In some respects this is a rather odd publication. It seems to have been published as post script to the Darlington celebrations which had been publicised as “The Centenary of Railways”. This was something of an exaggeration. but marked the world-wide importance of the S&D as the first public railway to use steam locomotives, albeit as only for coal and goods traffic at first. RETROSPECT does place this in context, giving due mention to earlier railway developments, and to the Liverpool and Manchester. Opened in 1830, this could be regarded as the prototype modern railway – no horse haulage, and both passenger and goods conveyed in steam hauled trains.
Randall Davies (1866 – 1948), art historian and biographer of painters, seems an odd choice to commission for this work. He admits that he has relied heavily on Tomlinson’s North Eastern Railway, and Warren’s A Century of Locomotive Building, but he does reveal that he was related to oJohn Dixon, one of George Stephenson’s assistants. He is able to quote from a letter by Dixon describing events at the Rainhill Trials in 1829, which describes Hackworth’s anger over the failure of Sans Pareil to win, despite the fact that it failed to comply with the competition conditions of entry, and his comments verging on the slanderous about sabotage on the part of Stephenson.
RETROSPECT concludes with a chapter considering the world-wide effects of railways, including a coloured print, from the author’s collection depicting the first railway in Japan.
I have never seen RETROSPECT offered for sale in any contemporary LNER advertisements. It is a little difficult to say who the intended readers were. It is expensively produced, printed on Abbey Mills cream laid paper, and contains quite lengthy passages in Latin and French with no English translations. Perhaps it was intended for presentation to selected guests? Certainly, in the early 1960s, in a dusty corner of the Advertising Bill room at York, there was a box containing a number of apparently forgotten copies.