Between 1863 and 1971 the steam locomotive was the best known part of railways, and these steel kings of the steel road touched everyone's lives. Stories abound regarding the steam locomotive and what made them special. This is a history of the steam locomotives owned by New Zealand's national railway system. Numbering more than a thousand, they were enormously varied - ranging from little over five tons to almost 148 tons in weight, and from the occasional failure to trend-setting designs of international significance. This stunning book combines the best available research with the largest collection of photographs on the subject ever assembled. The book is not the full story of each class; that would be an impossible task given the limits of a single volume. Each locomotive is described by class beginning at A and ending at Y with brief specifications, builders and years built and operated begin each section. The text then describes the circumstances that led to the acquisition or building of the class, the type of work they performed, significant modifications made, the decline and withdrawal of each class, and the existence of any preserved examples. Along the way we are informed about the basic structure of the NZR numbering system and the variations made over the years. Interesting mention is made of average annual mileages run by the various classes, and the running cost per mile travelled. Locomotives that did not receive a classification by NZR and steam railcars are also covered. The illustrations form a vital part of this volume. They have been sourced from a variety of collections, and they support the text fully. Photographs show what the author has written about, guiding the reader in his learning. Where a member or members of a class have been preserved or restored for running on private or main lines there's invariably an illustration, appropriately placed last in the section. This lavishly illustrated and very informative book will soon become an essential reference work for all interested in the railways of New Zealand.