Friday 28 July 2023

Another article for the Hornby Collector's Club

July has seen another article in the model railway press, a piece for the Hornby Collector Club.  The idea that I (Ben) had was for a 'moving on from the train set' type piece, looking at expanding a starter set, and working to a low budget of £100.

This has been a project on the boil for a while, so long that I took the research pictures during the dark days of Covid.  This is the embryonic preserved railway in Dolgarrog...

...proving it can be sunny in North Wales.

And inspiration for the other end of the layout, Middleton in Leeds.

The basis for the layout, all bought second-hand.

I'll do a post, in nauseating detail no doubt, on the model making blog for all this, so instead I'll focus on things from a photography perspective.

It's all glamour, doing miniatures shoots.  I'd planned to photograph the layout indoors using a studio light, but by good fortune I managed to finish the layout in time for the heatwave that gripped the country back in June.  If anything it was too warm out, very uncomfortable to work scrabbling around on all fours because I didn't have a big enough table for the layout and the backdrops, but it got the summers-day lighting I wanted.  

A bit of photoshop jiggery-pokery.

I was getting a bit worried about the effect the heat was having on the layout and the trains.  Focus was a bit of a challenge, working that low down with the sun so bright on the screen of my mobile that I couldn't properly see the pics, but it was too low down to comfortably use my SLR.

Really showed I need to do some better backdrop boards though, these are getting a bit scruffy now.

Truth be told, the project wasn't 100% finished, but it was complete enough for the article; far end of the summer, I'll probably return to it with a bit more detailing done, for another piece based more on Middleton.

And here we go- the Hornby "Collector" mag is turning into a nice regular gig, and there's another project or two on the cards at the moment for it...


Monday 24 July 2023

More from the Middleton Railway

The Middleton Railway hosted the Leeds Steampunk Market at the start of July; Elder Child and Younger Child were both wanting to cosplay, and we headed over.  We'd last been to the event pre-Covid, and enjoyed it, but there'd been some doubt if this one would go ahead due to the tragic death of one of the organisers.

A shade dissapointingly we were only free on the Saturday, when it would be diesel-hauled trains, not steam (a lot of railways are economising by running diesels on some days; it doesn't massively bother me, because I'm an enthusiast for diesel traction, but it didn't do much for the atmosphere of steam technology on the day).  We also managed to snag a spot on the balcony of the carriage.

So yeah, just a few shots from the train, as I didn't have a proper camera with me, just my phone.  A nice day out though, and we bought some lovely bits of home-made crafting from the market (getting in early with the Christmas pressies, I kid you not).

Also some handy reference shots for a planned miniature shoot that's coming up in a few weeks...


Thursday 20 July 2023

The KWVR Diesel Gala

The Diesel Gala on the Worth Valley Railway is one of those events I (Ben) always look forward to; they tend to be held in the summer, so the valley is looking at its best, there's plenty of colourful locomotives and stock (and an eccentric roster of unusual, visiting locomotives), and increased photo opportunities.  Steam locomotives always face uphill (so any south-facing shot tends to be a boring, tender-first pic), but there's no such restrictions on diesels meaning a greater variety of angles to go for.

I tend to lineside on the Friday and Sunday, and ride the trains on the Saturday, but this year saw me stuck at work for a Chest Drain course.  As it happened the weather was a bit poor, so I didn't feel I missed out too much.  Saturday saw myself, Amy, her dad, and our Elder Child nice and early out at Ingrow to catch the train.

Locomotive Services Limited of Crewe had sent their Scotrail excursion set, which meant (on a muggy, hot day) we had the luxury of air-con, a buffet carriage, and big windows in line with the comfortable seats.  I don't think British railway design has surpassed this carriage, why can't modern trains manage something to this standard?

Off at Oxenhope, and a chance for a few arty shots.

The beautifully-kept set, looking somewhat out of place at the vintage surroundings.  Given these carriages are about as old as I am, the train still manages to look contemporary.

Back down to Keighley, which was incredibly busy throughout the day.

Another interesting visitor, the Rail Adventure HST's.  About 10 years ago a High Speed Train visited the line, and I was stuck working and ended up missing it, so it was nice to have a chance to get some pictures of these machines, even if it is a bit of an odd livery.  And another vintage design that still manages to look nice and modern.

Back up to Oxenhope.

...and back to Keighley, which (with the Scottish class 37) was managing to look a bit like Aberdeen or Inverness in the 1990's.

Back to Ingrow; as soon as you got off the air-conditioned coaches, the heat got you, so we thought we'd bail out mid-afternoon.

A quick trip into the museums at Ingrow first though.

Sunday saw me out bright and early on what promised to be a day of mixed, but generally nice, weather.  The Scottish set passing north of Damems.

After a brew, it was back up to Damems itself.  another photographer had beaten me to it, so I ended up on the wrong side of the level crossing, shooting into the light.

I thought I'd try an angle I went for while ago, and have the camera balanced on the gate post.  Nice and dramatic, though the lighting is a little off.

The McTrain on the crossing...

...followed by the arrival of the 'Teddybear' (the nickname for the class).  I wasn't too bothered about photographing this, impressive machine as it is, having got some nicer pics of it a few weeks back.

The class 14 and 20 slow for a stop at Damems.

Having had a spot of bother with the local yoofs in the woods a few weeks back, I was wary of going back in there later in the day, but there were more 'normal' people about this time.  If you call paddling in a river that carries sewerage outflow normal, they clearly have more faith in Yorkshire Water's ability to not dump crap into the Worth more than I do.

And that brings to an end a great Gala event.  I rather enjoyed this one, and the busy month of railway photography is nearly over, barring the Steampunk event at the Middleton Railway next weekend.


Monday 17 July 2023

Middleton Railway; The Balm Road Line

My (Ben's) main aim for the visit to Middleton was to get plenty of shots of the Balm Road branch line, for a possible model railway article.

The main part of their line runs from Moor Road to Park Halt, but (back in the day when the Middleton were still moving freight) they also ran out the other direction from Moor Road out to the mainline freight yards at Hunslet.  Whilst they've not transhipped freight since the early 1990's, the connection remains.

The Middleton only use this stretch on Gala days, mainly because they have two ungated level crossings, one over a reasonably busy road.  It's a short bit of line, and one of contrasts; a winding, tightly curved bit through the woods...

...then into modern light industry.  About 40 years ago there was heavier industry here.  This line has always interested me; there's not many unfenced, roadside railways in the UK, and I'm too young to have seen this sort of industrial railway in real life, and there's not many of them left to see in the heritage sector.

The branch hasn't been used much, but the volunteers worked hard to get the line ready for the gala this year (I'm not sure if it was even used in 2022, as they had to postpone their diesel gala until this event in 2023).

The first time I visited, way back, the trains actually ran a bit further, to the original exchange loop.

These days that loop is blocked out of use, by the remains of the level crossing.  One of the gates has, unsurprisingly, been stolen (the area, and indeed the railway, has suffered from metal theft for decades).

Still, it was nice to have the opportunity to photograph the derelict railway whilst waiting for a train to arrive on the operational bit.  Elder Child needed some reference pics for a school project, so we strolled down there.

It put me slightly in mind of the "Walk the High Line" series by Joel Sternfeld, his series documenting the abandoned elevated railway in New York, immediately before it was converted into a linear park.

Interestingly it's not so massively overgrown as to prevent it's restoration for trains, but it's probably not worth the bother; if it linked to a mainline station rather than a freight yard, it might be worth the bother by the railway, but the days of transhipping freight are long past.

I thought I'd try a couple of monochrome shots, as the bright sunshine was giving some nice deep shades and contasts.