HIGHLAND ENGINES AND THEIR WORK – by C. Hamilton Ellis, Locomotive Publishing Company Limited, 1930[ebook]


Hard cover book, green boards, gilt embossed title, 8.5”x 5.5”, pp118, 40 B&W half tone photographs on coated paper, five line drawings


This is the first published book by Cuthbert Hamilton Ellis, one of the heading railway historians, writers and artists of the last century

Considering that the author was an undergraduate only 20 years old, who admitted that during its conception, he should have been reading for his “Schools”, it was a remarkable achievement. While he would have had access to the finest library in England, the Bodlean,  outside the British Museum, there was no internet, or PCs, laptops or word processors, and the actual records of the Highland Railway were located hundreds of miles away. It is not surprising that there were errors (one reviewer listed several dozen) but given the thousands of dates, numbers, renumberings, namings, renamings, measurements, etc. which it contained, one has to say that it was not a bad “Prentice” effort. ((The late Ken Hoole identified over 60 errors in C. J. Allen’s London & North Eastern Railway. Even Homer nods!)

In 1952, Hamilton Ellis wrote about the distinctive Jones Highland chimney “In days of callow youth, your author thought it a ‘contraption’, and in an immature book* he called it so. When it excited derision, it was the facile and ignorant derision of those who automatically condemn the unfamiliar and the foreign.

 * inaccurate, but now scarce and quite expensive.

 My copy shows signs, after 90 years, of having been well read and possibly well loved. It has many loose pages, some of which in antiquity, have been stuck in with primitive self adhesive cellulose tape, which has long since disappeared as the glue has perished, leaving unsightly brown stains and releasing the pages again.

For all its faults, it remains a very interesting and readable book. The author, just out of his teens is already displaying his distinctive style, blending research, general scholarship, anecdote and personal experiences, with Scots dialect, classical quotes and references, with a superior use of the English language.



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