Some books, magazines and papers with noteworthy breakdown crane content


A Pictorial Record of Great Western Wagons
Russell, J. H.

Includes some ten photos of GWR cranes.  Note that the captions to Photos 382 and 383 include a completely incorrect description of the purpose of a weight-relieving bogie!

Carlisle’s Crane Makers,  The Cowans Sheldon Story
Earnshaw, A.

Beware a number of errors in this book

Croydon’s Railways
Skinner, M. W. G.

Includes five breakdown crane photos

Doncaster and its Railways
Tuffrey, Peter

Includes four breakdown crane photos

From Steam to Stratford
Robinson, William Peter

A railway man’s autobiography including chapters and photos relating to breakdown cranes and practices

Garraway Father and Son
Garraway, Alan

Includes four breakdown crane photos

Great Northern Railway Engine Sheds – Volume 2.  The Lincolnshire Loop, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire
Griffiths, Roger and Hooper, John

Six page appendix on Breakdown Cranes & Trains, with seven photos of breakdown cranes

Great Western Wagons Appendix
Russell J. H.

Includes fifteen breakdown crane photos, some excellent

GWR Engineering Work 1928 - 1938
Tourret, R.

Five photos of GWR cranes Nos. 1, 2 & 3

GWR Sheds in Camera
Griffiths, Roger

Includes five photos of GWR breakdown cranes

Harrow & Wealdstone 50 Years On – Clearing up the Aftermath
Tatlow, Peter

A study of the accident and the clearing up operations from a very different angle to the usual accounts.  Plenty of text, diagrams and photos relating to breakdown cranes

LMS Miscellany
Twells, H. N.

Includes six photos of breakdown cranes

LMS Sheds in Camera
Hooper, John

Includes seven breakdown crane photos

LNER Wagons
Tatlow, Peter

Includes six photos of breakdown cranes

London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Miscellany
Robertson, Kevin

Includes four breakdown crane photos

London Midland Main Line Cameraman
Conolly, W. Philip

Includes four breakdown crane photos

North Wales Steam (1928 – 1968)
Kneale, E. N.

Includes three breakdown crane photos

Odd Corners of the Eastern from the Days of Steam
Sawford, Eric

Includes three photos of breakdown cranes.  Two of the photos show crane 124, incorrectly captioned as the New England crane

Odd Corners of the London Midland from the Days of Steam
Sawford, Eric

Includes six photos of breakdown cranes

Off the Rails
Bill Bishop

Excellent biography of a railway breakdown crane man.  35 breakdown crane photos

On Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Lines
Robertson, Kevin

Includes eleven photos of breakdown cranes

On Track Plant on BR
Roger Butcher

Editions published 1991 and 1995

Portrait of the Dart Valley Railway

Includes seven photos of breakdown cranes

Railway Blunders

Includes three photos of breakdown cranes

Rails to Disaster - More British Steam Train Accidents 1906-1957
Gerard, M. and Hamilton, J.A.B.

Accounts of accidents and their causes, well supported with photos of which a number include breakdown cranes

Railway Steam Cranes
Brownlie, John S.

This privately published and quite rare book tells the story of British breakdown cranes from 1875 up to its date of publication in 1973.  The 369 pages include histories, constructions, workings, listings etc. plus 135 photographs and 17 diagrams.  Be aware that the book may be a little difficult for the general reader to follow and that there are occasional inaccuracies in the data, though these imperfections don't detract to any significant extent from its status as an indispensable reference work for the serious student of the subject.

Railway Breakdown Cranes - Volumes 1 and 2
Tatlow, Peter

Published in two parts in 2012/2013, this work provides a comprehensive account of the breakdown cranes on Britain's railways from 1875 and into the 21st century.  It is the second of only two definitive works on the subject, the other being John S. Brownlie's "Railway Steam Cranes".  The multitude of colour and black & white photographs together with extensive data & descriptions will appeal to general railway students and breakdown crane enthusiasts alike, and the scale drawings of several of the cranes should prove additionally useful to the modeller.

ROD - The Railway Operating Division on the Western Front
Aves, William

A chapter on BDCs and a couple of diagrams

Rolling Stock Recognition 3: Departmental Stock
Colin Marsden

Service Stock of the Southern Railway
Kidner, R. W.

Includes eleven photos of breakdown cranes.  The one captioned as LSWR No. 4 is in fact LSWR No. 1, the unique Dunlop Bell 6-wheel crane.

Southern Sheds in Camera
Griffiths, Roger

Includes nine photos of breakdown cranes

Southern Way Special Issue No. 3 "Wartime Southern"
Kevin Robertson

Includes a number of breakdown crane photos.  Kevin Robertson is the son-in-law of the late Bill Bishop who authored the book “Off the Rails”

Steam was my Calling
Beavor, E. S.

This interesting book about the author’s railway career includes a 14-page chapter on his breakdown work, though only two photos of breakdown cranes.

St John’s Lewisham 50 Years On – Restoring the Traffic
Tatlow, Peter

A study of the accident and the clearing up operations from a very different angle to the usual accounts.  Plenty of text, diagrams and photos relating to breakdown cranes

Taking the Weight
Willis, Bob

A 192-page softback book relating Bob's working life as Apprentice to Tool Van Supervisor at Thornaby, 1962 to 1990.  Over 100 pages relate to breakdown and recovery work, supported by many b&w photos.

The LNWR Recalled
Talbot, Edward

Includes four photos of the ill-fated 20-ton crane built at Crewe to Webb’s instructions, and two photos of the later R&R 36-tonner that was to become LMS crane MP7

The Railway Accident at Norton Fitzwarren, 1940
Kingdom, A. R.

Includes ten photos showing breakdown cranes or a part of them

The Wreck of the Cromer Express: Colchester Railway Accident of 1913
Connor, J. E.

Includes a series of 10 photos showing the two GER-built 20-ton cranes 4A and 5A clearing up in the aftermath of the accident at Colchester on 12 July 1913

Track Machines
Roger Butcher

Includes steam and diesel cranes, published 1984, 1986 and 1988

Trains in Trouble, Volume 1
Trevena, Arthur

First of a series of softback books.  Includes five photos of breakdown cranes

Trains in Trouble, Volume 2
Trevena, Arthur

Includes eleven photos of breakdown cranes

Trains in Trouble, Volume 3
Hoole, Ken

Includes ten photos of breakdown cranes

Trains in Trouble, Volume 4
Hoole, Ken

Includes three photos of breakdown cranes

Trains in Trouble, Volume 5
Earnshaw, Alan

Includes ten photos of breakdown cranes

Trains in Trouble, Volume 6
Earnshaw, Alan

Includes around twenty photos of breakdown cranes.

Trains in Trouble, Volume 7
Earnshaw, Alan

Includes around twenty photos of breakdown cranes

Trains in Trouble, Volume 8
Earnshaw, Alan

Includes nine photos of breakdown cranes

(An Illust. History of) Trains in Trouble (A Century of British Railway Disasters 1868–1968)
Earnshaw, Alan

Includes photos of some 14 cranes in action.  This book brings together many of the accidents to be found in the softback series of Trains in Trouble books, with expanded descriptions and mostly different photos

Trains to Nowhere - British Steam Train Accidents 1906–1960
Hamilton J.A.B.

Triumph and Beyond – The ECML 1939–1959 (Part One)
Brooksbank B.W. L.

Includes five photos of breakdown cranes

Wartime Southern; Special Issue No. 3
Kevin Robertson

Softback book on Evacuation, ARP and Enemy Action in WW2.  Nine crane photos

Magazine Articles

BackTrack, Vol. 6, No. 3 (May-June 1992)

Two page colour spread featuring Leeds Holbeck’s 40-ton crane and its breakdown train in 1973

BackTrack, Vol. 13, No. 4 (April 1999)

Five page article on 1965 bridge deck renewal at Vauxhall using 30-ton and 75-ton diesel-hydraulic BDCs, with photos

BackTrack, Vol. 13, No. 5 (May 1999)

Photos of four breakdown cranes, at rest and in action

BackTrack, Special Issue No. 2 - The London North Eastern Railway (2001)

Six page article on Cowans Sheldon 35/36 and 45 ton steam breakdown cranes.

BackTrack, Vol. 22, No.8 (August 2008)

Five page article on 1955 Hellifield Station Collision.  Includes two photos of the Holbeck 40-ton breakdown crane in action (incorrectly identified in photo caption and text as the Hellifield crane)

British Railway Journal, No. 16 (Spring 1987)

Has a photo of a tandem lift using steam BDCs during renewal of the Carr Mill bridge in 1931

British Railway Journal - Special LMS Edition (1988)

Six page article on LMS breakdown arrangements.  Nine photos plus drawing of breakdown train

British Railway Journal, No. 39 (Christmas 1991)

Excellent seven page article entitled “Off the Road at Over”.  A good spread of recovery photographs with commentary

British Railway Modelling, September 2001

R&R 45T crane, article and drawings

British Railways Illustrated (BRILL), December 2000

Four photographs of Scottish cranes

British Railway Modelling, March 2004

LMS Cowans Sheldon 36/50T crane, article and drawings

British Steam Railways No. 26. Distributed by De Agostini. With related DVD or video

Four page article with photos about breakdown gangs and recovery methods

Great Western Echo, No. 116 (Winter 1991)

Includes five breakdown crane photos

Heritage Railway, No. 46 (February 2006)

Six page article on steam breakdown cranes.  Eleven good photographs

Heritage Railway, No. 152 (July 6 - Aug 2, 2011)

Editor's article on the historical LNWR crane No. MP21 being saved from wanton destruction following the intervention of the NRM at the behest of our BDCA Chairman

Highland Railway Journal, No. 55 (November 2000)

HR Cowans Sheldon 15T crane article and drawing

HMRS Journal, Vol 7, No. 3 (March 1970)

LY Cowans Sheldon 20T & Craven 36T article

HMRS Journal, Vol 11, Nos. 11 & 12 (April & Dec 1984)

LNWR 20T Webb crane photos

LMS Journal No. 18

Significant article about the 36 ton BDCs ordered by the LMS in 1930.  19 photos of breakdown cranes.

The Locomotive – December 1942

Short but comprehensive three page article, with three photos, on the subject of “Breakdown Work and Equipment”

Meccano Magazine, Vol XVI, No. 11 (November 1931)

Front cover painting of two breakdown cranes in action, three-page story of “Breakdown Cranes and their Work” (with five photos) and another single-page article on “Breakdown Cranes in Meccano” (one photo)

Midland Record, Nos 2 & 6

MR Cowans Sheldon 15T crane, illustrated article & drawings

Model Rail – Summer 1998

Big Hooks and Small, prototype & model article

Model Railway Constructor – June 1976

NER 25T Craven cranes article and drawings

Model Railways – October 1972

LMS 30T Cowans Sheldon cranes article and drawings.

Model Railways – March, April, August & December 1990

Various companies' Cowans Sheldon 15T cranes, article & drawings

Railway Magazine, Vol. 98, No. 619 (November 1952)

Seven page article with photos and drawings relating recovery operations following the 1951 Weedon accident when 4-6-2 locomotive No. 46207 derailed and fell down an embankment

Railway Modeller, November 1971

LMS R&R 30T cranes article and drawings

Steam World No. 48(June 1991)

Concluding R H N Hardy article on Stratford with two photos of a breakdown crane and his recall of the breakdown crane and crews from the 1940s to the 1960s.  Note that the Stratford 35-ton Ransomes & Rapier crane is incorrectly captioned as a Craven 36-ton crane

Steam World No. 50 (August 1991)

Four page article “Cranes in Trouble” with seven photos. Self-explanatory title.  Note that the caption on page 38 identifying one of the cranes as 35S is incorrect.  The crane is either 80S or 81S

Steam World No. 59 (May 1992)

Six page article about changes made to the UK’s recovery arrangements following several major accidents including that at Harrow & Wealdstone in 1952.  Includes seven photos of breakdown cranes.  Note that the crane in the photo on page 50 cannot be a Cowans Sheldon as it has “Rapier” very clearly emblazoned on the jib!  It is in fact R&R-built 1071/30

Steam World No. 69 (March 1993)

Seven page article with 14 photos of breakdown cranes, following on from the article in issue No. 59.  Note that the photo captioned “Cowans, Sheldon …RS1008/36” in fact shows Ransomes & Rapier 1560S (confirmed by the large “Rapier” name plate and the “1560S” painted on the side!)

Steam World No. 70 (June 1993)

Four page conclusion to the article in issue no. 69.  Six photos of breakdown cranes

Steam World No. 78 (December 1993)

Six page article about Derby No. 4 shed’s breakdown cranes and trains.  Four photos of breakdown cranes, one of a riding van and one of a hand-powered crane

Steam World No. 207 (September 2004)

Four page article, comprising seven comprehensively captioned photos, about the recovery of V2 No. 60954 from down an embankment in 1962

Steam World No. 281 (November 2010)

Seven page colour spread on the "Pile-Up at Sandy" on 18th December 1964.  Six photographs of Cowans Sheldon 45-ton and 75-ton steam cranes in action


Railway Breakdown Cranes - John Baker - The Institution of Locomotive Engineers, 1933

Design and operation of breakdown cranes, followed by a discussion

Railway Breakdown & Rerailing Equipment - G H K Lund - Institution of Locomotive Engineers, 1950.

Comprehensive coverage of breakdown organisation and equipment in Britain, with reference also to the French railways equipment and methods

Railway Breakdown Services - K R M Cameron - Journal of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Railway Division, 1970/71

A study of the changes in breakdown organisation and equipment seen as desirable as a result of the Modernisation of British Railways

Design and Development of the New 75 Tonne High Capacity Rail Cranes - Robinson, P J, Baker, S M, Hind, J – Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Railway Division – Proceedings 1979, Volume 193, No. 42

Describes the specification requirements, design concept and design development of the 75-tonne extensible jib breakdown cranes

Breakdown and Recovery Equipment Modernization - Robinson, P J - Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Vol. 203, 1989

A study of the changes in recovery equipment and procedures over the preceding 15 years

Please drop the BDCA a note if there are any other books, magazines or papers which you think should be listed here.