The magazine started life in 1966 as a simple type-written foolscap newsletter which was by photostat to a handful of members; as the group expanded this proved to be an ideal way of keeping everyone informed of the goings-on which were plentiful at this turbulent time in the railway’s history. The format was changed to a magazine style layout and by 1969 Steam Railway News proper was born.
Earlier issues were printed with coloured covers but the content was solely black and white with no photographs, but soon photos began to appear on a more regular basis as technology advanced.The format of the magazine has, in fact, changed very little over the years and still consists of largely typed sections of news and articles interspersed with photographs. To celebrate the railway’s centenary in 1973 the corresponding issue became the first to have a colour photograph on the front coverl; the image chosen was appropriately enough of No. 1 Sutherland whilst on static display at St. John’s in 1968.
Apart from this one-off occurence (which was repeated a year later when the South Line marked its centenary) many issues of the magazine utilised the “three loco” drawing which was a familiar sight for several years. There was quite an amount of experimentation in cover design during the 1970s before a more standard approach was adapted. Over the years there have been several key committee members who have had much input into the production of the magazine, often toiling over a typewriter for long hours to ensure deadlines were met; for many years the editorship of the journal was held by stalwart Tony Beard and his keen eye is still regularly cast over current issues today.
When he stood down after many years the baton was passed to David Booth who held a long tenure prior to passing to the current editor Grant Taylor who has held the post since 2001. Many others too numerous to mention have had valuable input into the content of the magazine over time. The back issues provide valuable historical information for future generations.In 1992 the magazine celebrated its 100th issue with full colour covers for the first time in its history (previous colour issues being restricted to one view) and a classic shot of No. 8 Fenella at St. John’s was chosen after a competition was held.
At this time a feature One Hundred Magazines Ago was introduced, showcasing items of interest back as far as the very first newsletter in 1966. There was a burst of activity on the railways at this time with a seemingly endless stream of anniversaries and centenaries being celebrated and the magazine was able to give up to date reports on the happenings regularly. A further colour edition followed the next year in conjunction with the Year Of Railways held to mark the centenary of the Manx Electric Railway. Full colour covers featured on issue 116 to tie in with the centenary of the association-owned Groudle Glen Railway (complete with centenary crest) and by 1997 the decision had been made to make the two “middle” editions (traditionally published in the summer months and therefore sold to the travelling public) with colour covers annually. When the editorship changed in 2001, and ever since this time, the outer and inner covers of each issue have been in full colour. Advancements in printing and the technique used to produce the magazine means that the cost of this is no longer considered an inhibition.