The Ghosts of Journeys Past

It’s not difficult to understand why people are so captivated the Age of Steam…

steam locos at reefsteamers germiston depot
steam locomotive at reefsteamers germiston
Years ago the Rolling Stones undertook their Steel Wheels tour. Unless I’m very much mistaken, a steam train played an important role in the graphic design for that tour.

I recall a time when, after another day at school, I’d wait on the platform for the steam engine that would pull me home to come thundering into the station in a cloud of soot and smoke and steam that clogged noses and burned eyes.

In those days, we didn’t think of it as the “romance of steam”. Instead, we hankered after something cleaner and quieter. Something that was more 20th century. Like the electric trains they had in more advanced parts of the country, like Johannesburg!

But little did I know as I cursed the huge, hissing, snorting, smoke-belching monsters arriving at the station every day, that I was witnessing the end of an era. Or that steam enthusiasts were, even then, travelling halfway across the globe to ride in these carriages being manhandled along the rails by [gasp!] “working steam locomotives!”

Today I too look back with a warm sense of nostalgia on these magnificent beasts. What is it about steam locomotives that so captures our imagination? I think it’s that more than any other type of engine, the steam locomotive is as close as machinery can get to becoming a living, breathing, creature. A creature with a heart and soul.  An almost mystical, mythical  fire-breathing dragon.

The photographs in this post were taken at a Reefsteamer’s Open Day, held in conjunction with the Sandstone Heritage Trust, on October 24th, 2015. A friend of mine owns a 1931 Model A Ford and this is what brought us, rather appropriately I thought, to the Reefsteamer’s Germiston Depot.

dials and valves in the cab of a steam locomotive
This is not someone’s idea of what the interior of a steam locomotive cab should look like. It’s not steam punk, it’s actual steam!
piping on a steam locomotive
Piping on a steam locomotive
Reefsteamer's Germiston Depot
The Reefsteamer’s Germiston Depot.
1931 model a ford poses next to a steam locomotive
1931 Model A Ford belonging to a friend poses with a steam loco
interior of a diesel loco cabin
It’s not all steam at Reefsteamer’s – this is inside the cab of a diesel engine housed on the premises.
reefsteamers blacksmith at work
A Reefsteamer’s “smithy” in front of the furnace hammering out a part for one of the engines. It’s hot, heavy labour but I got the impression that he loved every hammer blow.
steam locos
A big shout out to the men and women who keep these beautiful behemoths alive and rolling. We owe them all our gratitude.

You can see a few more shots from this shoot over at my Flickr stream

One thought on “The Ghosts of Journeys Past”

  1. Wondefully atmospheric images. Fire breathing dragons is right. I wonder whether there will be nostaliga for the trains of today in 40 years time? It’s hard to imagine but then the current or recently obsolete, never seem as romantic as items from long into our past or before our time altogether.

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