In this book L. A. Summers investigates the facts behind the myths and mysteries using modern research and newly discovered information. What was life really like for railwaymen in the days of steam? Did the locomotive superintendents of some companies network their ideas, and further, was GWR influence to be seen in far-flung parts of the world like Egypt, Malaya and Australia?
The author reveals the facts about the mythical 'Hawksworth Pacific' and in the projects that were never progressed, the Stanier-Hawksworth 4-cylinder compound, the express passenger Pacific tank of the early 1930s, the wide firebox 2-8-0 based on the LMS 8F, the coal fuelled gas turbine, the Caprotti County and the one that was completed - Dean's express passenger 4-2-4T, only ever to run a few yards outside the works. The author paints a broad canvas putting Swindon in its British, European and world wide context.
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.