THE RAILS provide the inspiration for Chris Arnot’s latest book.
‘Small Island by Little Train: a narrow-gauge adventure’ is an off-beat adventure to remote parts in celebration of our small island – from the perspective of narrow-gauge railways.
The Coventry scribe has for decades delivered entertaining prose from his garden shed-come-office, and latterly from his converted loft – for his idiosyncratic books, including Britain’s Lost Cricket Grounds, Britain’s Lost Breweries and Beers and Britain’s Lost Mines.
Narrow-gauge steam locomotives and other trains trundled on terrain which mainlines could not reach – from sharp bends to steep gradients. Often built by the owners of slate mines, quarries or dairies, today they carry passengers around some stunning landscapes.
Chris said: “I was approached by my former publisher who is unofficially my agent who asked: ‘How do you fancy writing a travel book for the AA?’
“First of all, I wondered if it was a bit anorakish. He replied: ‘Don’t write it for the railway buffs. Write what you see from both sides from the windows.’
“I wondered in my 68th year whether I was too old for adventures. It became an adventure around a country that is incredibly varied.”
Far from his Coventry converted loft, Chris while researching found himself tumbling down a steep railway embankment in the wilds of Scotland, en route to visit Santa Claus down a disused lead mine. Next, he was groping his way across a treacherous track in pitch darkness in coastal Cumbria.
‘Small Island by Little Train’ is packed with unusual stories, from a miniature Kent coast railway once used for Home Guard military trains during the Second World War and now for the local school commute; to the UK’s only Alpine-style rack-and-pinion railway, scaling one of Britain’s highest mountains.
‘Small Island by Little Train: a narrow-gauge adventure’ is published by the AA at £16.99.