IN these utilitarian days of diesel there are still reckoned to be around 100,000 train spotters in the UK. So you can imagine how many there must have been when the hobby was at its height in the decades immediately after the Second World War.

Back then then, thundering, rumbling, steam belching locomotives would race across country, smoke trails in their wake, hauling snaking lines of carriages or wagons. To even the non-enthusiast, they were an impressive sight. You invariably stopped to look as they passed. Today’s trains may be quicker and certainly cleaner, but they’re a whole lot less exciting.

So should you feel the need for a flash back to those gloriously mucky times of coal tenders and roaring fireboxes, a new book has just come out to take you there. “The Last Years of West Midlands Steam” is exactly what it says on the cover. Packed with 250 images (most of them atmospheric black and white, while a few are colour), it showcases the scenes of the final 30 years of mainline steam trains and before the arrival of heritage railways like the Severn Valley to show people exactly what they were missing.

It’s been written and compiled by Peter Tuffrey, who has done lots of things, including two years as main media man for Doncaster Rovers and publishing 85 assorted books, which is some going. In the process he’s amassed a wealth of material and knowledge that form the backbone of his career as a freelance writer.

After a couple of pages of scene setting editorial, “The Last Years” is essentially a pictorial book with detailed captions that demonstrate the author’s intimate grasp of his subject. Some so detailed, the only thing missing seems to be what the train driver had in his sandwiches. It’s cognoscenti stuff.

For example the caption to an image of a Collett 8750 Class at Kidderminster station in June, 1962 then goes on to give a potted history of the facility. To wit: “the station was opened by the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway in mid-1852 and the building was rebuilt at the end of the decade, only to fall victim to a fire. The new station then served passengers for over 100 years until replaced by BR. Kidderminster station is now adjacent to Kidderminster Town, which serves the heritage Severn Valley Railway. The locomotive no 3607 was Kidderminster allocated when pictured and in service until October, 1966, before being condemned at Tyseley”.

Being an overview of the West Midlands area, the book covers all the way from Wolverhampton down to Beckford, near Tewkesbury, via Stourbridge, Bromsgrove Kidderminster, Worcester and most points south.

There’ a particularly interesting time warped image from 1956 at Stourbridge featuring a loco from the oddly named “Dukedog” Class This was a bastardisation of the old Duke and Bulldog classes, which borrowed parts from both to created an engine with a distinctly Victorian profile. Indeed, this one looked as old as its name, which was originally Guinevere. With its lumpy “bustle” on top of its boiler, here indeed was a lady bound to get train spotters excited.

The Last Years of West Midlands Steam by Peter Tuffrey is published by Great Northern Books and costs £19.99