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Steam's Last Challenge

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With both my RPSI and Provincial Wagons  hats on, may I draw attention to Joe Cassell's brilliant new book on the Spoil Trains.

Available from the RPSI shop:


This lavishly illustrated new book, by lifelong RPSI member Joe Cassells, details the life and times of the Spoil Trains, and the men who worked them. Between 1966 and 1970 more than 4 million tons of quarry waste were moved from Magheramorne to the shores of Belfast Lough to form the foundations of the M2 motorway. And it was done by the last steam locomotives in these islands. Joe relates how the contract was originally drawn up, including the building of 70 dedicated wagons by Cravens of Sheffield. These incorporated a large opening side door for quick unloading at the Belfast end of each trip. At Magheramorne quarry, two extensive loading banks were built. Joe describes the heroic efforts of the maintenance staff, working in primitive conditions by present day standards, to keep the locomotives moving. The book is based on previously unpublished information, and sheds completely new light on many facets of the Spoil Train contract. After the contract ended, the RPSI preserved locomotive No.4 in running order. Since 1970, No.4 has hauled special trains all over the Irish railway system

Softback, 21 x 30 cm, 80 colour and 70 b&w photos, 5 maps, 98 pages.  £15 plus £1.50 postage (UK postage).

AND YES, IT IS LAVISHLY ILLUSTRATED. But then I would say that as there are ten photos from the late Lance King's collection which I am still cataloguing (about 5,000 slides!). I might add that Lance is just one of about twenty photographers who brilliantly recorded this remarkable Finale to mainline steam in these islands.

Joe has done a great job researching this and I cannot recommend it too highly.

Just to mention that the Provincial Wagons  Spoil wagon kit is still available from stock, as is my Brown Van kit – there are several photos in the book which show them!

Support the RPSI and buy a copy!

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Copy landed in Brum at lunchtime and had chance to flick through. looks good and the human interactions show pride in the operation, good selection of pics especially wagon M65 upside down on its first journey showing its "under things" to all!, The gas axe bottles in foreground and a lack of a wheel set do not auger well.

As suggested a good resource of wagon weathering - it would be common it looks for a cleaned- repaired  wagon to be mid rake and also wagons with repaired and clean doors.  Otherwise the duck egg blue/ light grey weathered to a dusty stone brown, the Black UT lettering too high for cleaning and the numbers rubbed over now and again visible sort of.

A great book and something that just would not happen in this way today. Recommended ! 


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Robert and JB have hit the nail on the head. It's a great record of a remarkable operation.

The selection of photos is seriously good - a great credit to Charles Friel who largely looked after that side of the exercise. As Robert says, a useful reference book on how to "weather my wagons!

I've been informed that The Syndicate has been sent a supply, so you can buy it from us (UK customers only), the money still goes to the RPSI, but if I send some out, it'll save John Friel at the RPSI a bit of work!

Just PM me

or e-mail me on  lesliemcallister@aol.com

and I'll take it from there

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