When I started this steam train story project, it was a way to motivate me to share some of my experiences gained while following steam trains around the world. After all, it may take a little while for some of you to get started reviving those memories, making them interesting, getting them down in print, or these days on the computer, and sharing them with the world through this portal.
If you are under 30, you may find it incredible to know that operations of steam train engines as recently as the 1980s were basically manual. The fires were set by shoveling coal in the right place. The fireman had to determine how much water to inject in the boiler and what temperature to get the steam to before climbing a grade. The setting of the reversing mechanism by the driver largely determined the speed and efficiency of the train. Managing a steam engine was truly an art rather than a Science.
A Treasure Trove Of Steam Train Memories
Just trolling through some of the steam train negatives taken way back in the 1960’s in Australia I found old family pictures, discovered old photos of Darling Harbour with 19 class built as far back as 1877. They nearly lasted 100 years in regular service. I photographed most of the 30, 38 class locomotives that hauled many express trains in their heyday. I Trudged up and down the tracks in searing heat and biting cold weekend after weekend. Just going through the archives brought back many fond memories, and raised my enthusiasm to share some of this with the world.
This site is designed to have wide appeal, and there will be contributions from all parts of the globe. Personally, I have witnessed regular steam train movements in around 40 countries, so an international flavour is guaranteed. Nostalgia has me starting with some of my oldest tales, episodes when I did such things as ride an all night mixed train at the tender age of 14! Imagine doing that now.
I Say This To Inspire You To Get Your Photos Out
It is amazing how every picture really does tell a story. For instance, I found some photos of the Merriwa Mixed steam train. I vaguely remember I left home on Friday afternoon catching the Newcastle Flyer at Central and continuing on to Muswellbrook by freight train. I arrived back sometime Sunday afternoon totally exhausted, having not slept the entire weekend!
I have recorded the speeds of many steam trains by logging mileposts, some of them at 90-100 mph. Then there are the sneaky methods I used to travel around the country for just 10c a day! On Friday night’s we would visit Train Control and Central Station and discover what was on offer the following day before planning our weekends.
There is history here, nostalgia, adventure, romance – I met my first wife on a train! As we all share our stories, I believe it will enrich each of us, and perhaps as we age, we can sit in the couch remembering adventures that without this, we just might forget!
The first stage of this project is to get my claim to fame written up. My amazing adventures in Mozambique. It would have to rate as one of the big steam train adventures. Then create the platform to share stories.
Later we will add some high quality steam train photos you can download, print out, get posters made, or hang on your wall.
If I can retrieve my old steam train timing notes, you will see records of mile a minute runs in Australia. Nothing was scheduled that fast in this country. I was lucky enough to be riding in the cab of 3827 during one of these between Gosford and Morisset!
There will be a calendar with the best stories of the year. I have tape recordings of steam in various parts of the world. A compound rack railway in Austria, 0-12 3 cylinder Pacifics at speed in Northern Germany, Double Garrats in South Africa and Australia, even probably the only recording of the final regular Newcastle Flyer with 3820 climbing Cowan Bank unassisted. Very few steam trains were allowed this privilege after 1960, and for good reason. On one later enthusiast tour, the engine powered up the hill leaving its train behind due to the power of the engine, and on another the train stalled and was hit from behind by a following Electric Interurban! I would love someone to send the detailed stories of these episodes!
As you can see from these brief snippets, there are many tales to tell. I am excited to hear yours, no matter how mundane it may seem to you, it will inspire someone and trigger their fading memory of some event in their dim dark past!
Well there is a lot of work to do, so I hope you like this little taste of what is to come as we present steam train stories from around the world.