The International Steam Pages

International Steam Book Reviews 1997-9

Keith Chester acts as Editor of our books page. Contact him on

Book Reviews Main Index

This page contains books reviewed in 1997-9. Click as appropriate for later reviews - the main books page - 2002-5 book reviews2000/1 book reviews. Unless otherwise stated, all the reviews are by Keith.

Woosung Road
the story of China's First Railway
(RD 11th November 1999)

The Hunslet Engine Works
(4th November 1999)

Deutsche Reichsbahn in Österreich
(8th November 1999)

Dropping the Fire
(29th October 1999)

Narrow Gauge Rails to Esquel
(4th November 1999)

The Smoke that Thunders
(13th October 1999)

Forestry Railways in Hungary
(29th October 1999)

The Era of the Bush Tram
in New Zealand

(11th June 1999)

Queensland Canefields Steam Era
(11th June 1999)

Reseau Breton and
Vivarais Narrow Gauge

(25th May 1999)

Manning Wardle Locomotives
(25th May 1999)

Railways and War
(22nd April 1999)

RENFE Steam Remembered
(RD 5th November 1998)

Steam and Rail in Slovakia
(18th October 1998)

Today's Steam on the Sugar Lines of Cuba (Vol 1)
(18th October 1998)

Steam Train Adventures in the Americas
(RD 26th September 1998)

Woosung Road - the story of China's First Railway

And now for something completely different....  The Woosung Railway in Shanghai was opened in 1876 and closed (destroyed) the next year. For most of us that is all we know, but Peter Crush has produced a book which tells the story of this railway. 

"Woosung Road - the story of China's First Railway"
by Peter Crush

ISBN 962 85532 1 6

Published privately in Hong Kong

Deutsche Reichsbahn in Österreich

Over the years the books produced by the Vienna-based publishing house of J.O. Slezak have detailed and listed most of the locomotives which worked in both Imperial and Republican Austria. One major gap, however, remained the years of the Anschluß, when Austria was absorbed into Hitler's Third Reich. This lacuna has now been admirably filled by "Deutsche Reichsbahn in Österreich", the latest book from the Slezak stable.

The Second World War effectively began for Austria on 12 March 1938 when the German Wehrmacht marched into Hitler's homeland and de facto annexed it. On 18 March the BBÖ ceased to exist and became part of the DRB. From November 1938 onwards the former Austrian locomotives were renumbered in conformity with the DRB scheme, a system retained even after 1945.

At the heart of "Deutsche Reichsbahn in Österreich", incidentally the best book to have come from Slezak in quite a while, is a lsit detailing this renumbering as well transfers of non-BBÖ locos (eg PKP class Pt31) to stock. Information, where known, is given on the fate of the locos listed after 1945. The book is therefore of great value to the locomotive historian, whether he can read German or not. Omitted from the lists are the German "Einheits" (notably classes 44, 50 & 86) and "Kriegsloks" which were stationed in the "Ostmark" (Austria) during the war. This is in part due to a conscious desire to essentially restrict the book to Austrian locos and partly because such lists are not yet complete. It can only be hoped that one day they are and Slezak can publish the resulting work.

The introduction to the book is in the form of a very useful survey of all the changes to the loco stock in Austria during the period in question. This is followed by a personal, and at times rather rambling personal memoir of these years by publisher Slezak. In addition to the loco lists, the book's other strength is a wonderful collection of photos with detailed and highly informative captions. (This is something Austrian railway historians are very good at.) The book concludes with a handwritten list of the allocations of every loco in Austria for each year from 1939 to 1945. This has not in every case reproduced very well. This, however, is a minor blip in a book of interest to everyone interested in Austrian locomotives and their history.

"Deutsche Reichsbahn in Österreich"
by Roland Beier & Hans Sternhart
ISBN : 3-85416-186-7
Published by : J.O. Slezak at ATS 490.

Narrow Gauge Rails to Esquel

This book is devoted to the 750mm gauge Ing Jacobacci to Esquel railway in southern Argentina. Though the steam loco had been practically banished from Argentina's railways by 1980, the highly spectacular Esquel branch has remained steam worked and, over the years, attracted an increasing number of visitors. From the late 1980s onwards, many special trains have been run over the line by American and British tour companies; today the railway survives essentially as a tourist operation.

The line was originally conceived as part of a larger narrow gauge system intended to open up the sparsely populated areas of northern and central Patagonia. In the event only the already existing metre gauge Puerto Madryn to Las Plumas was converted to 750mm and the Esquel to Ing Jacobacci railway was opened in stages between 1922 and 1945. Ambitions were evidently high as 80 locos were inexplicably ordered off the shelf from Baldwin and Henschel in 1922; or was there more than a whiff of corruption here? Many of these locos were put into store and never worked; nonetheless today about 25 survive.

The heyday of the railway was in the 1950s and early 1960s, but with improved road transport in the region, it was already in decline by the late 1960s. It has always been my understanding that the Argentinian Railways long wanted to close the line, but it was kept open at the behest of the Argentinian military (relations with Chile were very strained in the 1960s & 1970s) and thus the line survived as a 100% steam worked operation into the 1990s and the era of quasi-preservation. Sadly Keith Taylorson does not address this issue but instead presents us with a romantic view of a plucky little steam railway continuing to operate against the odds.

This is the first book on this railway to appear in English (indeed there are very few books on the railways of this country in English) and its appearance is to be welcomed. We are treated to a brief history of the line, its development and decline, as well as descriptions of the railway, its motive power and rolling stock. The book concludes with some travellers' impressions. "Narrow Gauge to Esquel" is beautifully printed and well illustrated - but do the locos constantly emit thick clouds of black smoke? The photos included certainly give the impression they do!

"Narrow Gauge to Esquel" was evidently inspired by Keith Taylorson's first visit to the railway in October 1998. It is a useful introduction to the Esquel branch, but a definitive work it is not.

"Narrow Gauge to Esquel"
By Keith Taylorson
ISBN : 1-871980-41-0
Available from the author: 23 Hanover Street, Brighton, BN2 2ST, UK
Price : GBP 9.95 (plus postage).

The Hunslet Engine Works

The second book to appear this year devoted to a loco manufacturer in Leeds in northern England, the well known firm of Hunslet Engine Company was a neighbour, quite literally, of Manning Wardle (subject of an earlier review on these pages). Founded in 1864 on the site of the failed EB Wilson loco factory, Hunslet's fortunes were based on the supply of well-engineered (and distinctive) designs to both industrial concerns in the UK as well as exporting industrial and main line locomotives around the world. Indeed there were years when its export sales far exceeded domestic ones.

Always fairly innovative, Hunslet was an early exponent of diesel traction and was predominant in this field from the 1950s onwards. This, together with a tradition of diversification into other engineering fields ensured the survival of the company as a loco manufacturer well into the 1980s, in a period when its erstwhile competitors nearly all fell by the wayside. Yet even Hunslet could not overcome the consequences of the British coal mining industry, killed off by Tory diktat in the mid 1980s. The final nail in Hunslet's coffin was its takeover by a Thatcherite whizzkid company, more interested in a quick buck than persevering with a viable, if not greatly profitable, concern. Hunslet was finally closed in 1995 and razed to the ground.

Don Townsley began working for Hunslet in 1949 as an apprentice and worked for the company until 1989, finally becoming its General Sales Manager. He is thus uniquely placed to tell the story of this famous British loco builder and does so well. Really, this is two books in one. The first half is a conventional history of the company, with a description of the more important loco designs and their purchasers. This is followed by a personal account of Don Townsley's own working life at Hunslet, providing us with an insight into the day-to-day workings of such a company. Though steam construction was running down in this period, there is much here of interest to the steam enthusiast.

The book is well illustrated and recommended. A second volume is promised and should include a works list. It is eagerly awaited.

"The Hunslet Engine Works"
by D.H. Townsley
ISBN : 1 871980 38 0
Published by Plateway Press

Dropping the Fire

In recent years there has emerged a rather more objective, almost revisionist, discussion on the decline of the steam locomotive and the rise of diesel and electric traction. This questions many of the tenets of faith I grew up with: that British steam is best (er, well ...); that steam development was prematurely cut short. This of course cannot be denied (so though was that of the horse and carriage), but the real miracle is that steam construction lasted so long into the twentieth century. Thank God it did! Perhaps the most invidious of all is the notion that the conventional steam locomotive was capable of improvement significant enough to render it inherently superior to modern forms of traction. The considerable efforts and equally spectacular failures of the 1920s & 1930s amply demonstrated it wasn't.

"Dropping the Fire" is an important contribution to this debate by Philip Atkins, the librarian of the National Railway Museum in York. It is the contention of this book that the survival of the steam loco in the second half of the twentieth century depended to a large degree on the availability of the steam loco's primary fuel - coal. Those countries with abundant and cheap supplies of the black stuff tended to retain steam longer than those without. The point may seem rather obvious but never in thirty years of reading about the steam locomotive have I seen such an explicit and fruitful discussion of the topic.

Using examples drawn from around the world, Mr Atkins amply demonstrates his thesis. He is far too canny an observer of the steam locomotive to suggest that the question of coal was the sole reason for the steam loco's decline and many other factors, economics, politics, technological change, personalities etc, are all introduced into the equation and discussed. (If you doubt the influence of of individual personalities, then read Erik Hirsumaki's "Black Gold, Black Diamonds",
which deals in considerable detail with the protracted decision of the coal hauling Pennsylvania RR to abandon steam. It essentially hung on the decisions of one or two powerful men within the PRR that the railway
a) determinedly ignored diesel developments in the 1930s and
b) ordered as an act of blind faith large numbers of the untested (and ultimately unsuccessful) Duplexes.

The failure of the latter and near bankruptcy forced a precipitous dieselisation on the PRR in 1946. And in Britain the controversy still rages as to how necessary the 999 Riddles "Standard" locos were and to what degree they were built to satisfy his whim to be the last British steam designer.)  To return to "Dropping the Fire". In 14 chapters the book makes a world wide survey of the final developments of the steam locomotive and the reasons behind the switch to diesel and electric traction. In some chapters individual railways (eg the Norfolk & Western in the USA) are discussed, in others whole regions are lumped together for what is sometimes a rather superficial overview. If there is a weakness in the book, then it lies in the fact that the treatment of the subject is at times very uneven, both in geographic terms and in the discussion of the non-coal factors. Mr Atkins, for example, rightly describes postwar Czech design as being "the most enlightened" in eastern Europe (and he could easily have added Europe as a whole, if not the world), but devotes only about half a page to CSD steam development and elimination. To be fair such a comprehensive treatment would have made the book very long indeed. I for one would have welcomed this, but such are not late twentieth century publishing realities. The book is well illustrated and printed. "Dropping the Fire" is one of the most interesting and stimulating books on the steam locomotive I have read in a long time. Buy it.

"Dropping the Fire", By CP Atkins
ISBN : 1-871608-89-9

Published by Irwell Press at GBP 14.95.

Forestry Railways in Hungary

Books on Hungarian railways are rare, though far from non-existent. It is just that most of them are written in Hungarian, a language of fearful obscurity. So Locomotives International's latest offering "Forestry Railways in Hungary", written by Dutchman Paul Engelbert and published in English is to be especially welcomed.

Like many other countries in Central Europe, Hungary (and it needs to be pointed out that for Paul Engelbert this means the territory within the post 1945 borders) was once home to a large number of narrow gauge forestry railways; a map at the end of the book lists no fewer than 64 such. As elsewhere nearly all of them have now closed but seemingly miraculously 12 will survive into the new millennium. However, on closer reading it turns out that today most of these "forestry railways" are so in name only and owe their continued existence to the leisure industry; they are virtual reality forestry railways.

These twelve railways are the subject of this book and each is dealt with as comprehensively as possible. The focus is very much on current (ie 1990s) operations and the historic background is at times somewhat sketchy, but having been peripherally involved in two books on Romanian forestry railways, I know how difficult it all too frequently is to find archival materials on such railways. So Paul Engelbert is to be commended for his efforts.

The Hungarian forestry railways dieselised fairly early, so the die-hard steam fan is warned that apart from a few pictures and loco lists, he will find relatively little to concern him here. The great majority of the photos (in colour and black & white and all well produced) were taken in the 1990s and feature diesels. Fortunately, Paul Engelbert has been able to unearth some photos of steam operations. Loco lists for each of the described railways are provided but perhaps the book would have been strengthened by the inclusion of a list of all locos known to have worked on Hungarian forestry railways; a tedious task but not an impossible one.

This aside, this is a commendable effort and it is to be hoped that Paul Catchpole of Locomotives International will continue what is probably the rather thankless task of publishing such works on the more obscure aspects of international railways. In turn he needs our support. "Forestry Railways in Hungary" can be recommended to anybody with an interest in narrow gauge railways, industrial railways and the railways of Central Europe.

"Forestry Railways in Hungary"
by Paul Engelbert

ISBN 1-900340-09-7

Published by Locomotives International

The Smoke that Thunders

There can be few people in the international steam world who have not heard by now of the sad death in July 1999 of A.E. ("Dusty") Durrant. I never met him personally and corresponded with him but occasionally but there can be no doubt that he was an inspiration to us all, conveying his own profound love of the steam locomotive to everybody prepared to listen, and, above all, encouraging us to travel, to see and experience the beast.

Dusty's own particular love was Africa and its Garratts and it is thus fitting that the last of his many books published in his lifetime (and this one just made it) should be devoted to the locomotives of Rhodesia & Zimbabwe - Garratt territory if there ever was. "The Smoke That Thunders" is nothing more and nothing less than a full (and enthusiastic) description of every steam locomotive type to have worked in the two countries. It has to be pointed out that the book is concerned solely with locomotives. There is no historical or background information and a weakness of the book is its failure to explain the origin of all the various railways which ordered the locos described in its pages and how and when they evolved first into Rhodesia Railways and then after independence into the National Railways of Zimbabwe. Such information is admittedly to be easily found elsewhere, notably in the writings of the Rev. Hamer, but its non-inclusion here is an irritant. What we are left with, however, is probably as full an account as possible of the history of the steam locomotives of Rhodesia & Zimbabwe.

"The Smoke That Thunders" is written in what is usually described as Dusty's inimitable style: warts and all, it is enthusiastic and sometimes leads him into expressing rather eccentric views. It is, like I suspect the man himself, never dull. The book displays some evidence of hasty production (proof-reading is highly variable) and some photos are poorly cropped; plus in my copy, some of the photo reproduction could have been better. Nonetheless this is a terrific read and a clear must for anybody interested in African railways and Garratts.

The obvious cliche is to say is that "The Smoke That Thunders" is an apt tribute to Dusty; cliche or not, it is. Fortunately it seems that this is not quite the last we shall see from his pen - I understand that two other books on African railways are in manuscript and will be published posthumously.

And thanks, Dusty, for all the years of inspiration.

The Smoke that Thunders ISBN 1-77901-134-2

218 pages 210x295mm, full colour hardback cover, 260 b/w photos, 25 colour photos, 48 diagrams, 1 map

The Era of the Bush Tram in New Zealand

by Paul Mahoney

192 pages. A4 size. Hard cover; 12 colour and 181 black and white photographs, 2 colour reproductions of paintings, 2 line drawings, 2 loco diagrams all printed on 128 gsm matt art paper. Published 1998 by IPL Books, PO Box 10-215, Wellington, NZ; recommended price $NZ59.95. Available from LRRSA Sales, PO Box 21, SURREY HILLS 3127, Victoria, Australia for $A60.00 plus postage for 1000gm.

Over the period from the 1850s to the 1970s, New Zealand boasted over 500 bush trams, nearly all 3ft 6ins gauge, with the majority using horse haulage. However, many did feature locomotives, an estimated 420 units in all, of which slightly more than half were steam, and there was a bewildering variety of types, both imported and New Zealand made. The lines seem to have been distributed all over the country with just about every conceivable engineering feature including spectacular inclines and massive timber bridges. Locomotive haulage was used not just on light steel railed tramways but also on timber rails, necessitating some ingenious articulated designs, including 16-wheel steam locomotives which must have had to be seen to be believed.

The challenge facing the author of a book intended to provide an introductory treatment of such an enormous topic is a major one. The approach chosen has been to divide the book into three parts, the first providing a general introduction to bush tramways and their operation, the second dealing with steam locomotives, and the third with internal combustion machines. The book is profusely illustrated with a magnificent range of well reproduced photographs. The technique of extended photo captions is well used to provide many insights into the author's subject, with the high quality of presentation giving the book somewhat of a LRRSA "feel" to it.

The first section of the book deals quite nicely with a broad treatment of bush tram operations, including social aspects, and shows how the political and legislative framework affected the development of rail transport in the forests. However, it does not say much about the development of the timber industry in geographical terms, nor about the processing and eventual use of the timber product.

The locomotive story commences as early as 1870, and the relevant sections are packed with information and yet remain hard pressed merely to give a summary of the main types of locomotives and their development, with particular emphasis on the fascinating articulated steam locomotives both American and local, and the story of the resourceful development of the various types of locally-produced rail tractors.

Concentration on these aspects of the history has meant that other aspects receive little attention. There are no maps in the book, and to anyone unfamiliar with New Zealand geography and economic development, it is difficult to get a grasp of where the main centres for bush tram development were situated. It is understandable that there is no comprehensive attempt made to provide descriptions of the various bush tramways, but this means that the utilisation (and usefulness) of various types of locomotives is not related to the specific operating conditions encountered on individual lines.

There are some very useful listings of large numbers of known locomotives. The amount of detail supplied does not follow a consistent pattern, although the listings do form a very valuable resource.

The book does not have an index. Neither it is fully referenced, but it does contain a useful general bibliography. Fully-referenced copies of the manuscript have been deposited in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. More than 300 oral interviews are a major part of the research base used by the author, who works for the New Zealand Department of Conservation and is involved in the identification and preservation of significant timber industry sites.

Some aspects I found annoying included the author's insistence on referring to bush tramway locomotives throughout as "lokeys", apparently a vernacular term in New Zealand. Although mercifully free of typographical problems, there are a number of areas where tighter editing may have been valuable. For example, there appears to be a confusion about whether the locomotives developed by Frank Trail and built by A & T Burt should be known as "Trail tractors", "Trail's tractors" or "Trails tractors". Another case in point is the various references to the use of powered trailing bogies in internal-combustion and steam applications, where a powered bogie driven by a long driveshaft, universal joints and gears served as the first log bogie in a train. The author says that this was an innovation of Frank Trail, with the first example of his rail tractor built in 1924, although he elsewhere says that the first Nattrass tractor, built in 1923, incorporated this feature. Furthermore, a description of the 1927 and 1929 McGregor geared steam locomotives says that this design was "the first use of powered log bogies and may well have been the concept copied for the Trails tractor." Another concern was some discrepancies I noted in details such as dates and wheel arrangements as found in the text, in photographs, and in the loco listings appearing as an appendix.

In spite of such reservations, I still found the book a delight, with the descriptions and photographs of a wide variety of geared and articulated steam locomotives a particular highlight, and the author is to be congratulated on a wonderful achievement. This book should be very popular among those who have purchased copies of the Society's timber tramway books. Recommended.

John Browning

Queensland Canefields Steam Era

A photographic profile 1955-1980

Edited by Lindsay Crow and John Sargent. Train Hobby Publications, 1999 A4 landscape size. 48 pages, card colour covers, 54 colour photographs. Available from LRRSA Sales, PO Box 21, SURREY HILLS 3127, Victoria, Australia for $A29.95 ($27 for LRRSA members) plus postage for 280 grams.

This is a quality all-colour production in landscape format featuring steam locomotives, largely presented one to a page and with reproduction that is technically close to superlative.

The quality of the photographs used in the book is of an extremely high standard, with most being outstanding. Composition is wonderfully good, probably reflecting close attention to the "framing" of each shot as it appears on the page. Nearly all are action shots and even those that are not exude an atmosphere of immediacy. There is very little wasted space on the page with little in the way of white paper to distract the eye. These are rare shots of never-to-be repeated scenes. The photographs are quite simply luscious, presenting not only the magnificent machines of a bygone era but also the authentic surroundings of the Queensland coastal sugar belt as it is still to be seen and enjoyed today.

The book suffers to some extent from a limited coverage geographically. Understandably, it features well the more southern mills, so much more accessible from both the southern states and Brisbane, with more than half the featured shots from Bundaberg south. In both books, the Burdekin area and the "wet tropics" from Tully to Cairns are rather poorly represented.

Captions are a major challenge in books such as these. The editors appear knowledgeable in their fairly brief captions, but the details of locations (often very interesting ones) are sometimes rather vague, which would frustrate the intrepid reader who would like to make his or her way to the same spot to photograph modern motive power. Many locomotives are identified by builder's number, but not all. There is the occasional slip in spelling and factual information, but these are really only fairly minor blemishes.

This book should be welcomed as it will bring Australia's most varied (and to many, most interesting) sector of railway operations to greater prominence in the awareness of the general railway fraternity. It is hard to imagine a better introduction to the subject.

John Browning

"Reseau Breton : A Rail Network in Brittany"

France was once home to over 17,000 miles of minor local narrow gauge railways (or "Secondaires") and it was said that it was once possible to travel from the north to the south of the country on such narrow gauge lines (though only masochists would have wanted to). The great majority of these railways were closed before WW2 but a number survived into the 1960s and a few even do today.

Two in particular are relatively well-known to British enthusiasts: the Reseau Breton in Brittany, which due to its proximity to the UK attracted a number of visitors in the 1960s, and the Reseau du Vivarais system in southern France, which is now one of Europe's premier preservation operations.

Both railways were rather similar: they developed into lengthy systems running through lightly populated (and in the case of the Vivarais spectacularly beautiful) areas. Both employed distinctive metre gauge motive power, in latter years largish 0-6-6-0Ts and both closed in the late 1960s (Reseau Breton on 21 Sept 1967 and the Vivarais on 31 Oct 1968). Whilst little other than the trackbed and some buildings of the Resau Breton remains, parts of the Vivarais have become museum railways. Finally, both railways are now the subject of books recently published in the UK.

Given the similarities of their subject matter, not surprisingly the two books "Reseau Breton : A Rail Network in Brittany" by Gordon Gravett and "Vivarais Narrow Gauge" by John Organ are themselves rather similar. Both outline the historical development and subsequent decline of their respective railways, as well as providing descriptions of the lines and their infrastructure, with chapters on the motive power (steam & diesel railcar); both provide numerous scale drawings and trackplans for the modeller. The Reseau Breton book seeks to place the system within the context of the transport infrastructure of Brittany, whilst "Vivarais Narrow Gauge" has chapters on the (partial) preservation of the line.

It needs to be pointed out that these are general, and not definitive, histories. Of the two books the "Reseau Breton" is a much superior and slicker production. "Vivarais Narrow Gauge" is, however, much better written but suffers from appalling photographic reproduction; it is almost unbelievable that a publisher would dare to put out a book with such poor images in 1999. Nonetheless both books are well worth acquiring if you have any interest in French narrow gauge.

"Reseau Breton : A Rail Network in Brittany" by Gordon Gravett

Published : The Oakwood Press @ GBP 10.95
ISBN : 0 85361 536 5
Available from publisher at
PO Box 13, USK, Monmouth, NP5 1YS,  UK

"Vivarais Narrow Gauge" by John Organ

Published by Middleton Press @ GBP12.95(?)
ISBN 1 901706 31 1
Available from publisher at:
Easebourne Lane, Midhurst, West Sussex, GU29 9AZ, UK

"The Locomotives Built by Manning Wardle & Company. Volume 1 Narrow Gauge"

In the heyday of steam, Britain was home to a number of small and medium-sized locomotive manufacturers who primarily supplied the domestic industrial railway market, but also exported both industrial and main line locos as the arose. Several of these firms developed a disticntive house style. One such was the company of Manning Wardle of Leeds in northern England, which built over 2,000 locos between 1859 and 1926, when the market suddenly dried up.

Such highly distinctive builders have always attracted their devotees and we can be fortunate that in the case of Manning Wardle it is in the form of Fred Harman. The fruits of his lifetime study of the Leeds' firm and its locomotives are now being made available in three projected volumes, of which the first dealing with the narrow gauge locos has recently appeared.

Manning Wardle constructed over 300 narrow gauge locos and a substantial number of these were exported. They were dispatched, quite literally, to the four corners of the globe and some worked well into the 1980s (remember Futwah - Islampur). In this well laid out and beautifully printed book (a lesson her for many other publishers), Fred Harman provides us with a brief description of every Manning Wardle narrow gauge locomotive, many of which are also illustrated. These are considered on a geographical basis. Regrettably the description is for the most part restricted to a technical one of the loco and to whom it was originally dispatched. There is relatively little information on the subsequent histories of the individual locos, even where this is generally known. The book would perhaps have benefitted from the author digging a little deeper. Likewise I noticed a number of factual errors.

But as the reviewer's cliche goes, these are minor points and do not detract from the quality of the book. Despite its relatively high price tag, it is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in industrial and narrow gauge locomotives. Volumes 2 & 3, which will cover standard and broad gauge locos respectively are eagerly awaited.

"The Locomotives Built By Manning Wardle & Company. Volume 1 Narrow Gauge" by Fred W. Harman

Published by Century Locoprints @ GBP 16.95
ISBN : 0 9535313 0
Available from the author at:
31 Dunstable Road, Toddington, Beds, LU5 6DS, UK

Railways and War

On 22 June 1941 Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, his long planned attack on the Soviet Union. Buoyed up by the speed of the campaigns in France and elsewhere and blinded by his racist beliefs in the inherent inferiority of Slavs, Hitler was convinced the war would be a short and highly mobile one, using airpower and road transport.

The reality was of course different. The Germans made enormous gains, but met with unexpected resistance (and the Russian winter). With the front thousands of kilometres from Germany itself and roads in Soviet Union poor to say the least, it proved impossible to supply the armies by road and somewhat late in the day it was realised that railways would play a crucial role in the war on the eastern front.

This was easier said than done. As the Soviets had withdrawn nearly all their locomotives in time (approximately only 1,000 broad gauge locos fell into Nazi hands), the Germans had to provuide their own motive power (mostly from Germany, France and Belgium), thus disrupting domestic rail services. The use of standard gauge locos on a large scale meant that they were also compelled to regauge thousands of kilometres of track. Moreover, as axle loadings on Soviet railways were very low, the Germans had to use light and less powerfu locos dating mostly from the WW1 and before. As if all these difficulties were not enough, after 1942 and especially in Belarus, the railways were subjected to increasingly effective partisan attacks. To say the least, operating railways on the eastern front was an enormous challenge to which the Germans responded with predictable efficiency. By the autumn of 1942 with their control of eastern occupied territories at its peak, 750,000 men and women were operating 4,600 locomotives over a network some 35,000km long.

Two recently published German language books "Die Deutsche Reichsbahn im Zweiten Weltkrieg" & "Reichsbahn hinter der Ostfront 1941-1944" from the same publishing house, Transpress, document and examine the role of the German operated railways in the eastern occupied territories. Their formats are rather similar: both books are basically photo albums with extended captions, plus short texts for each chapter. That said, their approach is very different. "Die Deutsche Reichsbahn im Zweiten Weltkrieg" by Janusz Piekalkiewicz is a rather traditional apologia extolling the work of German railwaymen bravely and honourably done under difficult circumstances. The accompanying text is something of a pot-pourri, a collection of paragraphs discussing various (at times unrelated) topicis, interspersed with (at times unrelated) contemporary documents. There is a great deal of information here but it can take some finding.

Unusually for a German railway book the role of Germany's railways in the holocaust is mentioned and illustrated with one photo of Jews being loaded into freight wagons during the clearing of the Warsaw ghetto. Against this author Piekalkiewicz suggests that German railwaymen knew nothing of the "Final Solution" and the use of trains to transport Jews to the extermination camps. He also makes what is for me the extraordinary claim that "It is evident that without the silence of the allies in the east and west the DRB could not fulfill this task [transporting Jews]. No aeroplane destroyed the "Umsiedlertransporte" [the official euphemism used for trains transporting Jews and which may translate as "migrant trains"], no low-flying aircraft strafed a loco of a death train, no squadron of bombers dropped their destructive load on an important junction along the routes leading to the concentration camps. Even the partisans in the woods of Russia, Poland, France and the Balkans remained in their hiding places." (page 93).

The truth or a whitewash? I offer no comment as I simply do not have any evidence one way or another. It is certainly not the first claim of Allied complicity in the holocaust.

This aside, "Die Deutsche Reichsbahn im Zweiten Weltkrieg" is worth purchasing. It has an interesting collection of photos from a variety of sources, a few of which have been published before. British enthusiasts will be pleased to see a picture of a Deans Goods at work on the eastern front.

"Reichsbahn hinter der Ostfront" by Andreas Knipping and Reinhard Schulz is altogether different in style. It showcases over 300 (beautifully printed) official press photographs now in the collection of Reinhard Schulz. Technically and pictorially these are often of very high quality; these are far from being amateur snapshots. Many were used for propaganda purposes and are clearly "posed", whilst others were censored and are being published for the first time. Amongst these is a chilling photo of Brest-Litovsk railway station with a very ordinary looking covered freight wagon in the foreground - ordinary that is until you see the barbed wire over the ventilators and read in the caption that this wagon had been used to transport Jews. The majority of the pictures are non-locomotive and together give a good overall view of conditions on the eastern front. The locomotives featured are inevitably mostly of German origin (remember these are propaganda pictures) and include rare action photos of class 52 condensers; sadly there are only two photos of narrow gauge locos.

Picture captioning is both extensive and authorative. Each chapter, the subject of which was presumably dictated by the choice of photos available has a brief introduction by Andreas Knipping, who also provides an introductory chapter tracing the development of relations between Germany and Russia and of their railways, both civilian and military. Knipping's writings are brief, informative and interesting; he makes many useful observations and is good at interpreting disparate pieces of information - this is a stimulating text. Like Piekalkiewicz, he also has an agenda, though a radically different one. A member of the postwar generation, Knipping makes no attempt to hide his distaste for Hitler's war and the atrocities committed by his fellow countrymen in the east. In this revisionist version, he suggests that these were committed not only by the SS, but also by the Wehrmacht and railwaymen. In this he takes the line of the controversial exhibition which has been touring Germany and Austria over the past few years.

This however is an outstanding book and one which deserves to be on the bookshelf of everybody interested in WW2 and railways. It is highly recommended.
"Die Deutsche Reichsbahn im Zweiten Weltkrieg"
by Janusz Piekalkiewicz
Published : Transpress 1998
ISBN : 3-344-70812-0

"Reichsbahn hinter der Ostfront 1941-1944"
by Andreas Knipping and Reinhard Schulz
Published : Transpress 1999
ISBN : 3-613-71101-X

I obtained both books from Amazon Germany and this would seem to a good place to point out for those who have not yet tried it what a convenient, speedy and (often) cheap way the Amazon on-line bookshop is to obtain books, especially as domestic bookshops seem to like to add a hefty markup for foreign books. As far as possible I now use the relevant Amazon shop for my book purchases; these are:
GB : 
USA : 
Germany : 

On the related subject of railways and war, brief mention should be made of a new album from Plateway Press, entitled "The Light Track from Arras". This forms the third part of Plateway's "Narrow Gauge at War", which focuses on the narrow gauge railways operated by the British Army in WW1. The book was originally published in 1931 by T.R. Heritage and recalls his two years serving on the narrow gauge railways on the western front. This provides a good deal of incidental information on these operations. The tone is deliberately light-hearted, at times falsely so, but presumably the horror of trench warfare could only be tolerated in such a way. The true value of the book however lies in the wonderful collection of photos Keith Taylorson has assembled to accompany the text.

"The Light Track from Arras"
by T.R. Heritage
Published : Plateway Press 1999 and available from:
Taverner House, Harling Road, East Harling, Norwich, NR16 2QR, UK.

ISBN : 1 871980 40 2

RENFE Steam Remembered Index

Lawrence Marshall first visited Spain in 1956 and over the next 10 years, until the effective end of steam, made numerous visits covering all the constituent parts of RENFE. For most of this time there was an amazing variety of steam locomotives at work, the product of more than 50 builders from Europe and North America. There were many modern locomotives including Beyer-Garratts, but also large numbers of extremely old locomotives dating back to before the First World War. He was granted extensive facilities to visit RENFE installations and as a result he accumulated what must be a unique photographic collection covering the closing years of Spanish steam. As he says in his introduction this is basically a picture book and it contains more than 230 black and white pictures (mainly postcard size with a few larger ones), which is just as well as the book is bilingual (Spanish/English) throughout and if there had been more text it would have been intrusive.

The book is divided into chapters covering each of the principal companies with a page of introduction. There then follows a photographic section with substantial captions. The quality of reproduction is uniformly excellent although it is unfortunate that the author's limited resources at the time meant that most are taken in and around the stations and depots and the book does not convey much of the environment in which the locomotives worked.

Spain was not as popular a destination for steam enthusiasts as the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and I know of few books which have appeared on the subject apart from the author's own 'Steam on the RENFE' and M.J. Fox's 'Last Steam Locomotives of Spain and Portugal'. The book can be recommended for those who want a record of an era which has long passed and a second book covering the narrow gauge which is under preparation will be especially welcome by this reviewer. (RD)

RENFE Steam Remembered by Lawrence Marshall
Hard back, 23 x 17cm, 204 glossy pages with more than 230 black and white pictures mostly 13 x 9cm.
ISBN 84 - 95178 - 04 - 4
Published by Ediciones Trea, S.L., Donoso Cortes, 7, bajo, 33204, Gijon (Asturias), Spain

The Red Devil and Other Tales from the Age of Steam Index

Ever since the end of his contract with China Rail (and his de facto retirement) in December 1988, word has been that Dave Wardale has been at work on his memoirs. Now, nearly ten years later, they are finally available in print and few will doubt that the long wait has not been worth it.

With his mentor, LD Porta, firmly at his side (and to whom every debt is fully acknowledged), Dave Wardale was (sadly) the last engineer to participate significantly in the development of the steam locomotive. He worked principally in South Africa and China. In the former he was responsible for modifying with enormously beneficial results a 19D 4-8-2 (no. 2644) and a 25NC 4-8-4 (no.3450), which became the (in)famous "Red Devil", after which the book is titled. In China a QJ 2-10-2 received some limited modifications and some desultory trials. This was intended as the first stage in producing a Super QJ; Wardale, despite great difficulties, undertook the necessary design work for this, but the Chinese had no interest in it and the project was stillborn. He was also involved in the somewhat naively conceived ACE project in the USA.

These three developments are described in great detail in this lengthy book. In part it is a homage to LD Porta, in part an engineering treatise, in part the historical record, interspersed with some fascinating anecdotes and snippets of information not generally available to the average enthusiast. For these alone it is worth buying.

The book also discusses in a considered manner why diesel traction replaced steam so rapidly after 1950. Here Wardale sees many factors at play, but he particularly apportions blame to the steam engineers in the crucial years 1930 to 1950 for their complacency, for being generally unscientific and for failing to carry steam technology forward. American steam may have got big in this period, but that's all it did, technically a Big Boy was little advanced over a Mallet of the 1920s; and was Stanier's Coronation class pacific of 1937 much more than a big Star, a 4 cylinder 4-6-0 dating from 1906?. For this critique alone, the book should be required reading for the more extreme members of the pro-steam lobby and the rabid scribblers of Britain's tabloid steam railway press.

"Red Devil" is not an easy book to read. Wardale assumes of his reader a great deal of engineering knowledge. How many of you know what tribology is? I don't! His paragraphs are unfashionably long (no soundbites here) and the fonts are almost inconsiderately small.

Yet if you the slightest interest in and fascination for the steam locomotive, then this is the one book this year you must buy. Dave Wardale's love affair with the steam locomotive was so profound that he travelled the world in search of employment in an attempt to prolong its working life. That he had the intellectual capacity and resolve to do so there can be no doubt. The tragedy is that his life's work started ten or twenty years too late.

"The Red Devil and Other Tales from the Age of Steam"
by David Wardale
Published by the author at pounds sterling 27-95.
ISBN 0-9529998-0-3

The Red Devil has been reprinted, contact publisher Camden Miniature as it is no longer on their website (25th August 2015).

"Today's Steam on the Sugar Lines of Cuba (Vol 1)" Index

Given the large number of steam enthusiasts visiting Cuba every cane cutting season, it is truly remarkable that few books have been published on the subject. Equally, considering how photogenic the island is, it is astonishing how mediocre are in fact most of the few photos that do get into print

Mr Eatwell's offering "Today's Steam on the Sugar Lines of Cuba" does little to change this sad situation. A black and white album of fifty pages, mostly with one photo per page, it is photographically one of the most tedious I've seen for a long time.

One undistinguished three-quarter view of a loco emitting clouds of black smoke follows another, interspersed with portrait shots of a variety of locomotives - a style one had hoped had disappeared with the unlamented Bradford Barton books of the 1970s. The format chosen is also somewhat unfortunate. In principle there is one photo per mill. Unfortunately for this approach, some mills have a variety of interesting types, which readily justify more than an arbitrary choice of one photo, whilst others employ more standard types to be found elsewhere, inevitably leading to some duplication. Each photograph has a lengthy and informative caption, though these can be rather long-winded at times. The book's saving grace is that it is beautifully printed - a lesson here for many UK publishers.

Sadly then, the definitive work on Cuba's fabulous sugar cane railways still has to be produced. David Eatwell's effort falls far short of the mark - and we are threatened with a second volume!

"Today's Steam on the Sugar Lines of Cuba Volume 1"
by David Eatwell
Published by BRMNA, 5124-33rd Street NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2L 1V4.

"Steam and Rail in Slovakia" Index

Number Two in an occasional series published by "Locomotives International", "Steam and Rail in Slovakia" was published to coincide with the August 1998 150 Anniversary celebrations of railways in Slovakia, one of the youngest republics in Europe. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first work in English devoted to Slovak railways.

As a companion for visitors to Slovakia it fulfills its task admirably. It offers a good general survey of the development of both standard and narrow gauge railways in this rather forgotten country in central Europe. There is also a brief section on the railways of Karpatske Rus in present-day Ukraine, but which was part of Czechoslovakia between the wars.

"Steam and Rail in Slovakia" is well illustrated with a surprisingly large number of historic photos, sparing us from the endless shots of preserved locos, which these days all too often decorate such works. The generic title is, however, somewhat misleading, as the book also discusses and illustrates modern forms of traction.

The book is not without its factual errors; the Marchegg to Gänserndorf line, for example, did not close in 1870, but is still alive and kicking. Sadly too, as seems to be increasingly the case with "Locomotives International" publications, the proof-reading and sub-editing leave much to be desired. Nonetheless, this is a commendable effort and it is to be hoped that Paul Catchpole will continue the series. Recommended both to those who made the trip to Slovakia for the celebrations and to anybody with an interest in central European railways.

"Steam and Rail in Slovakia"
By Paul Catchpole.
Price : Pounds sterling 9.95.

Also from the same stable comes "Broader than Broad", a reprint in book form of a series of articles by Robin Barnes which appeared in "Locomotives International" describing Hitler's schemes for a three metre(!) gauge rail network connecting the principle cities of the Third Reich. Unfortunately history intervened and the project existed merely on paper. It is brought to life through Robin Barnes' paintbrush; paintings substituting for the non-existing photographs of this monstrous project. A fascinating read if you didn't see the original articles.

"Broader than Broad"
by Robin Barnes
Price : Pounds sterling 5.95.

Published by Locomotives International

"Steam Train Adventures in the Americas" Index

Photographic books covering steam in Latin America are thin on the ground.  Toshihiko Uchino has produced a slim volume with coverage of recent action in Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala and El Salvador as well as the USA.   Since the pictures outside the USA all appear to have been taken in the last 5 years, with the exception of Cuba they must have been largely taken on rail tours.   Nevertheless they show the steam locos on traditional trains to good advantage. There are also a number of photographs showing the people around each of the railways covered.  The quality of the photographs and their reproduction is excellent and the photographic style is varied but traditional.  Overall the book offers a fair introduction to the newcomer to this area of steam operation.  My only reservation would be the price which compares rather unfavourably with other photographic albums such as the Steam on 4 Continents series. (RD)

Steam Train Adventures in the Americas
by Toshihiko Uchino
published by Hikari Studio, Japan

20x22cm; soft cover; 60 pages
U$18.00 plus shipping and handling
Distributed by Books Nippan in the US and outside of Japan
VISA and Mastercard and U$ cheques are acceptable
Books Nippan, 605 W. 7th Street, Los Angeles CA 90017, USA
Tel (213) 891-9636 Fax (213) 891-9631

"Steam in the World" Index

"Steam in the World" by Kamiya Takeshi is an all-colour, Japanese language photo album devoted to the steam locomotive. The album does more or less live up to its title and steam locos are shown at work in nearly 40 countries. Inevitably many of the locations are well-known. Most of the photos appear to have been taken in the 1990s and include a large number of special trains and workings. Whether this is made clear in the text I do not know as my knowledge of the Japanese language is non-existent.
This is a difficult book to review. It is for the most part beautifully printed on high quality papaer, though some of the images have reproduced rather darkly. It contains some stunning shots - check out the photo of Victoria Falls on pages 132-33 - alongside some of the worst published in many years and which should have been consigned to the waste paper bin. Moody glint shots are great, but you've got to get the glint in the right place! Furthermore, many of the best shots are spread across two pages of this paperback book and much gets lost in the centre binding.
It is also one of the worst laid out books I've seen in a long time. Too many pictures (and text) are crammed onto a page, with one picture often overlapping another. With everything in bright colour, as well as parts of the text often in colour too, the result is an assault on the eye. The book ends up something of a visual mess, with many of its best photos struggling to be seen, let alone admired and enjoyed. Sadly, "Steam in the World" is a book which, despite some, at times, fabulous photography, simply cannot be recommended.

"Steam in the World"
by Kamiya Takeshi

ISBN : 4-330-50598-3
Available from the author at:
Musashino City

"The Two Foot Gauge Enigma" Index

After a period of inactivity the Plateway Press has risen phoenix-like from the ashes of a change of ownership. But on the basis of this book, it has not yet taken flight. "The Two Foot Gauge Enigma" relates the history of the two foot gauge Beira Railway, 222 miles of railway driven through hostile jungle and linking Umtali (which incidentally had to be moved 20 miles to the east to provide the railway with an easier approach!) in landlocked Rhodesia with the eastern African seaboard at Beira. Constructed between September 1892 and February 1898, it took the lives of many men. Yet such was the traffic it generated that within two years it was rebuilt to the Cape gauge of 3 foot 6 inches. The Beira Railway thus existed as a two foot gauge line for a mere two years and has always enjoyed something of a legendary status. Pre-publication publicity implied that "The Two Foot Gauge Enigma" would be the definitive work on the line. This it is certainly not. As with so many Plateway books on non-British subjects, the text is at times superficial and "thin", leaving the impression that there is more to be said on the subject. I understand that there are considerable errors in the (very short) chapter on the locomotives and I am thus still little further in learning anything of the background of the surviving 4-4-0s of the railway which I saw in South Africa and Zimbabwe. The sole saving grace of the book is an amazing collection of photographs of the line's construction and two years of operation; given the remoteness of the line and the fact that it existed for such a short time, this really is remarkable. If old photographs interest you, then you might consider purchasing this book; otherwise I'd seriously think twice about it.

"The Two Foot Gauge Enigma"
by Antony Baxter
ISBN 1 871980 34 8
Published by and obtainable from :
Plateway Press
Taverner House
Harling Road
East Harling

Price £8.95

RED NORTE : The Story of State-Owned Railways in the North of Chile Index

Chile is a rather strange place - over 4,000km long from north to south but never wider than 180km. The capital Santiago lies more or less in the middle of the country and two distinctive rail networks developed from it. The populous and fertile south was early served by a broad gauge network; the barren and empty north, however, was a "problem". This was eventually solved by the construction of a metre gauge system, stretching 2,000km from La Calera in the south to the port of Iquique in the far north and built, with a few exceptions, between 1897 and 1914.  This was known as Red Norte - the northern network - and is the subject of Ian Thomson's new book on the railway. The result of many years research in archives in South America, the USA and Europe, the book describes in great detail the political, social and economic background to the construction of this railway, which as the author points out owed far more to strategic and geo-political considerations than to commercial ones. The railway was thus rarely profitable and today much of it is moribund. Far too few railway books deal comprehensively with the reasons why railways are opened and closed and Ian Thomson is to be commended for emphasing this aspect. Also very well treated is the impact of the W class 2-8-2s and how they revolutionised services on the Red Norte.

Ian Thomson is a transport consultant resident in Chile and at times the book reads a little like the reports he no doubt produces professionally. Personally I was irritated by the use of numbered sections and the "snappy" sub-titles, but this does not detract from the fact that the book is a good read. Ian Thomson tells his story well and with great enthusiasm. It is therefore a pity that he has been let down by poor maps and even poorer proofreading. Nonetheless, RED NORTE is highly recommended to everybody with an interest in the railways of South America.

RED NORTE : The Story of State-Owned Railways in the North of Chile
by Ian Thomson
ISBN 1-900340-05-4
Published by and obtainable from:
Paul Catchpole Ltd
Kings Norton

Price L14.95.

And if RED NORTE whets your appetite for more on the history of Chile's railways, then Ian Thomson, together with Dietrich Angerstein, has just published a 279 page book in Spanish entitled "Historia del Ferrocarril en Chile" (ISBN 956-244-065-6). This deals with the railways of the whole country with again an emphasis on the economic and social background to their development. The book costs 7,000 Chilean Pesos.

Also recently published is "Railways of Latin America in Historic Postcards", which is exactly what its title suggest, a beautifully printed collection of old postcards featuring mostly steam locomotives, but also some other aspects of railways and trams from the Caribbean down to Tierra del Fuego. Even if you have no particular interest in the region, the book is fascinating and it is to be hoped that Trackside will eventually cover other parts of the world in a similar fashion

"Railways of Latin America in Historic Postcards"
By Christopher Walker
ISBN 1-900095.084.4
Published by and obtainable from:
Trackside Publications
50 Long Meadow
BD23 1BW

Price : L15.95

"KOLONNE. Die Deutsche Reichsbahn im Dienste der Sowjetunion." Index

Alone of the Allied Powers, the USSR exacted reparations from a defeated Germany after 1945 - or at least from its sector, which in 1949 was granted sovereignty" and became known as the GDR. Reparations took the form of goods and services provided by the Germans to the Soviets after 1945, but the Soviets also stripped their sector bare by dismantling factories and shipping them lock, stock and barrel back to the USSR. The railways, despite being of vital importance to any postwar reconstruction, were particularly badly affected. As well as losing locomotives and rolling stock, many secondary lines of the DR were lifted, main lines were singled, electrification and signalling equipment dismantled; those of you who visited Saalfeld 20 years ago will no doubt recall the singled main lines and the stubs of electrification poles. The transport of these vast tonnages of reparations (or war booty) back to the USSR was at first on an ad hoc basis and chaos soon reigned. The solution was ruthless, but effective: the DR was simply required, virtually overnight, to provide a certain number of locos, rolling stock and crews, which were then organised into "Kolonne" (perhaps best translated as "convoys") and whose sole task was to work trains from eastern Germany through Poland to the Soviet border. The number of such "Kolonne" varied, but well over 30 were formed. In the immediate postwar years this caused the DR enormous problems: in May 1946, for example, there were 800 locos allocated to the "Kolonne", whilst the DR had only 2,716 active locs at its disposal. Statistics are missing for the years 1948-49, but it is probably an underestimate to say that between 1945 and 1953, German crews and locos made the round trip of some 10-14 days to the USSR more than 20,000 times. References to the "Kolonne" trains used to crop up occasionally in West German railway magazines, but the information was always sketchy. Neither the East Germans nor the Soviets were going to publicise it and it has only been with the fall of the Berlin Wall that archives (and memories) have begun to be opened. A chapter was devoted to the "Kolonne" trains in "Reichsbahn ohne Reich" (pub. LOKReport 1996), but "KOLONNE" is the first book to deal with the subject in detail. It is well-researched and based on archival material, much of it published for the first time. The authors also emphasise the human aspect and the book benefits from many interviews with some of the surviving crews. Here we can detect a certain degree of pride in a job carried out under extremely difficult circumstances and at what was certainly not the most glorious moment in German history.  Pictures of "Kolonne" trains are perforce rare and the authors have done well to assemble a good selection, though inevitably some have already appeared in "Reichsbahn ohne Reich". The book, which is in German, is completed by a list of the locos used on "Kolonne" trains, as well as one of the "Trophy" locos removed to the USSR after 1945. All in all, a fascinating insight into a relatively unknown aspect of German locomotive history.

"KOLONNE. Die Deutsche Reichsbahn im Dienste der Sowjetunion."
by Michael Reimer, Lothar Meyer & Vollmer Kubitzki
published by
transpress Verlag, Postfach 103743, D-70032 Stuttgart, Germany.
ISBN 3-613-71080-3

"Russian Steam Locomotive Development" Index

As with the other former Communist giant, China, relatively little has been published outside specialist works on the locomotive history of the USSR. This is slowly beginning to change. With the collapse of the closed and rigidly controlled society that was the Soviet Union, archives are being opened and material can finally be freely published. The following three books have all been published over the past few years in Russia and deserve our attention.

1) "Lokomotivy oteschestvennykh zheleznykh dorog 1845-1955", by V.A. Rakov, Moscow 1995, ISBN 5-277-00821-7

This is an updated and much expanded version of Rakov’s original 1955 history of Russian & Soviet five foot gauge locomotives. As well as much new information, its greatest advantage are the detailed lists of locomotive numbers for many of the types described; even if you don’t read Russian, these are normally self-evident and very useful. Not without its lacunae and (so I’m told) its factual errors, this book is likely to remain for a long time to come the standard work on Russian & Soviet steam locomotives. It can only be hoped that a western publisher has the courage to commission a translation into English or German.

2) "Parovozy Seris S", by Aleksandr Nikol’skii, Moscow 1997, ISBN 5-89327-009-6

A large A4 size book on the history of the elegant S class prairie first introduced in 1911 and the forerunner of the more familiar Su. Given its length, the author has clearly trawled near and far for information on these well-loved 2-6-2s. Some statistical information is included but if you don’t read Russian, then probably its greatest virtue is the wide and interesting selection of photographs.

3) "Russian Narrow Gauge Steam Locomotives", by L. Moskalev, Moscow 1997, ISBN ??

Rakov’s books have only dealt with the broad gauge locos of his country; this work attempts to fill the gap for narrow gauge steam locomotives, of which there were large numbers of many different gauges, but mostly 750mm. With the best will in the world, the book does not succeed in its object, but it is a brave attempt. It is far from definitive; to give but one example, many of the British built imports are not mentioned. Nor should too much reliance be placed on the information it contains - my Russian friends tell me it is riddled with mistakes.

Nonetheless it comes recommended: the pictures alone make it worth buying with some rare and exotic locos illustrated; it certainly provides a good general background to the history of the ng railways of Russia & the Soviet Union and, unlike the other two books reviewed here, it has an English parallel text, which renders it accessible. The English, however, is eccentric to say the least and a good deal of creative fantasy is required at times to understand what is meant.

Prospective purchasers should be warned that paper, and hence picture reproduction, quality for all of these books is very poor by current standards. The other problem is how you get hold of a copy ..... However you do it, the effort, particularly for the Rakov, is well worth it.

"Narrow Gauge Rails Through The Cordillera" Index

Back in 1974 I spent a month travelling around Spain to catch the last of RENFE steam. I devoted the final day of the trip to a look at some of the coalmines in the Asturian coalfield. I have regretted ever since that I spent so little time there. For here were to be seen, even as late as the mid 1970s, numerous steam locos on various gauges, working through magnificent scenery, narrow valleys scarred by the relics of 19th Century industrialisation. It reminded me very much of South Wales - another area I only ever briefly visited.

Yet whilst I have yet to read an adequate study of the South Wales coalfield and its railways, here is an excellent one of the narrow gauge railways of northern Spain. The north coast of the Iberian Peninsula is separated from its natural hinterland by the Cantabrican Mountains and few broad gauge railways penetrated them. Yet here were bustling ports, important population centres and, as the 19th Century progressed, the developing Vizcayan & Cantabrian iron and steel industry and the Asturian coalfield. All these needed to be linked and in this mountainous region narrow gauge rails were the solution. By the early 20th Century northern Spain was criss-crossed by a dense network of narrow gauge lines ranging from 500mm to the unique (for Spain) standard gauge Langreo Railway.

Much of this has now gone, but it is very well recalled in this excellent and well-researched book by Dr Mike Bent, an ex-pat living in Spain. The blurb on the back of the book rightly claims that it is "highly readable and definitive". It is indeed a pleasure to read a railway book where the English doesn’t make you want to wince; above all this book explains why the individual railways were built - something omitted by all too many railway histories.

Number crunchers will, however, find little to interest them here; as the author points out, listing every steam loco which had ever worked in northern Spain would have made the book impossibly long. Moreover we are promised a new IRS book on Spain soon. There are two other gripes: detailed maps are provided, but several are squeezed together on one page. The result is confusing and it is at times difficult to find the railways the author is so well describing. Picture reproduction is at times indifferent; picture choice is also a little boring.

This is the first venture by a new publisher, Semaphore Press, and augers well for the future. As a sign of the times, it is also available on CD-ROM, with additional photographs, drawings of rolling stock and station plans etc. Dr Mike Bent promises us a further book on the Ponferrada - Villablina Railway; we can only await it eagerly.

(Note added 8th April 1999.  Brian Rumary advises me that "the publishers seem to have gone out of existence, although I believe Plateway Press can still supply copies of the book.  But the CD version was never released and neither was their promised book 'Mallets in the Massiff'.  However, I have just heard that the latter book, which is about the Vivarais system, has found another publisher and should be out in May 1999.")

"Narrow Gauge Rails Through The Cordillera" By Dr Mike Bent

ISBN : 1 902298 00 4

Published by Semaphore Press at 17.95 pounds.

32 Orchard Avenue,Worthing, West Sussex, BN14 7PY, UK

Email :

"Eisenbahnen im Baltikum" Index

The history of the three Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, in the twentieth century has been tortuous to say the least: in turn they were provinces of Imperial Russia, occupied by the Germans in the First World War, independent states between 1918 and 1940, occupied by the Soviets in 1940, occupied again by the Germans from 1941 to 1944, then unwilling members of the USSR for nearly fifty years until finally a second chance at independence presented itself in 1991.

This complicated political history has left a deep imprint on the development of the railways (on five different gauges) in the region. Their history from the very first Russian broad gauge lines to the present day realities of closures is recorded in "Eisenbahnen im Baltikum" - Railways in the Baltics.

This German language book is very much a labour of love. Co-author Hesselink began collecting materials on the Baltics in the early 1930s. From my own researches I know this is not so easy as it may sound: there has been little published on these countries and Soviet attitudes after 1945 were not conducive to a study of railways. Nevertheless, the two authors have assembled a considerable amount of material and the book - and this is its great strength - is lavishly illustrated with a wonderful selection of photographs both historic and contemporary.

No doubt for the reasons mentioned above, the text is, however, rather patchy and whilst some aspects are examined in greater depth, others are just glossed over. There are also a number of factual errors. The greatest weakness of the book is the Latvian loco list, which relies heavily on the fraudulent Walluhn data and is best ignored.

"Eisenbahnen im Baltikum" is not the definitive book on the railways of the Baltic States, but it is a useful and well-produced introduction. If you are interested in the unusual and are turned on by old and historic photos, then this book is definitely for you, even if you cannot read German.

"Eisenbahnen im Baltikum"
H.G. Hesselink & N. Tempel
Pub. LOK Report
ISBN 3-921980-51-8

Available from LOK Report, Postfach 1280, D-48002 MÜNSTER, Germany Price : DM 78, plus post & packing.

For more information see their own web page.

"Steam on Four Continents. Part 4 China" Index

This completes a series of colour photographic albums covering world wide steam operations since about 1970, with emphasis very much on the pictorial side. When begun in 1984 it created something of a minor sensation both in terms of the colour reproduction and for the fact that here were two authors who understood what colour and composition was about. The same high standards have been maintained throughout the series. Part Four on China has been eagerly awaited, not least because David Wardale lived for a decade in China, travelling and photographing extensively in the country.

The book does not disappoint. It commences with a short, well-informed introduction to steam loco development in China, particularly after 1945. The bulk of the book, however, is devoted to portraying the steam loco at work. Inevitably a significant proportion of the photos feature QJ class 2-10-2s. Locations range widely throughout this vast country and it is a great relief to realise that people do take pictures in China other than in Manchuria in the depths of winter.

The high pictorial standards of the previous volumes are maintained. A few pictures probably should not have been included and one or two, I suspect, suffer from colour losses in the reproduction process.

Finally, a disclaimer: I accompanied (and froze with) one of the authors on two trips to China (and it is amazing to see how you can phot the same train as somebody else and come up with a different set of photos). This aside, this is simply one of the best books which have appeared on China to date. As my mate Tony says, it's "not bad" and is highly recommended. The price varies a little, so check this out.

"Steam on Four Continents. Part 4 China"
by David Wardale & Günther Haslbeck
Published : Verlag Haslbeck
ISBN 3-925314-03-2

"Steam in China" Index

Another excellent colour album is "Steam in China", which is exactly what its title suggests: almost 100 pages of high quality colour (and a few monochrome) photographs of Chinese steam in action. All the photographs were taken by two obviously very dedicated Japanese enthusiasts, Kunio Furuya & Youichi Takano.

Unlike "Steam on 4 Continents, Vol. 4", it concentrates on about half a dozen more or less well known centres, allocating 10-15 pages to each. This approach also has its advantages as it enables the authors to explore in greater depth the photographic possibilities of a given area. Two gripes: too many pictures in this paperback book are spread over the centre fold and cannot be fully appreciated; secondly, the book ultimately falls victim to the Manchuria in winter syndrome. However spectacular a QJ working hard in sub-zero temperatures may be, you can sometimes have too much of a good thing!

This should, however, not deter anyone from purchasing this excellent book. It contains some breathtaking shots, my personal favourite being the front cover, but everyone will have their own. The authors managed to visit the legendary, but elusive, location of Tianzhu two times and on the evidence presented in "Steam in China", their efforts were amply rewarded. I know of only one other book in which photos of Tianzhu have appeared. From them I couldn't really understand what all the fuss about Tianzhu was about; now I do and the book is worth buying for these photos alone.

Apart from the title and the names of locations, "Steam in China" is entirely in Japanese. This is of little matter - there is only a short text and, as the cliche says, the pictures speak for themselves. As a book on China, "Steam in China" is less rounded than So4C, but it does include some stunning photography and comes highly recommended.

"Steam in China"
Kunio Furaya & Youichi Takano
ISBN : 4-87366-084-X
Price : 3,500 yen.

Rob Dickinson