L. T. C. Rolt

From Academic Kids

Lionel Thomas Caswell Rolt (usually abbreviated to Tom Rolt or L.T.C. Rolt) (1910-1974) was a prolific English writer and the biographer of major civil engineering figures including Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Thomas Telford. He is also regarded as one of the pioneers of the leisure cruising industry on Britain's inland waterways, and as an enthusiast for both vintage cars and railways.

Born in Chester, he studied at Cheltenham College and then trained as a mechanical engineer, before taking up an engineering post at a company in Stoke-on-Trent.

Rolt produced many works about subjects which had not previously been considered the stuff of literature: civil engineering, canals, railways, etc. His first book, Narrow Boat, was an account of his and his first wife Angela's honeymoon journey around the canal system of the English midlands aboard a 70ft long wooden narrowboat named 'Cressy'.

He spent 12 years living afloat. He was a co-founder and the first honorary secretary of the Inland Waterways Association. A bridge on the Oxford Canal in Banbury bears his name, as does a centre at the boat museum at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.

He was also a founder member of the Vintage Sports Car Club.

During the early 1950s, Rolt was general manager of the Talyllyn Railway he founded the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society, the world's first preserved railway - near Tywyn in mid-Wales, where a locomotive 'Tom Rolt' was later (1991) named in his memory. His book Railway Adventure recalls this period.

As a writer on the history of engineering and technology, he was vice-president of the Newcomen Society, a member of the Science Museum Advisory Council, and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature.

Biography

Rolt was the subject of a biography (Tom Rolt and the Cressy Years) by Ian Mackersey in 1985, and a bibliography by Ian Rogerson in 1994.

Bibliography

Rolt's non-fiction work included:

  • Narrow Boat (1945)
  • High Horse Riderless (1947)
  • Inland Waterways of England (1950)
  • Lines of Character (1952)
  • Railway Adventure (1953)
  • Red for Danger (1955)
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1957)
  • Thomas Telford (1958)
  • The Cornish giant: the story of Richard Trevithick, father of the steam locomotive (1960)
  • George and Robert Stephenson: the railway revolution (1960)
  • A Hunslet hundred: one hundred years of locomotive building by the Hunslet Engine Company (1964)
  • Patrick Stirling's locomotives (1964)
  • The Mechanicals: progress of a profession (1967)
  • Victorian Engineering (1970)
  • Landscape with Machines (1971 the first part of his autobiography)
  • The Making of a Railway (1971)
  • From Sea to Sea (1973)
  • Landscape with Canals (1977 the second part of his autobiography)
  • Landscape with Figures (1992 the retitled third part of his autobiography)

The Landscape Trilogy (2001) combines all three parts of his autobiography in one volume.

He also wrote ghost stories and two collections of his work were published:

  • Sleep No More (1948)
  • Two Ghost Stories (1994)
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