September Sorties

September 25, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Hello strangers

It's been a while since my last update, due to work commitments, editing and uploading pictures and visiting various places over the last few weeks, it's been difficult to find any time to make a meaningful blog update, but I suppose in cases like this, quality overrules quantity (at least that's the intention!), so I'll cover what I've been up to of late now.


Last update, I was about to finally sample a Western on a Mainline working, in this case to Weymouth, a minor irritant to start with came when the tickets arrived and the total omission of Birmingham New St as a pick up point, not terminal, but meant an added drive to another station and having to watch the alcohol intake as a result, the upshot was I could join the train at Coleshill Parkway or Tame Bridge Parkway, given the latter allowed times an hour later/earlier and missed the class 66 haulage to Bescot, you won’t be surprised to learn I rolled up at Tame Bridge at 8am, an excellent day out behind Western Champion resulted, plenty of fast running all day, with good punctuality, to an attractive destination, the highlight of the day however was finding my standard class coach turned out to be a first class coach in error, the wide and comfy armchairs with table lamps being much appreciated.

Photographically, traveling on tours can be problematic due to short platform and stops in goods loops offering little choice of taking pictures, with pretty much Westbury and Weymouth being the only chances to do so, however a fairly pleasing shot in the sun at Westbury was able to be had:


The following weekend found me crossing the border into South Wales for the previously mentioned Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway Gala, featuring the much anticipated return of a Coal Tank and Super D to the valleys, the journey down was not helped by the Traffic Wombles completely closing the M50 for some unknown reason, meaning a diversion round Gloucester before regaining the intended route at Ross on Wye, It’s surprising how quickly the hills spring up on you as it’s fairly flat until after Abergavenny, then all of a sudden a steep uphill B road for 5 mile or so takes you over the top and down into Blaenavon, Having previously been up the Rhymney valley behind class 37’s, I was not expecting much from this pretty similar ex mining valley, but the area around Blaenavon is surprisingly scenic, I’d highly recommend a visit to the area, even if not specifically visiting the railway.

In short, I was highly impressed with this up and coming line, a continuous gradient where loco’s are worked hard with a branch line and plenty of variety of movements, footpaths galore on the surrounding hills mean to an extent it’s like shooting fish in a barrel for photography with multiple attractive viewpoints along its length, full length and short passengers trains with freight thrown in were the order of the day with a recreation of the SLS special over the Heads of the Valley’s line to finish with made this a favourite event of the year thus far.

49395 blasting up into Furnace Sidings on the good’s train is my favourite shot of the day with the attractive hillsides all around:

1054 climbing up to the Rail over Rail Bridge, (a novelty in itself) is also another pleasing sight:

And the obligatory shot of the SLS Special:


Midweek I went to see 46233 Duchess of Sutherland on it’s way to the Severn Valley Railway gala at Lifford on the Camp Hill Line, really I can let the pictures caption to the talking with this one: I knew due to the circumstances of the train, this was unlikely to result in a mastershot, but I’m reasonably pleased with the results as a picture more interesting that most light engine shots has resulted.


The next day found me rolling up late afternoon at Kidderminster for the annual ritual of the Severn Valley Autumn Steam Gala and an overnight visit to this event which runs 24 hours a day from Friday to Sunday, while that may sound mad on the face of it, the result is the rare chance to see steam workings at night which is pretty rare these days and the challenge of time exposure photography at night to capture it, I usually spend the Friday evening at either Hampton Loade or Arley depending which is better for right facing loco’s during that time period, this year Hampton Loade won the day, although there was not as much in it as previous years.

As the evenings services started winding down, I boarded one of the two trains that would continue overnight to Bridgnorth to take some further night pictures of the various locomotives being serviced on the shed, since the shed here received shutter doors a few years ago, it also received some rather harsh yard lights which from certain angles create some big glare and are a challenge to photography, nevertheless, using some selective angles and adjustments of the light in Photoshop, I got some pretty decent result, From previous years, I’ve also found the shot of a north facing loco in the Platform at Bridgnorth can also be pretty pleasing, however this year, for some strange reason, the driver of 2857 kept running the loco off the platform end preventing this shot was taking place, why he did this is baffling as the train was only 5 coaches long and there was at least 3 coach lengths of empty platform behind the train, frustrating but I guess you can’t win them all.

After an hour trying to get some doss, I detrained at Bewdley while the train went to Kidderminster to run round and return for 90 mins, to photograph the locomotive stabled overnight in the rock siding there, in previously years, the SVR has had an annoying habit of stabling a set of coaches in platform 3 overnight totally blocking this view, luckily this year the shorter freight set was put in platform 3, which didn’t take up all the platform meaning some decent shots could be had, Bewdley can be a challenge to get acceptably lit photo’s at night with some area’s under strong floodlights with a lit brazier nearby with others in total darkness, but the challenge of such photography at night to get it acceptably lit with minimal “ghosts” (people moving during a time exposure, not real ghosts!) and minimal steam blowing across the shot is what makes it more satisfying when some half decent pictures come from your efforts.

After which I rejoined 2857 through to around 6am as the day services started up again, making sure to capture the remaining guests engines of Met No1 and Duchess of Sutherland on passenger workings before heading home mid afternoon, almost 24 hours after arriving.

I love night time exposure shots so had a hard time picking a favourite from this event, but this effort of Kinlet Hall on Bridgnorth shed probably just about pips it for me: I expect a few will have different views but no one’s tastes are the same.


That brings the story up to date now, so what do I have planned for the near future? Very little actually, at least very little that’s set in concrete, this Saturday, 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe is hauling a tour from Birmingham via the Welsh Marches and back again, I’m undecided whether I will see this yet, but if I do, I’m thinking of trying the shot from the St Paul’s Metro stop, which looking on the net, seems to give a good view of northbound departing trains from Snow Hill.

The following Friday see’s takings a weeks holiday in Paignton, the place I’m staying at overlooks the Paignton & Dartmouth Railway on the climb from Goodrington to Churston so some shots of that are pretty inevitable, visits to see mainline operations at Dawlish and the South Devon Railway from Buckfastleigh to Totnes are also possible, though I notice during the weekend the West Somerset Railway is holding it’s Autumn Steam Gala, and Bishops Lydeard (near Taunton) is not a million miles from Paignton….

I’ll probably update this again in early/mid October once all the above has taken place and I have plenty more slightly dull experiences and adventures to tell you about in the fruitless pursuit of railway photography perfection.


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