Monday, October 31, 2011

new book on NZR steam locomotives

The steam locomotives used by the New Zealand Government Railways, from the predecessors dating from 1863 to the end of steam in 1971, have been the subject of an extensive literature over the years -- and the reader will see that from the long list of references printed over pages 332 to 335 of this new book published by the NZR&LS, and even that is only partial.

A question one can reasonably ask, then, is do we really need another book on this subject?  As we have noted before, while NZR steam has been very well covered by books, the 400+ steam locomotives used by private industry over the same time period have received very little attention -- the only two significant books have been Paul Mahoney's The Era of the Bush Tram in New Zealand (now out of print) which covered about half of them but in no detail, and Gerald Petrie's New Zealand Steam Locomotives by Official Number, likewise in no detail.

But to the book in hand: even if they already have all the info, enthusiasts are always appreciative of  photos that they haven't seen before, and there is good and bad news here -- the good news is that is there is a heap of pictures contained in this book's 336 pages and many haven't been seen before; the indifferent news is that they are all black and white, the only colour is on the dust jacket; the bad news is that a significant number which have been printed in large format have been spread across the gutter, losing locomotive details down the spine -- what was the designer thinking?!  It is the sort of grimace-causing blunder that you could expect of a woman designer in a multi-national publisher, but surely not someone in the NZR&LS who should know enthusiasts!

The designer has tried to compensate for the lack of colour photos by using a second colour, a rather insipid green, for different page background elements, but it is not all that helpful; various shades of grey would have worked just as well, and would have saved on the printing bill. (Maybe we should be flattered that they copied our colour scheme, however, if a second colour was going to be used then red would have been the obvious choice; the colour of headstocks and number plates.)

It would have been helpful for particularly younger readers if the metric equivalents of data cited had been included (and under the Weights and Measures Act this is actually a legal requirement).

Initial publicity for the book indicated there would be coverage of steam railcars, but this is confined to two pages and about 200 words of accompanying info.

Sean Millar is a very methodical compiler who must spend eons in front of a word processing program, and he has produced a large number of small booklets over the years on various aspects of technology, particularly NZ buses and heavy machinery, that have filled a gap in available research. This new book doesn't really fit into that category, still, for those wanting a one-stop look-up reference to the subject of NZR steam locos, this should fulfill a handy role.

The book is in A4 portrait format (300 x 210 mm), 336 pages on gloss paper, endpapers, hardcover with jacket.


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Anonymous said...

Sounds Like Sour Grapes you didn't get to Publish this Title

transpressnz said...

It's a shame they didn't ask us to design it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I hope it's not too bad!
I just ordered a copy of it today!

transpressnz said...

We can't see your order on the shop site, did you send it by snail mail?
The book overall is OK; but it could have been better.

Anonymous said...

I dislike your sexist comment very much about woman designers. There was no need for it and it brings nothing to the value of this insignificant review undertaken by a publisher who is sucking on sour grapes as someone has pulled off the greatest NZR publication of the past decade!

transpressnz said...

to "Anonymous" 3:
Presumably you are the designer of the book in question. Women are not noted for their interest in transport and technology subjects (for example, how many of the NZRLS members are women - 20, 30 out of 900?). Often they do not appreciate why enthusiasts like to see details of vehicles. If you are going to going to put big vehicle portraits in a book, why design it so that a significant amount of them disappear down the gutter? Did you not consider that with a book of this many pages and a hard cover that would happen?
We simply see no need for a rehash of information that has been extensively covered in many other books, including as you know, Sean Miller's own "From A to Y avoiding I" which this is simply an expansion of.
In itself a big book of locomotive pictures that haven't been published before, would be fine, and if they are portraits then landscape format is what should have been used.
Your magazine has given us some ratshit reviews, now you know what it's like to receive some criticism for a change. Suck on that.

Jeff Law said...

I'm reading my copy, which arrived this morning. As an avid reader of NZ rail history, this publication is definitely right up there with the best of them.
Apart from the splitting of some photos across the spine-binding, which is a great shame, this book is well deserving of the read by all NZ rail enthusiasts.
Ignore the 'sour grapes'!!

transpressnz said...

It's good that your book arrived safely; we aim to give prompt delivery from our shop.

There is no sour grapes here - in fact Graeme Carter told us that Sean Miller gave him 'grey hairs" over his attitude and demands, so it's good we weren't involved.