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Book reviews — October 1985

LONDON UNDER LONDON. A subterranean guide. By Richard Trench & Ellis Hillman
Published by John Murray. £14.95
All you GLIAS members with troglodytic tendencies beware. Swooping into a bookshop one day with a book voucher burning a hole in my pocket, I saw a copy of the above book on display. I have a love of London both above and below street level, so eagerly I parted with my voucher.

My first impression was the odd way in which the book is laid out. It starts with the shelters of World War 2, goes on to subterranean rivers and then meanders through a labyrinth of London under London. I would have been happier to have read about what is lying beneath our feet, in a more chronological order.

Messrs. Trench (what an apt name!) and Hillman feed us plenty of interesting information but sadly it is not all accurate. For instance a photograph is captioned: "The construction of the Crossness sewage treatment works at Beckton, at the confluence of the Thames and Barking Creek." For the uninformed, Crossness and Barking are on opposite banks of the river Thames and two miles apart. The southern outfall works, it is stated, are at Plumstead. Wrong again, Plumstead is over two miles distant from Crossness, the true site of the works. The hydraulic pressure supplied by the London Hydraulic Power Co. is incorrectly quoted and the location of tunnels, superimposed on H.W. Brewer's 1890 view of the City of London are misaligned, in one instance by as much as two bridges. There are other errors. So, what could have been a thoroughly good and interesting book turns out to be one in which one has to check the accuracy of the statements made. PETER SKILTON

GREAT RAILWAY STATIONS OF EUROPE. Text by Marcus Binney, photographs by Manfred Hamm and notes by Axel Foehl
144 pp. 107 illustrations (50 in colour). £16.00, Thames & Hudson 1984. ISBN 0 500 01346 2
A really lavish production glorying in the great railway stations of Europe and superbly illustrated by the usual excellent photographs of Manfred Hamm (now using roll-film cameras — there are some double-page spreads e.g. Antwerp, Cologne, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Liverpool St, Milan, St. Pancras and York), this book is not unduly expensive for what it is. Marcus Binney writes an introductory gloss drawing from tourist guide books and quoting period information on food and porters. For the short essays about each country the flavour is aesthetic and again there are quotations. The historical and technical notes on the stations illustrated, by Axel Foehl, give dates and some information on structure. One of my favourite stations, Haarlem (dating from 1900 in Art Nouveau style) is squeezed in at the end. This station is in such fine condition (I have been there recently) it calls for a visit to Holland in itself and indeed the initial effect of this book is to make one consider a grand European tour on a rail pass (but remember the train journeys between stations may be boring in comparison). Spain and Portugal look particularly exciting. Nine countries are covered in all. Axel and Manfred have been in Britain recently for a book on water and went to Goole (Tom Puddings etc..) so look out for this production (it is up to their usual high standard).

Including highly technological subjects such as the largest aircraft graveyard in the world, Cape Canaveral and nuclear power stations. Now available in this country (in English), published by Sierra Club books. The translation is by Michael Stone. BOB CARR

© GLIAS, 1985