Photographing Trains: Mainline.

Photographing trains on the mainline has its own special problems. When you consider that a train on the mainline is probably approaching you at 60+ miles per hour you’ve probably got just 30 or 40 seconds to get your photo before train is past and gone.

If you’re at a station and you stand on the opposite platform to the one the train is due on you can get a good shot of the loco as it passes, although there is always the risk that a service train will arrive at the crucial moment and totally block your view!

If you stand on the same platform as the train is due on the chances are very high that someone will decide to stand or walk in front of you at the crucial moment.

The trick is to find somewhere where there is no chance of people, or other trains, blocking your view. But in a lot of towns and cities most of the good vantage points are in people’s private land and inaccessible. You can sometimes find a road that runs alongside the railway, but they usually have high fences along them. I’ve seen people get round this one by using stepladders, but the ground often isn’t level enough.

Ultimately the answer is “local knowledge”, knowing which stations and off-station locations have uninterruptable viewpoints, and by off-station locations I mean those that are not on a station but on a public road or footpath. Never, ever, even begin to think about trespassing on the railway. Leaving aside any legal aspects of trespassing on the railway it’s a very dangerous thing to do and no photograph is worth being killed or seriously injured for.

There are two websites that are very useful, if not vital, for the main line railway photographer. The first is which lists all the main line steam tours, the second is which shows the progress of the train you’ve come to see and photograph so you know if it’s running early or late. helpfully provides a link to the appropriate page on real time trains.

In days gone by railway staff took a fairly relaxed attitude to photographers when a steam train was in the station and let them wonder a couple of feet off the end of the platform ramp, often one of the station staff would stand at the bottom of the ramp to make sure people didn’t wander too far away, but this is not the case today. Even passing the “do not pass this point” notice by a couple of inches can get you into trouble. Even railway employees are not allowed trackside unless they’ve been on a training course and hold a Personal Track Safety (PTS) certificate.

So remember, always keep out of the areas you’re not allowed to be in. If you trespass on the railway you could not only get yourself into trouble but you’ll harm the reputation of other railway photographers and perhaps even the future of mainline steam workings.

Photographing Trains: Tornado

Over the past few months Didcot Railway Centre, home of the Great Western Society and all things Great Western, has been invaded by visitors from the London North Eastern Railway.

In August the centre was host to the famous A3 class no.60103 Flying Scotsman and A4 class no.60009 Union of South Africa, then towards the end of October it was announced that A1 class no.60163 Tornado would take possession of the centre’s main demonstration line.

This was, of course, too good an event to miss so a couple of friends and I headed out to Didcot to take advantage of the opportunity to both have a ride behind the loco and, hopefully, get some good photographs and video of Tornado in action.

The LNER didn’t get all its own way, the GWR Steam Railmotor no.93 was also in action and flying the Great Western flag on the branch line.

I took up several positions along both the main demonstration line and branch line and was able to get what I thought were some good shots of both locomotives in action.

These are the two videos I made of my visit. The first featuring Tornado, the second featuring the steam railmotor. I hope you enjoy watching them.  They’re best seen in full screen mode.

Some of the photographs I took of the two locos can be found on my website here.

Photographing trains: Union of South Africa

Hot on the heels, or should that be hot on the wheels, of the Flying Scotsman’s visit to Didcot Railway Centre I found out that LNER A4 no.60009 Union of South Africa would be in steam on the 30th August, the loco had arrived at the railway centre on the Sunday during the Flying Scotsman’s visit. Continue reading “Photographing trains: Union of South Africa”

Photographing trains: Flying Scotsman

During the August Bank Holiday what is generally referred to as the World’s Most Famous Locomotive, LNER A3 no.60103 Flying Scotsman, visited Didcot Railway Centre, then two weeks later the locomotive visited the West Somerset Railway for a few days and the railway organised a programme of special trains.
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Docklands Light Railway

The Docklands Light Railway was opened in 1987 to serve the old London docklands area that was being redeveloped. Originally the DLR had two routes, Tower Gateway station on the edge of the City of London to Stratford and Island Gardens. With the continued development of docklands as one of London’s major financial centres the DLR’s popularity grew to the point where the limited routes were no longer able to provide the transport requirements of the area. Continue reading “Docklands Light Railway”

Shillingstone Station

Shillingstone station lies between Blandford and Sturminster Newton stations on the line from Evercreech junction to Wimborne. The station was opened 1863 by the Somerset and Dorset Railway although the station was built by the Dorset Central Railway.  It is the last surviving Dorset Central Railway station and as such is important from both architectural and historical perspectives.

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Cleeve Abbey

Cleeve Abbey is a medieval monastery near the village of Washford in Somerset and was founded in 1191 as a house for monks of the austere Cistercian order. The abbey was not among the more distinguished abbeys of the Cistercian order and suffered from poor governance and financial troubles. Although towards the end of its existence its fortunes, and living standards, had improved. A fact demonstrated by the expensive high status tiled flooring it had gained by then, some of which has amazingly managed to survive.

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Top Ten

Top ten lists are always fun, people create them for just about everything and not everyone agrees with the list anyway. But isn’t that part of the fun of them?

So here’s my top ten list of steam locomotives, the astute among you will notice that in some cases I’ve chosen a class rather than a particular member of that class. Some of you will call this cheating, and perhaps it is, but after much thought there are some cases where I really couldn’t decide between the representatives of the class.

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