As someone whose childhood spanned the 50s and 60s I can still remember the days of steam trains, going on holiday to North Wales and the excitement of waiting for the steam train to arrive at Leigh station then boarding “compartment” carriages where you always tried to grab the window seats (none of this open space rubbish so beloved of modern day railway coach designers) to get the best view of the passing countryside (remember this was a time when very few working class families had cars and virtually no one left their local community).
Anyway, back to my story of yesterday and I finally got to “open” my Christmas present from last year which was a one day photography course to be spent on the East Lancashire Railway (based in Bury, Lancashire) with a ride on a steam train and an opportunity to visit the locomotive sheds and take photographs. What more could a man ask for?
So on a beautiful summers day, blue skies and wispy clouds I met up with the tutor for the day, Tony and my fellow photographer Harry (hope I have got your names right gentlemen) and we set off on a short train ride to Irwell Vale station where we alighted.
Crossing the line we then positioned ourselves on a hillside to await the arrival of the steam train. After some timely advice about “framing a shot” and being more creative outside of the automatic setting on my camera I prepared myself for the arrival of the train. Suddenly in the distance I could see the plumes of smoke and then into view came this most magnificent steam engine, burgundy coloured and polished to within an inch of its life.
We caught the steam train later in the day to transport us back to Bury station where we began our tour of the sheds where the locomotives undergoing renovation and repair were housed and behind four partitioned walls was the iconic “Flying Scotsman”. It is hoped that the Scotsman will be back running by the end of 2015. It is a little strange that I am always a little underwhelmed by the Flying Scotsman when I see it ……….perhaps it is my memories of the old Britannia Class trains which were such magnificent “beasts” that puts the Scotsman in the shade!
The highlight of this part of the day for me was a visit to the working signal box and its marvellous multi-coloured levers (almost a work of art), which were explained to me in detail by the very helpful gentleman staffing the signal box that day.
I was also able to catch images of old trains, boilers, carriages and what appeared to be a lot of junk but which I was reassured would all be put to good use.
So many thanks to Tony and colleague Harry for such an excellent day and not least the staff (a nod to Richard who acted as our guide at the sheds) and hundreds of volunteers who maintain this important part of our industrial heritage, long may it continue.