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.

Thursday 15 November 2018

Class 800... its THE FUTURE!

Relatively recently, THE FUTURE! arrived on the mainline up the Aire Valley.  Seen above, THE FUTURE! as represented by the Hitachi Class 800, which will theoretically be running on the East Coast Mainline and thus providing Skipton and the Aire Valley with a tenuous link to the modern world twice a day.  Given their revenue-earning services will be at stupid-o-clock in the morning and late at night, I took the opportunity to get some pics of the daytime test runs.

Actually the first crack was photographing the train on the Monday of it's daytime test runs, when I had a couple of hours to kill before an appointment at the Doctors.  Keighley Station was covered by the Revenue Men, so I figured if I had to buy a ticket anyway, I'd go down the line two stops to Bingley where the Midland Railway architecture would provide a nice background on a dull and manky day.  Not entirely successfully though; courtesy and protocol is to let station staff know if you're going to be taking pictures with SLR's on manned stations, but the queue at the ticket window was very long, so I ended up only having time for a blurry phone snap.  I was a bit disappointed, until I was told it would be making another run the next day...

The next day dawned grim, dull, and manky, so I went to my usual spot at Utley where the backdrop of the greenery would enliven proceedings.  A practise shot of the morning Freightliner convoy move allowed me to test the lighting, and I realised it was a bit flat.

Still, eyecatching broadside shot...

...though it showed this angle, from which the train would be approaching, was out.  Another couple of months, when the greenery has died down, would be no problem, but a south-facing direction would not allow me to get a decent photo of THE FUTURE! (alright I'll stop doing that now).

With a morning to kill I took the impetuous decision to head up to another of my favourite lineside spots, at Cononley, where a handy public footpath to a level crossing allows some nice (and legal) angles, and as a bonus the sky was blue at this end of the valley.  OK so it's a village where everybody knows everybody, and people regard me and my camera with suspicious politeness, but if you can ignore the slight Royston Vasey atmosphere it's a nice place for photos.

Chasing the train up to Skipton, it was getting a lot of attention, not least because it was possibly the most excitingly modern thing to happen to Skipton Station since...  since... well...

It was also bloody difficult to get a nice angle for a pic as the train was longer than the station, with one end hard against the signals, the other reaching back towards civilisation off the end of the platform, and I was shooting into the sunlight.

The lighting was better, but the angle just as bad, from the other platform.

After nipping into town for a bite to eat, I was surprised to find the Class 800 gone -surprising as it was massive, glossy, and white and not the sort of thing that could easily disappear- unless part of the fantastic cost of the thing was to pay for a cloaking device.  Being stuck on the phone, I almost missed this interesting consist coming through, a tour from Radlett to Carlisle.

With the phone going again (and being the sort of person who gets embarrassed talking on the phone on the train; I blame Trigger Happy TV) I hopped off again at Cononley to finish my conversation, and was intrigued to spot a photographer lurking.  I thus just managed to get the camera out as the mystery missing Class 800 came batting through again; best guess, it had nipped back to Leeds over lunchtime, though that wasn't showing in Real Time Trains, the invaluable aid to the modern trainspotter.

Travelling fast enough to make the camera struggle, it did show that actually photographing these modern THE FUTURE! (sorry) trains is going to be tricky.

Depressingly, the class DB class 66 which passed straight after on the midday gypsum threw into somewhat stark relief the state of local transport; this design of loco is about the next-most-modern thing regularly running up here (a 20+year old design of a corrugated metal garden shed on wheels), and most of the passenger trains are now 15-30 years old...

Heading back to Keighley with about half an hour to kill before a meeting, I was pleased to spot one of said knackered old passenger trains running late (the southbound Settle-Carlisle class 158), and which didn't seem in a hurry to leave Keighley.  It did make me wonder if the S&C driver perhaps knew the shiny THE FUTURE! train was right behind, it's driver chewing the dashboard in frustration that his modern plastic Tomy toy was being forced to crawl along at about 4mph, and wanted to make a point.  Anyway, the upside for me was that for the first time that day the lighting was in the right place, and THE FUTURE! was moving slow enough for the camera to actually cope with it.

Having seen it, my reaction is largely 'meh'  It's not a bad design I suppose, but it doesn't exactly inspire or excite, or look that iconic.  Plus, I'm informed by people who've ridden these Down South, the seats bear all the comfort and ergonomic qualities associated with the phrase "From The Department For Transport Design Committee" and that it is roughly akin to sitting on a shuddering ironing board for three hours.  Probably for the best I won't be needing to travel to That London at 6 in the morning then...