In the 1980s the Oxford Publishing Company produced an amalgam of two books written by former Branksome fireman Peter Smith entitled Mendips Engineman and Footplate over the Mendips. They told the story of a young railway fireman and his driver Donald Beale working on the fabled Somerset & Dorset line.
Unavailable for over 30 years, the book has now been reprinted. This new version contains the complete original text of the original, but now comes with a new set of black and white images illustrating the remains of this much loved cross-country railway.
Readers will once again be enthralled by these tales of working trains over the Somerset & Dorset line. The books encompasses not just ordinary workings but also the early footplate experiences of driver Donald Beale, as well as the climax of Peter’s own railway career, driving the very last northbound Pines Express in 1962.
Direct travel between Bath and Bournemouth in 2019 is only possible today by using ever more congested roads and in so doing the motorist will witness at places along the way remains of structures and earthworks that was once the route of this long closed line. Each mile could tell a story, tales which the author recounts with accuracy, clarity, and not a little humour. It is a book to be savoured and now available for a new generation to enjoy.