John Cooke Bourne

fter the success of the London & Birmingham Railway drawings, the architect, printer and publisher, Charles Cheffins (1777-1844) commissioned Bourne to draw a series of wash drawings of the Great Western Railway (GWR). These were printed in the "The History and Description of the Great Western Railway" published by David Bogue in 1846. This time it was the stations, bridges and scenery he depicted rather than the construction.

The book opens with a picture of the locomotive ‘Archeron’ travelling through a tunnel with a bridge above it, engraved "The Great Western Railway by J C Bourne". The inspiration for this book was the achievements of the railway as an heroic enterprise.

The preface explained the purpose behind the book and showed the engineering and architectural structures produced for the railway, which usually go unnoticed due to their remote siting or the speed of travel. The writer also added geographical notes and information on ecclesiastical architecture. The book is a guide to the history and architecture surrounding the GWR as well as a showcase of its engineering feats. Generally, the tone is more reverent than in the London & Birmingham Railway book.

In between the publication of his "London & Birmingham Railway" and "Great Western Railway" work, little is known of John Cooke Bourne’s life. However certain key achievements have been identified since new research has been undertaken.

During this period Bourne produced a few single railway lithographs such as "Viaduct over the valley of the Weaver, on the Chester & Crewe Railway", as well as a volume of lithographs of Cairo from some original, conventional sketches by Robert Hay, Owen B Carter and C Laver, published by Tilt and Bogue in 1840. These lithographs were vast improvements on the initial sketches and highlighted Bourne's compositional and technical skills. In 1844 he moved further away from railway imagery and lithographed the plates for F Catherwood Architects' book entitled "Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan".

Bourne also produced images of Russia during this period. In 1846 the engineer Charles Blacker Vignoles (1743-1875) heard that Czar Nicholas I of Russia intended to build a road bridge across the Dnieper River at Kiev. This would be the world’s largest suspension bridge. Vignoles commissioned Bourne to produce an artist's impression of the intended bridge in watercolour and become the resident artist. In 1847, they travelled to Russia together and Vignoles was chosen to construct the bridge. The official opening of the Dnieper Bridge was in 1853. Some watercolours produced during this period have survived, including one of the Kremlin, the Lavra monastery at Kiev, and Russian peasants. Bourne also lithographed four plates for Edward Pelt Thomson’s book "Life in Russia". In July of the same year, Bourne turned his attention to producing images for the book, "A Sketch of the Origin and Progress of Steam Navigation", lithographed by C Cheffins. Text was written by Bennet Woodcroft and published by Taylor and Walton.