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Steam Australia: Locomotives that Galvanised the Nation

Steam trains and Tim Fischer seem to be a complete part of each other as from a young age, Fischer fell in love with the huge steel dragons of the railways, watching with rapt attention the South West Mail passenger train into Narrandera from Sydney, bringing to the small town the all-important mail: The train was five carriages long, had a louvred freight wagon and Guard’s van.

Apart from the passengers the train was also bringing the papers from Sydney, only a mere 36 hours after publication, doing what trains have always done and continue to do, connect remote areas with Cities and towns, providing and maintaining that all important connection that contributed to development of the Industrial age in Britain and became, in the fledgling country of Australia, an all-important lifeline for goods, people and expansion.

Steam trains and their replacements, the not so glamorous workhorses, Diesel engines, have held an incredible fascination for everyone since their inception.

In this comprehensive volume on the ‘Locomotives that Galvanised a Nation’, Tim Fischer has lovingly shared his knowledge in a body of work that pays tribute to a bygone age; an age that has been kept alive by people such as he, aficionados of the era of Steam, as they  have over many years, loving restored and documented so many of these beautiful, majestic pieces of engineering, leaving a legacy for the generations to come.

The first three chapters tell the important story that rail and steam played in the development of Australia from its arrival in 1854, when the Directors of the Melbourne and Hobson’s Bay Railway Co placed and order for the very first steam locomotive, which was, as it was to be built in Melbourne, an engine that would be a stop-gap until a Stephenson model arrived from England.

Known as Hobson’s Choice, the engine was so successful and was proven to be a mighty piece of engineering. This important step was to see the network of the railways expand rapidly and when gold, copper and iron ore became such vital factors in the economy, rail spread even further to allow the exporting of such valuable resources to be faster and far more economic.

As each of the States developed the rail links provided the lifeblood of the Nation. Perhaps one of the most historic events, amongst many was the completion of the East West railway linking Western Australia to South Australia, which was completed eventually at Ooldea in 1917, ending at Kalgoorlie, where people enroute to Perth would have to change trains.

Many South Australians living in remote regions remember with great fondness the ‘Tea and Sugar train’, so vital to their welfare, along with the ‘Ghan’, providing work and an important link to the top end of Australia, for many, many years and now serving as one of the great attractions for tourism in South Australia, albeit now accomplished with the use of Diesel engines.

Thanks to the National Library of Australia and the comprehensive Buckland Collection, the visual aspects of this massively important component of Australia’s history is presented in true style, with so many wonderful photographs, time tables, schedules and other memorabilia spread throughout the pages to present a comprehensive and fascination look back at a time when Stream trains were the vital links through drought, hardship, War and underpinned the burgeoning economy of Australia.

Tim Fischer has created with love and respect, this impressive tribute to the time of Stream and the people who made it all possible. Steam Australia – Locomotives that Galvanised the Nation is one very collectable book all train lovers, spotters and anyone with an interest in  history will relish.

Author Tim Fischer
Publisher NLA Publishing
ISBN 9780642279293
Distributor National Library of Australia
Released November 2018