The Obedience of Fools; text completed and undergoing an edit and proof read to nail down the obvious glitches and grammatical goof ups. The updated and formated text should be uploaded to smashwords within the next few days, I can't say exactly when at the moment, watch this space and @MartynSeagull for the latest news. The text will then go through the Premium catalogue selection and once that hurdle is cleared it should appear in the retailers shortly after. If you already have a copy and want to finish the story, please help yourself. New readers on the Premium channels will find there is a tag of $3.99 and it will take its place as the fourth in the Grange Series at smashwords for the same price.
A funny thing happpened the other night, Thursday 15 October 2015, as I wrote the final pages. The last scene had a particular engine waiting on the platform at Goathland on the North York Moors Railway, heading the train to Pickering. The LMS Stanier Black 5 45428 "Eric Treacy" is the type of engine in some versions of the myth of the Strategic Steam Reserve that were hidden away and is unique in the class. Very few Black Fives were named (barely half a dozen)during their service with the London Midland Scottish Railway or later with British Railways; 45428 "Eric Treacy" was named after she was retired and went to work the Heritage Railways
The scene has "Eric Treacy" waiting to depart, and just to make sure I had the details spot on, for dramatic effect, I checked the website of the North York Moors Railway and discovered that "Eric Treacy" was heading the working locomotive list for that day. Even as I wrote the last words of the text, drawing The Obedience of Fools to a close, the locomotive in the book may have been standing at the station waiting to depart!
The locomotive honours the former Bishop of Wakefield, Eric Treacy, a noted railway photographer who recorded the last days of steam and published his photographs in numerous books. In the introduction to "The Lure of Steam" (pub: Ian Allen 1966, reprinted 1967) he describes sitting in Church House at Wakefield and watching a sleek Deltic, the largest diesel electric locomotive on British Railways at the time, crossing the viaduct with the London train and below it, running under the arches a Stainer Black 5 belching smoke on the Yorkshire to Lancashire line with a string of coal wagons. His powerful images evocatively recall the changeover to diesel and the demise of steam made more poignant in monchrome.
The medium lends itself to the sense of things past.
One of the strongest arguments against the existence of the SSR is the feasability of maintaining it over the long term, preserving the skills and knowledge and the basic infrastructure to ensure its viability, even down to simply running the engines and carriages.
A government reserve would require masses of support and maintenance, and always be at the mercy of policy changes; perhaps that is what happened. The policy changed, the designated engines were shunted around, and the counter strike brought it down, but another level, driven by a passion for the engines themselves swung into action and in the confusion of move and counter move brought enough engines and rolling stock to where they could be kept safe.
A collection of locomotives and rolling stock scattered across the length and breadth of the countryside, so widely dispersed that it couldn't be crippled during an attack instead of locked down in a handful of easily targeted locations. Free of government policy and the meanness of bean counters entrusted to those who knew its value and its worth...
Manned by volunteers who shared their passion for the beauty and splendour of steam, harnessing the nostalgia for a better time, passing on the intricate knowldge and practices of running steam on the railways and out of the dark shadows of the Cold War came something that leaves a warm glow.
Tell me it doesn't happen to you; when you breathe in the smell of the loco, feel the warm touch of swirling vapour and hear the rasp of the smoke and steam from the chinmey. The pistons start to lift the pulse from resting and the steel sinews of the drivng rods and cranks turn the wheels as the train begins to movel the whole thing comes alive - and there's that lump again, stuck in your throat!