At the end of the 1950s steam was – for most European countries – still the primary source of power on the railways; diesel and electric traction was becoming increasingly dominant – particularly in Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland – by 1960 but in other countries, such as Austria, Britain, Germany – both East and West – Spain and Portugal, it was still possible to see many of the most impressive steam engines hard at work on both passenger and freight traffic. By the end of the 1960s, however, a combination of line closures and the more widespread use of more modern traction had seen many of these iconic locomotives taken out of service. In some countries – such as Sweden – withdrawn locomotives were often retained as a strategic reserve in case of emergency but in other countries, most notably Britain and France, vast numbers of relatively modern steam locomotives made their final journey to the scrapyard.
It is often said that, if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t really there; fortunately, however, a significant number of railway enthusiasts were there at the time and, in an era when foreign travel was both expensive and complicated – remember exchange controls that limited the amount of money that individuals could take out of the country with them on holiday – they travelled widely across Europe, recording scenes that, more than 50 years later, are now a glorious reminder of a long-lost era.
This volume incorporates some 220 colour images of steam in operation between 1960 and 1969 from all corners of Europe and portrays many of the classic designs hard at work on the main line including both standard and narrow gauge operations.