ANYONE interested in the history of railways in and around the Bournemouth area will recognise the name Charles Castleman.

Ask who he was and "the Wimborne solicitor behind the Southampton and Dorchester Railway" would be the stock reply.

But there is more to the man than that couple of bald facts, as Brian Jackson explains in the recent Oakwood Press publication Castleman's Corkscrew including the Railways of Bournemouth and Associated Lines (ISBN 9 780853 616665).

This is Volume One: The Nineteenth Century, and starts with a history of the man and his family.

Born in 1807, Charles Castleman was the son of William Castleman who, with William Dean and George Adams, founded the Christchurch, Wimborne and Ringwood Bank. By 1818 the bank was losing money and William resigned, withdrawing his capital.

He lived at Allendale House in Wimborne and had 10 children, of whom Charles was one of only three sons who survived beyond their teenage years.

Charles and his two siblings Henry and Edward all became solicitors but unlike his brothers, he had an interest in transport systems.

He invested £5,000 in the Southampton and Dorchester Railway Company and became its secretary and solicitor. In 1855 he was appointed director of the London and South Western Railway company (LSWR), was its deputy chairman in 1859 and then chairman in 1872, though he resigned after a short time through ill-health.

As Mr Jackson points out, even the privileged could not escape the harshness of living in the Victorian period.

Charles' first wife Martha died of fever in 1848 at the age of 41 in their home at Ringwood.

In 1852 he married Louisa Hussey, but she died from tuberculosis just two years later.

His third wife was Isabel Swinburne, whom he married in 1859, three years before moving to Glasshayes at Lyndhurst (now the Lyndhurst Park Hotel) before moving to Surrey and then Bishopstoke, Eastleigh, where he died of kidney failure on July 17, 1876.

Charles Castleman first approached the LSWR with plans for extending the railway from Southampton into Dorset on February 2, 1844. He then went on to hold public meetings to canvass support, which he got, unusually it seems, from the landed gentry.

In May 1844, engineer William Scarth Moorsom was asked to survey the route.

He recommended the line should pass through Redbridge, a mile south of Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Ormansby Ford near Burley, Crow, Lions Hill, Wimborne, Wareham and through the Frome and Winfrith valleys to Dorchester.

The line, when built, became known as Castleman's Corkscrew, due to its sinuous route.

There were many wrangles about how to get to Weymouth, and a whole chapter is devoted to the politics of the line.

Another chapter details the construction of the track, which became operational in June 1847.

Shipping is covered as are branch lines, the Somerset and Dorset Railway, the Ringwood and Christchurch route to Bournemouth, the opening up in 1888 of the what is now the main line between Brockenhurst via Sway and New Milton to Christchurch and much more.

This softback is littered with historic photographs and plans.

A good read, a useful reference book and worth £15.95 of anybody's money. Roll on Volume Two.