Books that have been read by book reviewers can sometimes have a rather dog-eared "second hand" feel to them. As you read through the book, the temptation to fold over the corners of pages to allow you to find some point or passage you wish to refer back to can be overwhelming. But just occasionally you find yourself handling a book that has been so beautifully produced and of such obvious enduring value that it would simply feel wrong to mark it in any way.
When we read "Regional Tramways, Scotland" by Peter Waller it was to the accompaniment of assorted scraps of paper that could be inserted into the book as non-destructive placeholders. This really is an outstanding book. Large format and, as already implied, beautifully produced, it comes with a truly outstanding collection of large photographs, many taken, as the author notes in his introduction, by his late father, Michael H. Waller.
With the exception of a single preserved line in an industrial museum in central Scotland, and the more recent reintroduction of trams in Edinburgh, trams largely went out of use in Scotland's cities during the 1950s, with the last disappearing from the streets of Glasgow in 1962. To leaf through the pages of this book is therefore to take a journey back in time, to an era that can now be remembered by a diminishing number of people. To see that era brought to life in such a vivid and immediate way is a real joy.
But this is far more than just a picture book, however good its illustrations. It is also a superbly researched history of trams in Scotland. The book begins with an overview of the story of trams across the country from the 1840s onwards. We then move on to chapters looking in considerable detail at the stories of trams in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow between the end of World War Two and their demise in each city. In each case the route networks are described and mapped, and the different types of vehicles discussed. And in each case the inevitable path of decline and closure is charted, showing clearly the reasons why trams were viewed at the time as fit only for replacement by buses. Edinburgh's modern trams are briefly covered, and there's a nice section at the end on the (limited) preservation of Scottish trams. Definitely a book we'll be referring to time and again, and one we're very happy to have left unmarked!