I exposed this vintage Fujichrome colour slide using a Nikon N90s in March 1999.
My reason for selecting Herne Hill was to picture the Eurostar in third rail territory on its run from Waterloo International to the Channel Tunnel. Catching this suburban train as it passed the junction was just happen-stance.
The old slam door cars are now more than a decade gone from revenue working, and to me this photo seems like a long time ago.
Tracking the Light is on autopilot while Brian is Traveling.
These photos were exposed digitally using my FujiFilm X-T1. Although I exposed the images in RAW and JPG, all of these images represent the colour and contrast of the in-camera JPG with Fujifilm colour profile.
This is among the hundreds photos I chose for final consideration for my book on European Railway Travel. It is not an outtake. Instead this is among my selections for the section on railways of Great Britain.
In the text I discuss the great London terminals, and I use this photo to illustrate Kings Cross. I like it because it features a vintage HST in nice light with a dynamic view of the classic train shed beyond.
The HST (High Speed Train) was introduced by the then nationalised British Railways (BR) in the mid-1970s as the Intercity 125.
As a 125 mph train capable of operating on many existing lines with minimal changes to infrastructure and signaling this represented a significant improvement over older trains that allowed BR to speed schedules and more effectively compete with other modes.
More than 40 years later, many of the old HSTs are still on the move.
Exposed on 3 May 2016 using my Lumix LX7. This image was adapted from the camera RAW image for maximum dynamic range.
On 25 March 2007, Hassard Stacpoole and I were photographing the evolving British railway scene in the London area. Among our subjects for the day were the specially styled Gatwick Express class 460 Juniper train sets, such as this one, and Eurostar trains working via 3rd rail and serving London Waterloo International.
While the core of old Gatwick trains still exist, the distinctive styling was removed.
We knew then that both services would eventually change. The Gatwicks services were re-equipped while the Eurostar was routed into St. Pancras.
Tracking the Light presents new material every day!
Digital photography has made photography of the London Underground vastly easier than with film.
ISO 400 too slow? Notch it up to 1000, or 1600, or higher.
In the old days with film I’d rarely experiment with any lens longer than 100mm underground. Not only were my longer lenses relatively slow, but trying to keep them steady at low shutter speeds was impractical.
Today, I push up the ISO and snap away.
The adjustable rear screen on my FujiFilm X-T1 is a great tool for photographing from the hip. Back in the old days, I’d take the prism off my Nikon F3T for a similar technique, but this made focusing difficult.
I made these photos in Early May 2016. For me the Underground is more than just photos of the trains and tunnels.
It’s been more than 40 years since British Railway’s HST (High Speed Train) made its commercial debut.
These comfortable diesel powered 125mph push-push train-sets have worked intercity services on a variety of routes ever since.
Today they are one of the few types of 1970s-era equipment surviving in regular traffic in the United Kingdom.
I detailed the history and development of the HST in my book Railway Masterpieces (Krause Publications, 2002). Here’s an except from my text:
“[British Rail marketed the HST] as the Intercity 125, a name obviously playing on the HST’s high-speed ability. The most successful aspect of the HST development and where BR really scored a coup was how they used the trains. Where the old school might had ordered just a few trains to offer just a handful of premier high speed services, BR introduced a full service of high speed trains on the lines west of Paddington. The Intercity 125 was not just fast, new, clean and more comfortable than older trains, but operated frequently as well and did not cost any more to ride. When the full HST schedule was in service, there were some 48 daily Intercity 125s. This was exactly the sort of convenience needed to lure people away from their cars, and the strategy worked.”
Rebuilt HST sets continue to serve several private operators in Britain.
Earlier this month, I traveled on HSTs with my father, and made several opportunities to photograph the trains in some of their most recent paint liveries.
London’s termini are fascinating places to make photographs. A constant parade of trains and continual bustle of urban activity combined with a blend of classic and modern architecture allow for endless visual opportunity and juxtapositions.
In July 2000, I was photographing at Victoria while waiting for a friend to arrive. I made this view from the steps that lead to an elevated shopping area above the platforms.
What caught my eye were the antique slam door carriages that were slated to soon be withdrawn. These commuter cars had doors for each set of seats that allowed for rapid loading and unloading at busy stations, yet required passengers to open and close doors using an outside handle reached through a window.
While the essential door design had been a standard feature for generations of British trains, the modern health and safety regime in the United Kingdom frowned upon such primitive appliances and discouraged their continued use. It was only a matter of time before scenes like this one would be history.
As it turned out, the classic “slam door” BR era electric multiple units out-lasted ill fated train operator Connex South Eastern. In 2003, Connex lost the South Eastern Passenger Rail Franchise (that served some routes to Victoria among other London termini).
The revolving door of British railway franchises makes for a seemingly unending tapestry of modern railway names. The days of Connex’s London operations have been largely forgotten, yet some of the old BR slam door EMUs have been preserved. I saw some at Clapham Junction on a visit in July 2013.
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:
I’d pre-booked tickets to ride from St. Pancras north on the old Midland Railway. The last time I made this journey I traveled on Midland Mainline trains, but this franchise was reconfigured in 2007 and now East Midland Trains handles the run.
Although my day’s journey began on the London Tube, the real part of the railway trip started from St. Pancras, a virtual cathedral of British Railways. (See my previous posts: London April 2013, and London Stations). Here the colossal Victorian era shed shelters Eurostar trains bound for Brussels and Paris.
Rebuilding and reconfiguring of St. Pancras in the mid-2000s, resulted in an inspiring interpretation of the historic architecture. However, domestic long distance trains were then relegated to the newer, less inspired train shed extension beyond William Barlow’s pioneering balloon arch.
I arrived looking for the 0930 departure, only to find the place in a bit of turmoil. When I enquired of member of East Midland’s staff where the 0930 was, he said to me, ‘Don’t know mate, the place is in a kip this morning, all the trains are running late, check the boards.’ An honest answer. I accept that.
Eventually, the same East Midlands man found me again, and said, ‘your train’s on platform 3b.’ Right. We only left about 7 minutes after the advertised schedule. However, we were out of path and got stuck in behind a slower moving First Capitol Connect electric suburban train and lost a few more minutes.
The old Midland route is one of the busiest mainline railways in Britain. It’s a four track electrified line from St Pancras to Bedford. Fast lines are good for 110 mph and used for express passenger trains, with slow lines accommodating stopping First Capitol Connect electric services to Bedford and freights.
It’s a thrill to be racing along at 100+ mph and overtake another train. The route is virtually saturated. This means that based on limitations of current infrastructure and signaling, the Midland route is accommodating the maximum number of trains possible at peak times.
I rode out on a class 222 Meridian diesel-multiple unit, and back to London on a 1970s era HST. The HST offered a nicer ride and more spacious accommodation.
I’m a biased fan of the HST, so the modern cramped facilities of the Meridian just wouldn’t impress me, although it’s a better option than a plane or bus, given a necessary comparison.
My 84 mile trip from London to Market Harborough was accomplished in a little more than an hour and fifteen minutes, with station stops and delays. It was even faster on the return leg. It was a good trip!
In my last post I covered the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). Today, I’m focused on the London Tramlink (an network centered on Croydon and previously known as the Croydon Tramlink). Here the terminology can get a bit confusing because while ‘Light Rail’ and ‘Trams’ are sometimes used to describe the same type of service, in London these services are distinctly different.
The DLR is an automated grade-separated rapid-transit type of service, but features stations that very close together while taking advantage of very tight curvature. By contrast, London Tramlink features street running and is largely a ground-level operation, with drivers on each car.
Where the DLR uses trains consisting of ‘light rail vehicles’ adapted on modern streetcar design, Tramlink uses trams or ‘streetcars’ and generally runs these singly, with a driver (or operator, if you prefer) on each car.
However, while the styles of operation vary, both systems provide intensive localized rapid transit that is fully integrated with the London transport network. Both systems also have lines on former ‘heavy rail’ rights of way.
I first experienced the Tramlink in January 2006. On a particularly bleak winter day, I rode most of the existing network and made a few color slides. The lighting was flat and very dull, so my photos from that effort have remained in the processing boxes.
Last week, I had few hours to spare between appointments, and since it was sunny and bright, I opted to revisited the Croydon tram lines with the specific goal of making photos.
I was surprised to learn that the paint livery had changed. In my 2006 visit the trams were red and white, last week they were largely green and white, although there were a few running around in advertising colors. Also, there were some newer trams augmenting the older cars, which added to the variety.
I made photos with both my Lumix LX3 and Canon EOS 7D. All of these images were exposed in just a couple of hours. Thankfully, the trams operate on a close headway allowing for plenty of photo opportunities.
Last week (July 2013), I made a visit to the Dockland Light Railway (DLR) on my urban exploration of London.
DLR appears as the manifestation of a future vision. What I mean is that, it seem like the sort of ‘futuristic’ transport envisioned in the 1940s or 1950s. In many places the trains run on purpose-built elevated structures while serving spacious modern stations.
Most remarkable is its driverless automated operation. In this regard it’s more like an airport monorail than conventional urban rail transport. Except that it has several routes that meet with complicated flying junctions and dozens of stations.
Perhaps the best part of the DLR is the ability to watch out of the front of the trains as they roll along. Going west toward Bank/Tower Gateway the DLR runs adjacent to the suburban line to Fenchurch Street operated by C2C.
I made this selection of DLR photos with my Lumix LX3.
The Underground cleverly blends transport and style. In my experience it is one of the world’s most popular public transportation systems. Phrases like ‘Mind the Gap’ appear on mugs and T-shirts, while many shops sell stylized maps of the Underground network.
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.
Fast train delayed because of a suspected points failure.
On Monday, April 22, 2013, a well-known industry communications manager and I paused at an overhead bridge beyond London’s Kings Cross to watch the departure of the 1400 (2pm) East Coast train to Aberdeen. This is called the Northern Lights and features a 1970s-vintage HST, thus making it among the more interesting trains serving Kings Cross.
What ought to have taken just a few moments, dragged on and on. We could see the HST on the platform, but at 2 o’clock it failed to depart on time. I knew something was up when a man, who appeared to be the driver, left the cab of the train. (Just for clarification: in British terminology the person who runs—or ‘drives’—the train is known as a ‘driver’ rather than an engineer.)
Two minutes turned into five, and the HST still hadn’t left. Then two railway employees appeared by a slip-switch beyond the end of the platform. They began disassembling the cowling that covered the switch machine motor. The incident was shaping up to what they call a ‘points failure’. (In Britain, track switches are called ‘points.’)
Before it was all straightened out, there were four men dressed in orange safety clothing on the ground managing the uncooperative points. Finally, just after 1412 (2:10pm), the HST marched out of Kings Cross in parallel with another East Coast train, this one hauled by a common class 90 electric (and was probably destined for Newark Northgate).
During my wanders around London in April 2013, I visited a variety of London’s stations. For me, London’s stations are far more interesting than the trains. Where the trains tend to be fleets of modern multiple-units, the stations range from Victorian gems to austere examples of Lego-block architecture.
My favorite station is St Pancras. This is a classic railway cathedral. A few years ago it was transformed in to a modern multimodal center. Today, it serves as an international station as well as both a long distance and commuter railway station. It features a shopping mall and luxury hotel. Most impressive is the original architecture, including the pioneer example of a balloon-style arched train-shed, which has been successful integrated into a modern facility.
Kings Cross is adjacent to St Pancras. This has also been recently transformed, and blends historic and contemporary architecture. Interestingly, Kings Cross may be most famous for its mention in the Harry Potter stories. Today, there’s both a Harry Potter shop and a light-hearted platform 9 ¾ for visitors.
On this trip, I passed through London Bridge station and was shocked to see that the old train shed has been demolished! All I saw was a few vestiges of the old iron columns. Fifteen years ago, I made some memorable images inside the shed, and now that it’s gone, I’ll need to dredge these photos from the archives. Another change at London Bridge was nearby construction of a monumental skyscraper, colloquially known as ‘The Shard’.
Clapham Junction is famous as Britain’s busiest station. Still images cannot convey the power of place. Watching trains at Clapham Junction is akin to watching the tide flow in. At rush hours an unceasing parade of trains passes Clapham Junction, with trains flowing in waves. Most impressive is standing at the north end of the station when as many as six trains approach simultaneously.
Since Overground primarily serves neighborhoods in London’s outer reaches and is a much more recent addition to London Transport, it is undoubtedly less-familiar to visitors than the Underground. Yet, Overground is a boon for the railway enthusiast, since it connects a variety of interesting railway hubs and junctions.
Overground services are fully integrated with other elements of London Transport, and there are many places allowing cross platform transfers to Underground and Network Rail services, as well as connections to buses and the Docklands Light Railway. Overground is open to holders of Day Travel Cards, Oyster Cards and other urban fares.
On the down side, many Overground stations suffer from austere, utilitarian, and otherwise uninspired architecture (if the term can be applied to the line’s platforms and shelters). Yet, I found the services well run, and stations and trains clean and easy places to make photographs.
London’s Overground system provides a regular-interval rapid transit service on various radial railway routes. These routes utilize a mix of Network Rail mainlines, new specialized Overground lines, and lines converted from former Underground lines. Over much of its network, Overground services share tracks with franchise long-distance passenger train operators, freight services, and in a few places with Underground trains.
Recently, Overground completed an outer orbital ring. This allows passengers to make a complete circle around London (albeit requiring a couple train changes). Since this circle intersects several significant freight lines, I found it useful for studying and photographing freight trains in the London area.
Overground provides an easy link from popular places to photograph freights such as Kensington-Olympia, Wandsworth Road, and a variety of stations on the North London line. My experience on this most recent trip produced mixed results.
Since, Overground services have been much expanded since my last visit, I focused my efforts on riding and photographing routes that not previously experienced while re-exploring places I hadn’t visited in several years. As result, I wasn’t as patient waiting for freights to pass. While I saw many freights from the windows of Overground trains, I made only a few successful images of freight movements.
My time in London was limited and I had variety of social and business engagements. Also, I visited a variety of London’s museums, pubs, and other attractions. Yet, I made good use of my time on the Overground. These are images are just a few of my results. Check London Overground—Part 2 for more views.
During 2013, London’s Underground network has been celebrating 150 years of service. This milestone is marked by posters and artwork around the network. For me the Underground is both a convenience and a subject for photography.
The Underground is one of the world’s most complex and extensive railway rapid transit networks, and is well integrated with the rest of London transport.
Photographing on the Underground has its challenges. Space is often constrained, it tends to be dimly lit underground, and trains and platforms are nearly always crowded. The system boasts that it carries more than 1 Billion passengers annually! At times it seems that each and every one of these billion are in the way. Yet, the passengers are the reason for the system and often make for the most interesting images.
I’ve included a small selection of photos of the London Underground that I exposed over the last week. Most were made with my Lumix LX-3, which owing to its compact size and ease of use makes it my choice camera for making Underground images. Use of flash is prohibited; a tripod is impractical, so all of my images were made handheld with existing light.