A MERE PUFF OF WIND is the story of the abortive attempt to construct The London & Portsmouth Direct Atmospheric Railway during the Railway Mania of the 1840s.
These were times when many schemes for railways were proposed . Portsmouth was an important naval and maritime town and residents were incensed at being ignored by the railway that had opened to Southampton across the harbour. Continental invasion by Napoleon was a constant fear and the railway was seen as an efficient means of moving large numbers of troops at speed. There was a call for direct railway communication with London. The story is one of hopes raised and then dashed. It indicates the problems encountered in raising capital, support and legislation, suffering from the power and influence of surrounding railways.
This was the age of invention and many strange systems of powering trains were devised. The atmospheric system had been installed on the Croydon railway with initial success and Brunel used it with disastrous financial results in Devon. Like many other systems, it had vital faults and eventually failed. Telling the complete story for the first time, it provides an intriguing account of one of the forgotten early railway schemes.