Link to Home Page    
The Railway & Canal Historical Society
About us Publications Membership Journal Awards Local Groups
Events Photographs Research History Links Interest Groups

Book Awards

RCHS Transport History Book of the Year 2014

The presentation of the prizes for the Railway & Canal Historical Society’s annual book awards has become an important part of the AGM weekend each year. For 2014 the presentations took place on the evening of 2 May in the Vermont Hotel, Newcastle upon Tyne.

The 2014 Road Transport Book of the Year and the overall winner of the Transport History Book of the Year is Kathryn A Morrison’s and John Minnis’s Carscapes: the motor car, architecture and landscape in England.

Carscapes and Cup
Kathryn Morrison and John Minnis are presented with the cup and cheques from Grahame Boyes for the 2014 Transport History Book of the Year award (Photo: Tim Edmonds)

The judges noted the scale of ambition of the book and the extent to which that ambition had been realised. They were impressed by the intelligence and style of writing and the very high production values. The book provides a lasting perspective on the impact of the motor car through the twentieth century that compares with that of the railways in the nineteenth century. It is a coffee-table book in size, but packed full of insight which makes proper reading essential - although physically challenging! The silver cup and cheques for £150 to each of the joint authors were presented by Grahame Boyes on behalf of the society’s Vice President David St John Thomas, whose Charitable Trust provides the funding for the awards. Kathryn and John also received the society’s framed certificate as winner of the 2014 Road Transport Book of the Year, presented by President Wendy Freer, and a further cheque each for £150 from the David St John Thomas Charitable Trust.

Michael Messenger with President Wendy Freer after receiving his framed certificate as winner of the Railway Book of the Year 2014 (Photo: Tim Edmonds)

The 2014 Railway Book of the Year is Michael Messenger’s The Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway 1834-1983, published by Twelveheads Press. The judges described it as a model of how a railway history should be written. The author has thoroughly and widely researched his subject. His writing skills and command of these primary sources have allowed him to produce a readable account of a unique railway that was one of the first half dozen steam worked public lines to be opened in Britain. Michael Messenger was present to receive his framed certificate from Wendy Freer and a cheque for £300 from the David St John Thomas Charitable Trust

Chris Austin receiving his cheque from Grahame Boyes for the 2014 Popular Transport Book of the Year 2014 (Photo: Tim Edmonds)

The Popular Transport Book of the Year was awarded to Richard Faulkner’s and Chris Austin’s Holding the Line: how Britain’s railways were saved. In this the fiftieth anniversary of the "Beeching Report" many books have appeared that look back on what was lost as a result of the widespread closures. This book takes a broader view and analyses the politics of persistent attempts over many years to close a great deal more of the British Railways network. The book has generated much discussion and its initial print run has already sold out. Lord Faulkner was unable to attend but Chris Austin was present to receive their certificates and cheques each for £150.

This year a special prize was awarded for an esoteric book that, whilst not being a contender for the main awards, is worthy of recognition in the opinion of the judges. A £100 cheque from the David St John Thomas Charitable Trust was awarded to Michael Quick for his The Wrong Sort of Fish Oil: the trials, tribulations (and triumphs) of the early railway passenger published by Austin Macauley.

What the book awards are about

The society is keen to encourage the writing of well-researched, interesting and readable books in the field of transport history, and the annual ’Book of the Year’ awards were started in 2004 to help achieve this. Each year the society presents special framed certificates to the authors of leading books in one or more categories: Railway, Canal, and Transport. The winners also receive cash awards from the David St John Thomas Charitable Trust (, thanks to our member David St John Thomas – author of numerous books himself and well-known as a founder of the David & Charles publishing house. He has also provided a silver cup to be held by the winner for a year.

How the winners are decided

The society’s Journal carries a substantial book review section and eligible books are those on transport subjects that receive the best reviews in this. Currently there are some further qualifications. For example, books must be serious historical works based on original research, with subject matter primarily from the British Isles. Although quality of writing is important, reference works are also eligible and subject to appropriate assessment. The shortlisted books are considered by a panel of judges drawn from the membership of the society and the winners are announced at a ceremony at the society’s AGM in May each year.

If you are an author or publisher of books on transport subjects that you wish to be considered for an award, then please submit copies to the Journal for review. Books reviewed in the society’s Journal in 2014 and March 2015 are eligible for the 2015 awards; please contact the Book Review Editor ( for more information. If you would like to know more about the Book Awards scheme, please contact the Administrator (

How to enter books for the awards

Information about winners and finalists in previous years is on the winners’ page. Presentation of the 2015 awards will take place on the evening of Friday 1 May on the occasion of the Society’s AGM weekend which will be based at Grantham.