A MERE PUFF OF WIND is the story of the abortive attempt to construct The London & Portsmouth Direct Atmospheric Railway during the Railway Mania of the 1840s. These were times when many schemes for railways were proposed . Portsmouth was an important naval and maritime town and residents were incensed at being ignored by the railway that had opened to Southampton across the harbour. Continental invasion by Napoleon was a constant fear and the railway was seen as an efficient means of moving large numbers of troops at speed. There was a call for direct railway communication with London. The story is one of hopes raised and then dashed. It indicates the problems encountered in raising capital, support and legislation, suffering from the power and influence of surrounding railways. This was the age of invention and many strange systems of powering trains were devised. The atmospheric system had been installed on the Croydon railway with initial success and Brunel used it with disastrous financial results in Devon. Like many other systems, it had vital faults and eventually failed.
Telling the complete story for the first time, it provides an intriguing account of one of the forgotten early railway schemes.
The author was a primary school headmaster in South London for some twenty years. He is an established author of some thirty books on a variety of subjects, principally for schools and on the history of the town of Kendal to which he retired in 1984. He was the Reviews Editor for the Journal of the School Natural Science Society for over twenty-five years, writing many reviews himself, and was the General Editor from 1990 to 1992. He wrote articles for the Journal and produced pamphlets for teachers and children on aspects of science education and natural history. He was a member of the Inner London Education Authority's Advisory Committee for Religious Education and wrote books and pamphlets for the National Christian Education Council together with articles for the Sunday School Chronicle. He wrote and presented radio scripts for a Christian radio organization. He was born in 1923, the momentous year of the Railway Grouping, and lived his early days beside the Brighton line of the Southern Railway. He has undertaken a depth of research into railways, their histories and operation. His particular field is early railway history but he writes on many diverse railway subjects for national railway magazines.