In 1963 Dr Beeching's infamous report signalled the end for over 15,000 miles of track, a third of Britain's stations, and for 70,000 jobs, as well as making irrevocable changes to the way of life of many consumers. Much misery was caused and Beeching's name was muddied, but in hindsight the report probably did more than any other single factor to preserve the nation's railway heritage. Without the Beeching cuts, much of the locomotives, stock, tracks, signals and signs would have crumbled, been forgotten or rotted. However, the gentle railway gradients lend themselves perfectly to walkways and cycle paths; buildings have been refurbished; memorabilia now commands prices at auction which would astonish those who painted the metal. And of course, the heritage lines continue to draw many thousands of visitors each year. After the initial shock of the cuts, this fresh appraisal considers these benefits and more, which may not have come about without the Beeching Report.
Anthony Poulton Smith spent twenty years working in light engineering before becoming a full-time freelance journalist and author. Over the last 20 years he has written manuals, flyers, and newsletters for the commercial sector; produced crosswords, puzzles, and quizzes; and written extensively on many subjects, including etymology, history, travel, and the paranormal. He has a long-standing interest in railways and, together with his autistic son, does volunteer work and visits many heritage railways.