There is nothing quite like the raw power inherent in the silence of a steam powered machine. A well tuned Steam Engine merely hisses as it turns over, none of the rumbles, explosions, and growls associated with an internal combustion machine. Of course a steam machine which incorporates both the engine and boiler co-located can get noisy as the bark of the exhaust up the chimney and the roaring of the fire give indication of their presence. Indeed you will often hear the phrase "The romance of steam" but never "The romance of diesel" - it just does not sound right.
The Steam Preservation movement around the world is probably at the strongest it has ever been, but with mostly older people involved the level of preservation may wane. On a personal level I try to keep my kids interested in steam hoping to introduce a new generation to the hobby. This is made a little easier by TV series such as "Thomas The Tank Engine" (© Britt Allcroft) which help our movement by encouraging kids to think of "good steam engine" and "bad diesel engine".
In Australia there have been some very public engine unveiling, the most notable being West Coast Railway's R Class No. 711 which has been rebuilt at considerable cost to be a more efficient running example of steam. Using South African technology and incorporating diesel controls the engine is now driven in much the same way as the companies diesel fleet, but there is no mistaking the attraction of the steam engine even in bastardised form like this one. WCR use the locomotive to run trains on their intercity mainline on Saturdays and have turned an empty train set into one which is always near full of enthusiasts, tourists, and more importantly kids. If more railway organisations take their preservation example we'll be well taken care of for this new millennium.
In this section of Steam & Engine you will find both details on the processes and engines, but examples of the usage of those engines.