Wednesday, October 15, 2008

a head of steam

as a boy growing up in england i unknowingly witnessed the demise of the steam train. i can vividly recall standing on the platform at runcorn station holding my grandfather’s hand as a steam train approached and then wanting more than anything else to step away from the edge of the platform as it passed me belching steam and smoke from its improbably massive body. half frightened and half incredulous it left an indelible mark on me that is now tinged with the romanticism of things long past. little did i know that scenes like that were literally destined for the scrap heap. the shift to electric and diesel and the scrapping of most local lines left an indelible mark on the culture of england that is happily enjoying a gradual return.

the steam engine has enjoyed something of a revival in britain at the hands and largely through the pocketbooks of enthusiasts who refused to let such a massive and influential piece of britain’s heritage be legislated out of existence. as a result of their efforts it is now possible to enjoy train rides behind the huffing and puffing engines of yesteryear now lovingly restored by what the media casually writes off as fanatics but which i prefer to think of as custodians of a feature of history no less worthy than many of the buildings, and sundry objects carefully restored and protected inside museums.

two especially lovely examples of restored steam engines in service can be found in yorkshire. in haworth, (right in the middle of the beautiful and bleak pennines), you can ride on the keighley and worth steam railway.

also in the north of england - the settle-carlisle railway

golden times for steam!

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