Here we are with another catchy title. Yet, it’s fairly descriptive, and neatly covers for the fact that I’m separated from my notes from the day. What?
Back in July 2002, some of my Irish friends and I were photographing along former Great Western lines in the west of England. On this day, we scoped out an elevated location—often pictured in magazines—at Dawlish Warren.
When were arrived at there, I was shocked to find about 40 other photographers with a similar idea in mind.
My friends and I made a few photos, but it takes some of the fun out of the challenge when you’re in such a large group (and not really part of the group). I think most of the folks were after Class 47 diesels that were then still working some Virgin Cross Country trains.
So, we abandoned the popular place, and migrated east toward Exeter where we found this remote location along the River Exe. (And here I suffer from my notes being in Massachusetts, and me in Ireland; what was the name of this spot? It was near a church, along the River . . .Ah! sounds like the line from a song, oh well).
I was pleased to catch a bright red and yellow Virgin HST racing along. While not uncommon at the time, the HST is among my favorite trains in the UK. I think I was in the minority among the folks at Dawlish Warren; they didn’t seem to have any interest in the HST’s at all!
At the end of July, my friends and I made a pilgrimage to the Bluebell Railway, traveling by Southern Railway electric muliple unit from London to East Grinstead and transferring to the Bluebell’s steam train there.
This was my second trip over the Bluebell this year. While not the best day for photography, owing to a humid hazy morning with flat dull light and rain showers in the afternoon, I managed to make a variety of images of this classic British preserved railway. Regardless of the weather, Bluebell offers a pleasant trip to an earlier era.
In the last dozen years, I’ve made about a half dozen Bluebell visits that have allowed me to better appreciate the line and more fully experience it. It is one of just several dozen top notch preserved railways in Britain.
See my earlier posts on the Bluebell for more details and photos of the line:
The Bluebell Railway is Britain’s first standard gauge preserved steam railway. It dates from the early 1960s, and for more than 50 years has offered excursions over a scenic portion of former Southern Railway, ex London, Brighton & South Coast Railway. Today the railway runs from East Grinsted to Sheffield Park (south-southwest of London), and includes a relatively long tunnel.
Bluebell, like many of Britian’s steam railways, is a fully functioning preserved line, complete with stations, signal boxes (towers), authentic period signal hardware (including semaphores), engine sheds and lots of staff (presumably mostly volunteers), all of which contributes to the appearance of an historic British railway. In other words, it’s like a time machine!
On Saturday April 20, 2013 David Hegarty and I traveled from London by train via East Croydon to East Grinsted. It was a beautiful clear bright day. Bluebell had just recently reopened its line for connections to British rail network at East Grinsted.
While not especially photogenic, I found the new East Grinsted transfer a big improvement for reaching the Bluebell. On previous visits, I’d hired a car and drove directly to Horsted Keynes—a mid-point station on the Bluebell. All things being equal, its nice to arrive by rail.
It was interesting to travel behind steam (British Railways 2-10-0 class 9F) over newly laid track. We spent a full day wandering up and down the line by train. At one point we went for a long hike following signposted footpaths to a known good spot (what friends like to call a KGS). I’d found the spot, north of Horstead Keynes, about 10 years ago.
Biggest challenge to making photos on the Bluebell is their operating practice of locomotives facing north, which can present some difficult lighting angles considering most of the line is on a north-south alignment.