Millennium steam 1

Just as many US cities maintain a reserve fleet of obsolete buses for use during severe winter weather, when passenger numbers can increase substantially at short notice, some railways have mothballed steam locos ready to be pressed into emergency service. Tea-kettles regularly help out in electricity-starved Ukraine, but this winter their less-than-glamorous role at Pologi in eastern Zaporizhia included providing central heating for local flats. Pologi was also the base for a fleet of 64 oil-burners made ready for line service in December in case the usual power shortages were exacerbated by millennium problems.

Millennium steam 2

The long tradition of British army capability in railway operation is maintained by 275 Railway Squadron of the Royal Logistic Corps, which stands ready to take over if required when a national network or individual line is immobilised. Despite the sophistication of modern warfare, railways still have a part to play - more likely these days for moving supplies or refugees than troops. Being ready for anything means keeping abreast of old as well as new technology, and 275 Squadron recently took over the 381mm gauge Romney, Hythe & Dym-church Railway in southern England, where members ran the winter schools service and brushed-up their steam know-how on such baby giants as Doctor Syn (left).

Wrong side of the tracks

Papatoetoe, New Zealand, lost a station but gained a community centre when its station building made the short journey to the town centre by low-loader. After passenger services ended in 1987, the timber structure gently decayed until a lottery-funded restoration was approved, and a new home located close to the town centre.