BOOK REVIEW: ‘Steam At Work: Preserved Industrial Locomotives’

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Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: Steam At Work: Preserved Industrial Locomotives

Author: Fred Kerr

Total Number of Printed Pages: 126

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 7

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Although to the General Public ‘Preserved’ steam locomotives are epitomised by such well-known machines as Flying Scotsman, there are other steam locomotives which are equally interesting and worthy of attention. These are the ‘Industrials’; the small steam engines which have invariably worked tirelessly in largely-unknown areas and industries. They have a definite charm of their own and can be equally fascinating. Yet despite this, these engines are still largely overlooked. This volume is an attempt to remedy that situation and, in summary is ‘… Dedicated to those builders whose products are still in use many years after being built…’

This book is of the ‘Enthusiasts picture-book’ genre. It is a collection of colour photographs of small industrial steam locomotives built by 25 different British manufacturers. The photographs are beautiful and for those merely seeking high-quality images of small and colourful steam locomotives, this could be incentive-enough to purchase this volume. Those with a more technical interest in the subject are not left out however. As previously noted, this volume consists of 26 sections; (there being no ‘Chapters’ in the accepted sense). These are listed alphabetically on the Contents page, and are repeated as ‘Section’ headings. However, when creating these headings (and to delineate each section) the author has employed a curious form of two or three-letter abbreviations. These include (for example), AB (for Andrew Barclay Sons and Company); GR (for Grant Richie & Company) and WCI (Wigan Coal & Iron Company). As such items are not normally found in published works, they are possibly the author’s invention, perhaps created to record details in his notebooks. Their use in a published work makes for an untidy Contents page and, in the opinion of this reviewer, brings an amateurish look to the section headings. The Contents page is in turn followed by an untitled page which provides a very brief history of industrial steam locomotive construction in Great Britain. The ‘Photographic’ part of the volume then follows. Within this, each ‘Section’ commences with three self-explanatory sub-headings (titled Date Established, Location and History).  These are followed by a single paragraph listing the specific-manufacturer’s locomotives that have been preserved, and their location within the British Isles.  Although each locomotive-builder’s product is portrayed by at least one colour photograph, several have received photographs in the 12-20 image range, However, 60 photographs have been taken of the products of one manufacturer (Hunslet), with the qualification that that Company’s products are divided into two sections: Austerity Locomotives and Industrial locomotives. Each photograph is clearly captioned, and frequently-contains additional information relating to the specific locomotive it portrays or the event at which it was appearing when the image was taken. However, as some images have been transposed, it is advisable to check that captions refer to the specific locomotive in the photograph. In addition to the captions, an accompanying paragraph details the history of the individual locomotive. No Maps or an Index are provided. Regrettably, the author provides no details about the cameras or methods he used when taking the photographs.

As previously noted, this volume is of the ‘Picture book’ genre. As such it is beautiful, with the photographs being of frameable quality. It is little more. The absence of an Index requires readers to undertake unnecessary (and probably fruitless) searching, while the lack of any Maps means that the reader has no idea where the photographs were taken. This can be an especially frustrating situation for ‘off-shore’ readers for who maps are a necessary adjunct to their reading. .

Because of the quality of the images, it is possible that this book may have a wider appeal beyond the railway world; perhaps to readers who simply like quality images of small steam locomotives; or want something to share with children who are fans of Thomas the Tank Engine. It is also likely to appeal to ‘generalist’ railway enthusiasts, although those with a specific interest in preserved British industrial steam locomotives in contemporary settings are likely to find it a delight. Railway modellers with a specific interest in the subject may also find it of use.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume a 7.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Steam At Work: Preserved Industrial Locomotives’

Book Review: ‘Storm Chaser’

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Reviewer: NZ Crown Mines

Title: Storm Chaser

Authors: Mike Olbinski

Total Number of Printed Pages: 192*

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): Photographs: 9, Text: 2

*There are no page numbers within this volume.

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If ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, then for many people, storms of any sort are not beautiful.  Instead, they are things of fear, destruction and general mayhem. ‘They are definitely not to be appreciated as ‘Things of beauty’. Mike Olbinski would beg to differ.

This volume is unashamedly a ‘Picture book of storms’: Dust storms, Electrical storms, Thunder storms and Tornadoes. Lightning strikes abound, as towering banks of clouds, many in full-colour and of immense dimensions.  The book is beautifully illustrated and although concentrating on storms in Arizona (the author’s home state) it also contains examples of storms photographed in the adjacent states of New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas and Colorado. If a reader is seeking beautiful and impressive photographs of cloudscapes, lightning strikes, dust storms and tornados in a western-American setting, then this book will certainly meet those requirements.

If however a reader is seeking details about (for example), storm formation, cameras and ‘how to chase storms’, this volume will be of little value.

Within the book a two-page Introduction appears before the photographic section which comprises the majority of the book’s content. In the Introduction, the author explains how he came to be internationally-known for his storm photographs and about his passion for his work.  The photographic section follows. This section’s format is one where (with four exceptions),  a full-page A4-sized photograph is placed on the right-hand page and text on the facing (left-hand) page. The latter invariably consists of personal reminiscences relative to the image and how it came to be photographed. In some instances a three-page sequence of images is provided. When this occurs, only the first page of the set follows the previously-mentioned format. The images that follow invariably fill the entire pages and do not contain captions. Several black and white images appear within the volume, largely to emphasise aspects of a specific storm. On the pages where the previously-mentioned ‘exceptions’ are located, a white border has been placed above and below the images. The reason for this is not known. The volume contains no Page Numbers, Table of Contents, Maps or Index. It is a ‘picture book’ pure and simple and no effort has been made to assist the reader in any way. No attempt is made to explain the meteorological causes of the various storms that have been photographed. A Glossary to explain the technical terms, abbreviations and terminology scattered throughout the book would have been helpful. Readers aspiring to emulate the author and chase storms in their own particular region or country will look in vain for any technical information concerning cameras or for ‘how-to’ tips concerning storm chasing.

Buyers who want beautiful pictures of clouds, lightning, tornadoes, thunderstorms and dust storms are likely to be well-pleased with this book.

That this volume has spectacular photographs of storms is undeniable, but for this reviewer it  lacks what he considers to be the most basic of items, Page Numbers being a case in point. It is on this basis that he has given it the rating appearing below:

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given the Photographs: 9, the text: 2.

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nzcrownmines is available for book reviewing: Contact nzcrownmines @gmail.com

 

Book Review: ‘Storm Chaser’