For rail aficionados, those interested in our social history or anyone just nostalgic for our gentler, slower past, New Zealand 1950s Steam in Colour will fit the bill perfectly. In my view it’s a stunning book, one that has been compiled from colour slides of steam trains taken by geologist and rail enthusiast the late Derek Cross whilst he was here from 1953 – 1960.
Today’s reader, particularly younger ones may need to remind themselves that the everyday use of colour photography by ‘ordinary’ users in the 1950s was a relative rarity. To give an indication as to how times have changed in the past 50 or so years, Derek’s son David mentions in his introduction that in the earlier years of his fathers time in New Zealand, that although the film he used as bought in New Zealand, it had to be process in the USA taking 6-8 weeks for the slides to be returned; a source of much frustration to Derek.
One thing the reader will also notice throughout the book is that there is a distinct lack of images of engines in industrial or built up areas and none taken in sheds. This is due to Derek’s preference to work with engines in a rural landscape. This can be a pity as I, and probably others too, also enjoy seeing what lies in the scenery behind the main focus of a photograph. However, like everyone, Derek had his preferences and this needs to be respected.
Derek’s photography brings into focus the diversity of steam engines on our rails in the 1950’s. Throughout the book are images of powerful J, JA, JB, K and KA class locos together with work-horse type Ab’s, WW tank engines or BB and WAB types. Then there is the diminutive Army Fowler 0-4-0, the 0-6-0 Peckett mining loco or Wilson Cement Company’s small N5 type loco, all of which helped make our engine stock interesting to the rail fan and when mixed with a rural backdrop, some magnificent photographs result.
Although steam was still king throughout the country while Derek was here, times were changing and diesel was beginning to make its presence felt. Consequently, a few images of diesel like the English Electric DG or DE or Fiat railcars have found their way into the book. Images of particular interest for Southland readers will include those from the branch lines of Tapanui, Waikaka, Waimea Plains, Tuatapere, Kingston and Bluff.
New Zealand 1950s Steam in Colour is a brilliant book; I recommend it as one to add to your library.
New Zealand Memories, April 2008 :-
New Zealand 1950s Steam in Colour
Compiled from the Derek Cross collection
Introduction by David Cross
The late Derek Cross was a British geologist and keen steam railway enthusiast who visited New Zealand in the 1950s. Many of his black and white photos from his travels around New Zealand have been published in books and magazines but only a small number of his colour slides have been seen before. This book contains 380 out of the approx 900 slides he took, nearly all of them hitherto unseen. In all it is a feast for steam enthusiasts and anyone nostalgic about life in the 1950s in New Zealand.
200 pages, gloss art paper, 286 x 210 portrait format, 377 colour photos in book plus 2 maps, 5 colour photos on jacket.
Hardcover with jacket.
Weight: 1092 grams
Railway Magazine(UK) October 2008
"...a remarkably good diverse range of images of a largely steam-powered 1950s railway era that otherwise has been essentially off-limits for many years." NZ Railfan