Steam Echoes of Hamilton is a nostalgic look at mid-1950s railway action in and around Hamilton, Ontario.
I have been aware of author Ian Wilson’s “Steam” series of books for some time. People have spoken very highly of his books, known as the Canadian Branchline series, but until now I haven’t read a single one.
Long time readers may know that I am not a steam locomotive fan. I like diesels. I never grew up with steam engines and I feel no nostalgia toward them. I’ve never really paid a lot of attention to them or the terminology involved. I couldn’t identify Walschaerts valve gear if my life depended on it, but I can tell an SD40 from a GP38.
I always assumed that Mr. Wilson’s books focused a lot on the steam engines, given that “steam” is in all of the titles. I expected something similar to Anthony Clegg/Ray Corley “Canadian National Steam Power“.
I was wrong.
The author immerses you in mid 1950s Canadian railroading, describing layer after layer of detail on what trains ran, typical locomotives, passenger cars and freight cars used, and all the many procedures used by railroaders to move freight and passengers over main lines and branch lines.
The really amazing thing is that the author does this without being boring or clinical. It really is a warm, engaging look at how railroading used to be… and you don’t need to be a steam locomotive expert to read this book.
I bought this book as part of a lot of books. It was only a few more dollars to include this in the lot, so I figured, “what the heck.” I’m glad I did.
Steam Echoes of Hamilton takes you through a busy day at the CN yard in Hamilton, with side trips down the branch lines radiating out of one of Canada’s most industrial cities. Wander the bucolic branch lines to Simcoe or Port Rowan and learn about interchanging with the Michigan Central and the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo.
The narrative is paired with period photographs illustrating the action in the story. While the books are written as if it was taking place on a specific day, the photographs don’t necessarily illustrate that particular day but show the scenes from “around” that time. The photographs are generally excellent and the print quality and overall editing of the books is outstanding.
I highly recommend you look at Ian Wilson’s Canadian Branchline series, available from the author’s web site. I know I will.