World of Steam, A by Nils Huxtable    Soft Cover
World of Steam, A by Nils Huxtable    Soft Cover
World of Steam, A by Nils Huxtable    Soft Cover
World of Steam, A by Nils Huxtable    Soft Cover

World of Steam, A by Nils Huxtable Soft Cover

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World of Steam, A by Nils Huxtable Soft Cover
 
World of Steam, A by Nils Huxtable
Soft Cover
48 pages   Reflection of light on some photos.  
Copyright 1996

CONTENTS
Soviet Union
East Germany
Portugal
India
South Africa
Poland
Soviet Union
Zimbabwe
Belgium
Indonesia
India
UDA
South Africa
Germany
Turkey
USA
South Africa
Ecuador
China
USA
South Africa
Guatemala
Germany
Austria
West Germany
South Africa
India
China
Bolivia
Pakistan
China
Germany
Hungary
India
Finland
Czech Republic
Italy
Brazil
Canada
Paraguay
South Africa
USA
India
INTRODUCTION
A Saturday afternoon in July. It has been raining steadily for the past few days. In the grey twilight, clouds gather around the Outeniquas. I can almost hear a Garratt climbing towards the summit with the Cape Town-Port Elizabeth passenger, but that was years ago ...
I am just in time: the 14:15 from Knysna is whistling as it comes off the branch. Rolling in to Platform One, the 19D uncouples and moves forward to the water column. Apart from the shouts and cheers emanating from the Signalman's Arms - it is the World Cup rugby final - George station is deserted. Weeds sprout from the platform canopies, one of the footbridges (formerly for non-whites only) has been roped off, and the v-shaped name boards reading "George - Junction for Knysna" are illegible. The semaphores have been removed from their brackets, and trains are now radio-controlled from Oudtshoorn. Nowadays, the only through passenger service on the Garden Route is the weekly "Southern Cross". The Knysna branch has become a museum line.
As I stroll the length of the platform, the 19D clanks past, turns on the triangle and backs down to the coal stage, where tubs are pushed around an oval of track and their contents dumped clattering into the tender. After one last tubful of coal, the 19D couples onto a 24 Class 2-8-4 and shunts it into position, ready for Monday morning. Then, it will be a different story: there will be more passengers, train crews, carriage cleaners, more activity and noise, and for a while George will regain some of its former steam atmosphere.
The echoes of the "Dolly" reverberate against the buildings. Then the Signalman's Arms erupts, and the 19D's whistle blows again and again. South Africa has won the championship.
It is, of course, a mistake to return and expect things to be the way they were This is not the South Africa of 1972, when there were more than 2,000 operating steam locomotives, or of 1955, when I received my first railway book as a Christmas present. Entitled The Railway Album by E. S. Wolff, it contains a painting of a 23 Class 4-8-2 steaming through the Karoo with the "Union Limited" (later renamed "The Blue Train"). Perhaps that book, worn with childhood use and still on the shelf, has served as an impetus for this one.
During the 1950s, my trainwatching activities included the "Red Dragon", "Capitals United Express" and "South Wales Pullman", together with local passenger workings and holiday relief trains observed near Llansamlet on the Swansea-London main line. Another childhood haunt - Felin Fran, a goods yard on the Swansea District line, provided still more variety, with Irish boat trains and empty stock workings, as well as milk, parcels, fish, steel coil and coal traffic.
The railway scene at home was entirely steam: "Castles", "Counties", "Halls", "Granges", "Manors", "Britannias", and a host of 2-8-0s, 2-6-0s and tank engines. Even now, forty years later, some of the names are as fresh as the day I first saw them: Defiant, Spitfire and Morning Star. Then came The Railway Album. Perhaps because they were so different from my familiar favourites, the foreign engines - studied intently on rainy afternoons - were also imprited on my memory: a "Josef Stalin" 2-8-4 steaming through a blizzard at night; a New Zealand Government Railways' K Class 4-8-4 crossing a steel trestle; a Canadian National 4-8-4; a Rhodesian Railways 12th Class 4-8-2; an East African Railways 4-8-2+ 2-8-4 Garratt and a Nacionales de Mexico 2-6-6-2. A world of steam!
My fascination with railways - and steam in particular - was heightened by visits to my grandparents in Switzerland. In those days, train travel across Britain and much of the Continent was a steam adventure: a "Castle" would take my parents and me to the whistle-filled bustle of London Paddington; a Bullied Pacific drew our train to the Kentish Coast; and after the Channel crossing, a relay of SNCF engines shrilled through the darkness, covering us with cinders on the long night journey across northern France. At an early age came the realization that steam's appeal knows no frontiers.
I had only just started my locospotting career when the decision was made to emigrate: to California. I "copped" the Bullied Pacific that brought us to Southampton - No. 34001 Exeter, and ironically, the last steam locomotives I saw in 1957 were American: two ex-U.S. Army 0-6-0 tanks shunting the docks, glimpsed from a porthole on the S.S. United States.
For a young steam enthusiast, relocation to California was a sobering experience. For if I had ever imagined a place without steam, this was it. The Southern Pacific Railroad, visible from our front door, had dieselized a few months previously, and it was not long before the U.P.'s Big Boys and Challengers, too, were set aside, along with Colorado & Southern 2-10-2s, Illinois Central 4-8-2s, Nickel Plate 2-8-4s and Norfolk and Western articulateds and 4-8-4s. Aged ten, I didn't stand a chance of getting to them in time.
So began my independent travels, financed at first by indulgent parents, then by various part-time jobs. Homesick for steam as much as for friends and relatives, I returned to Britain beginning in 1961, where steam withdrawals were already occurring at an alarming rate. Within a matter of months, my beloved "Castles" were decimated. Finally, by 1967, I could bear the run-down of British steam no longer, so I crossed the Channel once more - for an appointment with French and German Pacifics, and the huge broad gauge 4-8-4s of Spain. Afew literary aids helped: a little magazine called European Railways and articles in Trains magazine entitled "Jet Search for Steam". As well as studying for college exams, I spent my time planning summer holiday itineraries with Cook's Continental Timetable. Postgraduate studies? To New Zealand, for 4-82s on the "South Island Express"; Australia, where Pacifics still hauled the "Newcastle Flyer". Then on to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan and Japan, with its double-headed "Niseko Express" 4-6-4s and triple-headed 2-8-2s. But the high point of my first round-the-world trek was that most memorable of train journeys: the "Rossiya" from Khabarovsk to Moscow and a first encounter with the Soviet Railways' green, red and cream P36 4-8-4s. At last, the pages in the "Overseas Railways" chapter of The Railway Album were coming to life.
Soon, however, an element of desperation began to turn what had begun as a hobby into an obsession. For the steady decline of steam worldwide made it difficult to know where to go next. Czechoslovakia, in time to see the blue 498.1 Class 4-8-2s? South Africa, before the wires went up on the Bloemfontein-Kroonstad line? South America? India? No matter where I traveled, I would be too late for a particular class of engine or steam-operated stretch of railway somewhere else.
Today, millions of miles and many countries later, the Age of Steam is almost over. And it is time to share some of the images accumulated over a thirty-year period. In doing so, I offer them as a tribute, not only to steam locomotives, but also to the railwaymen and women who operated, maintained and repaired them, and to the people who depended on steam as a means of transportation, and in many instances, as a source of water and fuel. For them as for me, steam was a way of life.
Unfortunately, colour photography is a limited medium. No picture can convey the experience of riding a Baldwin 2-10-2 across the Bolivian altiplano at night. Or of camping at the lineside while 4-8-4s broke the stillness of the starlit Karoo with chime whistles and sharp, staccato bark. Or of sitting above the cowcatcher of a Guayaquil & Quito 2-8-0 as it blasted through rock cuts and tunnels below the Devil's Nose. Or of watching in awe while the steam from two QJ 2-10-2s - and a third, pushing - blotted out the sky at thirty-five below.
Of course, the pictures presented here reflect personal preferences. I can only hope the reader will derive as much enjoyment from perusing these pages as I have found in traveling around the world in search of the steam locomotives that as a boy I used to dream about.
As the 25NC 4-8-4 accelerates, a persistent tugging accompanies each piston thrust. A hint of sulfur wafts through the corridors; cinders rain down on the carriage roofs, pelt the windows and cover the floor. Whistle shrieking, the big Henschel races into the twilight, trailing a long smudge of smoke against the yellow sky. Crackling like cannon fire, the engine's exhaust beats become a roaring storm of noise - a low-flying jet fighter. Beneath the swaying coaches, rail joints and switch frogs rattle and click, receding in metallic ripples on a silver stream of steel.
Too soon, the brakes go on: Hamilton, where nearly a quarter of a century before, I photographed double-headed 4-8-4 condensers on freights and Pacifics on suburban trains. Finally, the brooding slums of Bloemfontein, once the steam capital of South Africa. In 1972, there were more than 200 steam movements each day, and a pall of coal smoke, visible for miles, hung over the city. Now, the station is silent, the Victoria Hotel, where the nocturnal exertions of 4-8-2s threatened to bring down the walls, closed. A chapter, too, is closing, and as yet another steam journey ends, I cannot help but wonder if this one will be the last.
Nils Huxtable   

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