Sunday, 3 July 2011

In Search of Steam III

US steam was hugely different from the breed in the UK. Everything is bigger - our 'big' locos were things like 9F's which by US standards would have barely scraped 'medium' in their description. Of course our railway was hampered by a tiny loading gauge whereas the later American railways weren't quite so constrained and locomotives were far, far bigger. And, not unexpectedly, train lengths and tonnages were far larger than the norm on our small little album. Operation is totally different from the UK too, in fact it's a case of two nations divided by a common gauge...

Even the end of steam is quite different in the two countries. Whereas mainline steam on British Railways nearly made it to 1970s with dieselisation coming quite late, in America internal combustion was embraced on a much larger scale much sooner.

The special is incredibly well written - despite having little background knowledge I was just engrossed in the articles. The style of writing is very inviting and so easy to immerse yourself in, much like LTC Rolt's style which I find so accessible. David P Morgan's text shows a real appreciation of railways in general, references to English workmen building Beyer-Garrats at Gorton really sum this up whilst rather contradicting the often mentioned theory that Americans aren't aware things which happen elsehwere in the world. After all, this could apply to certain people in all countries and their knowledge of world affairs! The articles are very thoughtfully written I think and compliment the photographs wonderfully...

Speaking of which... Philip R Hasting's photographs are superb! I think they are far better, certainly in terms of composition, than many contemporary British railway photgraphers who seemed to think the only way to photgraph a locomotive was in the ¾ viewpoint. But Hasting's photos have far more in common with later photographers like Paul Riley. And one thing I love is how human life is very much a part of many of the images - people, I think, are what the railway is all about, and it applies where ever the railway happens to be.

I really enjoyed the whole of the special; the articles have clearly stood the test of time and the photos record an age which in America is further in the past than it is in the UK.

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