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The cupola view

Let’s get to the point quickly: A new edition of “A Passion for Steam” has been released and anybody who wants to understand our hobby should own a copy. And, if history is any indication, one should move fairly quickly.

Marc Horovitz, the author, truly has a passion for steam, and it is illustrated profusely here. 'Passion for Steam,' by Marc Horovitz. The first edition of the book, published in 2008 by Atlantic Transport Publishers of England, went out of print fairly quickly and for whatever reasons, the company refused to reissue it. Cal-Pac Trading Co. of Union City, Calif. (the holding company that also owns Accucraft Trains), rectified this problem late last year and a new edition was delivered beginning in April. I immediately bought one.

I am not proud to admit this, but when the first edition of “Passion” came out in 2008, I declined to purchase a copy. So I went searching for one when I became editor of this august journal. I had heard that it had gone out of print and I found that one could be had for on Amazon.com — for a mere $2623.39 (plus $3.99 for shipping).

No matter how much I wanted the book, I thought that was a little dear.

In 2013 at a gathering of the magazine’s owners, I mentioned in passing that high price; Howard Freed said he had a copy and would be happy to loan it to me. So, I read the first edition just last year.

In a unique hobby, this is a unique book that only one individual could have written. Marc Horovitz is a life-long rail fan. He began importing small-scale live steam engines in 1979, founded Garden Railways magazine in 1984 (he remains editor) and has designed and built at least a score of locomotives in his workshop. Designs of many commercial live steamers have Marc’s fingerprints on them. In his spare time, he has written about steam trains not only for his magazine, but also this journal and on the Web; from 2000-2010, he produced “Locomotive of the Month” for his own site, SideStreet Bannerworks (http://sidestreet.info).

The modern history of the small-scale live steam hobby can no more be written without discussing Marc Horovitz than you could write the history of the United States of America without including Benjamin Franklin.

The book is full of railroading principles and small-scale facts. Marc’s great illustrations help to explain complex concepts and his photography — both in outdoor settings as well as studio pictures — is crisp and well composed.

In both editions, more than half of “A Passion for Steam” is focused on Marc’s collection of steam trains. Each locomotive is given one or two pages of text and photos with a specification box on each. Some are obscure; some are ubiquitous.

The latest edition adds 32 more pages; while there were 82 locomotives reviewed in the first edition, this latest effort examines 100 locomotives. The new edition adds essays on post-2008 engines, including Accucraft’s “Emma” and “Fairymead.” Though some are also on the “Locomotive of the Month” web site, the listings are not exactly the same; the Web of course contains more raw information, but the essays in the book provide more insight, in my opinion. Further, there are quite a few locomotives addressed in the book that aren’t on the site.

Were a review like this to appear in a general-interest magazine, the editors would compel me to disclose that I have business and personal relationships with Marc: you need only look back a few pages to see his latest contribution to Steam in the Garden on metal spinning. Since I became editor of the magazine, Marc has been among its most prolific writers, photographers and illustrators.

So it is doubtful I would have anything but good words for “Passion.” Nonetheless, I sincerely believe that regardless of our relationship, I couldn’t be anything but complimentary about this book.

In the event “Passion” goes out of print again and takes another half-decade to get to the third edition, you probably should acquire this work for collection as soon as possible.

And Howard, now you’ll get your first edition back.