I am a huge fan of steam trains. I have been since I was a little child. I grew up in Japan, with steam trains literally passing by the window of my sleeping room, about 50 meters away. Haunting sounds of the echoing whistle, the rattling of the house while the chugging pounded past, through the mountain town, wrapped around a steep green forest.
By the time our family moved to the US in 1962, regular steam trains were gone in the US. But my father had bought an HO gauge train set and then built a layout for me, complete with a combination of AT&SF, Southern Pacific, Northern Pacific trains, both steam and diesel engines, alongside the Japanese steam locomotives and electric engines. I collected Trains Magazines and books in both English and Japanese.
As an adult, I have stayed a fan of steam and trains in general. I love them for their aesthetics and something alluring and unfathomable.
I do not know and remember every detail and although I have some depth of knowledge, am not a technically-inclined person. I am not a photographer, at least not yet. So I follow steam on the internet, comb through magazines and enjoy the sites and sounds. I like to call myself a lover of the AESTHETICS of steam trains, especially big steam, although I enjoy some little steam locomotives too.
I am also a cultural anthropologist and activist. So I bring knowledge of social issues and history and politics along with my love of steam. I understand steam to be one of the big factors of the colonization of the indigenous populations around the world as the European and American steam locomotives helped to expand industry, trade, and financial prominence of capitalism in the current era. As much as I love steam, I know of many who cannot stand steam because–not that it is ugly or evil, but that it brings memories of the loss of their lands and cultures to the dominant, no matter where.
The gritty, often unhealthy and unsafe atmosphere through which countless millions of railworkers and coal miners and steel and iron industry workers have suffered with and through in the name of big railway corporations, along with the all-too-familiar repetitions of socially-dominant ways of marginalizing and dehumanizing certain kinds of people are also a part of the huge history of steam railways that need to be addressed, along with steam’s beauty. These stories are as prevalent as those of bravery and valor and humanity.
I live in San Francisco, California at present. My dream is to go to a Plandampf in Germany some day, as well as visit the Wolsztyn shed and steam lines and gather enough friends for a trip on any big-line steam engine anywhere!