Exclusive Photos From The 70’s and 80’s
There is nothing like the spectre of steam and snow! I had to wait until a trip to Europe to see it, and it was worth the wait. This article follows my travels around the world and the times I actually managed to get some snow in the photos!
The Vordenberg rack railway in Austria featuring ABT tank engines front and back as it lifts a load out of the main town in November 1974. The front engine is an 0-6-2T and the rear a 0-12-0T. This is a very steep climb. Spectacular in the sun and snow! This after 2 days of gloom and solid snow where we nearly tipped our Commer Campervan on its side.
Living in Australia, it was very difficult to photograph steam in snow, especially considering my late arrival on the railway scene in the 1960s. When I left Australia my first visit was to New Zealand around Easter time, before snow had fallen on the sleepy town of Lumsden, home to the Kingston Flyer.
No snow for me as Ab 795 pulls the Kingston Flyer with the New Zealand Alps as a backdrop.
After missing out in New Zealand, my next stop was South Africa some 2 years later. Didn’t see as much as a backdrop of snow there either, although high peaks did feature it from time to time.
It was Europe where we got a real taste of the white stuff. Arriving in Switzerland in September 1974, we headed for the Brienz Rack Railway. Not much snow there. Then through West and East Germany and into Poland. In the south of Poland on the Zakopane line we certainly had plenty of snow as a blizzard hit. Although that meant steam trains in snow, we could hardly see them! Those who live with the white stuff would probably understand this.
TKT48 on the Krakov Zakopane line in Southern Poland October 1974
I was very happy with this shot, as I had never seen so much snow around a steam engine before, but I was yearning for some sun! That had to wait until Austria, a few weeks later.
Austria is an alpine country. It is nestled, at least in the south, around the Alps, ensuring at least some snow in the photos. The picturesque Linz Summerau line provided stunning backdrops, and there was sun.
52 Class on a freight on the Linz Summerau line in Austria October 1974
Not long after this, we arrived at Vordenberg, where we had two days of solid snow, where again it was difficult to get any decent photos.
We persevered, and I recall riding in one of the engines over the pass. It is a ride I will not forget. You could hear the two sets of cylinders, one for the rack and the other for the wheels, going in and out of sync as it struggled up the steep incline. After 2 days of miserable weather, we awoke at the Gastof Gruber, to brilliant sunlight, allowing for this photo.
The fresh snow sits on the trees and track as this ABT 0-6-2 makes its way up the hill from Vordenberg
We did see a little more snow on that trip, in Italy, although it wasn’t all over the track. In Fortezza, the alps again provided a snowy backdrop.
2-8-0 740 class number 161 heads a freight out of Fortezza with the Alps in the background.
My next close encounter with snow was in Argentina, some 2 years later. We had made it all the way to Esquel in Southern Patagonia, home to the 2’6″gauge line from Jacobacci. The motive power here consisted of Henschel 2-8-2’s and some Baldwin 2-8-2’s with outside frames. With the spectacular Andes, the second highest mountains in the world as a backdrop. Some snow was guaranteed. On the way in it snowed and snowed. Along the way we came across a wash away, with several carriages derailed. Our train arrived with a loco on both ends and met the passenger from the other direction with locos on both ends as well. We then walked past the derailment and swapped trains.
Henschel 2-8-2 in the foreground. Derailment separating 2 trains with an engine front and back on each of them.
After this, it was obvious snow was on the agenda. We were holed up in our hotel for 2 days while the white piled up outside. Thank God for the central heating which consisted of a boiler and piped water.
Once the weather cleared we made a beeline for Bariloche to get a hire car. We nearly didn’t make it. First we planned to fly, but the plane flew overhead and never landed because of low cloud. Next we hopped on a bus. At one stage the crew produced a chain saw to clear a large tree off the road. Eventually we returned with a Renault 10. By then snow was no longer over the tracks, but we did get some great shots.
A pair of Henschel 2-8-2’s head north with the Andes clearly visible. You can still see remnants of the snowstorm around the tracks.
Even though the temperature was minus 40 in Bolivia, we were in a desert there, so no snow! The next place I saw abundant snow was in Eastern Turkey, in an area that is now inaccessible to westerners due to the battle between the Turkish Army and Kurds, not to mention IS!
Massive Turkish 2-10-0 heads towards Erzerum in Eastern Turkey. Our car was stoned on this road, but the shots were worth the effort.
We didn’t quite make it to Kars, the Russian border, although the scenery improved the further East we travelled. We headed south to the Lake Van area, where the snow was solid and got this great whiteout shot of the train from the lake.
Turkish 2-8-2 heads a mixed from Tatvan in March 1982 with snow everywhere
After Turkey, I had one last trip to make to follow the iron horse. This was my 1985 trip to China, where we managed to obtain individual visas in Hong Kong. These had only been recently available at the time, and it was interesting travelling in a country where we didn’t speak the language, and there was little English spoken. I did a lot of research before I went and over the 6 weeks travelled nearly 10,000 kms by rail, almost 3,000 kms of it behind steam.
As you can imagine, we visited many places, spread apart by considerable distance. We travelled behind SL 4-6-0s, RM Pacifics and the ubiquitous QJs. It was very cold, and in places there was plenty of snow to be seen.
This picture was taken east of Datong, known as the last place on earth for regular production of new steam locomotives. They were still being built when we were there in 1985
To get this picture, and several others, I sneaked on to a passenger train with an SL in charge early in the morning. The rules in those days is that you could visit certain cities, but not move outside the city limits. I recall it was -120 C in Datong and the hotel, with its “heating” weighed in at 60 C, still not very warm.
I managed to get a great shot of the SL, and eventually after a successful day’s photography returned, only to be met by some Chinese Detectives and dragged off for interrogation. As it turns out this happened in a room in the hotel where I was staying, set aside for that purpose.
Magnificent looking SL 725 on a local passenger. This was the stop before a magnificent frozen river gorge, where I managed to spend a day photographing steam
I was very pleased with what I saw in Western China, and then headed east. From Datong it was electric through to Beijing and to Shenyang. While in Shenyang, I visited a junction with many railway movements where my film counter froze. It was something to see so many steam trains in such a short time.
The next phase was a trip down the east coast. At Jinan, we hit a blizzard, resulting some more great pictures of steam in snow. They were to be my last!
This JF 2-8-2 hauling a freight in blizzard conditions at Jinang, China
I hope you enjoy these pictures from 3 continents featuring steam trains with snow.