The National Railway Museum, York.
Why do old steam locomotives hold such a fascination?
Is it, for some, they remind us of bygone days? Is because they seem to be alive, hissing and steaming, with a character no modern electric or diesel locomotive seems to possess? Smoke Box DoorSmoke box door detail, steam locomotive, National Railway Museum, York.
In reality, they are dirty polluting machines, all steam, soot and smoke, not to mention highly inefficient. Only about 10% of the energy stored within the coal being converted into traction with the rest being lost as waste heat, no wonder they were economically doomed.
Still, we love them, like no other machine invented.
The National Railway Museum in York, is a great place to visit. Not only is it full of historic old steam locomotives, but it runs and maintains them also. Add to that, masses of memorabilia it is an Aladdin's Cave of all things railway.
Brass TapsBrass taps on an historic steam locomotive, National Railway Museum, York.
For me though the stars are the old locomotives. I can remember standing in the back garden looking down across the Aire Valley near Silsden and seeing the steam locomotive plying the line between Leeds and Bradford and Skipton and beyond. I would have been about three years old and it must be one of my earliest memories as a child.
At that time steam was already being phased out, and a few years later Dr Beeching made his cuts to the network which would change the face of rail travel in Britain.
Smoke Box Door - No2Close up of steam locomotive smoke box door, national Railway Museum, York.
Now, half a century on, how everyone wishes that those lines were still in place. Hind sight is a wonderful thing.
Still, individuals, groups, trusts, saw fit to preserve some of the old steam locomotives. Many are still running and we are lucky here in the Yorkshire Dales that frequently they are seen running on the Settle to Carlisle line, not some short heritage line, but still part of the national rail network linking Leeds to the west coast mainline at Carlisle and on up to Scotland.
Weekly charters through the summer on steam hauled trains called "The Fellsman" or "The Cumbrian Mountain Express" regularly pass close by over the famous viaduct at Ribblehead.
More pictures in the gallery, click on the top picture to seem them, while below is one from last summer.