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Online Catalogue last updated 2nd of November 2021


A Life With Steam by Joe Challis

This is no ordinary book - it is a revealing look behind-the-scenes written by a man who lived, worked and breathed steam ploughing engines from the 1920's to the 1940's before enjoying a remarkable renaissance in the 1980's.

An evocative trip back in time, `A Life With Steam' is about the remarkable men and machines that were to change the face of British agricultural life during the early decades of the 20th Century. It is about the life and the times of the men and their families whose livelihoods and, in many cases, social lives depended on and centred around the steam ploughing set.

Written by a man who is a living history book, this revealing book charts the ups and the downs, the disappointments and joys - in peace and war - in good times and the bad.

It is a rich and often humorous tale - never dull, always absorbing - that you will not want to miss; a rarely seen vein of British rural life between the first and second world wars.

The rasping sound of steam plough engines had a huge effect in British rural and agricultural life. They were the power houses of their time.

The book is about the Leviathans of steam that brought about the Industrial Revolution of agriculture and one remarkable man's long-running love affair with them.

From 1912 to the present, the book is an evocative taste of yesterday - a time not so many years ago, that now feels, to many people, to be centuries away.

But thanks to Joe Challis, this book does not feel like an ordinary dry book; it feels like being sat down with Joe and perhaps enjoying a pint as he takes you on a meandering journey back in time.

Today, you can delight in admiring preserved steam plough engines, many formerly rusting hulks, but to hear from one of the men who made them work - and witnessed their birth and near death - is rare.

`A Life With Steam' includes rare archive pictures and glorious colour pictures of the steam plough engines as they are today, including a remarkable emotional reunion between Joe and his first ever steam plough set.

The Author:

In anybody's book, Joe Challis is a one in a million personality - recognised perhaps, as the greatest living expert on steam plough engines.

A real character, he lived and worked through a rapidly changing period of British rural history, and indeed helped to shape it himself.

Born in 1912 in Berkshire, Joe began work at the age of 14 for a firm of steam ploughing contractors as a cookboy - before being put in charge of his own mighty ploughing set just a few years later.

Joe's mighty stallions of steam were used to plough up orchards where modern jets now take off from London's Heathrow Airport.

He also used the lumbering equipment to demolish houses for the then new A4 Great West Road out of London before moving on to steam rollers for the construction of Britains ever-burgeoning road system.

A man of many interests, Joe Challis' life has also included motor cycles and model engineering.

Code No. 008668, 292 pages, ISBN 1900467046, $55.00

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