The Somerset & Dorset from the footplate


Peter Smith’s two books ‘Mendips Engineman’ (1972) and ‘Footplate over the Mendips’ (1978) are probably the best memoirs I have read written by someone with real footplate experience - in his case starting as a cleaner in 1953 at Branksome Shed, Bournemouth which was the southern depot of the Somerset and Dorset line north to Bath.

Especially in its northern section this had ferocious gradients, tight tunnels, and long single-line sections with BR 9F 2-10-0s being used for the peak summer services.

Peter tells of his personal experiences on this route as he progressed up to driving turns, and of stories he heard from other drivers, notably Donald Beale who was his regular driver and mentor.

If you haven’t read these books, they are very informative, interesting and frequently gently amusing - in other words very good reads and both are combined in this single volume. 284 text pages and 32 pages of B&W photos. Paperback.