Quite by chance I came across this book "Raised on Steam - the pre-war railway photographs of Frank Carrier selected and described by his son Michael Carrier" on a shelf, almost certainly the wrong one, in W.H.Smiths. The publishers - Silverlink books (website
) succeeded in catching my attention with a photo of a gleaming 6220 "Coronation" just below the title on the front cover.
Taking the book down for a browse, I was captivated by the first two chapters - "South of Derby" and "Derbyshire" which had page after page of double headed small engines working the Midland main line in the late 20s and early 30s; many 4-4-0s, 2-4-0s, class 2 and 3 0-6-0s. Apart from the magnificent photo of 6220, even the "North Western Lines" chapter features locomotives that had mostly disappeared by 1950. Having thought it over for a while, in other words, put it back, left the shop and stood for five minutes in a queue at Costa for a coffee, I abandoned my wife in the queue, returned to Smiths and handed over the £16.99 cover price. I was back at Costa just as a table was free for us to sit down.
I have now read through the book once. Each photo has a comprehensive caption giving details of the locomotive in question, including its designer, builder, date of introduction and subsequent demise.
Frank Carrier worked in the drawing office at Derby where he was highly regarded as a "draughtsman". To those unfamiliar with the workings of a railway company's design works, it should be pointed out that the responsibilities of a "draughtsman" went beyond putting pen to paper but included a lot interpretation of the designer's intention and not a little design as well. Apart from his work in the drawing office, Frank Carrier was an avid photographer of railway engines. Not just the "mainline" stuff but also those small and sometimes bizarre looking little engines which worked quarries and coal mines in Derbyshire, north Wales and the north east of England. Thus other chapters in the book include "Welsh Lines", "The North East" and "Scotland".
As Derby is not a million miles from the East Coast Main line, it is not surprising that there should be a chapter entitled "LNER Miscellany". To me this chapter brings home the magnitude of the changes wrought on the LMS by a man barely mentioned in the book - Stanier. For three chapters, we are shown photos of small locomotives from the late 19th century double heading passenger trains on the LMS. Even the Claughton 4-6-0s seem "old fashioned". Then we come to chapter four - the LNER and are immediately confronted by the familiar sight of a Gresley A1. Yes, the design dates from 1923 but compared to what has gone before it is modern, powerful and familiar.
The charm and attraction of this book is that it shows a whole railway was being run with steam locomotives you just can't buy off the shelf in model form. Even the Fowler 4F contrives to look modern! And yet within 10 years, the situation changes; Stanier's designs come on line and the old stagers from the last century retire after almost 50 years work.
Frank Carrier's contacts in the railway world led him to taking some photos which are possibly unique, for example the shot of Garrett 4999 at the head of a test passenger train, a journey it did not complete. There are also photos of "Fury", the Beyer Peacock Ljungstrom turbo condensing engine, LNER 10000 in original form at the Wavertree exhibition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Liverpool & Manchester railway and turbomotive 6202.
There are few photos from after the war. Frank Carrier was taken ill and died in 1952 aged 52. His son, Michael who selected the photos, often accompanied his father on his photographic trips and it is clear from the photos, from a young age. The effect of this "raising on steam" as he puts it, led him to a career on the railways, though he worked on the operations side, influenced he says by his visits to signal boxes.
Whilst the cover price of £16.99 is high for a book which is bound to be peripheral to many people's particular modelling interests, I found this to be a fascinating book showing subjects which had disappeared by the time other photographic masters such as Eric Treacy had got into their stride. If you decide this price is too high, watch out for it in second hand sections or bargain offers, but don't expect to see my copy there, I'm keeping it.