In the Footsteps of Bertram Baxter
by John Wooldridge
This page contents © John Wooldridge 2007
Index and Introduction
In 1966, Bertram Baxter's book Stone Blocks and Iron Rails (Tramroads) was published as part of The Industrial Archaeology of the British Isles series. Before this book appeared, very little had been written about waggonways and tramroads and Baxter's book, the result of many years research, not only opened up an area of previously overlooked transport history, it inspired others to take an interest too. I did, and whenever I turn my attention to a new tramroad my first point of reference is the gazetteer in Stone Blocks. Chapter one of the book begins He who knows where to look can sometimes see a dark line beneath the grass that seems to enter a field through one gate and leave it by another ... During recent years I have followed many dark lines beneath the grass (most of which turned out to be nothing whatsoever to do with a tramroad) but always with the anticipation that this one, might.
Baxter's researches produced a considerable amount of correspondence and articles. He also took photographs and plotted the course of tramways onto 6" maps. Much of this material is now held, on behalf of the Railway and Canal Historical Society at Birmingham City Council Central Library, in the Railway Collection of the Social Sciences department on the fourth floor. It is accessible to the public from 9 am to 8 pm, Monday to Friday and 9 am to 5 pm, Saturday. The member of staff with a particular knowledge is Maggie Hanson. Railway Collection Volume 1 is an index and the Baxter Collection, Section 7 of the index, comprises maps, bequest boxes (called boxes) and files. Confusingly, the boxes have files inside them. The maps are labelled 1 to 16, according to county (or groups of counties); the bequest boxes include correspondence, notes, research material and maps; the files comprise mainly correspondence and photographs. Note: there is no correlation between the numbers on the maps, boxes and files. It is a treasure-trove for the tramroad enthusiast. For a summary of the Railway Collection and other links go to www.birmingham.gov.uk/libraries and search for Railway Collection then The Railway Collection in Social Sciences.
Exploring tramroads has been a source of considerable pleasure for me over many years. I now plan to visit/revisit some of them and update my notes, not as research papers but as a record of what remains and a guide for those who, like me, enjoy following in the footsteps of Bertram Baxter.