From stalwart little locomotives of topographic necessity, to the maverick engines of one man's whimsy, Britain's narrow-gauge steam trains run on tracks a world apart from its regimented mainlines. In Small Island by Little Train, eccentricity enthusiast Chris Arnot sets out to discover their stories. Stories include miniature railway on the Kent coast, used for Home Guard military trains during World War II, and now the school commute for dozens of local school children. The UK's only Alpine-style rack-and-pinion railway, scaling one of Britain's highest mountains. The five different gauges of railway circling one man's landscaped garden, and the team building their own trains to run on it.Far more than mere relics of the nation's industrial past, or battered veterans of wartime Britain, these are also stories of epic feats of preservation, volunteerism, tourism, and local history. They are an exploration of idiosyncrasy, enthusiasm and eccentricity. Or, to put it another way, a tale of Britishness.
Chris Arnot has been a national freelance journalist and author for over 25 years. As well as writing extensively for The Guardian on everything from arts and travel to education and social issues, he has also been a contributor to The Independent, The Observer, The Times and Daily Telegraph. Indeed he is still one of the writers for the Telegraph Weekend's Pint to Pint column, a collection of which was published in hardback in 2016. Chris has also written six books of his own, including four of the Britain's Lost series for Aurum. Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds has been reprinted twice after some glowing reviews. The late Frank Keating described it as a "coffee-table classic for and of posterity" in The Guardian and Jim Holden hailed it as "the best sports book of 2011" in the Sunday Express. Billy Elliot creator Lee Hall called Britain's Lost Mines "an extraordinary gallery of lives and landscapes". Football and social history were intertwined in Fields of Dreams and The Day We Won the Cup, England then and now, both published by Stepbeach. Along with Archers script-writer Simon Frith, Chris co-wrote The Archers Archives for BBC Books.