In the course of researching my series of books on the history of railways throughout the world, I found that a large number of them had been unjustly neglected and were out of print. This is a fantastic loss as many of them provide invaluable information on the history of the world’s most important innovation of the 19th century. This Library is an attempt to make up for this loss and ensure the best of these books accessible to a new generation .
The development of the railway was a comprehensive and influential phenomenon that took in every aspect of human life from politics to tourism. As a result hundreds of authors over the past years – including some whose works were published as early as the 1850s – had written books of continuing and general interest. So my friend Nicholas Faith, a fellow railway author, and I came up with the idea of a railway library – their subjects, as you can see from the first half dozen, ranging from the navvies to the history of the ‘Lunatic Line’ from Mombasa to Uganda.
Of course, given the oceans of books devoted to the history of the railway, many are poorty written or provide far too much detail on obscure subjects. Nevertheless, there is a significant minority of these forgotten books which deserve a much wider audience, the millions of people who like and appreciate the railways and rail travel and who will appreciate been able to get a greater understanding of railway history. It is those books which will feature in the Wolmar Railway Library.
Several are books which tend to put the development of the railways in context and which explain the importance of the spread of the iron road. There are also books written by particularly good story-tellers, sometimes about little know and long forgotten lines. There are anthologies of short stories and articles, and straightforward histories of a particular development. One thing they all have in common. They will be of interest to the general reader with an interest in the railways as well as to the lifelong enthusiasts. Choosing the first half dozen has not been easy and we hope, therefore, to bring out further batches very soon in order to build up the Library.
However, choosing the books and, indeed, writing the introductions to them, was only the first step. Since authors’ rights now last until seventy years after their deaths the publishers then had to find the owner of the rights and produce the books in a form which their significance merits. The staff at Head of Zeus have done us proud and Nick and I are convinced that this Library will grow.
We’d welcome any suggestions for other books to include in Library. Feel free to add them to the comments below and we’ll see what we can do about adding them the Library.