James Boyd

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James Ian Craig Boyd (1920-2009) was the pioneer historian of the Welsh narrow gauge.

The great-grandson of a railway civil engineer, his family was also connected with the Scottish textile machinery industry; other branches were in the Church, the law, medicine and teaching. He ran the family clothing textile business in Manchester.

JICB was introduced to the narrow gauge railways of North Wales during field trips led by Geoffrey Hoyland a master at his prep school, The Downs, Colwall, Herefordshire, where his English teacher was WH Auden, whose verse includes the railway classic Night Mail. It boasted a 9½in-gauge miniature railway (see his Don't Stand Up in the Tunnel! (2001)). Later he revisited the FR and TR, while on leave from the army during World War Two, some of his reminiscences of this period being recounted in Saga by rail: Great Britain and the Isle of Man (2007). Recognising a form of railway apparently on its last legs, he began his researches into the history of these little lines and made an arrangement with the Locomotive & General Railway Photographs company to take a multitude of photographs of the north and mid-Wales scene: L&GRP provided the film stock and he took two negatives of each image, keeping one for himself.

His first work, Narrow-Gauge Rails to Portmadoc, was published in May 1949 by the Oakwood Press (the personal imprint of an equal enthusiast for the narrow gauge and obscure lines, Roger Kidner) and was intended as a valedictory tribute to the recently closed Festiniog. Little could JICB have known that this book would spark sufficient interest to light the tinder for the movement that would, eventually, succeed in reviving the FR and, even later, rebuilding the other major narrow gauge railway to Portmadoc, the Welsh Highland Railway.

Boyd went on to produce a number of books on railways, most published by the Oakwood Press and some running to several editions. He covered all the narrow gauge railways of north and mid Wales in a series that, in its final form, runs to eight volumes. His two-volume history of the Festiniog, first published in 1956-9, though flawed in places, is still the standard work. His other Oakwood books include a history of the railways of the Isle of Man (three-volumes in its last edition), a comprehensive history of the Wrexham, Mold & Connah's Quay Railway and a history of the Schull & Skibbereen 3-foot gauge railway in southern Ireland. He also produced some photo albums for Bradford Barton.

JICB was a very early participant in the rescue of the Talyllyn Railway and the establishment of the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum at Tywyn. His interest in the TR led to the publication of a definitive history of the pre-preservation railway by Wild Swan in 1988, a book that set a very high standard of both content and production for future narrow gauge histories.

Even earlier, he had made moves to assist revival of the FR. On 1 July 1949 he wrote to the Journal of the Stephenson Locomotive Society outlining how the line might be revived [1]. As described in Peter Johnson's Immortal Rails vol. 1, he then tried to interest the old Company in such a scheme, and in 1950 he was active in the "Portmadoc committee" discussions to involve financial backers and local authorities in another revival scheme. This, however, came to nothing, partly because of the apparent inactivity of his chief backer, E.E. Smith, and partly because the financial impact of the WHR had soured the attitude of the authorities, and the revival process switched to the scheme initiated by L Heath Humphrys.


He wrote a number of books, some of which are referred to in this wiki. Be advised that these books have gone through various editions and reprints. In particular, the NGRISC books initially appeared as a single volume.

Boyd, James I.C. (1975) [1959]. The Festiniog Railway 1800 - 1974; Vol. 1 - History and Route. Blandford: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-8536-1167-X. OCLC 2074549. 

Boyd, James I.C. (1975) [1959]. The Festiniog Railway 1800 - 1974; Vol. 2 Locomotive and Rolling Stock and Quarry Feeders. Blandford: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 085361-168-8. 

Boyd, James I.C. (1972). Narrow Gauge Railways in South Caernarvonshire. Lingfield, Surrey, England: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 9780853611158. OCLC 707587. 

For more books see Reference Sources[2]

  1. ^ ""The letter that begain it all?"", Festiniog Railway Heritage Group Journal, Issue 097, page(s): 24-5
  2. ^ "Obituary", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 205, page(s): 025

See also[edit]