Happy New Year if you’re reading this
Given how quiet January generally is, this seems like the perfect time to review my 2013, now I know what your thinking, hang on a minute, your cheating!, you only joined in July, quite true but having since added my “back catalogue” from other websites, I still think it’s fair to review my trips and experiences from the very beginning.
January brought a very unusual spectacle with steam returning through the central London tunnels of the Underground as part of the 150th celebrations of the opening of the Metropolitan Railway, the world first Underground system, many people had believed such a sight again to be impossible with modern health & safety, smoke alarms etc, but where there’s a will there’s a way and LUL bent over backwards to make it happen, with a number of test runs and contingency plans in the build up to the event, due to the intensive use nature of the of the Underground, the steam runs could only take place on Sunday evening where the service is less intensive, though with many of the stations on the planned route being underground, a lack of light would be a problem regardless of the time of day, with this in mind for some time, it’s no coincidence my new Nikon D5100 with a max ISO of 6400 and a new 50mm prime lens had arrived from the jolly fat man in a red suit the previous month.
For the choice of locomotive, there could only be one – the only operating ex Metropolitan Railway No 1, fresh from overhaul in the Forest of Dean, matched with the Bluebells original Met coaches, presenting a sight straight out the 1800’s contrasting with the modern tube trains passing, vintage Electric locomotive No 12 Sarah Siddons, a celebrity in her own right was on the other end of the train to save running round.
The event was a huge success with the train making multiple runs between Moorgate & Edgware Road, huge crowds turning out at every station to witness the rare event of a bygone age returning to the centre of the capital for a brief couple of evenings, with my records of the evening found here: http://daviddepperphotography.zenfolio.com/p691242410#h252a75cb , after this event, London Underground certainly seem to have got a taste for running occasional steam tours, with more following in 2013 on the open air section of the Metropolitan line further out of the city towards Uxbridge and plans for more steam in the central area on the Hammersmith & City line in 2014.
February & March brought the usual round of Winter Cumbrian Mountain expresses, headed on the bottom leg through the Midlands by the sole operational mainline electric locomotive, 86259 Les Ross, the itinery relying on the higher speed of the electric over a diesel on the busy southern section of the West Coast Mainline, I took a few shots of Les this year including a rather pleasing night effort at Crewe, but this glint shot achieved at Atherstone one February morning is my absolute favourite: http://daviddepperphotography.zenfolio.com/p709400338#h317c750c
As winter turned to spring, the usual pre summer round of gala’s duly arrived, a trip to the Severn Valley in the freezing snow and the Great Central opening up Swithland Sidings to the public being memorable, but my highlight of this period was the first line side visit to the Cauldon Low line part of the Churnet Valley, this section including some long and fearsome gradients as it climbs onto the high Staffordshire Moors, offering some beautiful scenery into the bargain, U class 31806 visiting from the Mid Hants providing suitable fireworks as it battled 3 times a day up the slog to Ipstones summit: http://daviddepperphotography.zenfolio.com/p435020353#h26d14e45
Throughout the year, mainline workings are never too rare, 34067 Tangmere taking a roundabout route through the Cotswolds and Welsh Borders provided a long awaited chance to view steam crossing the river Severn at Worcester, this is a very pretty shot with the river below and the town with it’s church and cathedral forming a backdrop, however it had been off the radar for some time owing to the infrequency of steam on the Worcester – Hereford route owing to various restrictions, so it was extremely pleasing to finally nail this shot on a bright sunny day and with the exhaust falling perfectly too, one of my best efforts of 2013 in my opinion: http://daviddepperphotography.zenfolio.com/p43526470#h62cf5cff
Railtours for travelling on as well as photographing in passing were a feature of my 2013, the first taking a HST from Leicester to the private Wensleysdale Railway, running from the East Coast Mainline at Northallerton, via Leeming Bar and Bedale to Redmire, this railway feels very different to most preserved lines, partly being setup by locals as a transport link as much as preserved parts of the railways past, giving the place something of a “Titfield Thunderbolt” atmosphere in my opinion, nevertheless it’s a quite interesting line and part of the country that offered some decent and unusual pictures: http://daviddepperphotography.zenfolio.com/p776147447#h67ac877a
This was followed a month later by the Cheltenham Flyer, an ambitious attempt to re run a GWR express which ran from Gloucester to Paddington non stop, thanks to the extra water carrying capability of the GUV van that Vintage Trains use, with support from First Great Western, a quick path in among the frequent service trains was found was much rare running on the fast lines toward London, the schedule was ripped to bits, arriving 45 mins early with much running at 75MPH, though a slightly apprehensive moment outside Paddington as we approached a red signal at 1MPH while awaiting a platform luckily it cleared before we had to stop.
If the outward run had been spectacular, the return was even better, hammering down the fast line, usually used exclusively by the HST’s that ply this route, almost all the way between Paddington and Didcot at nearly 80MPH, before some superb regulating saw us pass service trains around Swindon and Gloucester without stopping before drawing to a halt at Gloucester, again non stop with a 62 minute early arrival, easily my tour of the year and probably my favourite of all time to date: http://daviddepperphotography.zenfolio.com/p397869652#h626be1d3
Later the same month the same train was taking me on a traditional day out to the seaside, the destination this time being Minehead, accessed via the private West Somerset Railway from near Taunton, having run down from Birmingham to Bishops Lydeard, our mainline engine 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe was removed to be turned and serviced while we were taken forward to Minehead behind the West Somerset’s own 6960 Raveningham Hall, admiring the other passing steam trains and scenery on this preserved line before taking a break on the seafront, all too soon it was time for the return run with 6960 putting in a loud performance climbing up to Crowcombe on the return, but the highlight was close to the tours end as Edgcumbe attacked the 1 in 51 Old Hill Bank from Cradley Heath to Rowley Regis with a substantial load behind it, meeting the bank at 50MPH to climb over the top in superb style: http://daviddepperphotography.zenfolio.com/p1047936123#h67cdfe31
As summer arrived, most heritage lines got into their busy season and many of the mainline repeat itinery tours started up again such as the Shakespeare Express, which has now run every summer for over 12 years, unusually taking the North Warwick route both ways on the first Sunday owing to engineering works, giving the now rare sight of a steam loco bursting from Wood End Tunnel facing the right way: http://daviddepperphotography.zenfolio.com/p69419517#h6e62c64b
Elsewhere DRS were having motive power problems with double headed class 37’s replacing class 66’s on certain intermodal turns at short notice, and I was lucky enough to capture once such working after a fast car move to Lichfield, giving the now quite rare sight of these 1960’s machines lifting heavy freight, a purpose they were designed for, even if not exactly Intermodal work: http://daviddepperphotography.zenfolio.com/p561951016#h6660ec8d
During this period, 5029 Nunney Castle returned to traffic after an extended period of maintenance with a couple of test runs being undertaken from Tyseley, 46233 Duchess of Sutherland visited the West Midlands once more, to star in a Tyseley open day before heading the Scarborough Flyer tour which it had done the previous year.
July brought one of the biggest events of 2013, to mark 75 years since Mallard’s world speed record of 126MPH, the National Railway Museum had committed to bring back the two surviving A4 class locomotives in America on loan, so for the first time ever, all 6 surviving A4 class locomotives could be displayed together, 60008 Dwight D Eisenhower and 60010 Dominion of Canada had landed in the UK in late 2012, but years of lack of attention had taken their toll with both loco’s in something of a rough state, so some cosmetic restoration was undertaken on them before this event, they were rolled out looking as good as new next to the 4 UK A4’s that are kept in pristine condition, Dominion of Canada reverting to LNER 1930’s condition in Garter Blue with a single chimney and Canadian Bell, the event was hugely popular with the public, at times barely being able to move in the Great Hal as these pictures testify: http://daviddepperphotography.zenfolio.com/p677112400#h6cf5a38e at the time of writing (Jan 2014) the two American A4’s will be appearing at events at Barrow Hill and Shildon before boarding the boat for their trip home, if you haven’t already seen them I urge you to do so unless you fancy a trans Atlantic trip.
Since completing their extension to East Grinstead and connecting to the National Network earlier in the year, the Bluebell finally came within reach for a day trip, which was duly sampled during their vintage weekend, giving a taste of some South Eastern & Chatham motive power which predates most locomotives found on other heritage railways, when paired with equally vintage wooden carriages, it’s easily to see why the Bluebell is such a popular choice with film producers, looking for a period railway setting, a line I will be eager to visit more in future, especially considering how surprising cheap it is to get to via the Chiltern Mainline and crossing London on Tube: http://daviddepperphotography.zenfolio.com/p713747156#h683b55a8
The Summer also brought a dispute among East Midlands Trains staff, which led to the company hiring some class 37 locomotives and coaches from DRS to cover a Derby – Crewe diagram me one Sunday afternoon, locomotive hired service trains are very rare in the UK on what is mostly a Multiple Unit railway, so once enthusiasts got wind of this change, the masses descended on Derby to try and squeeze into 3 coaches, and trust me squeeze was the right word!, nevertheless it would be unthinkable to not record what is becoming an ever increasingly rare event: http://daviddepperphotography.zenfolio.com/p248323994#h65a44e1f
From here on in, I can dispense with the links as we have reached the point where I joined Zenfolio, so chances are anything I talk about prior to this point will already have a link to it in blog posts further down this page, I do worry sometimes that I might go overboard and this just turns into a succession of links, but when doing a yearly review I have to be somewhat brief with what I talk about and in what detail, otherwise the blasted thing would take forever and bore the arse off you in the process, but I digress…
As September started, a first ever trip behind D1015 Western Champion was taken to the attractive south coast town of Weymouth, the popular Diesel Hydraulic showing it’s strength on some of the climbs on an entertaining day out, the annual visit to the Severn Valley Autumn Gala with it’s overnight running and holiday in Paignton with visit to the Torbay Steam and South Devon railways offered their unique attractions and picture opportunities by default, with such regular visits, it’s easy to take the stunning costal scenery and magical atmosphere that night photo’s bring.
The highlight of this period being my first visit to the Pontypool and Blaenavon railway after they returned some authentic LNWR traction to this South Wales valley, the hugely numerous photographic locations and interesting layout of this line make it very popular, as if the attraction of steam blasting up a long incline wasn’t enough of a draw on it’s own.
Mainline workings continued including the return of a Britannia to New St, in this case 70013 Oliver Cromwell, which I caught accelerating away at Adderley Park, a complete soaking I received seeing the Earl on the Cotswold line in what can only be described as a monsoon shower, going from bone dry to nearly flooding the surrounding field in half an hour!.
Tyseley once again played host to unusual loco’s for tyre turning as two class 40’s and Deltic Alycidon visited for a few days, being seen on their return north at Small Heath, followed by the utterly bizarre but wondering hiring of Western Champion by GBRF to haul Stone Trains between Mountsorrel and Wellingborough, a lovely picture of the empty return working passing through Leicester being obtained.
As Autumn turned into the run up to Christmas a Photo charter at Didcot organised by Neil Cave and Timeline Events was booked, some stunning night shots around a seemingly working locomotive shed and some set scenes involving actors taking place, also owing to the length of time of the event with the trains static for photo’s many experimental type of shot could be tried and retried if needed, something not possible with moving trains in daylight where you have to be virtually perfect first time or miss it.
The Christmas tours over the period involved a variety of motive power from double headed black fives on the Trent Valley, two Panniers passing Water Orton, two class 37’s and Western Champion heading a Pathfinder tour to Quainton Road, but the main event of this period being the Capital Streak, A4 4464 Bittern finally undertaking it’s 90MPH run south from York to King’s Cross after several false starts earlier in the year, mostly due to fire risk (unlikely in December!), but balanced out by the issue of early fading light, a spot north of Newark being selected, my camera proving it’s worth as many other’s struggled with the rapidly darkening conditions, but came up with a quite decent end result.
Post Christmas a visit to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway was taken, though this event would be mostly for riding the trains rain that standing in a freezing field as for most pictures, many of the lines operational diesels and steam locomotives being in operation, including a farewell to 7903 Foremarke Hall, running it’s final day in traffic before it is dismantled for overhaul before it can run again.
My final trip out of 2013 was on New Years Eve to see 37609 return a class 90 repainted in the new Anglia livery to its home depot at Norwich, having to spring over the footbridge in time to get a picture, the train having missed out a stop and arriving a lot earlier than I thought it would.
I hope you haven’t found my 2013 review completely and mind numbingly boring, if so, feel free to scroll down, showing up which I consider to be the best parts of 2013, I thought writing this would be quite easy when I started out, but it’s been the longest and most trying blog post to date, taking multiple nights and inspiration to type, unable to write in my usual free flowing manner talking about events recently as I’ve had to refer back to pictures taken 12 months ago, that said, 2013 was a year that brought many highlights and overall has to be considered to be one of the better ones of mine in the last few, here’s hoping to 2014 that it can at least match it and maybe, just maybe, top it.
Onwards we go…