For decades, the world has been treated to railway paintings by renowned artists such as Terence Cuneo, Don Breckon and David Shepherd. I’ve even had the pleasure of briefly meeting David on a couple of occasions. Recently, I became aware of another artist whose works have been captured in his latest book An Odyssey in Steam Rocket to Evening Star.
To be totally honest, the sub title’s suggestion of a long time frame did not appeal to me personally. There have been so many publications covering the development of railways that another one failed to initially interest me. I have read numerous books about the development of the railways but find that I’m more interested in twentieth-century progress. I can relate to it more as I have experienced the magic of locomotives and rolling stock of that era. However, I was very attracted to the book cover. This depicts Mallard and Flying Scotsman in company with less famous East Coast Main Line Pacific’s Merry Hampton and Alkazar. They say you can never judge a book by its cover but most of us do! I opened the book.
I feel it worth saying that this is only the second book of railway paintings that I have in my collection. The first is Don Breckon’s GWR which has been a favourite of mine for many years.
Having read the jacket notes about David Bell, it became obvious why I was not familiar with his work. Over many years David’s paintings had featured maritime subjects. Indeed his first four books, which have received critical acclaim, include A Nautical Odyssey An illustrated maritime history from Cook to Shackleton.
David Bell now brings his incredible talent to the world of steam locomotives. What struck me immediately was the perfect representation of the front end of a Gresley A4. Throughout David’s book, he has painted the A4s from different perspectives. I never tired of coming across A4s Bugatti styling depicted in David’s paintings. Of course, the book features other locomotives besides A4s. Both LNER and LMS Pacifics are depicted with great style and atmosphere as well as a smattering of Southern Railway and Great Western Railway mainline engines.
David has also painted the larger BR Standard locomotives. This was a real treat for me as particularly the painting 9F 92214. Not only does it have Somerset and Dorset connections but I knew some of the team involved in its restoration from Barry condition including the late and wonderful Peter Lange. He was an ex British Rail fireman from Edgehill locomotive depot in Liverpool.
I found the accompanying text and captions to the paintings very informative and interesting. There is just enough technical historical detail, and indeed David’s personal recommendations, to entice the reader to turn the pages and absorb the detail of the wonderful paintings. This is a quality publication and I can highly recommend adding it to your collection whether you are a railway enthusiast or lover of art. It would also make a great gift.
Which locomotive would you liked to see painted by David?