Sir Herbert Walker's Southern Railway
Sir Herbert Walker was the outstanding figure in railway management of the first half of the twentieth century. He was a competent officer of the London & North Western Railway who received less recognition than he deserved: when he became general manager of the London & South Western Railway at 43 he revivified organisation, sent traffic soaring by suburban electrification and within months had saved vast sums on the reconstruction of the great terminus at Waterloo.
During 1914-18 war he served the country brilliantly as chairman of the Railway Executive Committee which controlled all the main-line railways on behalf of the Government. For this he was created KCB.
His selection as general manager of the Southern Railway after a troublesome period of indecision by a board which had not settled to team work gave him opportunity to display his prowess in man-management, choice of chief officers and commercial exploitation of the railway's facilities whether in new lines, by efficient traction, provision of attractive services, or by export provision of ancillary operations from ships to motor buses.
Charles Klapper's biography is more of what management skills made the Southern the liveliest of the four grouped railways than a close study of Walker's life, but to the railway student it has the merits of bringing out new facts on the tempestuous birth of the Southern, methods of operation and electrification, cross-Channel shipping, the Charing Cross bridge controversy and what management textbooks nowadays call 'communication.' There are sidelights on Walker's love of light railways, his foresight on aviation which nearly brought the Southern to ownership of airlines to Paris and Brussels and his views on the deportment of railway officers who were directors of bus companies.
Hardback with dust jacket, 296 pages, black & white photographs
Condition: Good/Very Good
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Updated: 1 July 2021