In 1955 the Modernisation Plan had just been issued which showed that steam
traction’s future was doomed. In the Southern Region many old classes had kept
working due to the Second World War and the subsequent austerity period. Now
the attractive SR 4-4-0 classes gradually disappeared, hastened by the 1961
electrification of the Kent lines, although the old tank classes lasted somewhat
The Western Region had a more balanced engine set of 4-6-0s and tank
engines, but was actually to see steam finish earlier by some two and a half years,
effectively in 1964 with only remnants surviving into 1965.
Tony Butcher was fascinated by railways from a young age. His first
reasonable camera was a Kodak which allowed him to take action shots in 1956.
From that he graduated to a square bellows camera with a 500 shutter in 1957
and a 35mm camera in 1961.
With this equipment, Tony amassed a priceless
collection of images, recording the last, glorious days of steam, especially in the
Southern and Western Regions which are the focus of this book.
Chasing Society Steam specials, which were often aimed at using last in class
engines, as well as traversing lines and routes either freight-only or about to be
totally closed,Tony Butcher’s black and white images portray the poetry and the
power of these living machines.
From 1962 (and particularly from 1964) his colour
images add a sometimes startling depth and immediacy to his collection.
Together, these classic examples from Tony Butcher’s peerless picture archive,
offer a nostalgic yet stunning view of the Indian summer of steam traction
between 1956 and 1967, in what are arguably the most interesting Regions in
Tony Butcher’s interest in railways and steam was reawakened at the age of seventeen by a
visit of a younger cousin who wanted to go and see steam at Clapham Junction. From then on,
throughout his life he has photographed railways in action. Following an Engineering degree
and marriage, from mid 1961 onwards with his own car he travelled all over the country in search
of steam. This interest has continued to this day. Tony Butcher photographed preserved steam
on BR lines in the 1980s, but since the start of the ‘90s he has concentrated on photographic
charters on the preserved railway lines, now well into the fully digital era.
Imprint: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 0 85704 226 2, hardback, 238x258mm, 144 pages. Published September 2014.