GCR Winter Gala 26/27 January 2013

January 30, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Better late than never for a blog update about my recent visit to the Great Central Railway for their Winter Steam Gala - the first steam photography outing of 2013.


I must admit that the weather forecast for Friday 25th, when I planned to travel up to Leicestershire, was less than ideal.   I was expecting to hit heavy snow by the time that I reached Birmingham en route to the Leicester Markfield Travelodge, but luckily, the bad weather held off until around 9pm, well after I had reached my destination.

The weather next morning immediately made me glad that I had made the trip as the day started with blue skies and low Winter sunshine that complemented the snow still covering the lineside as you can see in the above image of gala guest star ex-GWR King class no. 6023 King Edward II storming away from Loughborough Central with the 09:45 to Leicester North.   I must admit that I didn't follow my usual programme of walking the line down to Quorn & Woodhouse, preferring to take a mid-morning train instead.   I returned to Loughborough in the late afternoon as I wanted to have a look at the locomotives undergoing overhaul inside the shed before tackling some night shots around the station.


The following day, as overnight rain had cleared most of the remaining snow from the roads, I made my way to Rushey Lane overbridge for the very first time.   I can see why that location is such a magnet for lineside photographers, but I think it will be quite a while before I pay a return visit.    I also found my way to the southern end of Swithland Reservoir for the close view of the viaduct from its west side.    Got some good shots from here, but it's probably another place that I won't go back to very soon - at least not until I've got a long lens with a focal length of at least 400mm!


See what I mean?


Mainline Steam, 24th November 2012

November 26, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Not being deterred by a little bit of rain, I managed to photograph both steam specials that ran on the Welsh Marches line on Saturday 24th November 2012.   Not only that, but thanks to some generous timtabling, I was able to photograph each train at two locations.

The Yuletide Borderer I, 24th November 2012

Fortunately the service train to Taunton was safely out of the way as the first train came through Severn Tunnel Junction, bang on time at 09:30 (and just as the rain started) with no. 70000 Britannia in charge.  She took the climb out of the tunnel as if it was level track but managed to produce a splendidly thick cloud of white exhaust.    While the train took a water stop at Magor, I went up to the now closed station at Penpergwm near Abergavenny, arriving with plenty of time to enjoy the increasingly heavy rain before Britannia ran through.

The Yuletide Borderer IV, 24th November 2012

It turned out that I had a lot more time to get back to Severn Tunnel Junction than I had thought, as the second steam special was around 30 minutes late by the time that it eventually appeared.    I rather suspect that it had been held at Bristol Parkway to allow two extra Cardiff bound HST services to pass, full of rugby supporters heading to the Millennium Statium (We'll say no more about that...).   The wait was worthwhile though, when 60163 Tornado ran through, wearing her newly applied BR Express Passenger Blue livery.

The Cathedrals Express II, 24th November 2012

And to finish the day, I got back to Penpergwm a few minutes ahead of the Cathedrals Express.

The Cathedrals Express III, 24th November 2012

That LED headlamp that Tornado carries when on the main line is far too bright for head on photography, but at least my 70-200 f2.8 L IS II lens is able to handle it without producing any lurid green internal reflections.

AVR Photocharter, 11th November 2012

November 12, 2012  •  Leave a Comment


I travelled across the Severn on Sunday 11th November to make my first ever visit to the Avon Valley Railway, on the north eastern outskirts of Bristol.   The big attraction was an evening photo charter with LNER J15 0-6-0 no. 7564 which is visiting the AVR from its home base on the North Norfolk Railway.   I made sure that I got to Bitton station early enough to catch the J15 in daylight at the end of its stint doing footplate experience duty before the evening's entertainment got under way.

Despite having problems with the top plate on my tripod coming slightly loose, I managed to take some pleasing images throughout the evening and I'm already looking forward to making a return trip to the AVR.

My thanks are due to charter organiser Martin Creese as well as Simon Hopkins (for the lights) and various AVR volunteers who posed in the static tableaux.

More October Outings

October 22, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Somewhat belatedly, an update on what I've been up to over the last couple of weeks.


On October 13th I went to the Severn Valley Railway as they were putting on an intensive service for their Members and Shareholders Weekend.   I had recently decided to become a member, and as I also wanted to 'invest' in their current share issue, attendance was pretty much compulsory!   Things didn't happen exactly as I had expected as the advertised double-header working featuring visiting ex-LSWR T9 4-4-0 no. 30120 didn't happen.   We got U class mogul no. 31806, as shown in the above photo, in it's place, but as I also got to see the T9 on shed at Bridgnorth, I can't complain too loudly.

On the 14th I had a very early start to make the long journey down to Bodmin for the Railmotor Weekend at the Bodmin & Wenford Railway.   Once again, things weren't exactly as advertised as the railway had suffered a couple of failures the previous day which meant that the scheduled three train operation was replaced by a two train emergency timetable.   Fortunately, GWR Railmotor no. 93 was not one of the casualties, and it and small Prairie no. 5552 put on a good show for the final day of the event.


I have to admit to being rather envious of those who will be able to travel in the railmotor when it visits the Looe branch next month.   Not only is travelling in no.93 an interesting experience, I now know that the steeply graded Looe branch will give it quite a challenge.  

I had originally planned to attend a two day photo charter at the BWR, arranged by Don Bishop, on the 15th and 16th, but after booking my accommodation, the charter was postponed by a week so I had to find something else to do.   As I had never travelled on any of the Cornish passenger network before, I decided to do a track bash on Monday 15th with the aid of a day rover ticket (£8.30 with my Senior Railcard) and managed to visit (for between three and ten minutes each) Looe, Penzance, St. Ives, Falmouth Docks and Newquay.   The day started out with brilliant sunshine, but ended in typical British fashion by almost blowing a gale.   I won't be publishing any of the photos from the day here as the mode of transport was exclusively diesel multiple unit, but I would recommend the experience to anyone.   Having seen them briefly, I certainly want to go back and spend a bit more time in Looe and St. Ives.

What looks like being my final gala event before Christmas was at the East Lancs Railway on the 20th.   With five locomotives in action, the ELR gala was certainly a numerically smaller event than the WSR or GCR Autumn steam galas, but it was an interesting event nonetheless.  As usual, I planned to extend the range of locations visited.   One or two will definitely be on my list of spots to use in future, but as I ended up to my ankles in a mix of mud and cow doings at Spout Lane bridge, that will be one that gets a miss from now on.


That's about it until the end of November when Tornado ventures up the Marches line to Ludlow.   That will be her first outing after a repaint into BR blue livery, so is not to be missed.   As well as Tornado, rebuilt Bullied West Country class no. 34046 Braunton will also be travelling that route that day, on a run to Shrewsbury.   Watch this space!



Two Galas in One Weekend, 5th and 6th October 2012

October 08, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

OK, strictly speaking Fridays are not normally part of my weekend, but the timing of the West Somerset Railway and Great Central Railway Autumn Steam Galas required that I took the day off work in order to visit both events as, in their own way, each was something of a landmark.

GWR Double Header I

The West Somerset made history this weekend by operating the first ever all chimney first gala in railway preservation, made possible by the turntable at Minehead and triangle at Norton Fitzwarren.  This is a development that has certainly changed my approach to photographing trains on the line as it is no longer necessary to chase only those trains running chimney first from one end of the line to the other to get a worthwhile number of shots.   I would have been even more pleased with my results from Friday if the weather had been better.   The morning had started off grey with only the occasional brief glimpse of small patches of blue sky.   By the time that the above photo was taken, it was necessary to shelter under an umbrella, and conditions were to deteriorate further.    I am certainly glad that my 5D Mk III can easily cope with the low light levels that prevailed.

The weather was so much better the following day, an almost total contrast with clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine virtually all day.   Ideal conditions for photography on the Great Central Railway with its North-South orientation.   This year saw the first gala that made full use of the loops at Swithland. With movements every few minutes there was plenty to photograph throughout the day as trains passed on the main lines or were turned back in the loops.   I suspect that Kinchley Lane, usually a magnet for lineside photographers (though I've never been there), was relatively deserted if the number of orange vests I saw was anything to go by.


The fact that the trailing crossover between the Up and Down main lines is positioned in the middle of the layout, rather than north of it, makes for some interesting shunting movements for those trains that are turned back in the Up loop.   After the locomotive has run round it has to push its train backwards onto the Up main before it can use the crossover.  Once the Mountsorrel branch is completely rebuilt, the activity at Swithland should become even more intensive, though it was good to see locomotives occasionally using the branch as a headshunt.  

I would hope that the GCR will earmark some of the funds that it hopes to attract from its latest share issue towards improving the facilities at Swithland even further.   Covered accommodation for the vehicles still stabled in the open at Rothley and Swithland while awaiting restoration is a necessity.

The only negative thing that I have to say about the GCR gala is that the buffet car on the 09:00 from Loughborough was woefully unprepared for the first rush of business.   I was one of the first in the queue and ordered a bacon bap at 08:40 - I didn't get it until an hour later!

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