Over the forty-five years since the last BR steam locomotive was taken out of service, there have been many books and articles devoted to re-threshing the facts in the matter of the Standard classes of steam locomotive, some praising the development of the `last best chance' for British steam and others suggesting that they were appalling anachronisms, the investment in which would have been better spent on diesels. Few of those publications actually examine the circumstances in which they were built, not just the engineering considerations but political difficulties and the international and domestic economic situation, not least locomotive development abroad.
In this new book, L. A. Summers attempts to do just that, for the first time bringing together as many of the prevailing factors as possible, in the process delivering a stinging criticism of BR management, some of the BR engineers and politicians looking for a quick fix, as well as Whitehall officials determined to impose their views on professional railwaymen.
Son of an engine driver, Les Summers spent nearly a decade in the Royal Navy before beginning a career spanning 30 years as a professional teacher of history, and as a pastoral head, undertaking research into the conduct of dissident pupils. On retiring from teaching he was able to fully embrace his life-long interest in railways, becoming a transformational editor of the Great Western Society's Echo magazine in 2009. His first railway article was published over 40 years ago and since 1990 he has contributed regularly to railway magazines, sometimes controversial and often revealing articles, in particular, about locomotive design.