The Railway Preservation Revolution

A History of Britain's Heritage Railways

Jonathan Brown

Date Published :
August 2017
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
100 color & black and white illustrations and location maps
No associated books available.


A ride on a steam train is a popular family outing. More than 100 heritage railways cater for that demand, capturing the spirit of nostalgia while preserving the engines and equipment of past days of rail travel. Their interests even extend to the modern era of 1960's - 70's diesels.

Those heritage railways themselves have a long pedigree, back to 1951, when a group of enthusiasts saved the Talyllyn Railway in mid-Wales from closure. They ran this railway as volunteers, out of their love of the little trains and a desire to keep it going. Their example was followed by many more preservation societies who preserved and restored branch lines, country lines and industrial lines for our enjoyment now.

Six decades have passed, and we are now beginning to realize what an impressive history the heritage railway movement has. This book traces that history, from the humble beginnings the hopes and ambitions of the pioneers on the different railway projects. There were times of failure and frustration, as some fell by the wayside, but others have made it through times of adversity to become the major heritage businesses of today.

About The Author

Jonathan Brown is a rural and business historian, and is now Hon Fellow at the Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, where he has worked in various capacities for a number of years. He has written extensively, producing Tracing Your Rural Ancestors for Pen & Sword in 2011. He has also written Steam on the Farm (2008) and histories of the engineering firms, Allens of Oxford and Barrett, Exall & Andrewes of Reading Iron Works (the latter in conjunction with Roy Green). His father introduced him to the early preserved railways in the 1950s, and he has followed their progress ever since, a member of a number of the preservation societies at different times.


“This superb book reinforces the notion that the people of this country, together with our tourist friends from all over the world, can see the benefits of reviving and maintaining the various heritage railways that now run in our little country. There is an appetite for nostalgia that was never satisfied so well as with a journey on a steam railway. Magical.”

- Books Monthly

An extremely informative and thoughtful account of an important phase of recent railway history. It is well produced with an interesting selection of almost all colour photographs. There can be few people with an interest in today's railways who will be unmoved by the heritage aspect.

- Friends of the National Railway Museum

A splendid history of Britain's heritage railways.

- Evergreen, Winter 2017

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