The smell of coal, oil and steam and the chuff-chuff of a 220 t steam locomotive as it gathers momentum to 60 km/h along the railway excites many people, young and old. One man keeps a beady eye on a wall of gauges and periodically shovels coal into a square hole, while a second man has his head out of the window while firmly in control of the long throttle lever. Back at the Reefsteamers base, hidden in the centre of a tangle of railway lines on the East Rand, several of their friends toil at old fashioned trades in a building constructed by Italian prisoners of war in the 1940s. These are some of the engineers of the South African steam preservation scene, and this is what they do for fun.
For more than 30 years, steam engine enthusiasts around the world have been quietly and insistently keeping the age of steam alive. Men and women take great pains (and spend huge amounts of money) to build replicas… (more)