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With the effects of the Beeching Axe beginning to be felt, British Railways employee Keith Widdowson set out to photograph as many scenes and locations as he could before they slipped away into the history books. As steam-powered locomotives became increasingly endangered, Widdowson journeyed across the UK seeking out doomed lines and stations, as well as motive power depots that have also long since disappeared from the landscape. With a wealth of photographs, many of which are previously unpublished, this is a nostalgic trip back to the halcyon days of Britain's railways and an important record of what we have lost.
ferroequinologist (noun) Someone who studies the 'Iron Horse' (i.e. trains and locomotives). From the Latin ferrus 'iron' and equine 'horse' + -logist As the British steam era drew to a close, a young Keith Widdowson set out to travel on as many steam-hauled trains as possible - documenting each journey in his notebooks. In Confessions of a Steam Age Ferroequinologist, he cracks these books open and blows off the dust. His self-imposed mission, that of riding behind as many Iron Horses as possible prior to their premature annihilation, led to hours of nocturnal travels, extended periods of inactivity in station waiting rooms, missed connections and fatigue. However, any downsides of his quest were compensated by the camaraderie found amongst a group of like-minded colleagues who congregated on such trains. This is a book that no self-respecting ferroequinologist should be without.
In May 1967, Scotland became the third of the six British Railways regions to dispense with the steam locomotive, bringing an iconic era of Britain's transport heritage closer to its demise. Residing over 300 miles away, then teenaged Keith Widdowson's pilgrimages north of the border were marathon undertakings. Abysmal overnight time keeping, missed connections, trains allegedly booked as steam but turning up as diesel - each journey could have been a disaster, but those setbacks were easily forgotten after many successes, such as in catching runs with LNER A2s, A4s, V2s and B1s, as well as BR Clans. Accompanied with brief historical data of routes and stations - many no longer extant - visited, alongside photographs from the author's archives, this book is a collection of reminiscences from the final two years of steam that anyone with a penchant for railways will enjoy.
Keith Widdowson visited the North Eastern Region of British Railways on over forty occasions during the final eighteen months of steam powered passenger services. With the odd exceptions (usually for railtours) most of the locomotives were neglected, run down, filthy, prone to failure and often only kept their wheels turning courtesy of the skills of the crew coaxing them along with loving care. Far from the scenic delights so often justifiably portrayed of the Yorkshire countryside, the ever-dwindling numbers became corralled within the industrialized heartland of Bradford, Leeds, Wakefield and Normanton. Here, Widdowson recalls that bygone era, leading an almost nomadic nocturnal existence on his self-imposed mission of stalking the endangered Iron Horses in one of their final habitats. He was often far from alone in his quest. The Haulage-bashing fraternity comprised of like-minded enthusiasts from throughout Britain, often congregated, lemming like, on the one-coach early morning mail trains, the Summer Saturday holidaymaker trains or the Bradford portions; indeed any passenger service with a steam locomotive at its front From the many disappointments of thwarted possibilities to the euphoric joy of unexpected catches, together with over 130 contemporary images, Riding Yorkshire's Final Steam Trains is a compelling snapshot of the race against time at the end of the golden age of steam.
Amassing over 52,000 miles from Kent to Cornwall, here is the story of Keith Widdowson's journey as he raced against time to chronicle the steam locomotives working throughout southern England before they succumbed to modern traction. From sleep deprivation to gung-ho drivers, this is no ordinary trainspotter's diary but a nostalgic and evocative look back at how things really were in those steam days. A must-have for enthusiasts and locals to the closed railways alike, this is one man's journey, with 140 contemporary images to capture the railway as it was then, fully aware that things were about to change for good (but not necessarily for the better). From closing branch lines to final steam workings, here is the last snapshot of the golden age of steam. It is a personal and informed account that all people with any interest in the Southern Region or steam in general will no doubt relate to.