THE smoke they belched out as they thundered through the countryside seems to have evaporated in the mist, and today it is the romance associated with the age of the steam train that lingers.
Perhaps it is the memory of Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson’s backlit embrace under the station clock in Brief Encounter; maybe the Technicolor spectacle of The Titfield Thunderbolt in the famous Ealing comedy, evoking an image of England that is lost to the ages.
Either way, the 50th anniversary of the of the end of regular mainline steam appears to have oiled the excitement of rail enthusiasts everywhere.
Happily, steam lives on in Yorkshire, on the wonderful heritage lines at Bolton Abbey, the Worth Valley and the North York Moors, and it is preserved for future generations at the National Railway Museum in York.
We may be guilty of viewing the past through a rosy hue, but the sight of these iron beasts is enough to make almost all of us want to go back there.