Senate House Library treasures volume: featuring railways

Rastrick diary

Rastrick diary

According to an assessment in Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 4 (1923-4), between 1829 and 1849 “there was hardly a [railway] line projected or carried through on behalf of which he [i.e. John Urpeth Rastrick] did not appear professionally either as witness, surveyor or engineer”. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states more modestly that from 1825 onwards Rastrick “was employed to support, in parliament, a large portion of the principal railway lines in the United Kingdom”, and our own treasures volume says cautiously: “Until 1849, he was to be involved as witness, surveyor or engineer for many railway projects in the United Kingdom”. The fact remains – he was a prominent and significant railway engineer. The University of London Library acknowledged the value of his work when in 1908 it appealed successfully to the Worshipful Goldsmiths’ Company for money to buy his early notebooks, plans and estimates, as well as a large number of early pamphlets on English, American and Italian railways; three further purchases of notebooks, diaries, letters and papers were to follow between the 1920s and 1965. Introducing the handlist of the Rastrick archival material in Senate House Library, T.D. Rogers wrote that whereas published accounts of Rastrick tended to enumerate his work and achievements, “A study of the diaries and letters in this collection may help to reveal a person as well as an engineer, to correct some dates, and also to provide new ones for an account of his life”. What emerges most clearly from his diary of 1840, when he was working among other things on a route between London and Brighton, is his extreme energy.

            However significant textually, diaries and notebooks tend not to be visually

Views on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway

Views on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway

attractive, so we needed an additional image for the entry in the treasures volume. This sent us to the early books on railways in the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature – Rastrick’s and Herbert Somerton Foxwell’s – to find an image to accompany the entry in the treasures volume on Rastrick’s diary. We felt that we came up trumps with John Blackmore’s Views on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway (1836-1838) with 23 plates by J.W. Carmichael intended to show “the delightfully varied scenery and interesting country” around the railway.

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