I received Fred Dibnah’s World of Steam as a Christmas present, it’s a follow on from the previous magbook “Fred Dibah, The Early Years”. The Mag Book is a curious format, it’s basically a magazine sized book with a thicker cover, it also has a selection of adverts for other books and DVDs that might be of interest.
The book is in the words of Fred and has been compiled by Paul Donoghue who also writes a great introduction. There is a variety of chapters, starting off Alison, Fred’s Aveling and Porter #7632 steam roller. Fred describes the process of restoration and has amusing anecdotes about building the boiler, riveting and dealings with boiler certification and insurance. The book continues on with the next roller project, Aveling and Porter #7838.
In one of my favourite chapters Fred describes the stationary steam engine he uses to power his workshop and the overhead shaft that drives all his machines.
No book on Fred would be complete without a section on steeple jacking and this magbook devotes a chapter to this including some more amusing stories about a cat stuck on the top of a chimney and trouble with the fires Fred used to topple chimneys. This leads on to some of his TV work and discussions with a German TV company make Fred reminisce about his time in Germany on national service and how he managed to get out of peeling potatoes.
Although he enjoyed the TV work it did have drawbacks and fame meant that he got rather more visitors that he liked. It did however mean he had some generous fans, one who provided an old steam roller manual which is included in full in the book.
The penultimate chapter has a short history of the use of steam in the Bolton area, Fred’s home town.
The book finishes up with a scrap book full of photos and letters collected over the years.
Don’t expect to be able to become a steeplejack or build a steam driven workshop by reading this but do be prepared for an entertaining read in Fred’s distinctive style.