Some years ago, when I was working as a “Fin de siècle” free-lance hack writer and photographer, I was approached by one of the London Boroughs to write a local walk guide. They had something very simple in mind, but I produced a synopsis and mock – up of what I reckoned a good guide should be like. “An agreeable and informative companion when out and about, but also a good read in an armchair at home, with a trip in prospect or retrospect. There should be a high ratio of fact to opinions, quality historic and contemporary illustrations, decent mapping and the format of pocket size”. Extra money was found, and the resulting publication had to be reprinted to meet demand, two further guides were commissioned, and eventually a “combined” edition of numbers 1 and 2 was published.
“Mountain, Moor and Loch” fits these criteria admirably. It fits comfortably into the side patch pocket of one’s Norfolk jacket and is pleasant to handle in comfort at home, with pipe well alight and a glass of malt to hand.
The West Highland Railway was a creature of the North British Railway. Nominally independent it was largely financed and always worked by the NBR. A major reason for its promotion, was to try and block the Caledonian Railway from gaining access to NBR territory in NE Scotland. Please see George Dow’s “The Story of the West Highland” which we have available at BTT for detailed history. The NBR had as allies, the English railways, Midland, North Eastern and Great Northern, so at the outset, the author takes the reader gently by the elbow, and guides him to King’s Cross, for an East Coast train to Edinburgh, followed by brief descriptions of places of interest to be seen on a day time journey to Edinburgh. As an alternative, our footsteps are guided to St. Pancras next door, for a trip to Edinburgh via the Midland and the NBR “Waverley” route. In both cases, the next stage of the journey is by NBR metals to Glasgow. While this book is not an “official” railway publication, there has obviously been some influence exerted behind the scenes. The shorter West Coast route to Glasgow via the London & North Western and Caledonian Railways has been “air-brushed” out of the picture!
Unlike several contemporary railway guides, where the line itself is not illustrated, here there are station views, a train interior, bridges, viaducts and tiny trains in the landscape, sometimes only detectable by a plume of smoke in the far distance. “There are “Historic” pictures recreating stirring events, views of peaceful Lochs and busy paddle steamers.
The artists are unfortunately not named but their work is of high quality, particularly some of the pen and ink sketches. This is a thoroughly delightful book. A download on a memory stick, would make a wonderful gift for anyone who loves the West Highlands.