The Steam Train

The technology might be centuries old. The engines might be hopelessly outdated and unreliable. But there are still plenty of steam powered trains in the UK. Dozens of heritage railways keep the old chuggers chugging. And plenty of people are still enthralled at the concept of burning coal in a boiler to produce sufficient power to propel a lump of metal down a track. Enthralled enough to come out in their dozens to watch one come by.

A steam train came through my station the other day. The photo below may deceive you. Or it may not, depending on your powers of observation. It’s going backwards, not forwards. It had broken down earlier. The paying passengers had to endure the ignominy of being towed by a more modern diesel locomotive, which is out of shot. It didn’t matter to the train spotters though. Of which, it seems, I am now one. Oh, the shame…



11 thoughts on “The Steam Train

  1. norm says:

    Many of our old rail lines are being turned into hiking and bike paths here in Northeast Ohio. The right of ways have real value. My uncle sold a mile of one that he put a house on years ago. A mile of rail bed equalled only ten acres. The buyer has a scheme cooked up where he donates the land to a land trust for a bike path but he keeps the right of way for running pipelines and communication cables. I’m guessing his company is going to make a whole lot of money.

    The land deeds on our local rail lines are not all the same. The ones put in after the 1860s are pretty iron clad. The earlier ones have clauses that send the land taken by eminent domain back to the original owners should the rail line fail. Those beds are the best for bike paths because the engines were so weak at the time, the bed had to follow the contours of the land to enable the trains to pass over the hills. Very scenic trails they are, but are not being developed because of the stickiness of the old land deeds.

    How does it work in England?


    • In the 1960s, Dr Beeching famously hacked away at the sprawling rail network, cutting back on thousands of miles of track that wasn’t paying its way. Some of the old routes were turned into trailways. The Castleman Trailway goes through Ringwood, just a few miles up the road, and still has a platform from the old Avon Heath stop.

      I suspect most routes were either developed or just absorbed back into the surroundings. But you’ll regularly see a pub or a house in the countryside that looks a bit out of place. They’re often old railway station houses that have been turned into new uses. You’ll also see pointless bridges that appear to serve no function. They would have carried trains once upon a time.


  2. What a wonderful experience it must have been for those trainspotters. The last and only train ride that I was ever on was a trip from Chihuahua to Torreon. The train passenger cars move side to side all night long. Too bad that those trains do not run anymore. Loved the pictures.


    • I did the Chepe from Los Mochis to Chihuahua. The eastern leg has been abandoned. But, you can watch a very old Rick Stein documentary where he took one of the final passenger journeys. It’s a fabulous show and well worth watching. Hope you enjoy it, if you have the time…


  3. Fantastic shot. I’m not sure I would have noticed the smoke and steam going the wrong way, but perhaps I would have. Still, your new occupation seems to offer plenty of such photographic opportunities, so I’m glad to be along for the ride.

    And I got a very good laugh out of And plenty of people are still enthralled at the concept of burning coal in a boiler to produce sufficient power to propel a lump of metal down a track.

    Global warming be damned, we want steam!!!!


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where there are boring, efficient, modern trains running all over the place, filled with commuters not looking out the windows.


    • There are plenty of photographic opportunities, that’s for sure. Maybe it’s time for a new 365…

      Of course, if we ever run out of coal, we could just borrow Donald Trump to keep the engines going. No, I’m not suggesting that we throw him in and burn him. Just sit him in the right place, and let him talk. Enough hot air for a thousand locos.

      Who knew? Trump is the solution to global warming?


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