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The Great Central Railway (Hardback)

What Really Happened

British History Transport Photographic Books Colour Books Trains and Railways 19th Century

By John Palmer
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 344
Illustrations: 150 colour & black and white illustrations & maps
ISBN: 9781526777898
Published: 18th November 2020

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For generations of railway enthusiasts and more latterly for social historians, the life and times of the former Great Central Railway and in particular its extension towards London in the 1890s and closure seventy years later, have generated considerable interest and controversy.

Although many books have been written about the Railway, the majority in recent times have concentrated upon providing a photographic record and a nostalgic look in retrospect to what was generally perceived as happier times for the route.

None of the books have presented the outcome from thorough research into the business aspects of the Railway and its successive private (L N E R) and public ( B R ) ownerships through war and peace, times of industrial, social and political change, that influenced and shaped the demand for a railway service.

While retaining a strong railway theme throughout, the book identifies the role played by successive governments , the electricity and coal industries and the effect of social change that, together resulted in a case for closure.

The content of the book replaces much supposition with fact and places on record what really happened.

The final part of the book acknowledges the fine work over half a century of volunteers dedicated to saving a section of the line in Leicestershire.

This is a weighty book with some photographs and maps but mostly text. It is a valuable addition to the social and political history of railways.

The Railway Correspondence and Travel Society, The Railway Observer, April 2021

Book Of The Month

The final words go to GC Railway Society President Adrian Shooter, who as the boss of Chiltern Railways successfully operated the surviving southern section of the route into Marylebone: “This book an erudite piece of work is very readable. I found the manuscript very difficult to put down.” So will you.

Steam World, March 2021

Review by Roger Backhouse

... overall, it is a good addition to railway histories using sources other rail historians could usefully follow.

York Model Engineers newsletter

About John Palmer

John Palmer was born in 1948 and became a member of an extended family of railwaymen.


Home was in the railway town of Derby, close to the Midland main line and the Great Northern line to Nottingham Victoria, employment within the railway industry naturally followed and John entered service in the department of the chief mechanical and electrical engineer.


Shortly afterwards he was selected for a management training scheme, a career of 33 years in contract and project management work in the U K and overseas was enjoyed and also allowed ample opportunity to pursue his own natural interest in all things railway.

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