There are railway books and there are railway books. "Rail Rover: Scotland in the 1970s and 1980s" by Arnie Furniss is, indisputably, a railway book, but it's a railway book with a difference. Many will be familiar with Amberley Publishing's books about railways. They usually comprise an introduction setting a particular aspect of railway history or geography in context, and this is usually followed by a collection of photographs of trains, with detailed captions. The results are invariably good, and they invariably provide enthusiasts with access to detailed information about their subject. There's a sense in which they serve to capture aspects of railway history that might otherwise be lost, and ensure they are preserved for future generations to appreciate.
"Rail Rover: Scotland in the 1970s and 1980s" by Arnie Furniss, looks, at first sight, to fit this pattern. It's only when you look a little more closely that you realise it's something rather different. Yes, there are plenty of good photographs of Scottish trains and railways taken during the 1970s and 1980s, and the captions are as full and as informative as you could hope. In addition, however, you get the engaging and entertaining story of the author's love affair with Scottish trains and railways, and of his extensive travels in Scotland during the period covered: travels that were only possible, initially at least, because of tickets called Rail Rovers that gave holders the freedom of Scotland's railways, and of some of its ferries, too.
The author sets the scene in his introduction. "This is the short version of how I got interested in trains and my favourite country, Scotland - the land that I travelled and loved in the 1970s and 1980s. Starting with excursions and special offers, ending up with rail rovers and free passes, the latter when I joined the railways, I always came back to Scotland. The Rail Rover? That would be me. Ticket or choice of lifestyle? I leant towards the latter in the above era, when funds permitted. In reality, it was both... In the 1970s it seemed to be a realm well-suited to the diesel enthusiast willing to spend short nights on steam-heated and often crowded rolling stock. The rewards in Scotland far exceeded the discomforts.'
The result is a book that will certainly appeal to railway enthusiasts, but which might also capture the hearts of others simply looking for a rather different account of travel experiences in the 1970s and 1980s.