Last month we published Railway Heritage and Tourism edited by Michael V. Conlin and Geoffrey R. Bird. Here, Michael gives a bit more background to the book and his love of trains.
Most of the contributors to the book have a passionate interest in tourism and the impact of heritage railways on it. My primary motivation for starting this book was my enduring love of steam train travel. The fact that heritage railways have been able to survive and thrive because of their contribution to tourism, however, is what makes all of this conversation about trains possible…and relevant.
I became interested in trains at a very early age while growing up in England. Up until the time I moved to Canada in 1955, steam trains were the main form of inter-city transportation. Having relatives in both southern England and in Scotland, I inevitably had the good fortune to take several trips a year up and down the British Isles. What I remember most about steam travel in those days was the sounds and smells of engines – something that’s hard to recapture in static displays – and the dirt. Yes, steam trains are inherently dirty, sooty, and on occasion, oily. But all of this was simply part of the adventure. Back then, I can’t remember any commentary about the environment and sustainability.
For me as a child, travel and trains were synonymous. Indeed, the first time I ever rode in a car was when my family travelled from London to Southampton in 1955 to catch the Queen Mary to New York. My family returned briefly to England for about 36 months in 1956 and 1957 and during that period, I became an avid train spotter. We lived in Stockton-on-Tees which is right in the heart of where the steam train was developed and first ran. The city had major marshaling yards with long footbridges across them. You could sit up on those bridges all day marking down sightings in what quickly became a much smudged book listing engines and other rolling stock.
The book has lots of examples where trains and the infrastructure that supported them have become economically viable again as a result of tourism. And just as importantly, these examples also demonstrate the enduring attraction which this form of travel has for people of all ages. Anyone with an interest in trains and in tourism will find something of value, relevance, and hopefully joy in these pages.
For more information about the book please see our website.