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Countdown To the Last Steam Train

These beloved but antiquated locomotives are disappearing from western China.
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David Longman

For nearly 30 years, Chris Skow’s company, Trains & Travel International, has organized trips around the world to seek the train hunter’s greatest prize: the steam locomotive. "In another ten years," he says, "you’re going to be hard pressed to find any steam engines available for operation, unless they’re strictly in a tourist setting."

Railroad museums and tour companies may continue to keep the old steam trains on hand for demonstrations, posterity or simple nostalgia. But for true rail fans, that’s like seeing an animal in the zoo. To see the old iron horse in the wild, on the other hand — what rail fans call "live steam" — is worth a journey of thousands of miles.