Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Book Review: Canadian Steam!

Readers of this blog will know I am a diesel fan, not a steam fan. I don't go on long trips to see an operating steam locomotive. In fact, I've only seen two operating steam locomotives in my life - a steam locomotive at Calgary's Heritage Park, and Winnipeg's own Prairie Dog Central #3.

I borrowed Canadian Steam! from the local library because I wanted to see if it had any local (Prairie) scenes in it. I had never read the book before.

The book is edited by the late David P. Morgan, editor of Trains magazine from 1953 to1987 and a lover of steam engines. If you've ever read any of Mr. Morgan's writing, you will know how this book is written. David had a breathless, adjective-filled way of writing that was distinctive and entertaining to read. His style has been emulated to varying degrees of success by later writers such as Greg McDonnell.

Technically I would say that some of the photographs are great, many are fair to decent, and some are of poor quality. Keep in mind that this book was written in 1961.

There is quite a variety of locations and engines represented, and Mr. Morgan stated in the foreword that there was no effort made to represent all classes and all locations. Even so, I think he did a good job of capturing the flavour of Canadian steam operations.

Personally, as someone who definitely prefers diesel engines, I give it a "meh". If you like steam engines, I suspect you will like this book. Check it out: Canadian Steam!


Eric said...

How about a meh plus rating, Steve? I'm familiar with the evocative cover art, and I've looked through the book over the years.

In the very late 50's, early 60's, American railfans flocked north to photograph our anachronistic steam engines, mere years after the US bade steam farewell. Many CNR and CPR road locomotives were operating in lowly drag freight service, commuter service, and other 'unprototypical' applications. Perhaps this is what the book reflects and why the photography is less than stellar - they got what when they got, weather and all.

But overall, any attempt to portray what was is just that, and David P Morgan's writing should carry the day.

Now that the US has realized that Canadian railways are cool, they're producing all kinds of Canadian prototype models, books and videos.


Canadian Train Geek said...

I would give it a "meh plus" but I was disappointed by the photo quality. I've seen many of the 50s Canadian steam photos and there are some great ones.

I think the problem is that the book was done in 1961 and a lot of those great 50s photos were not available to Morgan yet.

Maybe I'm just a grumpy reviewer.

Eric said...

No, you gotta call 'em as you see 'em, Steve. We definitely expect higher quality reproduction these days.


K Wadden said...

A'meh' it might be based on some of the photos. But I think you 're missing the point.

Diesel locomotives will never compare to the grandeur of a mainline steam locomotive running at full throttle. All the more so when it's -15c !

Anything on wheels interests me by the way. Traction included.

K Wadden said...

Having just purchased a copy of this book for a friend let me offer this about your 'meh' rating.

The author's prolific writing makes up for what may be lacking with those photos. Yes he may be one to immortalize steam. But no diesel can compete with the grandeur of a mainline steam locomotive operating at full throttle. Especially when it's -15c !

Anything on wheels interests me. Traction included.