The International Steam Pages
The variety of steam locomotive which could once be seen on the main line in Indonesia is relatively well known. In some of the other countries in the region, steam has survived into the new century. This CD-ROM covers that contemporary activity, but its main purpose is to document steam when enthusiasts first visited in significant numbers some 30 years ago or more.
The following are covered:
There are more than 1200 pictures from some 20 different photographers taken between the 1950s and the present day. Each image is designed to be presented on a full 1024 x 768 or 800x600 (sVGA) screen using 'Hi-color setting'. Most of the pictures have never been published and this is the definitive record of steam in the countries of the region.
This compilation which has taken nearly 2 years to bring together draws heavily on the collection of Basil Roberts who was resident in Bangkok from 1971-4. I have contributed from my time in the region over the last 30 years and we have also been fortunate to have access to the collections of Bill Alborough, John Alexander, Hugh Ballantyne, Keith Chester, Derek Cross, Olaf Güttler, Peter Hodge, Hans Hufnagel, Heinrich Hubbert, Johs Damsgard Hansen, Rob Kingsford-Smith, Nobutaka Kurashige, Nick Lera, Colin Martindale, Peter Mosse, Peter Nettleship, Nicholas Pertwee, Richard Pelham, Bernd Seiler, Ian Searle, Florian Schmidt, Dave Sherron, John Tillman, Geoff Todd.
Tiger Steam is available for the Windows 95
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This is the latest of the world steam travels on CD-ROM edited by Rob Dickinson, and covers a fascinating range of south-east Asian countries; Burma, Cambodia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, and Vietnam, plus the Pacific islands of Fiji for good measure.
South-east Asia was one of the most difficult destinations for steam enthusiasts, and to assemble this CD with a wide representation of working steam, which largely disappeared in the 1970s, has been no mean achievement. The photographers featured were particularly dedicated with the benefits of a sense of exploration, and capable of doing without the creature comforts of guided tours, where Rob Dickinson himself was in the forefront whilst based in Malaysia. Special mention must be made of Basil Roberts whose contribution of diversity and quality is the backbone of this photographic journey. Hardly anything has been published before.
The first thing to strike me is the sheer size of this production which features 1200 captioned images and 20 maps together with introductions and historical explanations; try and match that with any contemporary photographic book and there is no comparison in size or value. And like a book this CD does not need to be read sequentially, dipping in is just as easy.
The images are vivid colour, bar a few of the oldest in black and white, and none of them is less than of good quality where if compromises are made it is only to feature the rarest of sights. Nearly all of them avoid those days when it is dull where the contributors have an eye on the sun, even though the editor is compelled to apologise when the "wrong" side of a Shay is featured.
There are several common themes to the way railways are featured; working steam from the late 1960s through the 1970s, industrial railways during the same era including some of the most obscure imaginable, and by way of a postscript; recent scenes in the preserved era or returning to places that have been inaccessible for many years. Trains in action, on sheds and loco galleries all feature.
There is far too much to attempt to list the contents, but it is worth picking out some of the highlights. I must admit to small historic contribution to this CD so am not totally disinterested, but mine is but a tiny part in this big work.
Taiwan mainline steam appears to be a smaller sized clone of Japan and hung on in good shape until the late seventies pending electrification; a classy show not well aired elsewhere. Industrial railway pictures date from the sixties and feature the incredible Alishan Shay fleet before it became a tourist operation. Also there were a number of largely forgotten industrial lines with anonymous Japanese narrow gauge locos with makers plates removed by the free Taiwanese post-war, where some photos appear to emulate perfect oriental landscapes, or more surprisingly a hot bed of French tank locomotives little documented otherwise.
In the Philippines, it is the industrial railways carrying sugar that are the best known, and steam remnants have just survived to the present day, although this CD gives it the full treatment from the 1960s through to the 80s when still near its heyday, including long forgotten Mills. Most interesting of all though is the main line system photographed just in time by Dave Sherron in 1959-60 showing a mixture of ancient British and more modern American and Japanese steam in service which has hardly ever featured elsewhere.
Malaysia is less exciting technically, if only because the majority of the locos look the same[!], which is hardly fair to a range of very good photographs. A bonus is a short and varied section on Sabah [North Borneo] where rare pictures from the last days of working steam in the 1960s look remarkably like recently revived specials.
Thailand offers a much wider variety from the early seventies, and the combination of sun and gleaming locomotives whose cleanliness defies belief make this large and diverse section one of the most compelling. A Basil Roberts three-quarter front view of an immaculate passenger train with wooden-bodied stock in golden sunshine encapsulates the appeal of south-east Asia.
The former French colonial empire is more challenging where by the time enthusiasts arrived in the later 1960s the political situation was deteriorating and dieselisation quite well advanced. Ancient Vietnamese machines are stored never to run again, pacifics and mikados are seen in danger zones where they were disposable in comparison with costly diesels, and there is a postscript of the few survivors including Chinese clones in the 90s. Finding the combination of favourable action in good light was far harder than Thailand in comparison and probably a lot more personally risky.
Cambodia is a similar situation enlivened also by the sight of a few historical relics scrounged from other countries, and some nice recent excursion shots. Burma offered considerable variety in the early 1970s and was already then a time warp where some of the oldest locos on the CD, Indian standard "F" 0-6-0s, just survived long enough to be caught. This is of real quality, and is complemented with 1990s action carefully distilled from surviving sugar traffic; real working steam, plus that hot destination of the 21st century, the Burma mines.
Fiji relies on the photographic legacy of "Balloon Stacks & Sugar Cane" author Peter Hodge, and very good it is too, where late 1950s shots capture the full glory of Fiji sugar and local passenger workings before the diesel and the truck took over. In comparison a 1990s brief revisit only shows how much has been lost. There are many reasons to buy this ROM where quality of the photography and diversity and rarity of subject is all very compelling, and this ignores the value for money. There is much for all aspects of rail enthusiast from the historical to the photographer. Even those who devour picture books and slide shows are very unlikely to have seen all of this. Use it like a book, dip in to it from time to time, and it will provide many hours of enjoyment and information.