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“Locomotives of the GSWR” by McMahon, Clements & O’Rourke

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Just had this delivered and even first glance prompts me to put pen to paper - or finger to keyboard.

As one might expect, given the previous works of the authors, this is a masterpiece and will become a major reference work for ANYONE interested in Irish railways. 

The “green Bible”, covering all GSR locos is now well known and one of the most thumbed-through in my collection. Same with this new one: it is exceptionally and painstaking well-researched, using as many prime original reference sources as possible.

The GSWR was, of course, Ireland’s biggest railway company, so it is only to be expected that its locomotive history would be complex. Undaunted, the authors have unearthed much detail which was hitherto little-known; the entire subject matter being of great interest to me, personally, given my grandfather’s entire working life in the Drawing Office at Inchicore, going back to the last quarter of the GSWR’s life. 

Since many GSWR locos lasted until the end of steam in CIE days in the early 1960s, it is of interest (indeed, essential) to anyone modelling Irish railways prior to 1963; a growing band of people, indeed - and not before time, given all the potential material available.

This book will encourage more people to do so, hopefully (cue a RTR 400 class, D17 or “Maedb”, somewhere??).

A truly excellent publication, which I’ll be spending quite a good few of the forthcoming days poring over!

To the authors and publishers (Collon Press), very well done. An absolutely superb piece of work.

Edited by jhb171achill
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I have contacted the publisher today so I hope I will get a response soon, then I can add it to the growing list of Irish Railway books, the next two items I need are a win on the euro lottery and secondly a bigger house for the book and model railway collections 😂 😂 😂.


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Mine was ordered within minutes of an email from Alan O'Rourke. Very easy - just use the email contact details on the flyer to advise your location and you'll get a PayPal request from Michael McMahon in your currency (£40 stg in my case). Quick, simple, and painless except for the wallet!

I think all subscribers to New Irish Lines should have the same email.

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  • 2 weeks later...

OK, now I've read it. Took a few days!


by Jeremy Clements, Michael McMahon and Alan O'Rourke

(Collon Publishing, Collon, Co. Louth)

As would be expected, given the previous works of all three authors, this work promised to leave absolutely no stone unturned in terms of research, attention to detail, and the covering of all aspects of any issues which might have had several different research sources.

At the start, in keeping with this thoroughness, the authors point out that not all records have survived, and thus given the passage of time, some small gaps are inevitable in the information covered. Nevertheless, the content is very detailed, as one would expect for a work which draws heavily on the copious notes of the late R N Clements, arguably Ireland's greatest ever expert on Irish steam traction.

Many of us will be familiar with the "Big Green Book", or "GSR Bible", and this book is set out in much the same way. The authors refer in the introduction to the necessity to have a standard way of notation for all locomotive classes, given the bewildering array of styles used by the GSR, the GSWR of the immediately preceding era, and earlier GSWR notations. R N Clements' own system based on Roman numerals is included - once one takes the time to get one's head round Bob Clements' logic, it all falls into place.

Many of the locomotive classes covered are obscure one-offs, but the efforts made to standardise some practices and components is well covered, as is the relationship between the early component companies of the GSWR, with their differing localised traction requirements. Naturally, the acquisition of the Waterford, Limerick & Western Railway by the GSWR in 1901, and the attendant absorbtion of its own locomotive fleet is well covered.

Illustrations are many and varied, all in black and white bar one on the title page, which is worthy of note in itself; it shows a large scale model locomotive (now in the headquarters of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in London), which is the only known example of exact GSWR green paint, and the lining style used from about 1870 or so to the mid or late 1870s. This was used as a model to glean details for the accurate livery now portrayed on GSWR No. 90 at Downpatrick.

Of interest to many is the complex story of the evolution, development, and later improvements, alterations and rebuilds of many classes of locomotive, as these were many and varied. I was personally very interested in the information relating in this regard to the J15s, probably the most versatile Irish locomotive ever - it's no coincidence that many of these which dated back to the 1870s managed to survive until the end of steam traction in 1963. 

This is, overall, a reference work of the very highest quality, like its predecessor. It will be the standard academic work on the complex, and fascinating, locomotive history of this, Ireland's biggest pre-1925 railway company. If I was to have any criticism, and it's a tiny one, it might be that a slightly more complex index be included - but in the grand scheme of things, this is a small detail. This book is an absolute must to any student of Irish railways, and is released at a time when interest in the pre-diesel era in Ireland is, thankfully, rapidly growing.

If you haven't bought it, buy it! It isn't the cheapest book you'll ever buy, but the quality and depth of the information between its covers makes it absolutely worth every red cent.

Congratulations to all three authors!

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My copy arrived today, only eight days to get to Lincolnshire!

I totally agree with JHB's comments my only disappointment was the flat finish paper instead of gloss which takes photos better. But what a book unseen before photos, dimensions and well reasoned comments. Top marks to the Authors and I shall dive into it as soon as I've built a flatpack dining table from Ikea.!

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