It was during the 1964 Autumn half term that a young Paul Cooper picked up a copy of Modern Railways at Kings Cross, inside was a story announcing of the £15 million Bournemouth electrification scheme, due for completion in early 1967. He knew that would represent the elimination of a 100% steam service in a little over two years and so he resolved to record as much of the action as he could, before it was gone forever.
Over the next three years, Paul fulfilled that promise by travelling all over the Southern Region, photographing not just the special services of the era, but moreover the daily workings and the scenes in the stations, sidings and workshops where steam locomotives were seeing out their final years in service.
Now, to mark 50 years since the last steam services ran in the UK, Paul has teamed-up with Crécy Publishing to bring many of these glorious photographs into publication for the first time. In addition to Paul’s own photographs, Southern Steam Swansong also includes images from other photographers, including in particular a selection from a recently uncovered cache of previously unknown large format colour Ektachrome images, all recorded on a German-made Rolleiflex camera.
In all, Southern Steam Swansong contains over 250 photographs, of which 187 are in colour and around 90% have never been published before. These stunning images are supported by detailed captions which tell the story not just of the images themselves, but of the people, places and machinery that were part of the Southern Railway in these years of transition from a steam railway to the diesel and electric era.
As well as being of the highest technical quality, the images of Southern Steam Swansong are at once an evocative, detailed and lasting record of places and times that are now half a century behind us. Anyone with an interest in this time will find a wealth of information in these pages, and for any railway enthusiast, modeller or historian this will be the ultimate pictorial tribute to the swansong.