII, this book is specific to UK.

I was amazed at how the railroad modified train schedules and planning based on what was going on with the war efforts; contrast that to the railroad in the US which is underwhelming.

Many thanks to NetGalley who has (yet once again) introduced me to a "new to me author"; I would read another book written by Peter Steer.

NetGalley, Colleen Mitchell

About Peter Steer

A life-long railway enthusiast, Peter Steer’s career was as an engineer and manager in the electricity supply industry. He is a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (MIET). Since retirement he has written articles for and edited the Southern Railway Group’s magazine ‘Southern Notebook’. To add to his technical and managerial qualifications he has been awarded a Master of Arts Degree in Railway Studies by the University of York.

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