This was one of the first, if not the first, “part-work” to deal with railways. Launched at 9d per copy in August 1911 (although some later issues carry paper stickers increasing the price to 1/-) It was also about the first time that a quality railway publication was within the reach of a prudent schoolboy, prepared to sacrifice sherbet dips, gobstoppers, “The Magnet” and “Chatterbox” for a couple of weeks. Each issue included a colour frontispiece of the railway’s crest, a full page colour print of one of the company’s passenger carriages (A GWR Brake Composite carriage in this issue), and a stunning double page spread of a locomotive. In this case a Churchward 4-4-2 Atlantic”, No. 190, “Waverley” “Our Home Railways” was published at the end of a fascinating period in British locomotive development – the “4-6-0” or “Atlantic” question.The GWR triaed both, before settling on the 4-6-0, and the “Atlantics” whichhad been built for comparison purposes, were rebuilt to conform At much the same time, the introduction of “superheating” effectively brought compounding to an end, except for some heavy freight locomotive, and of course the Midland which clung to a small engine policy, claiming economies from compounding. A few major companies built a handful of compounds each, most of whicj weere rebuilt as “simples” as superheating showed considerable fuel and water economies, for much lower initial and maintenance costs. The first large passenger locomotives, the Great Northern small boilered “Atlantic” and Aspinalls 4-4-2 for the Lancashire & Yorkshire came out at the end of the 19th .century. (Purists argue that the Aspinall “Highflyer” was not a true “Atlantic, because it had inside cylinders. To that I say “Pish!”) Both were plainly “stretched Victorian” in appearance as was the f”irst GWR 4-6-0, “William Dean”.
The revolution came with the first large boilered GN “Atlantic” No.990 a compact and powerful looking machine, very much of the 20th century. The GN were well satisfied and never built express 4-6-0s The North Eastern were unhappy with theirs, and became an “Atlantic” line, as did the other East coast partner, the North British. The West Coast companies, LNWR and the Caledonian never tried “Atlantics” sticking to 4-6-0s. The Great Central, always short of money, never had enough to invest in a uniform “fleet” of express locos, and so built small “squadrons” of very pretty “Atlantics” – called the “Jersey Lillies” and several types of very robust and powerful looking 4-6-0s. On the GWR, Churchward was very methodical, building a class of locos, almost brutally modern in appearance, half of which were 4-6-0s the others “Atlantics with provision for either to be rebuilt as the other. Extensive trial running favoured the 4-6-0, so the “Atlantics” were rebuilt. As with so many things., it was a question of “horses for courses”. Generally speaking, “Atlantics” were better suited to sustained high speed running, made possible by the steam generating properties of the wide Morton type fireboxes which could be accommodated above the trailing wheels. Such fireboxes were better suited to the softer Yorkshire steam coal used by the Northern lines. The narrow Belpaire firebox on the 4-6-0 was best suited to hard Welsh coal, while the six-coupled wheels gave better adhesion for acceleration and hill climbing.
“Our Home Railways” was later issued as a two volume set, but these and two modern single volume reprints were less than satisfactory, in that for production reasons, the colour plates had to be “grouped” together, divorced from the text relating to their railways. One of the modern reprints even reproduced the colour plates in black & white… These individual parts are worth having for the colour plates alone!