They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. It's worth making an exception for "Anglo-Scottish Sleepers" by David Meara. The highly attractive cover, based on a 1985 British Rail poster advertising Saver Fares on Intercity Sleepers, wraps around a superb book. It has to be said that this is a fairly specialist subject that it would have been all too easy to approach in a way that made it of interest only to and accessible only by enthusiasts. Instead the author should be congratulated on writing a book that brings his subject to life in an engaging and interesting way. The format certainly helps. The nicely-written text is illustrated by a large number of very varied images. Yes, there are photographs of trains, both black & white and colour, but there are also railway advertising posters; plans of early sleeper carriages; timetables; onboard photographs; maps of services; cutaways; and more.
After a brief preface, the book divides into five chapters. The first recounts the experience of using the Anglo-Scottish Sleepers. The second discusses the history of the service, beginning 150 years ago in an era when passengers were advised to bring their own bedding to use on night trains. The steady improvement in facilities and comfort over the period since is charted, especially with the introduction of specialised sleeping carriages in the 1870s and 1880s. The story of the 1900s was one of fluctuating fortunes, while the modern era sees the surviving services looking optimistically towards a period of modernisation and expansion.
The story of the Motorail era is then recounted, from trains designed to transport horses and carriages through to the widespread use and carriage by train of the motor car in the 1930s and the eventual demise of the last Motorail service in 1997. The Scottish portions of the three surviving sleeper routes, from London to Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen, are then described, both geographically and historically. The final chapter is entitled "'Anything is Possible on a Train': Stories from the Sleepers", and recounts a series of encounters and adventures on sleepers, told by passengers, attendants, drivers and operational staff.
All in all this is a lovely book that will certainly appeal to enthusiasts, but also seems likely to appeal to anyone who's ever travelled on a sleeper service, or thought it might be nice to do so.