I’ve just had a phone call – 29.1.13 –  from a friend in Frome – wife answered – and he asked if I was in good health. Susan answered in the affirmative and asked why. ‘Well I met a friend last night at the cinema who is a railway enthusiast. He knew that my Frome friend knew me and asked him if he had heard that I was very ill – if not actually deceased’!

I’m amazed that a little incident at the West Middlesex A&E at Christmas has ended up in Frome as a danger to health in January.

So I am in fine fettle, nearly completed my next offering – The Great Western’s Last Year’ and looking forward to starting the next one – ‘Railways in the Vale of the White Horse’.  The ‘Last Year’ book has been a real marathon, 86k words, 100 pix and 12 diagrams to illustrate stories of collision and derailments. I will admit to getting tired these days – I turned 72 in January. I still have the captions to write for all those pictures. The book was intended as one chapter per month but most months now have to have two chapters. What I have done is to use NOTHING but GWR official records, all the Directors’ meetings Minutes plus the General Managers Fortnightly Reports to the Directors plus the GWR Staff Magazine. Then the other half of a chapter – or second chapter for the one month consists of stories of collisions, derailments, trains breaking couplings the latter all written from the GWR  internal reports.

When I did a smaller book along these same lines ‘The Great Western at Work 1919-1939 ‘, published in 1993 using the same Minutes and Reports the Great Western Society’s reviewer, Charles Wetmath said the book was ‘not definitive’. Well, it did not tell the entire story of 20 years existence of a great company but everything that was written was drawn from GWR papers so it was definitive – within the limits of the publishers format.

This ‘Last Year’ book is 86k words for one year so while it still cannot tell everything that happened I’m hoping it will give a good idea of the activities of Britain’s best railway in its last, difficult year.