In recent years the importance of the personal element in locomotive design and operation has increasingly come to the fore. No longer do authors attempt to compile articles which state that `Mr X built a class of 6' 4-4-0s...' because, as in the case of someone like Wainwright, he had little part in their design. Even the great Stanier relied on a team of engineers and draughtsmen who transformed his outline ideas into detailed designs. This new approach to engineering biography has evoked several book-length profiles of loco engineers, as well as detailed studies of engineers, including information about their design teams, making new and sometimes controversial revisions of long accepted reputations.
Men of Steam offers brief but tight profiles of some of Britain's loco engineers, some very well known, some not, examining their work and personal impact, including some that will prove to be controversial in the wider railway community.
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.