Everyone has their own idea of what a railway is and
there is no single defining image of the railway concept.
Yet it has to be said that some railways are definitely
stranger than others!
Why have two rails when just one will do? Ireland
has the utterly bizarre Listowel & Ballybunion Railway,
where Siamese twin-like double locomotives run on a
Britain is also home to a working steam monorail,
while one train from a 1960s’ bid to invent a high-speed
hovertrain survives, as do both carriages from the
country’s first dabbling in magnetic levitation.
Steam, diesel and electric locomotives and horses are
not the only form of traction: sail power has been used
on British lines, and if your line is steep enough, why not
let the train roll by itself from one end to another? Why
have traction at all, when, as Brunel discovered, you can
pull trains along at high speeds by a vacuum pipe in the
middle of the tracks?
Railways can be designed for any location, and used
to tackle any task or terrain, no matter how difficult or
improbable. For example, the wartime railways on the
tiny Bristol Channel seagull sanctuary of Steep Holm, the
world’s smallest public railway in Norfolk, a secret
system serving Britain’s nuclear bunker city beneath
Wiltshire, the country’s own prison railway where
Borstal boys pushed wagonloads of mud, the numerous
lines built to collect potatoes from the Lincolnshire fens,
and Bristol’s forgotten funicular line, to name but some.
And if you think Brunel was over the top with his broad
gauge, what about the man who has a garden railway
where the locomotive is too big to run on any modern
Discover these and many, many more in Britain’s
Bizarre Railways, a book which opens many new
doors into the understanding and appreciation of
the concept of railways – however insane!
A graduate of the University of Central
England, Robin Jones, founding editor of
Heritage Railway magazine, was a news
editor and chief investigative reporter at
the Birmingham Evening Mail, and over the
years has produced several books and
special publications, along with historical
features for numerous other newspapers
He has been interested in railways from a
very early age, when his elder brother Stewart
took him trainspotting at Widney Manor
station in Solihull at the age of four, at the
end of the British Railways steam age.
Imprint: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 0 85704 022 0, hardback, 214mmx213mm, 144 pages. Published November 2010. Reprinted May 2012.