Narrow Gauge in the Somme Sector...


...Before, During & After the First World War, from Pen & Sword



Title: Narrow Gauge in the Somme Sector

Author: Martin J.B. Farebrother & Joad S. Farebrother

Publisher: Pen & Sword

ISBN: 978-1-473-88763-3

What a fascinating book. The subject of logistics is maybe not the most glamorous of wartime, but it actually is vital. Amongst other things, as we see from this book, the supply of ammunition to the front during WW1 was vital. With the war staying relatively static as trench lines became fixed, it was practical to put in narrow gauge rail lines to bring up the vital supplies, be they ammunition, equipment, duckboards and indeed troops themselves.

In addition to the standard railway routes, there were both 1metre lines and even smaller 60cm lines, which could have pre-made sections of track simply laid down. The book is split into sections which tell us about pre-war light rail lines that already existed, largely for industrial/agricultural use. Then there is the story of the expansion of the networks, including depots, workshops, the variety of locos and wagons, let alone the buildings for stations, workshops and such. Add plenty of maps of the various sections of the Somme region, and some detailed plans of depots and their track arrangements (sidings etc). Then the final part of the book looks at what happened to the various rail lines once the war was over. Much was used to carry out salvage and recovery operations well into 1919, as the dumps and trenches were dismantled and for the French, the huge task of rebuilding was begun. So, while much was done to dismantle the lines, a lot was sold on to the French government, who continued to use them through WW2 and beyond.

As well as the informative text, maps etc, there are a lot of archive photos and plenty of modern, colour pictures, showing some of what remains to this day.  There are some buildings that today are falling into ruin, maybe farm storage, others left derelict and some converted into houses which make for interesting looking homes. Added to all this there are also some suggested walks, where the modern battlefield visitor can still follow some of the old lines and see some of what remains even to this day.

I found it a fascinating read and it has given me some new ideas about what to look for in our next trip to the area.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for my copy.