"Real steam" by one definition, about to vanish from the world

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,475
A bit of difficulty deciding whether to put this in this sub-forum, or in "International Transport"; but it's essentially nostalgia that is involved here.

Different enthusiasts will have different definitions of what on the rail scene is "real", and what "artificial -- tourist-and-gricer-bait"; and this distinction will matter more for some, than for others. I personally am, here, far out on the hard-line / unforgiving / purist side. Am a lover of steam -- old enough to have known a good many years of it in everyday service on British Railways: and for me, it is real and thus to be admired and revelled in above all other forms of this mode of propulsion, only when it involves regular and relatively frequent line working; and is employed because it is what's available, and those who run functional / commercial rail services choose to use it -- not making that choice, to please people who for "frivolous" reasons, like steam traction. (There is the odd grey area in this continuum.) And to truly please me, real line working must be involved -- shunting-only activity, doesn't cut it for me.

For decades now, the steam scene as answering this description has been dwindling and getting ever more meagre world-wide: having become as of a fair number of years ago, restricted to essentially industrial railways. Effectively its last outpost on earth has become the colliery system at Sandaoling in western China, near the Mongolian border: steam of a couple of different modern classes, overwhelmingly in charge here -- shunting around the actual pits, and hauling coal trains to the China Rail exchange point. Visited and "valued" over the years by many enthusiast groups -- including Far Rail Tours: run, to many steam venues of -- to the purist -- varying authenticity around the globe, by the indefatigable Bernd Seiler. A sad e-mail from Herr Seiler has recently been circulated to FRT subscribers, informing that in this matter, "the end is nigh": it is planned for all steam operation at Sandaoling to cease in October this year -- i.e., next month. And -- a cause for additional woe -- it will not be possible to set up a last-minute visit to the venue: Covid-related factors mean that tourist trips to China of any kind will be impossible until at least the end of November.

Melancholy news -- though it has been seen as inevitably going to break, wherever the "last rites" might turn out to be, at any time for a few years past -- for those with my kind of "take" on the steam scene. (No intention of suggesting that anyone else should feel this way about the whole business: just the bad luck of myself and those with similar sentiments to mine, that we do happen to feel thus.)
 
Last edited:
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

181

Member
Joined
12 Feb 2013
Messages
530
Has the Bosnia colliery operation with the BR 52 gone then?
The latest report at https://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/europe.htm#Bosnia is from June 2019; steam was still in use then, but only for shunting, which doesn't meet @Calthrop's criteria.

If you count fireless locomotives (which if I remember rightly Calthrop doesn't), there are a number of places where they are in use, some of which involve a bit more than just shunting, in the form of trips to and from exchange sidings (over a mile in one case, I believe).
 

Gostav

Member
Joined
14 May 2016
Messages
234
About the China steam locomotives, l never visit western China but in 2018, l found a "Shang You" in Tianjin for shunting work and never hear any European train spotter talk about that. I believe it no longer in service since 2019, when the goods yard closed.
08001306.jpg

A "real steam" also happened in UK, l remember a news about a ELR steam tank engine transported diesel to Metrolink depot.
 
Last edited:

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,475
Has the Bosnia colliery operation with the BR 52 gone then?
The latest report at https://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/europe.htm#Bosnia is from June 2019; steam was still in use then, but only for shunting, which doesn't meet
@Calthrop's criteria.

Seiler's e-mail, cited in OP, mentions continuing steam shunting (regular) in Bosnia; and same occasionally or sporadically in China and Zimbabwe; but, as per @181 just above, it's only line working which truly turns me on.

If you count fireless locomotives (which if I remember rightly Calthrop doesn't), there are a number of places where they are in use, some of which involve a bit more than
just shunting, in the form of trips to and from exchange sidings (over a mile in one case, I believe).

Indeed -- I reckon fireless locos charming curiosities; but emphatically not "proper" steam as we knew it.

About the China steam locomotives, l never visit western China but in 2018, l found a "Shang You" in Tianjin for shunting work and never hear any European train spotter talk about that. I believe it no longer in service since 2019, when the goods yard closed.
View attachment 102310

One does gather, sundry "odds-and-ends" now and recently, re steam in China; but ever decreasing in number, scope, and intensity. Various outfits try to act as a "clearing house" for steam news worldwide -- including "internationalsteam" as mentioned above -- but covering everything that happens is of course, impossible. The quarterly Continental Railway Journal used to perform considerable feats in this direction; but it ceased publication in 2013.

A "real steam" also happened in UK, l remember a news about a ELR steam tank engine transported diesel to Metrolink depot.

@Gostav (not @181 -- see below !) -- please forgive me; meaning of the above is not entirely clear to me: but it seems plain that it was a one-off event. To give me true pleasure, regular and routine "commercial" steam working is insisted on by me. Seems that I like being miserable and hard to please -- so sue me :smile:.


The damned at-the-present-time mechanics of "quoting" on these forums are for me anyway, a permanent bane -- put a finger wrong, and chaos is likely to ensue -- the two above quotes (Tianjin, and ELR / Metrolink event) are from @Gostav's post, but have somehow got attributed to @181.
 

Fireless

Member
Joined
24 Mar 2018
Messages
88
Location
Europe (usually Germany)
The german "Molli" (Bad Doberan-Kühlungsbron West) is public transport (line RB31) using steam locomotives paid for and ordered by the Bundesland Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, integrated into the local PTE and runs a normal service frequency for the area (one train every two hours during the winter and one train per hour during the summer) with convenient connections onwards on the railways and the earliest train running early enough to be in the "big cities" (of the region) for a 9-5 job and the last train late enough to commute home afterwards.
 

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,475
In my OP, I mentioned grey areas concerning this issue: the narrow gauge in the east of Germany, including "Molli", is one such. Your point taken: that with this line -- as with similar ones in that country, and elsewhere (the steam workings based on Wolsztyn come to mind) -- a passenger timetable of normal and sensibly-usable frequency is maintained with steam traction, whereby the needs of people making ordinary journeys which they must make, are met.

But (as ever, "my feelings re myself" only: no "missionary" intentions !): I cannot rate situations like these, as 100% "real steam". By my understanding: in the last years of Communism, the DDR regime finally woke up to the fact that railway enthusiasts were harmless; and that furthermore, there were opportunities for making significant amounts of money out of them. Accordingly: although DR standard-gauge steam was eliminated in the late 1980s, a policy was embarked on by which some half-dozen DR narrow-gauge lines or systems ("Molli" being one) would be retained in service, with the steam power then working them also being retained -- DR abandoned virtually all the rest of its then-surviving narrow gauge. Although the primary motive for keeping what was thus kept, was to attract the "leisure clientele" (enthusiasts, and ordinary folk who happened to find steam trains pleasing) and their money: the lines' passenger timetables were kept as they had previously been -- trains running at hours catering for "normal" passengers just needing to get from A to B; and initially, the lines also remained open for freight traffic. Three decades or so later, the "freight" aspect is, I gather, essentially no more; but the lines are still -- under various ownerships -- running for passenger traffic, with timetables which make sense for genuine users as well as for "gricers and trippers" -- and are still largely steam-worked.

This scenario is more or less as close as anything now happening could, for me, get to my definition of real steam action: but that is spoilt a little for me, by the fact that these lines would not now be steam-worked (if any of them were still running at all), if it had not been for a past policy decision having in mind the value of steam working, in respect of there being many people who like steam locomotives, and of choosing actions which appealed to those people. I like to think that my extreme and probably bigoted views here, do not tip me over the edge into outright insanity: I am glad that the eastern German narrow gauge is still active with steam; have in recent decades visited some of these lines, though have not made it to the Bad Doberan to Kuehlungsborn West one -- and would take much pleasure in making further such visits if personal circumstances permitted. Awareness remains for me, though, that by my criteria, this still fails to be real steam -- hence a certain amount of dissatisfaction. I'm not claiming that my attitude here, makes a lot of sense on any level; but "our feelings are what they are".
 
Last edited:

neilmc

Member
Joined
23 Oct 2011
Messages
923
Very difficult to find anything anywhere in the world which isn't a preservation movement or a tourist train. If you like fireless locos there are a few still in Europe but most people don't. Other than that, well apparently there's a couple of collieries in Bosnia which still use steam around the yard. And someone spotted a steam-hauled freight in North Korea recently using Google maps. Good look searching THAT one out.

My final memory of mainline steam was going round Oberhausen Osterfeld in Germany on a Sunday in about 1970, ranks of 044 heavy freight locos quietly hissing away waiting for the weekday call.
 

Beebman

Member
Joined
17 Feb 2011
Messages
290
I visited Poland in April 1991 and already there was a feeling that the steam operations from Wolsztyn were becoming more of a tourist/museum operation. Even so, I had a Ty42 2-10-0 on a long out-and-back run with 2 coaches to a place called Nowe Miasteczko which has long since disappeared from the railway map and that definitely felt 'real'. I also had steam on two different routes from Jarocin and I've more recently seen some comments that it was the last 'real' steam in western Poland which finished a year later.
 

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,475
Very difficult to find anything anywhere in the world which isn't a preservation movement or a tourist train. If you like fireless locos there are a few still in Europe but most people don't. Other than that, well apparently there's a couple of collieries in Bosnia which still use steam around the yard.

It truly does seem that real line working by the most-purist definition, is no more (I think fireless locos are rather sweet, but definitely not pukka steam locomotives); or is to become so as of next month -- unless Sandaoling's management were -- for genuine operational reasons -- to find their present plan unfulfillable, and would thus have to carry on using steam for longer.

And someone spotted a steam-hauled freight in North Korea recently using Google maps. Good look searching THAT one out.

There has long been tantalising steam-related stuff coming out of North Korea -- as you say, for obvious reasons impossible to research "on the ground" ! It has seemed, though, for decades back, that so far as is ascertainable: such genuine "everyday" steam working as there may be in NK, is definitely thin on the ground -- impression got, that a great deal of the country's rail system is electrified (and diesel the norm elsewhere). (From the selfish point of view of people such as us: it's frustrating that no matter how bad a shambles a country is in -- that never seems to result in its bringing back regular day-by-day steam traction, just for practical reasons !)

There have of course been organised group visits to North Korea for railway enthusiasts -- IIRC this was particularly a "thing" in the 1980s. But in that country, those in authority there hold all the cards: one would reckon that the Western organisations concerned, must have had hopes of being able to roam around (however tightly "chaperoned") observing, and travelling on, ordinary everyday train workings -- but seemingly the authorities would not countenance that -- the steam element was, overwhelmingly, confined to artificial special workings of a rather restricted scope, though using locos which were still genuinely ""on the books" as for ordinary "commercial" service. These tours also included a great deal of non-railway, "normal" in bizarre NK terms, tourism.

My final memory of mainline steam was going round Oberhausen Osterfeld in Germany on a Sunday in about 1970, ranks of 044 heavy freight locos quietly hissing away waiting for the weekday call.

That being a half-century ago; do I take it that you didn't, since that date: choose to visit venues abroad where everyday, especially "main-line", steam line working still obtained? (Just interested here -- not being critical -- we all have every right, hobbies-wise, to do what we feel like doing and refrain from what we don't !)

I visited Poland in April 1991 and already there was a feeling that the steam operations from Wolsztyn were becoming more of a tourist/museum operation. Even so, I had
a Ty42 2-10-0 on a long out-and-back run with 2 coaches to a place called Nowe Miasteczko which has long since disappeared from the railway map and that definitely felt 'real'. I also had steam on two different routes from Jarocin and I've more recently seen some comments that it was the last 'real' steam in western Poland which finished a year later.

I visited Wolsztyn in 1990 and '91: to me it then mostly felt pretty splendidly real -- except that I knew that there was involved, a deliberate initiative from those in charge, to keep steam "in the saddle" there, with view revenue to be got from steam-lovers who would hopefully come and visit in abundance. (The same ploy was planned and attemptedly introduced at the same time, at other steam centres: Klodzko and Jaworzyna Sl. in south-west Poland, and Elk way up in the north-east -- but though some stuff did happen at these three for some time after; things never properly "took off" at these venues.)

I envy you for the Nowe Miasteczko run: things so worked out that I saw next to nothing of the routes including this one, worked by Wolsztyn locos, which there were out south-westward beyond the central five-line "star" of routes radiating from Wolsztyn. Similar envy re the two routes from Jarocin -- as you say, generally reckoned PKP's last totally real steam workings (the whole system, not just the west of it), not preserved in any kind of "aspic": steam finishing thereon in spring 1992. I managed to travel on one of these, Jarocin -- Czempin; but missed the other, Jarocin -- Leszno.
 
Last edited:

neilmc

Member
Joined
23 Oct 2011
Messages
923
I decided to give up everything to do with railways when I went to university in 1971 since it was not "cool" and I wanted to fit in. Then, by the time I might have got interested again, I had a wife and family and couldn't justify the amount of money spent on me just to go to the obscure outposts of world steam. I just took bus photos. And now that I'm old and can afford such stuff there's nothing left, indeed we've prioritised wildlife when taking holidays abroad and my wife quite understandably didn't want to spend money to see decrepit technology in coal mines and sugar fields.

Though the family did club together to pay for an expensive 60th birthday present for me, a steam experience day on the ELR. I was very grateful even though I was spending a hot day in July shovelling coal into a firebox It made me realise why enthusiasts bemoaned the loss of steam but those who had to work in the rail industry largely didn't.
 

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,475
I decided to give up everything to do with railways when I went to university in 1971 since it was not "cool" and I wanted to fit in. Then, by the time I might have got interested again, I had a wife and family and couldn't justify the amount of money spent on me just to go to the obscure outposts of world steam. I just took bus photos. And now that I'm old and can afford such stuff there's nothing left, indeed we've prioritised wildlife when taking holidays abroad and my wife quite understandably didn't want to spend money to see decrepit technology in coal mines and sugar fields.

You exhibit every sign of being a sensible, non-addicted person ;) ! A friend and contemporary of mine (born late 1940s), having "given his all" to BR steam in its last couple of years; then hooked up with a lady (while steam remained in this country, he'd had no time for girlfriends on top of the other things going on in his life). He and she spent summer 1969, I think it was, extensively touring Eastern Europe by car. It wasn't that my friend did not find foreign railways interesting -- quite the contrary -- but he'd kept his rail-and-steam interest a complete secret from her; fearing that she'd totally wash her hands of him if it became known to her. With the great and fascinating variety of active steam which was ubiquitous there-and-then -- he underwent agonies pretending to be indifferent thereto. A thing which I feel that I could not have done, not if I were madly in (requited) love with the sweetest and most beautiful woman in the world ! (My friend's relationship didn't last very long; but while it was still "on", he discovered that in fact, the lass was OK with his being a railway enthusiast. He has indulged happily -- this, though, without wrecking other departments of his life -- for the half-century since.)

Though the family did club together to pay for an expensive 60th birthday present for me, a steam experience day on the ELR. I was very grateful even though I was spending a hot day in July shovelling coal into a firebox It made me realise why enthusiasts bemoaned the loss of steam but those who had to work in the rail industry largely didn't.

(My bolding) -- from about the middle of the 20th century, onward: this became a problem in all First-World countries which continued to use steam traction on their railways -- there were never enough lads who (with more attractive employment opportunities available) were willing to go in for a job which was so dirty, arduous, variously uncomfortable, and plagued by unsocial hours.
 

StephenHunter

Established Member
Joined
22 Jul 2017
Messages
1,239
Location
London
I decided to give up everything to do with railways when I went to university in 1971 since it was not "cool" and I wanted to fit in. Then, by the time I might have got interested again, I had a wife and family and couldn't justify the amount of money spent on me just to go to the obscure outposts of world steam. I just took bus photos. And now that I'm old and can afford such stuff there's nothing left, indeed we've prioritised wildlife when taking holidays abroad and my wife quite understandably didn't want to spend money to see decrepit technology in coal mines and sugar fields.

Though the family did club together to pay for an expensive 60th birthday present for me, a steam experience day on the ELR. I was very grateful even though I was spending a hot day in July shovelling coal into a firebox It made me realise why enthusiasts bemoaned the loss of steam but those who had to work in the rail industry largely didn't.
Tell your wife that these places have plenty of wildlife!
 

70014IronDuke

Established Member
Joined
13 Jun 2015
Messages
2,968
Tell your wife that these places have plenty of wildlife!
Indeed, good steam locations in the 70s such as the Douro Valley, Czechoslovakia and central-eastern Anatolia in Turkey, plus of course S Africa and India during the early-mid 70s certainly did have interesting bird life - I wish I had known more about it at the time. I even saw a wild croc in Rhodesia while awaiting a Garrett.

While I sympathise with the OP on his definition, I do think shunting locomotive constitute "real steam" - even if they barely get beyond 10 mph. But yes, while I appreciate the efforts of preservationists, and even supported some societies in a very modest way back in the day, for me, it was never the "real thing". And it is, alas now getting to the real "end of the line".
 

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,475
Indeed, good steam locations in the 70s such as the Douro Valley, Czechoslovakia and central-eastern Anatolia in Turkey, plus of course S Africa and India during the early-mid 70s certainly did have interesting bird life - I wish I had known more about it at the time. I even saw a wild croc in Rhodesia while awaiting a Garrett.

I've found Poland wonderful for bird life -- though I'm in any case, pretty much comprehensively "sold" on Poland in general. Particularly good fun in the stork-summering-and-breeding season, late spring / most of the summer (and the locals love the storks, and put up elevated nesting-platforms for them) -- in the countryside in the season, storks all over the place, doing their thing. Have also seen cranes -- close-to, from a train -- in western Poland.

While I sympathise with the OP on his definition, I do think shunting locomotive constitute "real steam" - even if they barely get beyond 10 mph. But yes, while I appreciate the efforts of preservationists, and even supported some societies in a very modest way back in the day, for me, it was never the "real thing". And it is, alas now getting to the real "end of the line".

I admit to being a bit funny in the head about these matters: by all rational and linguistic-sense-making canons, regular day-by-day steam shunting activities are the real thing -- just, I irrationally feel that steam locos out on the line, regularly and copiously hauling trains, are really "what it's all about". A number of countries, after they had ceased to use steam for regular line working, for a fair while kept it in some strength, purely for shunting. That was stuff which I never wished to go to see: it just felt for me, such a miserable and ignominious come-down and "antechamber to death", for the survivors of the country's steam fleet. Shunting by steam can indeed be, in itself, a fine spectacle: in Zimbabwe in 1991, I revelled in watching it at Bulawayo; with there still being there at that time, plentiful steam line working, which I also experienced.
 

Beebman

Member
Joined
17 Feb 2011
Messages
290
In a similar vein to steam shunting, on that same trip in April 1991 when I experienced steam in Poland I went over the German border to do the narrow-gauge steam lines in Saxony. When I arrived in Zittau on a train from Dresden I was amazed to see two Class 52s in steam in the station area. According to my notes they were 8012 and 8160, and many years later I discovered on a German forum that they were in use there as 'Heizloks' to pre-heat rakes of coaches. Does that count as 'real'? Certainly though for me at that time seeing standard-gauge DR steam looked very real even though they weren't in revenue-earning service and my understanding is that they'd had some conversion work done on them for their new role. (Incidently thanks to their extended lives both locos survive today in preservation.)
 

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,475
In a similar vein to steam shunting, on that same trip in April 1991 when I experienced steam in Poland I went over the German border to do the narrow-gauge steam lines in Saxony. When I arrived in Zittau on a train from Dresden I was amazed to see two Class 52s in steam in the station area. According to my notes they were 8012 and 8160, and many years later I discovered on a German forum that they were in use there as 'Heizloks' to pre-heat rakes of coaches. Does that count as 'real'? Certainly though for me at that time seeing standard-gauge DR steam looked very real even though they weren't in revenue-earning service and my understanding is that they'd had some conversion work done on them for their new role. (Incidently thanks to their extended lives both locos survive today in preservation.)

Same for me, as with shunting -- stationary-boiler duties definitely "genuine stuff, for practical reasons" (quite a number of rail undertakings here and there in the world continued to use some steam locos for this function, post-their ceasing to use them for line working); but it's a thing that gives me little joy (as said above, that's my problem !). I'd much like to do the Zittau 750mm gauge lines -- have the picture of a rather delightful little rural system, all-steam, redeeming surrounding scenes of considerable industrial squalor. However, my only experience of sub-metric rail in eastern Germany (I have done the Harz metre gauge) has been the Freital Heinsberg -- Kurort Kipsdorf line near Dresden, in spring 1990: which -- all worked by the "regulation" 99.17** series 2-10-2Ts -- I reckoned, even if a tiny bit "plastic", a delight.
 

LSWR Cavalier

Established Member
Joined
23 Aug 2020
Messages
1,230
Location
Leafy Suburbia
Heizloks were probably unable to move, so they could not count as being in service.

The Harzquerbahn + Brockenbahn have daily steam, a big new locomotive workshop has been built.

@Calthrop : I think the end of steam is not nigh!
 

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,475
Heizloks were probably unable to move, so they could not count as being in service.

But -- "they also serve who only stand and heat" (I'm just being contrary).

The Harzquerbahn + Brockenbahn have daily steam, a big new locomotive workshop has been built.

@Calthrop : I think the end of steam is not nigh!

All depends on one's definition; and happily, this hobby is a "broad church" -- no universal protocol or orthodoxy, about anything in it, which one must adhere to, or else (beyond being gently "rubbished" by fellow-enthusiasts who feel otherwise).
 

Beebman

Member
Joined
17 Feb 2011
Messages
290
Heizloks were probably unable to move, so they could not count as being in service.
According to this German Wikipedia article Heizloks could move ('voll betriebsfähige'), they had simply had minor alterations in that the preheater was replaced by a second injector (if I've translated 'Mischvorwärmer' and 'Strahlpumpe' correctly):
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heizlokomotive

However whether the two I saw at Zittau count as 'real' steam is certainly open to argument. I remember thinking at the time that they might have been brought back into service to cover a temporary local motive power shortage and if one of them had therefore dropped onto the front of my train back to Dresden then I'd definitely have considered that as 'real'. However the day before I'd been very surprised to see 03 001 arrive at Dresden Hbf with a service train from Görlitz which I was pretty sure was some sort of 'Plandampf' and so I did wonder if the Zittau 52s had been steamed up for something similar. I had to wait another 20 years or so before I found out about their use as Heizloks!
 

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,475
After an Irish ditty:

Standing ready at the station at Zittau,
Two 52s in steam -- for why, and how?
While the 99s run to and fro regardless,
To / from Jonsdorf and Oybin, anyhow;
And there's folks there from Krzewina
To drive a bargain -- no-one's meaner --
Standing ready at the station at Zittau.





New as at Thursday 16 / 9 -- has been "automerged":

As referred to in OP, re Bernd Seiler and Sandaoling, China; e-mail from Herr Seiler this morning -- recent intelligence from China, from someone likely to be reliably in the know: steam operation in the open-cast coal mine at Sandaoling may after all not finish until spring 2022. A possible few months' stay of execution !
 
Last edited:

LSWR Cavalier

Established Member
Joined
23 Aug 2020
Messages
1,230
Location
Leafy Suburbia
Those crazy East Germans have done it again, the Molli from Bad Doberan has a brand-new steam engine, introduced 2009. Is that the latest/newest built apart from replicas like on the L&B?

A model of it is available in 1:160, 31 grammes in weight, €680, maximum speed equivalent to 165 kmh.
 

MattRat

Member
Joined
26 May 2021
Messages
511
Location
Liverpool
The problem with trying to determine something is 'real' steam in the UK is that even if a steam railway served commuter passengers between two areas, tourists would also ride on it as it's a steam railway, making it difficult to tell if it's a real railway or a tourist railway.
 

etr221

Member
Joined
10 Mar 2018
Messages
570
The problem with trying to determine something is 'real' steam in the UK is that even if a steam railway served commuter passengers between two areas, tourists would also ride on it as it's a steam railway, making it difficult to tell if it's a real railway or a tourist railway.
Quite. One of my nominees for a remaining 'real steam' operation is the Snowdon Mountain Railway - where steam locos are doing what they have always done - take tourists up the mountain - because they haven't yet been replaced by diesels.

There is a distinction to be drawn between tourists riding a train (a) to get to whatever is attracting them (which they visit after getting off the train); (b) where the ride - as such - is the attraction (based on whatever they see out of the window); and (c) the train itself is the attraction. Though in many (perhaps even most) cases they will be attracted by a combination of these (in varying proportions), one has to ask where the line is to drawn between 'real' passengers (who might be pulled by 'real' steam), and 'visitors', just there for the experience (so any steam would not be 'real'), and what the proportion is to make it one or the other.
 

MattRat

Member
Joined
26 May 2021
Messages
511
Location
Liverpool
Quite. One of my nominees for a remaining 'real steam' operation is the Snowdon Mountain Railway - where steam locos are doing what they have always done - take tourists up the mountain - because they haven't yet been replaced by diesels.

There is a distinction to be drawn between tourists riding a train (a) to get to whatever is attracting them (which they visit after getting off the train); (b) where the ride - as such - is the attraction (based on whatever they see out of the window); and (c) the train itself is the attraction. Though in many (perhaps even most) cases they will be attracted by a combination of these (in varying proportions), one has to ask where the line is to drawn between 'real' passengers (who might be pulled by 'real' steam), and 'visitors', just there for the experience (so any steam would not be 'real'), and what the proportion is to make it one or the other.
I was more thinking of something like the RH&DR.
 

Pigeon

Member
Joined
8 Apr 2015
Messages
430
The Talyllyn has remained in continuous operation using original locos and original stock. At what point did it cease to be real? (arf)
 

etr221

Member
Joined
10 Mar 2018
Messages
570
The Talyllyn has remained in continuous operation using original locos and original stock. At what point did it cease to be real? (arf)
I would suggest - on a certain definition of 'real' - when the TRPS took over, and the purpose of the of the railway changed from 'providing transport' to 'running (vintage) trains' (even if they did 'provide transport'). Or should the turning point be when it ceases to 'provide transport'? - and as it hasn't done that (AIUI), it is still 'real'. (Whehether it is still worked by 'real steam' is a slightly different question)
 

2392

Member
Joined
7 Apr 2015
Messages
209
Location
Felling on Tyne
As something of a counter. I could say did/has the steam powered railway ended? Ok there has been a period of diesel power over the last 50 years or so here in the UK, with the National system steadily converting to electric power. So thinking laterally most electricity is generated at steam powered power stations, be they gas coal or nuclear powered boilers. Granted there are more green power station [wind, hydro or solar] but the majority is still being generated by steam in one form or another.....
 
Last edited:

Calthrop

Established Member
Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,475
As I've emphasised throughout this thread: my ideas on this matter -- admittedly highly negative and rigid -- are for, and in respect of, myself only; I don't consider myself on any mission to convert the wrong-headed rest of the world !

The problem with trying to determine something is 'real' steam in the UK is that even if a steam railway served commuter passengers between two areas, tourists would also ride on it as it's a steam railway, making it difficult to tell if it's a real railway or a tourist railway.

For me, there is no real steam anywhere in Britain -- well, Snowdon, hmm (see below): all British steam action nowadays and for decades past, has been essentially because of people who enjoy rail steam traction and want it to happen -- even if its use might happen to encompass a tiny bit of the element of people using the trains to get about their normal daily occasions; and / or freight working.

Quite. One of my nominees for a remaining 'real steam' operation is the Snowdon Mountain Railway - where steam locos are doing what they have always done - take
tourists up the mountain - because they haven't yet been replaced by diesels.

Rather, I feel (like the railway industry as a whole in past times): I've never been able to regard "mountain railways which simply go up their mountain for fun", as "proper" railways; but just as "leisure and pleasure" stuff (I like them just fine, for their own sake) -- but Snowdon, and similar operations abroad, don't enter into the "real" equation for me. Incidentally: is there now anywhere in the world, a "for-fun" mountain rack railway which uses solely steam locos? I have the impression that all such -- as does Snowdon -- supplement steam locos, with diesel ditto: whence the perception, that they could totally dieselise if they wished to (as some lines of this kind, have): their reason for keeping some steam, is that people ("punters", and maybe the railway's management) like it.

There is a distinction to be drawn between tourists riding a train (a) to get to whatever is attracting them (which they visit after getting off the train); (b) where the ride - as such - is the attraction (based on whatever they see out of the window); and (c) the train itself is the attraction. Though in many (perhaps even most) cases they will be attracted by a combination of these (in varying proportions), one has to ask where the line is to drawn between 'real' passengers (who might be pulled by 'real' steam), and 'visitors', just there for the experience (so any steam would not be 'real'), and what the proportion is to make it one or the other.

My personal ""take": passengers (no offence to any of such good folk) are "real" only if they're using a train, to go about their life's necessary / ordinary occasions: such as travelling to / from work / school, visiting their local "town" for needful errands, visiting people (slightly grey area -- going off on / returning from holiday?). In the nature of the preserved-steam scene, the proportion of users falling into that category will be infinitesimally small.

The Talyllyn has remained in continuous operation using original locos and original stock. At what point did it cease to be real? (arf)
I would suggest - on a certain definition of 'real' - when the TRPS took over, and the purpose of the of the railway changed from 'providing transport' to 'running (vintage) trains' (even if they did 'provide transport'). Or should the turning point be when it ceases to 'provide transport'? - and as it hasn't done that (AIUI), it is still 'real'. (Whehether it is still worked by 'real steam' is a slightly different question)

I'd be tempted to say -- my definition, "for own use", only -- that the Talyllyn ceased to be a real railway, as of 1946/47, when the Bryn Eglwys slate quarries which it served, closed down and there ceased to be slate to transport. The hitherto year-long passenger services ended as from 1945 (for that year, there was basically no loco available fit for passenger purposes) -- from 1946 on, till preservation dawned: they were summer-only, three days a week. Sir Henry Haydn Jones, the owner, vowed -- nobly, but one wonders a little what were his motives -- to keep the line running on that basis for as long as he might live: he died in 1950, the line continued to run under his regime for the rest of that summer, and "the rest is history". According to Rolt in Railway Adventure: for those years and in the early 1950s under preservation, a small amount of genuine local passenger use continued in the operating season -- largely, people going into Tywyn for shopping on Fridays -- but it was a tiny proportion of the whole: almost all use was by "trippers" -- and one feels that the locals could without great difficulty have made other arrangements, and that there was a "loyalty" element in their continuing to use the train in season.

As something of a counter. I could say did/has the steam powered railway ended? Ok there has been a period of diesel power over the last 50 years or so here in the UK, with the National system steadily converting to electric power. So thinking laterally most electricity is generated at steam powered power stations, be they gas coal or nuclear powered boilers. Granted there are more green power station [wind, hydro or solar] but the majority is still being generated b steam in one form or another.....

Sir, I suspect that in a past incarnation in ancient Greece: you were what was known there and then, as a "sophist" <D ...
 

Arglwydd Golau

Established Member
Joined
14 Apr 2011
Messages
1,334
The Snowdon Mountain Railway is almost entirely diesel operated these days,if I recall correctly it has been for some time, steam runs a 'heritage' service which is very infrequent and has been withdrawn for this year.
 

Top