Biographical Dictionary of Railway Engineers

Article excerpt

John Marshall, Biographical Dictionary of Railway Engineers, Railway & Canal Historical Society, Oxford (2003), 206 pp., £20.00.

This is a revised and much expanded version of John Marshall's 1978 book of the same name. Those of us who have used the volume for the last quarter-century will know only too well its enormous value as a first point of reference whenever a biographical summary of a railway engineer is sought. It is therefore most helpful that the volume has been republished by the Railway & Canal Historical Society, which is to be congratulated for its endeavour.

There are 725 entries of British and foreign engineers, each of which is provided with birth and death details, where known, a summary of their career and a bibliography of more detailed obituaries, papers and biographies. The volume contains seventy-six additional entries compared with the earlier edition, whilst four have been omitted and one name has been corrected. The subjects were engaged in mechanical, civil and electrical engineering, from the earliest waggonways through to the twentieth century.

Whilst the book provides a remarkable series of compendia of so many individuals, of considerable value to the historian, it is nevertheless unfortunate that a number of more recent biographical sources have not been referenced for several of the engineers. The Transactions of the Newcomen Society, for example, are a rich source of biographical information, but recent editions appear not to have been consulted, or at least listed in the individual bibliographies. An opportunity has therefore been lost to increase the comprehensiveness of the volume.

Whilst many of the individuals listed will be familiar to those of us with an interest in railway and engineering history, a surprising number are not 'household' names. …