Our Iron Roads, by Frederick Smeeton Williams, 7th Edition 1888 [ebook]


Hard cover book, embossed reddish brown cloth boards, gilt embossed engraving of locomotives and snowplough stuck in a drift 8.75” 5.75”. pp520, numerous steel engravings, vignette size up to full page, stations, bridges, viaducts, rolling stock, railway equipment, etc.


Frederick Smeeton Williams (1829 – 26 October 1886) was an English minister in the Congregational Church ,the son of another minister. Both were prolific writers. Frederick was educated at University College, London, and entered New College, St. John’s Wood, in 1850, as a student for the ministry.

Williams was widely known as a writer on English railways. In 1852 while still a 23 year old student, he published his most important work, ‘Our Iron Roads: their History, Construction, and Social Influences’ which reached a seventh edition in 1888, selling in all over10,000 copies. The book gives a detailed account of the early history of the railways in Britain and explains at length the construction of embankments, cuttings, tunnels and viaducts. It was amongst the first works n railways by a lay author, aimed at a general readership, rater than professional railwaymen and engineers. From the historian’s point of view, it is a valuable description of the railway network s it was beginning to emerge from infancy toward maturity. One can not but admire the sheer volume of research work, let alone writing the MS, with no modern aids like word processors, photo copiers, or telephones to help. Clergy in the 19th c seem to have had a lot of time on their hands, but the book is still a remarkable achievement for a 23 year old divinity student.

In 1857 Frederick became pastor of the newly formed congregation at Claughton, near Birkenhead, but, resigning the charge some years later, he resided for a time with his father at Sibbertoft. in 1861 he became tutor at the Congregational Institute in conjunction with the principal, the Rev. John Brown Paton, and remained in that position until his death. This post evidently offered plenty of time for research and writing, for in 1876 he published a pioneering work, ‘The Midland Railway: its Rise and Progress’, which attained a fifth edition in 1888.He died at Nottingham on 26 Oct. 1886, and was buried in the church cemetery on 30 Oct. He left a widow and eight children .In 1876 appeared ‘The Midland Railway: its Rise and Progress’, which attained a fifth edition in 1888.This was the first detailed history of a major British railway as it was approaching its zenith.



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