The dying of the light

Earlier this week I was listening to Richard Burton reciting Dylan Thomas’ poem, ‘Rage against the dying of the light’. A poem which could, in so many ways, be a leitmotiv for the railway preservation movement. That great engineman Norman McKillop titled his history of ASLEF, the footplatemen’s union, ‘The Lighted Flame’ a flame the preservationists have succeded in keeping alight ever since they revived the near extinct  one, at Talyllyn, almost 60 years ago now.

Such was the rage against the dying of the light of the steam locomotive that, over the ensuing years, the achievements of those who saught to keep the flames burning are mind-boggling. What began as the ‘perpetuation’ of the seven mile, narrow gauge, Talyllyn Railway, in a remote corner of Wales, is now a substantial sector of the Country’s tourism industry. Steam hauled main line tours like the ‘Great Britain’, seen above, with the city of Dundee in the backdrop and scheduled daily services, such as the Jacobite, are no longer the novelties they once were.

That diminutive quarry railway in Wales provided the inspiration for a thousand more preservation schemes large and small, branch lines, main lines, bridges, rolling stock, S&T equipment,  all the apparatus of an operational railway was rescued and what they couldn’t find or repair they made anew – up to and including a replica of an LNER A1 class Pacific. The sums of money and volunteer man hours are even more mind-boggling, hundreds of millions of pounds and literally billions of man hours – all of which is, of course, on going.

The photograph shows Black 5 No.45407, carrying a wreath on the smokebox door, passing Peace Hill Farm with the Dundee – Edinburgh leg of the GBII Tour.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:


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