Thursday 16 April 2020

KWVR Spring Steam Gala 2020... as the storm was brewing

As the recent post on the grim-conditions of the winter for photographing trains showed, I (Ben) hadn't had much luck with railway pics for months.  Therefore I'd been looking forward like mad to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Spring Steam Gala as being the first decent opportunity to get some shots.  Usually the weather is a bit dull, but at least there are lots of trains, and the usual pattern is to lineside on the Friday, and ride the trains on the Saturday and Sunday with the family.

For weeks the weather had been poor (localised flooding), and indeed on the day the visiting Large Prairie tank loco was deliviered, I was the only idiot out to photograph it in the heavy hailstorm which hit as the train was being moved, but it was all starting to clear as we went into the weekend.

I couldn't believe it on the morning, crispy, clear, and perfect blue sky.  After dropping off the kids at school, I walked to Keighley Station and decided not to join The Gallery on the bank above the station as I was feeling a bit antisocial (before Social Distancing was de rigour).  I headed instead for my favourite, slightly grotty spot on the climb out of Keighley for the departing Prairie on the goods train, which kicked-off the gala.

My chest was playing up a bit in the cold weather, so I broke with my usual tradition of walking the whole valley, and caught a service train up to Oxenhope and walked back down towards Haworth, getting some pics of my favourite loco on the line, S160 "Big Jim".

A stop off in Haworth for lunch, then down to Ebor Lane where to my surprise I got the prized spot looking down towards the tunnel.  The number of locations where you can stand on public land looking at the railway is slowly declining, and I still haven't stumped up for a lineside permit so I can wear a snazzy orange vest beside the rails, so I was a little taken aback to get such a popular spot on a public footpath for the Prairie. 

To be fair, a number of other photographers turned up after me and grumbled I was in the spot they wanted, but as they say, you snooze, you loose.

Down to Damems for "Bahamas"...

I think this is the first time I've had chance to photograph this very impressive loco in the sunshine...

Then along the footpath to the tower for the demonstration goods, to the annoyance of another photographer who clearly wanted the place to himself but who got their five minutes after me.

Then the walk back, with the goods returning from Damems station.

I was pleased to get a pic on the old Bridge 11 at Ingrow, as it would soon be replaced (at least that was the theory)...

Saturday was... odd.  Not many photographs taken as we were actually on the trains.  What was odd was the atmosphere; I'd been worried about the weather, but the Coronavirus was starting to loom a bit by the Saturday, with lockdowns abroad, and people starting to worry over here.

Well some people.  My mood throughout the day dropped a bit witnessing how few people were taking hygeiene seriously.  I don't like to stereotype, but railway enthusiasts (particularly males over about 50) aren't the best in my experience at taking care of that sort of thing, but on a weekend where a killer virus was starting to decimate Italy and spreading worldwide, I was annoyed (but sadly unsurprised) to see, whilst queuing for the loos, dozens of people not even washing their hands.  I heard conversations along the lines of "this virus... its a conspiracy by Europe to cripple us back into the EU!" right the way up to "I'm not washing my ****ing hands just cus the ****ing Government tells me to!".

Middle and Younger Childs decided to have a fairly immense tantrum mid-afternoon too, which about put the final gloss on my bad mood, so we left Elder Child on the train with the in-laws, took the younger ones home, then I returned to collect Elder Child from a gloomy Ingrow later in the day.  I had planned to go back after tea and get some night time shots, but by that point my mood was as gloomy as the weather so decided not to bother.

Sunday featured better weather, but worse news internationally, so a bit of an atmosphere.  We (myself and Father-in-Law) took The Childs for a walk around the valley because we were rapidly realising that with the virus spreading this might be the last chance for normal railway photography for a while.

So overall?  Lucky that the Gala was scheduled early enough that it was held before the lockdown.  And being as it doesn't look like I'll be doing any railway photography for the foreseeable, at least we had a couple of days of beautiful weather and a lot of trains.  Just a shame that there was an encroaching atmosphere of doom and paranoia hanging over the event...

Saturday 11 April 2020

KWVR Grim Jan

Well as the Lockdown continues, and railway photography is tricky to impossible, here's another dip into the archives for some older shots.  I suspect I might end up going properly back in time with some future posts as we're not really doing any arty stuff at the moment (there's some model making going on though, but that will be on t'other blog).

Being a railway photographer in the winter can be a bit dull, especially with the warmer, wetter, winters we've been having lately (trains in the snow or frost are nice, but it's been a while since we've had any of that).  Hardly any railways are open, particularly in January, and when they are, generally I've ended up there on days with flat, dull, skies... what an old friend calls Tuppaware Days, as if you're in a box looking up at a white lid.

We're lucky in that we live local to the Worth Valley, and they run every weekend (or did up to the Remain Indoors crisis).  A day on the trains right at the start of the year nesscessitated some monochrome shots to deal with the conditions...

I did try some more experimental long-exposure pics, but my heart wasn't really in it as the camera was playing up.

One minor positive of the trains running at this time of year is the chance for some night shots; class 101 in the twilight above...

...and in the dark near Haworth.  This is actually a mobile phone shot; basically I had an hour to kill whilst waiting for Younger Child who was at a birthday party, and thought I'd get some pics.  So I set up, with tripod and SLR, tested everything...

Then just as the southbound steam service approached, the SLR died.  So I hastily improvised with my phone.

Another phone shot; didn't come out too badly, though it missed the front of the DMU being in shot, annoying after you've waited half an hour in the dark.

Ingrow station with the SLR which had mysteriously started working again... for about five shots.  I'd wanted a long-exposure of the DMU at the platform, then the trails of lights leading into the tunnel as it pulled away, but the camera died again.  It did convince me that the best way to get this shot would be to use miniatures instead in a more controlled environment, particularly with the nights drawing out again for another year...

Not all bad news though; I managed one day where there was blue sky and winter sun, and got a shot of the 2MT, 78022, into Railways Illustrated (April issue).  And we managed to fix the problem with the SLR too, annoyingly after the chance for night shots with trains had passed, but such is life.

Friday 3 April 2020

Blue Monday (well, it was a Wednesday, but that doesn't scan)

God, but I miss when you could go out to take photographs.  Technically I suppose as part of my 'hour a day Boris-ercise' I still could, but there's enough curtain-twitching going on to make me wary even walking to the end of the drive to get the bins, and carrying a camera isn't something you'd normally do on a jog.  I doubt any railway mag would touch the pics if I saw something, photographed it, and sent it off in case they suspected I was breaking quarantine.  Plus locomotives have dash-cams, and I don't want to appear on some 1984-esque National Rail most-wanted list.

So lets go back to the heady days of, oh, about a month ago.  I love the Settle-Carlisle Railway Webcams; no more just going out to take pictures on-spec, you can see what's coming by looking at the Ribblehead or Horton cams, with plenty of time to fill a flask and get somewhere lineside in a location that's a bit less Middle-Earth for when the trains pass my neck of the woods an hour later.  

Generally, I don't bother photographing Sheds (class 66 diesel locomotives) on the mainline, because they're boxy and uninspiring and blinkin everywhere.  DB Schenker examples are either dirty, dull maroon and gold, or shiny but still bland red and grey, Freightliner ones are dull green with a bit of yellow.  I make an exception however for unusual livery examples, and bless 'em, GBRF know the value of painting some of the fleet in weird and wonderful colour schemes to attract the photographers.

This one has been on my 'to see' list for over a year; I've never managed, because it so rarely does the Airedale line.  But one morning whilst checking the webcams whilst I was working from home, there it was trundling through Horton in Ribblesdale station.  Just time to make my way to Utley by the time it had gone up to Ribblehead, run-round, and headed back south.  This is a vintage livery from the 80's, and the 66 looks magnificent in this colour scheme.

The only shame of it is that I never get photographs from this location published; I do from a minutes walk away, a high-angle shot from a footbridge, but never the low-angle ones from this spot.  I suspect they look too much like trespass shots.

The next day I mugged my Father-in-Law to give me a life up to the Dales in the Landy so I could shoot a couple of miniatures projects on location; the last time I was up there taking pictures was the above shot, just before Christmas when Amy was on Jury Duty and I had the car (DBS class 60 on the southbound Gypsum working).

I got the model shots done in the morning, and we dared hope that the Blue Shed would be rostered on the quarry train again; the sky was blue, the sun was out, we were in the beautiful Dales, but no.  A bog standard shed.

We stopped off by Ribblehead; sun still out, and would be shining the right way for the return working and also the southbound Gypsum; which ended up being cancelled.  So no decent train shots here.

I got a picture of it anyway, racing through Settle, whilst we stopped off for lunch on the way home.  But a bit disappointing session (even more so knowing I won't be getting up there for a bit.  I suspect it's the sort of area where in these current conditions you'll end up in a wicker man or something if some of the locals don't recognise you).  Still, I'll just have to keep on eye on the Webcams...

Just a quick pic of the model shoot; this is scheduled to appear at some point later in the year in Garden Rail Magazine, so I'll post a bit more about it nearer the time.  I'm doing more Garden Rail stuff at the moment but having to (shock, horror) actually shoot the pics in my garden, rather than pass-off one of the most beautiful locations in the North as my back garden, as above.