It was 20 years ago today…

…So wrote the Beatles as a testament to nostalgia. So it is with FarRail Tours!

It’s not that long ago that an airline ticket, a cheap hotel and a hired car satisfied the need for steam. South Africa, China, Zimbabwe, Cuba – all paradise for a dedicated man and his camera.

Photo: FarRail Tours

But boy have things changed! Most countries just melted down locomotives and authentic stock to make consumer goodies. Many had no interest in preservation and where they did, it was to become the domain of the volunteer and, more importantly, the lifesaver that is the steam photo charter.


For 20 years FarRail Tours have worked closely with such local contacts to run successful steam photo safaris. How closely? Well, we have overhauled wagons in Poland or rebuilt ones almost from scratch in Romania. Repainted locos in the Philippines. Converted a Burmese loco to oil firing. No turning triangle in Mottama – so we had it re-laid!

A Zimbabwean 15A needed new valve rings so we had them machined. Many more examples could be listed and for real insight to the complexity of these operations follow this link:

When all this is in place – what’s next? Financial support – yes. Taking parts halfway around the world where the local engineering skills have all but disappeared – of course! Even buy a locomotive destined for destruction!


But the future is bright! There are still places to go, locomotives to photograph or to video. Look hard enough and put in the effort so we can all look forward to fabulous run pasts amongst stunning scenery.

Your part? Support the tours and spread the word that there are still good times to come. See you by the lineside …


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About the Author

Shannon Butcher

Let off some steam...