Tuesday 11 December 2018

We Got Our Hogwarts Letter :)

Back in the half term holiday, we had a jolly excursion down to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, courtesy of my (Ben's) sister who got us a family ticket as an xmas pressie.  It had actually been on our to-do list anyway, so the tickets finally gave us the chance to go.

We started with the Great Hall...

Being as we're both creative types, it was amazing to see so many practical builds and things.  And stuff we'd quite like in our house to be honest, though the above might look a little out of place in our suburban terrace...

Naturally I was drawn to all the supporting stuff; the concept model of the great hall was stunning, and a taster of what was to come later...

Something else we'd like in the house, if the house was replaced with a castle...

We both loved the Ministry of Magic design in the films; basically we'd love green and red tiles somewhere.  More surprising to realise not only was it all polished wood, but that the interior contents were consequently made from card and other lightweight materials because of the wooden set construction.  It all looks completely convincing, and a testament to the skill of the production team.

Yep, I can get in some train photography anywhere...

Actually this completed an ambition from a few years ago; the first year the kids moved in we were meant to see the loco run near the house on a railtour, we turned out with The Childs in tow, stood by the lineside... and the loco had been withdrawn as a fire-risk so we never got to see it.  Very impressively displayed and lit here.  Managed to avoid the temptation to buy a toy of it... though didn't manage to avoid buying a mug and a tea towel however. 

Down Diagon Alley, which was pleasantly like York (one of the inspirations).

The bit which The Childs were least interested in, and consequently less than amused at how enthralled we were.  The recreation of one of the design offices...

...the plans and blueprints...

...and the works of art which were the concept models.

Which paled into insignificance when presented with the absolute belter of a model which ends the tour.  It's beautiful, and a simply superb bit of miniature work.  I tend to dislike CGI in films, but do slightly more approve of them building models to shoot and use as the basis.  This model is utterly amazing and very, very large.

So thoughts on it all?  The tour was brilliant, very interesting to people like us interested in all the behind-the-scenes production and design aspects.  It's terrific that so much of this stuff was saved after the films were made and put on display.  The Childs were entertained and madly into it all, and the quality of stuff in the gift shops very good indeed.  All in all a very nice day out indeed... thanks Sis for the tickets :)

Tuesday 4 December 2018

York Station for a Steam Excursion

A Christmas shopping excursion to York the other week incorporated a little bit of railway photography at the end of the day; with a railtour featuring two steam locomotives on a cold, clear, crisp day it would have been rude not to have popped along for a look...

Arriving at the station with half an hour to kill, the nice sunset wasn't illuminating anything more exciting than a soon-to-be-scrapped Pacer unfortunately.

HST under the very impressive roof.

6233 "Duchess of Sutherland" (which had earlier bought the train in from That London) arrived with the empty stock for the return to Ealing Broadway.  Interesting in that it was the steamer working it, and not an assisting diesel loco in sight which made a nice change.

A4 Pacific "Union of South Africa" was hauling the return leg, and arrived a little bit late.

Sadly by this time the sun had dipped below the horizon, but there were still some nice reflections possible in the streamlined cladding.

I mainly went for shots along the side of the loco; there was a proper scrum in the restricted space at the end of the platform, there must have been over a hundred photographers plus other interested passengers and families... I only managed the one shot from the front before being elbowed out of the way.

I was pleased by how the shots came out; after a disappointing week of photography under a Tupperware-lid sky, it was nice to get some slightly abstract shots of the A4; doubly so, as this is an engine I used to see a fair bit as a kid, but after next year it is apparently being permanently retired to a museum in eastern Scotland, so this will probably be the last time I'll get chance to photograph it.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Middleton Railway Gala- September 2018

With Amy a bit under the weather, myself and Father-in-Law decided to treat her to a bit of a break, and take The Childs to the Middleton Railway in Leeds for their "Last Coals to Leeds" gala.  Several of their home-fleet items had been repainted to represent locomotives and stock which had operated locally, they were running an intensive timetable, and the weather promised to be unseasonably nice, so it looked like being a nice day out.

One of the advantages the Middleton has from a photography point of view is that the line has a carriage with an open balcony end... of course, the downside on a gala day is that the world and his dog crams into it, so I had to make do with pictures from leaning out the side (rather than being right out on the end).

Our first train of the day, behind "Slough Estates no.3" (masquerading as "Blenkinsop no.53") at Park Halt, the current terminus.  I ended up getting a lot of shots here, as the weather meant it was a nice place to sit in the sun, and it allowed for some reference pics for a possible upcoming model project.

Back on the train, and an attempt (not wholly successfully) for a tunnel shot; again, I couldn't get right at the end of the balcony.

Later in the day I did manage a nice spot at the end of the carriage, to get a pic of Manning Wardle tank loco "Matthew Murray"/"Forward".  Last time I came to one of these galas, I managed to have a go driving this loco, my first time behind the controls of a steam loco.

Back at Moor Road for lunch; where The Childs got to meet the Leeds Mayoral VIP party who were along for a ride on a special service.

Our last train of the day, with the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board shunter arriving at Park Halt.

Out of sequence, strictly speaking; this is the lunchtime stock of the Mayoral train being prepared, with visiting Austerity tank loco "Wimblebury" from the Foxfield Railway.

Considering their ubiquity on some preserved lines, I've never managed a pic I was properly happy with of this class of loco, until this gala; the Austerity was superbly turned-out and the colour scheme stood out nicely against the trees.  This is the loco propelling onto the rarely-used Balm Road branchline.  Back in the day, when this line (as a preserved, volunteer-run outfit) still used to shift commercial freight, this was the link to the mainline.  Ridiculously tightly-curved, unfenced, and threading it's way through trees and into an industrial estate, it's quite unlike any other stretch of railway I've photographed on.

The return service halted in the trees whilst the volunteers tried (somewhat in vain) to stop traffic on the crossing; no barriers or lights, just brave souls with flags who have to hope the speeding cars actually want to stop, so it took a bit of a while.  Still, it allowed me plenty of time to snap some pics.

I've had a play with a couple of them; trying for the sort of artificial ageing of the shots to make them look more like book illustrations (I have a couple of books from when I was little, which show the Middleton still in commercial-freight service in the late 70's, and wanted to have a go at producing a similar shot).

Also a slightly washed-out pic, to make it look a bit like a shot from the 1970's.  Of course, the loco is far cleaner than it would have been back then, and the modern-ish building in the background spoils the effect somewhat, but hey-ho.

Happily, given this was meant to just be a day out with The Childs, quite a number of pics from the day were picked up by the commercial mags and websites;  always a pleasant outcome after a nice day out on the trains.

Two in Railways Illustrated...

...and one in Steam Railway.

So all in all a very nice day out.  I really like the Middleton; from an enthusiast point of view the industrial locomotives are a break from the mainline stuff on the KWVR, the vols are really welcoming and friendly, and (thanks to the industrial nature of the line, and an unintended consequence of the local ne'er-d-wells nicking the lineside fencing for scrap) you can get nice and close to the trains.

A summer day on the Severn Valley Railway

Way back in the heady days of 2017, I (Ben) won a photography competition being run by the Severn Valley Railway, with a shot taken on one of our winter excursions to the line. 

 The prize was a Family Day Rover ticket, and after some months of struggling to find a free time where we could not only visit the line, but where the weather conditions would be good enough to get a batch of decent photographs, we finally managed to get to the railway in August.

Boarding at Kidderminster, we joined a train heading for Bridgnorth, with not a lot of opportunities for photography, but an enjoyable ride in prospect instead.  The above shot, of Panner 1501 through the window, was the only pic taken on this leg of the journey.

Arriving at Bridgenorth gave a nice window of opportunity to get some pictures of the Ivatt "Flying Pig" mogul running-round, with a plan to get some pictures from out the window of the leading carriage, which were occupying, on the way down to Hampton Loade.

That plan was scuppered somewhat by the swap in traction, as the GWR 28xx freight loco was put onto the train instead, facing the wrong way of course... this is not normally a problem back at the Keighley and Worth Valley (our local line) as geographic conditions mean everything faces the same way, so at least you know a decent head-on shot of a loco is possible if it is heading southbound.

Lighting was a little tricky, the day managing to be both cloudy but bright enough to confuse the light sensor.  I got some better results in greyscale.

As it happened, leaning carefully out of the window (or at least, leaning the camera carefully out) gave some reasonable shots, and the loco running tender-first turned out to be a positive in the end.

Our Rover Ticket gave us access to the museum at Highley, which we hadn't done before, and we decamped there for lunch.  In addition to a pretty intensive 'normal' summer holiday timetable, the railway was running it's "Wizards Express" Harry Potter-tie-in specials, with a glimpse of how the Hogwarts express would have looked if it had been Nationalised... Class 50 "Ark Royal", which we'd photographed extensively during its visit to the KWVR earlier in the year.

Slightly more appropriate and magical steam haulage for the next special later in the afternoon.

Returning to Bridgenorth, "Taw Valley" (which had been on the rear of our train) was being shunted into the engine sheds.  Above is the SR Pacific on arrival at Bridgenorth; again, dull lighting, but this is a loco from my youthful visits to the line and it was nice to see it running again after a period out of use.

Token arty shot...

Back on the train, and with the afternoon drawing to a close, we headed back for Kidderminster, and I thought I'd have a go at some tunnel shots... this is something I do every now and then at the KWVR, I thought trying it here with a significantly longer tunnel might be more interesting.

So back to Kiddy around teatime.  Having been trying all manner of arty shots and angles all day, the last pics I took were some snaps of the diesel shunters making a nice parallel departure from Kiddy (mainly for something to do whilst I waited for The Childs to finally get their seatbelts on and stop messing around).

It being an improvised, spur of the moment shot, naturally that was the one picked up for publication.  Cest la vie, but it's always nice to see your stuff in the mags.  Anyway, a nice day out, and a pleasant change to actually ride the trains on the SVR compared to our usual lineside walks and using the buffets and shops, which is about all we've managed the last few years on our winter visits.