What do Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain have in common? They all rode Australia’s steam train network in its heyday—and a new book explores its rich history. In Steam Australia: Locomotives that Galvanised the Nation (NLA Publishing, $39.99), author and former deputy prime minister, Tim Fischer, provides a captivating insight into Australia’s locomotive history, illustrated with over 300 images from the National Library of Australia, many of which have never been seen in print before.
Much more than just a listed history, Mr Fischer offers a compelling account of the great tapestry of transport weaved by the steam locomotive in this country. It details how the nation was galvanised by the economic growth steam trains delivered, and shares the stories behind famous named express trains such as Puffing Billy, Robert Gordon Menzies and The Ghan. It also includes a number of fascinating stories such as Albury’s ‘break of gauge’ platform, the Amiens branch line, the ‘garnishee’ order made against the Spirit of Progress, as well as those of important characters such as C.Y. O’Connor and John Whitton.
Deeply visual and well researched, Steam Australia provides a fascinating insight into locomotives and their important part in shaping Australian history.
Tim Fischer entered state parliament in 1971, switched to federal parliament in 1984, and became Nationals leader in 1990 and deputy prime minister in 1996. He was appointed ambassador to the Holy See in 2008, and is now a successful book author. Since travelling to boarding school by steam and diesel trains five decades ago, Tim has maintained a deep interest in transport issues, serving as the transport officer of 1RAR and on many parliamentary committees relating to rail and general transport issues. More recently, he was on the board of FreightLink and also leads rail tours in Australia, Europe, Russia and South Africa.
Steam Australia is a beautifully presented book, just as you would expect from the National Library of Australia. Whether you prefer to read from cover to cover or open it randomly and browse through it, you are guaranteed to be entertained by the thoroughly researched, authoritatively yet passionately written words and the many, many fascinating historic photographs.
Buy it as a gift or spoil yourself, it is a great book for anyone with the slightest interest in transport. Available at all good bookstores and online at NLA Publishing – https://bookshop.nla.gov.au/book/steam-australia-locomotives-that-galvanised-the-nation.do.