A review on 'Swindon Steam: A new light on GWR locomotive development'

Swindon Steam describes what went on over and behind the GWR drawing boards and top management decisions. L A Summers, as the comprehensive notes attest, has immersed himself in the subject. He makes masterful arguments for or against various design proposals. There is an abundance of photographs and illustrations, and there are also a number of the author's computer generated 'might have been' locomotives. With only a few exceptions 'railway' writers have tended to ignore the fact that the steam locomotive has always had a man-machine interface, ie the footplate and its controls. The author, rightly, refers to this in his account of the early development of steam at Swindon Perhaps the most interesting sub-subject is Swindon's apparent failure to embrace 'foreign' ideas, such as those of Chapelon; ideas that could have significantly improved locomotive performance. Another is the 'phantom' Hawksworth Pacific. The author's forensic study of who proposed what and who said what and the different 4-6-2 schemes is a fascinating account. There are also observations on a proposed 4-8-0 as an alternative to a Pacific; and not just for the Western Region. Reasons are given for the retention of inside valve gear. The final chapters cover a sorry tale of mismanagement at the top of BR and conflicting evidence concerning the merits or otherwise of diesel when compared with steam. Given a number of practical improvements and better servicing facilities, steam, on the WR in particular, need not have been swept away by many who had little understanding of the subject or were playing politics. Swindon Steam is highly recommended to all steam enthusiasts, irrespective of their depth of interest in matters technical, and to all interested in the history of technology. LEPC

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Les does not just write technical stuff about steam engines, and take great photos of them. He also writes amazing fiction. We are trying to prepare these works for Kindle and other e-readers, but in the meantime, you have the exclusive opportunity to download the first few chapters of two of his books, and, we hope, you will be so engrossed that you will want to finish reading them! 

Currently there is just the first chapter, but we will soon update the site so that you can download the rest of the book for a small fee