“Eleven Minutes Late” by Matthew Engel

The back cover of this book tells you it that the author travelled the length of the British railway system from Penzance to Thurso, meeting a variety of people from politicians to platform staff on charmingly bizarre trains, the most beautiful branch line, and uncovered the mysteries and explored the history of railways in Britain.

I had really high hopes for this book – a mixture of train travel, quirky characters and the nostalgia of the railways as a British institution. A promising start gave me everything I was looking for, but unfortunately, it didn’t last.

After a few chapters, the narrative took a must stronger turn towards this history of the railways and diverted away from the people and places of the journey. I stuck with it, but it gradually got drier and drier, and I actually ended up putting it down for three months.

I eventually decided I wanted to finish it, and starting it again, the history continued for quite a while, but the last couple of chapters looking more at the state of the railway today along with the conclusion of the authors journey, made me glad I made the decision to continue.

I liked the authors writing style, it was just the depth of railway history that I found hard to take, as the blurb did not reflect the content making me feel a bit cheated. I would have been much happier to have read a book that concentrated mainly on the story of the journey with a bit of history thrown in, but I got the reverse felt which was rather dry and lacking in character.

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