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The St Ives Branch Line: A History (Hardback)

Local History British History Transport 20th Century Trains and Railways England 19th Century

By Richard C Long, Foreword by Tim Dunn
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 184
Illustrations: 90 colour & black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399002004
Published: 28th July 2022
This Week's Best Sellers Rank: #4


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In 1963 comic duo Flanders and Swann composed Slow Train - a lament for some of the many railway lines proposed for closure by Dr Beeching. Among the destinations listed in their song is the refrain “from St Erth to St Ives”. Constructed in 1877 as the last broad gauge line to be built in the UK, the St Ives branch did not close in the 1960s and survives to this day – now widely regarded as one of the most scenic railways in Europe. How did it escape closure, and how did it come to be built in the first place?

Why did the war departments of the world have their eyes on St Ives in the years before the First World War? How did a town once renowned for the inescapable smell of fish become one of the most popular tourist resorts in the UK? Did the Great Western Railway invent the Cornish Riviera? Why was a heliport proposed for St Erth? Where did a 32-ton ballast digger end-up in 2008? And how did two young men find themselves four miles from the nearest station in 1860…?

Containing over 100 images, mostly in colour and many never published before, this book sets out to answer these and many more questions.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What a fantastic and fascinating book this is.

I have travelled on all the Cornwall branch lines (except the Gunnislake, which starts over the border at Plymouth), so was delighted to look at this book with its history of the origins, development and history of the line from St Erth to St Ives.

Starting with the origins of the line, Richard Long's book takes us on a journey across the late Victorian age into the 20th century and bang up-to-date, with all the dramas, uncertainty and achievements meticulously chronicled.

There are several splendid photographs to accompany the narrative and I was also pleased to see references to the Isle of Wight!

The wealth of history around the line is one that is bound to delight railway and social history enthusiasts alike. It will provide hours of pleasure.

NetGalley, Alison Starnes

This is an incredibly well researched and detailed overview of the history of the St Ives branch line. There is an exceptionally in-depth summary of how the branch came into being, some of the obstacles it faced along the way and some thoughts about its future.

The photographs are so clear and vivid, and it is amazing to see how the landscape has changed over the years (and actually which parts have stayed untouched). This is an area of the country that I know very well, but I learnt a great deal about the history of the branch.

NetGalley, Alex Wilson

About Richard C Long

Describing himself as a "full-time dad and part-time writer", life-long railway enthusiast Richard Long was born in Hampshire in 1972 and has lived in East London for the past two decades. A history graduate and former bookseller, he has written a number of books about railways in the south of England, including Ryde Rail: A History of Tube Trains on the Isle of Wight.

As a regular visitor the West Country, and to St Ives in particular, Richard has long been fascinated by the town, its history and its spectacularly scenic branch line.

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