Wednesday 26 August 2020

97's by night

I (Ben) really must be bloody mad.  Having been up at 6 to go to Skipton to photograph the heritage diesels, and then driven a 5 hour nightmare journey to Wales, I decided to make the most of my insomnia and go take some more railway photographs close to midnight.  What can I say, I after three months of not taking any railway pictures I was celebrating having something to photograph, and a quick look at Realtime Trains showed a special running up the Cambrian Coast line.  Anything other than class 158's on passenger trains is pretty rare these days, and I've not done any night shots in a while.  A glance at the Barmouth Harbour webcam showed a pair of bright yellow 97's top and tailing an MPV, all nicely lit-up like a Christmas tree.

I started at Porthmadog Town Station... as did the heavy rain.  Then I almost got started on by some of the locals; since the station was converted into a pub, it is now something of a hangout point for large groups of young people not keen on social distancing, and even less keen on Stranger-er-er-er-errrs sitting in cars looking shifty.  After half an hour of drunk teenagers leering at me I decided to go find somewhere else.

Criccieth, next town up the coast, was suitably spooky and suitably deserted.  Evidently the local youth have a cooler place to hang out than the creepy haunted abandoned station (though apparently the station is still open; didn't look terribly like it from the night-time visit.  Evidently Transport for Wales can't find a shilling for the leccy meter).

Thinking the train had passed me some time whilst I was driving between the two stops, I was about to head for home when it crawled out of the darkness, all LED lights and roaring engines.

Bit tricky to photograph; wish I'd gone for the abstract blurring on purpose.

The train was going to the end of the line, then back to England, in about half an hour and I couldn't face hanging around waiting for the return (sitting in a car in a deserted car park surrounded by houses full of curtain-twitchers rattled me a bit), so I thought somewhere more rural would be in order.  I vaguely remembered a spot near Porthmadog.

I found my way down to it; rather more overgrown than the last time, but then it's been ten years.  Moth city too, and then the rain started...


I got back to the car with the vague idea of getting ahead of the train and going back to Porthmadog, even though it would be pub tipping-out time.  I set off, the rain came down so hard I couldn't see and I managed to nearly bin the car when it aquaplaned on a puddle I didn't see until it was too late.

I ended up missing the turning in the rain, so thought I'd carry on for Minfford.  By now the rain was properly coming down, so I wanted somewhere with a bit of shelter.  The pedestrian tunnel down to the platform offered somewhere dry, but not a terrifically inspiring angle.  A bit of exploring though revealed the platform extends under the bridge.

Dry, relatively warm, sheltered from the breeze and amazingly well-lit; must be where the leccy budget for Criccieth Station goes.

After twenty mins of me hanging around, no doubt concerning with my behaviour anybody watching the CCTV cameras, the train trundled round the corner, working hard against the gradient.

I'm used to photographing the older variant, the class 37, with somewhat naff lights; these refurbished class 97's with their LED's are fantastic.

What a nice spot for night shots, I'll have to remember this for the future.

Off into the darkness it goes!  Not a bad, if long day... more photographs of more trains taken in 18 hours than I've managed in three months.  Two class 97's, a 37, a 47, an MPV and two 158's, with a mix of day and night pics, in sunshine and storms.  I love a bit of variety.

Monday 24 August 2020

The Staycation Express

Trains were starting to run again back in the tail-end of July, and as a railway photographer who's barely picked up a camera for 4 months, I was determined to get some shots of the heritage diesels operating on the Skipton-Appleby timetabled services.  We can't go on the trains (too many of us, not enough seats together on the trains, and not sure how we'd entertain three kids for several hours in Appleby with nowt open) but I at least wanted to get some shots.  After a week of awful weather, on a Friday morning I set off very early to get a nice spot on the outskirts of Skipton to see the train.

I thought I'd get some shots of the wildlife and scenery on the towpath whilst I walked down the Leeds-Liverpool Canal to get to the location.

Out early enough to see some animal life too.

I still had half an hour to kill, so ate my brekkie then went for an explore of the aqueduct.


The train rumbled past, and the lighting was perfect.  It would be less perfect for the return working half an hour later, shooting into the sun, so I headed back to the car.

Heading back.

More wildlife.

One thing I've noticed is that the lack of trains over previous months has bought out the photographers in droves for the few services actually running, so when I got to the planned spot, another chap had it staked out.  Fair enough, so I found another spot, on the bridge, just enough in sight to freak-out motorists who must have thought I was a copper with a speed gun rather than a railway nerd with a camera.  Probably shouldn't wear a yellow T-shirt next time.

Still, pretty pleased with how the shot turned out even if the light was the wrong side, and soooooo good to finally be back taking railway pics; genuinely hadn't realised how much of a stress-relieving activity it is for me until I couldn't do it any more.

Then it was straight home, pack the car, and off to Welshy Wales for a week...

Thursday 20 August 2020

Pace Yourself

When the Worth Valley Railway went in lockdown, the line managed to turn some extra revenue by storing some redundant Pacer units on behalf of Northern (who'd slashed their own services down so much they didn't need them).

A couple of the railway mags asked if I could go and get some pics of the trains on their behalf, which I had to decline; the KWVR themselves requested that nobody break lockdown to see them, and even though I could technically have included them on my daily hours worth of exercise, the supporters FB group made it clear they'd effectively ex-communicate anybody who went to take pictures of them.  On top of which, I also felt the daily hourly exercise was for exercise, and knew with the local peer-pressure that if I dared go out with a camera I'd cop it off someone.

So the Pacers sat there, infuriating me; about the only newsworthy thing happening on my patch and I couldn't take any pictures.

What happened then was that I ended up in A&E in the middle of the night; I had severe pains in my side which 111 diagnosed as possible appendicitis.  An understandably knackered and annoyed A&E department got me to do star-jumps after 6 hours, said I couldn't do them with appendicitis and that after 6 hours it should have killed me if it really was appendicitis, gave me a paracetamol and sent me packing.

Having managed at 6am to secure a ride on an otherwise empty local train to Keighley, I then couldn't get a bus or taxi from there onwards.  So I decided to make the most of the situation and walk via the line, and snap some pictures on my phone on a nice sunny morning.

This is the view that has appeared just about everywhere else; personally I was happier with the street-level pics, but when everyone else went to get shots evidently the street was too full of cars for that.

Well, I might not be able to do anything with the shots weeks after every other photographer had been out to see the trains, but at least I could tick-off that I'd seen and photographed them.

Happily though I got a request for a shot after all, with the KWVR possibly running a commuter service.  Pic in the July-August Steam Railway.

Thursday 6 August 2020

Steam Returns on the KWVR

After all these months of Lockdown, the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway have finally been able to get ready to get going again.  I was doing some DIY one recent Tuesday and thought I heard some whistling from up the valley; subsequent investigations revealed this was indeed the case, and that they'd be running test trains again on the Wednesday.

I took The Childs up to Oxenhope for a walk to Haworth and back.  Still a bit out of practise with the photography, and forgetting to factor in Childs Inability To Get Ready for ANYTHING On Time, we missed the arrival into Oxenhope, and had to make do with a tender-first shot in the gloom.

Still, at least the flowers were pretty.

The horses were less impressed with us walking around their valley though.

We missed the next smokebox-first run, again due to Childs-related reasons, so headed back for Oxenhope, and got another tender-first shot about 200 yards from the first shot.

On the way back home though, we stopped off at Haworth to see 78022 heading through the station, which rather made up for the earlier lack of photo opportunities.

Can't wait for the railway to get going again; hopefully be able to take a ride on it soon enough...

Tuesday 4 August 2020

Bridge 11... the story continues

Remember way back when the world wasn't going to pieces?  As a railway photographer with a connection to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, I (Ben) was asked to help out by taking some pictures to record a small part of the works to replace Bridge 11 at Ingrow, a spot I'd taken many photographs at over the years.

Like this...

...and this.

They got as far as removing the old bridge (a process I photographed)…  Then Lockdown happened.

And this was the last railway photograph I took just as things went into Lockdown, the railway removing the crane and gear for safekeeping.

OK so the world isn't fundamentally different or better now, but at least work has restarted on the bridge.  From a selfish point of view, that means I can take photographs of trains again on my favourite railway line, and from a slightly less selfish point of view, it means that the railway will be able to reopen in some form and stand a fighting chance of surviving this bloody mess.

I knew work was going to be restarting soon enough, but the arrival of the works train caught me slightly by surprise, though I did manage a few shots in the afternoon.  I was a bit out of practise and not only managed to miss a couple of easy shots, I then realised it had been so long since I used the SLR that there wasn't enough room on the memory card.

The weather wasn't terribly good, and the same again for the Saturday.

Sunday dawned far brighter; "Vulcan" at the northern end of the worksite, with the BLS crane in the background.

I went for a walk in the woods with The Childs but had to divert a different way back, due to some of the lovely local residents on their scrambler bikes spooking the kids by riding high-speed down the footpaths, so we missed the arrival of the 20 and 08 to the worksite.

They left the worksite later in the afternoon, towing the crane away, and I managed some rather better shots later in the day.

So back to taking railway photographs again, something I'd really been missing :)