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Living Steam with Anthony Lambert

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

LESS than fifty years ago, trains were routinely hauled by steam-powered locomotives but if you thought these magnificent engines were gone and forgotten, you’d be very wrong – as the aptly named book Living Steam will testify.

It’s still possible to travel on preserved lines, heritage railways and industrial lines where steam traction is used, in many cases, due solely to the efforts of dedicated steam enthusiasts who have fought to maintain routes earmarked for closure – not just here in the UK but all over the world.

Living Steam profiles 26 of these remarkable journeys, ranging from Mount Washington’s Cog Railway in North America to South Africa’s Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe. Is it me or do you hear a song coming on?

With an introduction by Anthony Lambert and texts by veteran railway writers such as Paul Ash, Pierre Home-Douglas and Susan Storm, Living Steam is a mine of information that cleverly combines historical and geographical fact with simple but evocative prose.

“It’s that misty time just before dawn breaks. Somewhere nearby a rooster is awake.” It could be anywhere in the world. It is, in fact, Pakistan and “steam-raising” is under way on the Changa Manga Forest Railway – a 600mm (2 foot) gauge system that has evolved from an obscure logging line into a unique piece of Pakistan’s railway heritage.

As well as facts like these, there are fact panels detailing route, distance, duration of journey, track gauge and season; locator maps and information on contacts and booking – address, telephone, fax, e-mail and even website. All you need to know to make a wish come true.

And as you would expect in a book of this nature, there are images of the trains in action, in many instances and completing the picture, against magificent scenic backdrops.

In a nutshell, Living Steam is a must for steam enthusiasts everywhere. But beware – it might well give you ‘itchy’ feet and in case you’re wondering, I know exactly where I’m headed…..