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Steam Locomotion in the 21st Century

The Recent History of Steam Locomotive Development

Steam News

 updated 17 February 2022

This page provides news on working operation of steam locomotives, construction of new steam, technical improvements to existing steam locomotives, and similar news items.  

Current Headlines:

The Mainline Steam Builders Group Formed in the UK

Shaun McMahon: 1964-2022

Bio-Coal Testing on the Bure Valley Railway

Progress on Pennsylvania 4-4-4-4 T1 Replica Construction Continues (UPDATED)

Former SAR #3450 "the Red Devil" Restored for Excursion Service

See the Steam News Archive for older news stories.

The Mainline Steam Builders Group Formed in the UK

The following press release was posted to Facebook by the 72010 Hengist group in the UK.

press release

UK new steam builders group logo

Shaun McMahon: 1964-2022


I was very sad to learn that Shaun McMahon had unexpectedly passed away earlier this week, apparently due to complications from a recent case of COVID-19. I had corresponded with Shaun for close to 30 years, and he provided a wealth of information and many photos used in assembling these pages. I was fortunate to have one face-to-face conversation with him a few years ago via the internet, when we were both working with the Coalition for Sustainable Rail.

The Advanced Steam Traction Trust has posted a very nice tribute to Shaun with a brief biography covering his extensive experience with railways and modern steam:

Bio-Coal Testing on the Bure Valley Railway

The Advanced Steam Traction Trust assisted with two sets of tests using bio-coal, synthetic coal made from plant material, on the Bure Valley Railway in June and November of 2021. The use of bio-coal is generating great interest in the steam heritage industry as coal mines are closed and environmental concerns with the use of coal have increased. Bio-coal is considered "carbon neutral", as it adds no net carbon to the environment. The Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) in the US has worked with the University of Minnesota to conduct similar trials with bio-coal here.

Read more about the ASTT's tests here:

Progress on Pennsylvania 4-4-4-4 T1 Replica Construction Continues

The Pennsylvania Railroad T1 Steam Locomotive Trust, a group building a new, replica 4-4-4-4, continues to make impressive progress on the construction of this locomotive. Considerable progress was made on the boiler last year, and engineering work on other components continues. This video provides an update on the group's progress in 2021:

Read more at the group's webpage at, or follow them on Facebook.

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Former SAR #3450 "the Red Devil" Restored for Excursion Service

(updated 13 July 2018)

Former South African Railways 4-8-4 no. 3450, best known as "the Red Devil", was moved from its storage location to Worcester Depot in March 2018, where it has been undergoing restoration.  This locomotive was extensively modified by David Wardale in the early 1980's as part of an effort to keep steam in service in South Africa.  Unfortunately, this effort was unsuccessful but no. 3450 was very successful in service and set several new records for power and efficiency.  The Red Devil now belongs to Transnet, the South African freight operator, and is part of their heritage fleet.  The locomotive had last operated in 2004.  No. 3450 is now leased by Ceres Rail Limited who completed the restoration.  Following the restoration, the locomotive was successfully operated on 4 July 2018, and it is planned to use it on upcoming passenger excursions.

After Wardale left South Africa, 3450 continued to operate for several years but unfortunately several of the key modifications were gradually undone over the years.  The main remaining improvements that appear to still be in place are the double Lempor ejectors (although the Lempor exhaust nozzles have been replaced with conventional round nozzles with bridge bars), enlarged steam chests on the cylinders, and the over-fire air openings for the GPCS. 

An article at the Advanced Steam Traction Trust posted on 13 July states that Ceres Rail Limited hopes to restore at least some of the removed modifications to the locomotive during the dry season when coal-fired steam operations are not allowed. 

Read more here:

Read more about the 3450 and David Wardale here:

Video of Move from Belleville to Worcester for Overhaul in March 2018

Video of Test Run on 3 July 2018

Photos of the work have been posted to several Facebook groups, including "Footplace Memories", a South African group for former railroadmen.


For more steam news from around the world, I highly recommend:

Rob Dickinson's "International Working Steam Locomotives"

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