It's cards on the table time. We like trains, and enjoy travelling on them, but don't really know all that much about them, and would certainly not consider ourselves to be "enthusiasts". Having said that, we do sometimes appreciate the character and heritage of the railway signalling boxes we stumble over, so approached this book in the hope that we would learn much more about the subject. We weren't disappointed.
This is one of a series of books the author has produced, looking at different railway lines and geographical areas. In his introduction, the author notes that: "The major centres have had their signalling updated since the 1960s and so only the secondary lines and branch lines tend to still operate mechanical signalling. All of the East Coast Main Line has been modernised, indeed some of it is currently being re-done, so the book - which is divided into journeys where that is possible or desirable - follows mainly secondary and branch lines." From a Scottish perspective the book covers the North British Railway and the Great North of Scotland Railway. For those unfamiliar with the coverage of the old railway companies, this means the lines from Perth and Fife to Aberdeen; the West Highland line to Fort William; lines around Falkirk and Rosyth; and the line from Aberdeen to Inverness.
Within each section there are numerous photographs of signal boxes and other railway buildings, route maps, and informative text. Yes, it might be fair to describe the subject of the book as addressing a subject of interest to a niche market: but it is a subject that forms part of the heritage we all enjoy, an evocative reminder of a disappearing world. This is certainly a book we see ourselves referring back to: it strikes us as the definitive book on its subject, and that is always something to be admired.
The first third of the book looks at what the cover calls "The CLC Routes", which turn out to be railway lines between Chester, Manchester and Liverpool. These sit oddly with the Scottish coverage of the remaining two thirds of the book, but presumably this arrangement arose from the need to fit different groups of lines within a multi-volume series.