This page shows some of the pictures I have recently taken. I update this section on a regular basis but do not, as so many do, upload every single image taken during a photographic session. I think that there are few sights more tedious than an endless gallery of virtually identical pictures from a single location, especially when people upload 5 or 6 of the same train taken on a camera set to "fast multiple exposures". This section is intended to show any moderately interesting photographs I take regardless of the lighting conditions. There is therefore a good possibility that the sun will not feature and even if it does it may not, heaven forbid, always be on the front of the locomotive. As I've said elsewhere, my approach is to take the picture if circumstances permit in order to record the scene on that day. It may be possible to repeat the shot later in better light but equally, given the transitory nature of railways, it may not. I feel that it is more important to record workings, especially those of an unusual nature, whatever the light than to ignore them because the sun is not shining. I regard myself as a railway enthusiast who takes photographs rather than a photographer who happens to take pictures of railway-related subjects. It strikes me as strange that many railway photographers, especially those who concentrate on unusual and one-off workings, will not take an image unless the sun is fully out and illuminating the front of the locomotive. This is undoubtably due to the influence of one section of the railway press who, for no good reason, regard only such pictures as worthy of publication. This bigotry exists in no other branch of photography and indeed, the best landscape and sports pictures that I have seen were taken in what some would regard as impossible lighting conditions. Railway magazines provide news reports and surely that should include photographs of newsworthy trains taken in whatever the light was at the time? I haven't looked at a railway magazine for over 10 years but I do recall that in some publications every single shot was taken in identical lighting conditions which gives nothing like an accurate reflection of the railway scene in this country. I have a friend who takes Formula 1 photographs for one of the motorports magazines. Can you imagine such a photographer refusing to take a shot of a notable incident because the "sun was off the front"? Everyone is clearly free to take whatever images they wish but I do dislike those who sneer at those of us who choose simply to record what is there on the day without regard to the lighting conditions.      Home

A rare visitor in the form of 50008 went to the Long Marston branch on Monday 23 April 2018. While waiting for it to arrive the on-site shunter, 10547, was moving some withdrawn tram stock around and it came forward just enough for a long lens shot over the field. At first sight amongst the trees the vehicle looked a little similar to a GW observation car, if such a thing ever existed.
One of the occasional railvac moves from Toton to Long Marston took place on Monday 23 April 2018 and as has been usual in recent months 50008 was the motive power; a humble task for the former 100mph express locomotive. This notwithstanding it was very welcome to me as this was one of the classes of locomotive I was yet to photograph on the branch as the first visit took place before daylight one morning last Winter. Thankfully the light was a little better today and it wasn't far from right time when 6X50 appeared in the distance and soon came to the end of the branch amongst the blackthorn blossom. The rapeseed is coming into flower in the adjoining fields and whilst I am not especially keen on the sometimes overwhelming yellowness a bit of background wasn't unwelcome.
It didn't long for 50008 to be uncoupled from the railvac and run to the points at the far end of the exchange sidings before returning along No. 2 road. As the sun was shining and the background nicely filled with a variety of stock the chance for a shot or two was taken in view of the unusual locomotive for the yard at Long Marston.
Within a few minutes 50008 had left Long Marston yard on 23 April 2018 and stood in the sun while the gates were closed. I don't always take light engine shots but on this occasion I relented to take advantage of the sunshine and background panorama.
A Great Western HST was scheduled to from from Okehampton to Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday 21 April 2018, the charter being organised by Okerail, the group dedicated to opening for full passenger use the line from Cowley Bridge Junction via Crediton. This wasn't the first HST to visit the terminus at Stratford but rare enough to warrant some pictures. The arrival was shown as 11.32 and I chose the roadbridge near Stratford Parkway station for a shot of 1Z44, formed of 43188, LA15 and 43093, as it approached its destination. Running a few minutes in front of it was 172335, the 09.57 from Stourbridge Junction and this unit nearly made a nuisance of itself as it returned to Stourbridge. The charter was running 2 minutes early which made a clash at Parkway possible and it very nearly went all wrong as this image shows. I don't know if the timing of the charter for this day was deliberate but the participants would have the town solid with people taking part in the annual Shakespeare's Birthday celebrations which takes place on the nearer Saturday to his birthday, 23 April.
After disgorging the passengers from Okehampton at Stratford-upon-Avon the HST set went to Banbury on 21 April 2018 either for servicing or to avoid clogging up one of the relatively short platforms at Stratford. This meant that a picture of the train leaving the Stratford branch at Hatton was on the cards. For reasons of which I am not aware the train ran as 1Z56 rather than the class 5 one would expect for what seemed to be an ECS movement. It is seen here with 43093 leading about to pass under the roadbridge at Hatton, run non-stop through the branch platform, cross over onto the up main line and thence on towards Leamington Spa and Banbury. Not long before 1Z56 was due a Birmingham Moor Street to Leamington Spa stopping service was due and here is 165002 forming the 11.34 to Leamington formed of 165002.
The stock for the return charter to Okehampton ran from Banbury as 5Z45 and I decided on a shot of it entering platform 1 at Stratford-upon-Avon. Had the sun been out this would have been a really good spot for it but unfortunately the sky had clouded over with some light rain having just fallen. This is, therefore, no more than a record shot. It was few minutes early because a West Midlands train from Stourbridge Junction was missing. There was considerable disruption to all services from Stourbridge on 21 April 2018 caused by the failure of 47749 on a railtour from Newport (South Wales) to York and Scarborough when it died at Old Hill. It took, almost unbelievably, nearly 4 hours to find an assisting locomotive and get the failed train into Rowley Regis loop. Somewhere in excess of 20 passenger services were cancelled and the charter itself had to miss out out York and go straight to Scarborough. I wonder if there will be repercussions about the use of single heritage old locomotives on charters following this expensive fiasco?
Thursday 19 April 2018 was a perfect warm and sunny day and with the prospect of several freights over the line through Hatton a trip to the North Junction there was in order. This is the only location in the area with a two-way shot even worth the thought although the view for a down train is better for an up working. First along was 66082 with 6O30, the very lengthy Castle Bromwich Jaguar to Southampton, a train always worthy of an image because of the good load and different wagons in use. It is seen here about to pass under the footbridge at Hatton North Junction with the covered wagons at the back still under the road bridge at Shrewley.
No more than a minute so after 66082 had gone south at Hatton North on 19 April 2018 66777 came in the opposite direction with 6M40, the 11.56 Westbury to Stud Farm empty boxes, running about 12 minutes early after missing the booked stop in Hatton DGL. Some white stone dust is visible on the locomotive's roof; clearly a legacy of the loading point for the full load the previous night. Some signs of Spring foliage are beginning to appear in the background and this will soon become reminiscent of a green tunnel given the unchecked growth around here.
Another regular southbound runner was next along, this being 66047 with the loaded rail train from Scunthorpe to Eastleigh, 6X01, on this occasion just a short formation. This is probably the best time of year for this view as the background is still relatively clear, a situation which will change once the trees are in full leaf.
I don't often photograph light engine moves and would rarely go out specifically to photograph one but on this occasion it seemed churlish not to point my camera at 47749 going away from the bridge at Hatton North on 20 April 2018. The locomotive, although now owned by GBRf, is still in full Colas colours and indeed appears to have received a thorough cleaning routine ready for railtour duties over the coming weekend. It will soon be repainted (or vinyled, if that word can be considered a verb!) in Caledonian Blue and exiled to Scotland. The working was an 0Z48 from Leicester LIP to Eastleigh. Once again, this was probably the only location in the area where this quality of light could be had, everywhere else being either heavily backlit or, horrors, contre-jour.
After shooting 47749 at Hatton North on 19 April 2018 it was time to move slightly to the right to take advantage of the greater angle currently available from the adjacent field before it is obscured by rampant undergrowth. Having so far ignored passenger trains I took this image of 168107 working 1G41, the 15.10 from London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill.
A recent addition to the Hatton WTT is 6E45 from Theale to Immingham discharged oil tanks. This is generally run on Wednesday and has recently produced 3 of GBRf's "celebrity" or locomotives in a non-standard colour scheme. This week however the train ran a day later on 19 April 2018 and had 66724 providing the power. The train left Theale 81 minutes late but by missing out booked stops in a couple of loops was just 34 minutes behind schedule. Despite several attempts this is my first shot of 6E45 in decent light and I opted for a fairly wide view to show a bit of the Hatton landscape. The train is routed this way for only a few more weeks until engineering work on the Midland Main Line is completed so it's been worth getting a few in the bag.
Some paths between Long Marston, Moreton in Marsh and Evesham West Junction appeared on RTT on Friday 13 April 2018 and were, I guessed, some test runs for Vivarail's class 230 DMU. On Monday 16 April I went to Long Marston to see what, if anything, happened and arrived at 09.20 some 20 minutes before the departure time. Nothing was in sight and it stayed like that for some time until a van appeared and after a short break the driver unlocked the gates protecting the site. A bit of a clue there and 230001 soon came into sight, ran along no.1 road, and stopped by the ground frame just as the sun came out.
After a short pause 230001 moved onto the branch and given the amount of cloud blowing around I was lucky to take this image in a patch of good sunshine. The light was just about high enough to leave the majority of track unshadowed and the Spring blossom has begun to flower in the warmer temperatures of the past few days. The train, running as 5Z01, stopped under the road bridge while the single line token was collected from the ground frame and this was my cue to head for Honeybourne.
The usual simple drive from Long Marston to Honeybourne was more of a trial on 16 April 2018 as 1) I had a lengthy wait in Pebworth while a bin lorry negotiated a long line of parked cars and 2) the direct road was closed for resurfacing. After a lengthy diversion I arrived at Honeybourne and was surprised to find several parking parking spaces in the station car park. The train was just coming from the staff hut and stopped at the signal protecting Honeybourne North Junction. Worryingly, some of the many staff on board alighted and appeared to be examining something adjacent to the front bogies.
While 230001 was standing around the back of Honeybourne station on 16 April 2018 an up passenger train arrived, this being 1P25, the 09.54 Great Malvern to Paddington formed of 800012 which picked up a solitary passenger. I have a feeling that this may be the first picture taken showing an IET with a class 230 in the background...
It soon became apparent that not all was well with 230001 and the lights were switched from red to white. At about the same time RTT showed that all the runs on 16 April 2018 were cancelled so the only option was for the train to return to Long Marston. This image was taken as its journey began and this one was taken from the down platform as it ran towards the staff hut.
Saturday 14 April 2018 saw yet another 5Q94 from Northampton to Long Marston conveying a class 350/2 EMU for repair work and once again 37601 was in charge. Having had very few well lit shots of these trains I thought with clearing skies that a trip out might be worth the effort. I left it a bit late to have much choice of venue and ended up at Honeybourne with, as I thought, about 10 minutes to wait which was reduced by the early running of 5Q94 to just 2 or 3. I went to the road bridge and was lucky with the sun this time but only by a few seconds as this view of 350288 shows which was taken in light cloud. There was no point in chasing the train to Long Marston as the sun would be exactly into the lens at this time and with a class 166 on the way to here from Reading I stayed put.
The class 166 for which I was waiting at Honeybourne on 14 April 2018 had just pulled away from the signal just down from the station when 1P51 from Hereford to Paddington approached for its stop. The sun failed to stay out quite long enough for this but I took a shot anyway as HSTs won't be on the North Cotswold LIne for much longer.
Class 165s and 166s are being sent on a regular basis from Reading Train Car Centre for some work or another the details of which I don't know. On 14 April 2018 166221 was the unit involved and this picture shows it shortly after joining the Long Marston branch. Just after I took this image 5Q66 stopped to wait, I think, for the single line staff to be delivered from Long Marston where it had gone with 37601 and 350258. The sun came out a few moments later and I did attempt a static shot but the angle wasn't especially favourable and a very wide angle lens was needed which inevitably created some distortion. As the train went past I noticed the nameplate which seemed appropriate given 5Q66's originating point.
A light engine move from Leicester to Long Marston on the morning of 11 April 2018 followed by a train to Eastleigh via Moreton-in-Marsh was shown in the schedules but the latter soon changed to show the loaded train running via Worcester and Birmingham. The powers that be really don't seem to like freight running south of Honeybourne on the North Cotswold Line - and come to think of it, trains of any sort given FGW's lamentable cancellation record in recent times. The completely accurate weather forecast had predicted low cloud, mist and light for the whole day and with, or so I thought, yet another visit of one of ROG's class 37/8s to Long Marston I wasn't inspired to go out. I've nothing in particular against 37/8s but they are getting a tad commonplace in the area. However, in the event I was pleased to see that 47812 was allocated to 0V94 so went over to see what the load going to Eastleigh might be. I arrived just after 47812 had been coupled to the rest of 6Z86 and it was pleasing to see that a rake of 13 JSA steel hoods was leaving the site. A 200mm lens isn't really the right tool on a misty morning but I still like the way that the persepctive is compressed to show the myriad of stored stock in the yard. Just out of sight in this view was a graffitied single car from a train of D Stock; maybe a candidate for conversion to part of a new class 230 unit.
It wasn't many minutes on 11 April 2018 before 47812 left Long Marston yard and joined the line to Honeybourne. I deliberately took this wide view to show both the early blackthorn blossom and the steam coming from an exhaust pipe in the background which I think is from a newly covered area used for safely removing flammable materials from oil tanks brought in either for re-use or scrapping. The poor light is demonstrated by the poor depth of field in this image - the class 319s being rendered in what I could call soft-focus...
Given the decent load behind 47812 a drive to Honeybourne on 11 April was in order and just as I was walking to the road bridge I could hear 6Z86 coming along the branch. Within 2 or 3 minutes the single line token had been returned to the hut and 47812 was coming slowly towards the station. There would have been plenty of time to go somewhere along the main line for another shot but the light was still dreadful and I decided that going home was a better option. Some of the woodland behind the train has been cleared and I have a horrible suspicion that yet another anodyne housing estate, one of several in the village, will soon form the backdrop to photographs taken from here.
Another Wednesday and another of GBRf's non-standard liveried class 66s on the Theale to Immingham empty oil tanks, 6E45, once again diverted via Oxford and Hatton. This time on 4 April 2018 it was 66783 (previously DBC's 66058, once a Lickey Banker) which has been adorned with a bright orange colour and named The Flying Dustman to mark GBRf's associatiion with Biffa, the waste management company. No over-the-top transatlantic political correctness with the name here, thank goodness; The Flying Refuse Collection and Disposal Operative wouldn't have had quite the same effect. I had intended to take my image as 6E45 climbed Hatton Bank on the DGL but late running made it obvious that the booked layovers at Fenny Compton and Hatton wouldn't happen so I went to Hatton station to get a decent background given that it looked unlikely that sun would be out. As it happened it looked as if it might have been sunny at Hatton North but I didn't feel like yet another walk across the gooey and muddy footpath from the canal towpath.
RTT showed a light engine running from Nuneaton Holding Sidings to Long Marston during the morning of 3 April 2018. The service code showed that the operator was ROG so not much imagination was needed to work out that one of the seemingly omnipresent class 37\8s would be involved. I arrived on the road bridge at 08.40 just as 37800 appeared in the distance on the branch from Honeybourne running some 20 minutes early. There was nothing in the exchange sidings but before the gates into the site were opened the resident shunter propelled a single oil tank onto road no.1 - not a very inspiring load, I thought. However within a minute or two 319446 was pushed onto road no.2 and slowly moved to 37800 which by now was in place. The weather wasn't too bad to start with but within 15 minutes it had gone dark, the background hills had disappeared and it was pouring with rain. A schedule showing a departure time of 11.00, about 90 minutes hence, had appeared and with the crew apparently sheltering in the cabs of 37800 I left.
Thanks to a tip-off from a friend during the morning of 29 March 2018 I saw from RTT that 6E45, the Theale to Immingham empty oil tanks was running under a VAR schedule via Oxford and Hatton instead of its usual Midland Main Line route. I like to get shots of these workings especially as there are currently no regular oil trans on the Hatton line, at least in daylight. So, over to Hatton North Junction where I arrived just in time to take an image of 66594 leading 66538 on 4E18, the Fairwater Yard to Doncaster rail infrastructure train. This service often seems to have more than one locomotive working it and I assume that it is a convenient way for Freightliner to move spare resources without the expense of a light engine path.
Just a couple of minutes after 4E18 as shown above had passed Hatton North Junction on 28 March 2018 a southbound freight appeared. This was 66087 in charge of 6O30 from Castle Bromwich JLR to Southampton Docks and as usual this was an impressively long train with the wagons easily spanning the distance between the road bridge at Shrewley and the foot bridge at Hatton North. Although the sun had appeared just before 6O30 there was quite a strong and cold wind blowing light hail straight into the camera lens.
The next freight at Hatton North on the unusually busy afternoon of 28 March 2018 had followed 4E18 quite closely from Banbury to Budbrook Junction where it was turned into the DGL. This was, of course, 6M40 the 11.56 Westbury to Cliffe empty ballast boxes. I didn't know which GBRf class 66 was hauling this until 66723 appeared carrying its distinctive livery including the Royal Airforce Standard, the aircraft number ZA from the Chinook fleet and the view of a Chinook twin-rotor helicopter, all to commemorate the 100th anniversaryof the RAF in 2018. With the accompanying dark sky and strong sun this was easily my favourite image of the day despite what was approaching from the south. My previous shot of 66723 on this line was a little different; it was taken on 8 July 2014 and shows the rescue from Banbury of 7X10 when one or more of the usual class 20s failed.
GBRf is well known for not sticking dogmatically to the corporate colour scheme on its class 66s and one of the latest to receive something different is 66789. This used to be operated by DBC under the number 66250 but has been repainted into a slightly updated version on the BR large logo livery to mark the 70th anniversary of British Rail. I'm not sure if I like the look of it but it's always worth a getting a shot of something new while still reasonably clean even though the sun failed to cooperate; the train would have needed to be either 30 minutes late or early for that to have happened. Anyway, the main point of interest is that this picture shows 6E45, running on a VAR schedule, an oil train on the GWR line north of Leamington Spa, a rare event these days. The usual route is along the Midland Main Line although a Saturday path via Oxford and Hatton is occasionally used. I imagine that the diversion is used to maintain drivers' route knowledge for when diversions are necessary.
A late addition to the schedules on Monday 20 March 2018 was a train of 5 tanks, ICAs, from Ribble Rail at Preston to Long Marston for either storage or deep cleaning. The locomotive allocated was Colas's 60095 and as the class is a rare visitor to the North Cotswold Line and the Long Marston branch I had a run over. The train had run on a circuitous route via Warrington, Chester, Shrewsbury and Sutton Park but arrived at Honeybourne close to the right time. It, 6Z56, is seen here passing the platforms having joined the branch at Honeybourne North Junction which can be seen behind the last platform lamp on the up side.
If things had gone according to plan there should have been a GWR class 165/166 from Reading to Long Marston shortly after 60095 but I decided that I would on this occasion prefer another image of 6Z56 so drove straight over to the road bridge by the yard at Long Marston. I arrived just as 60095 appeared in the distance along with some veiled sun and it slowly ran to the gates where there was a short delay until the ground crew appeared to open up. Here is a reminder of how 60095 used to be be employed on coal traffic from Avonmouth to Didcot as it leaves the latter on 6 March 1997 in a wide angle and slightly distorted view.
The Long Marston shunter arrived and after reversing in the headshunt by the bridge moved forward and coupled to the tanks ready to draw them forward. The original plan had been for 60095 to spend the night here and then have an early departure on 21 March 2018 taking another set of tanks to Lindsey Oil Refinery but as the shunter pulled forward I could see that the white lights on the Colas locomotive had been switched on and then heard a brake test being carried out. I checked Liverail and RTT to find that a new schedule had been inputted showing a 6Z57 16.00 Long Marston to Toton. Having grabbed this image with my Canon G10 and pausing only to take a view of Pandora in the afternoon sunshine I hurried back to Honeybourne.
It doesn't take long to get to Honeybourne given some clear roads and I was soon on the road bridge adjacent to the station. With no way of knowing when or even if 6Z57 would actually run it was just a matter of hanging around until something happened. For the thick end of an hour all that did happen was an IEP coming down on 1W29 and the cloud becoming thicker and darker. There were though two glimmers of hope. The first was that the incoming GWR DMU appeared to have been recessed at Moreton in Marsh presumably to allow 60095 a path over the branch and second, as the sound of empty tanks rumbling over the jointed track of the branch became audible a crack appeared in the clouds which seemed to heading towards the sun. The light was never going to be perfect but it was a lot better as 60095 approached the bridge at 17.09 than it had been for for the past hour.
Another Saturday, another run of 5Q94 and 5Q95 between Northampton EMD and Long Marston. On 17 March 2017 the weather was windy, cold and with the promise of snow but I fancied a drive out so went to Long Marston arriving just in time to see 37601 (again) comng along the branch from Honeybourne. The light was poor but even and at this time of day the last thing one wants here is the sun shining as it would be virtually straight into the lens. A little snow can be seen on the hills in the extreme background and more was forecast for the rest of the weekend. Here is 350243 being dragged onto No.1 road from where 37601 was to propel it into the visible under the first coach of the unit.
Once the shunting move outlined above was done and the locomotive uncoupled from 350243 it went back into the exchange siding and picked up 350247. While this was being done the sun came out in the background over Stratford-upon-Avon and gradually worked its way over Welford on Avon, Rumer Hill, Long Marston village and eventually the former MOD site. Just as it began to fade again 5Q95 pulled forward onto the branch and managed to approach the roadbridge with 350247 about 20 minutes early in less than the perfect light I thought it worth waiting for in the freezing wind. Next time...
The Cheltenham Festival ran between 14th and 16th March 2018 and I remembered that in 2007 there were several locomotive-hauled trains between Birmingham New Street and Cheltenham to cater for fans of horse racing. This image and the following few show some of this traffic along with a Tote special with a class 67 in charge. Here is 57601 at Norton Junction on 16 March 2007 shortly after leaving the pick-up stop at Worcester Shrub Hill wirth the distant signal showing caution as the signal protecting Abbotswood Junction was set at danger. This bracket signal has recently been removed and replaced with a modern LED version the disadvantge of which from our point of view is that there is no advance warning of a train being imminent. This is slightly academic anyway as there is currently so much undergrowth here as to make photography difficult.
Three days before the image shown above was taken this was the same train, 1T66, a little way down the line towards Worcester as 57601 rounds the curve at Norton Barracks, also known as Dog Bridge because of a noisy but friendly terrier that lived in an adjacent house the garden of which ran along the bridleway over the bridge. The sun was in and out during the morning but unusually managed to stay out for all the photos. In 2018 there were a few additional trains to Cheltenham but nothing that created any interest for the enthusiast.
Central Trains hired 47826 + 57601 together with a rake of stock to give extra capacity on a couple of Birmingham New Street to Cheltenham workings during the 2007 Cheltenham Festival, and here is the former with the first train of Tuesday 13 March a few minutes late at 10.40. It is passing under clear lower quadrant semaphores at Norton Junction, where the Cheltenham line diverges from the Cotswold Line to Oxford and Paddington. The distant arm is on the "off" position which tells the driver that he won't have to stop at Abbotswood Junction, but has a clear road over the single track lead and thence onto the main line. It's a shame came out about 30 seconds too late but at least the locomotive rather than the back of the train is in the spotlight.
Not long after the shot of 57601 above was taken on 13 June 2007 another train heading for the Cheltenham Festival came along. This was a Tote special from Euston which had been routed via Nuneaton, Birmingham and Worcester and hauled by 67021 which at the time was one of the favourite locomotives for special workings of any nature.
I've no interest in horse racing, but the Cheltenham Festival could until recent years be relied upon to produce one or two trains taking punters to the racecourse. On 16 March 2010 a Euston to Cheltenham special ran, unsurprisingly powered by 67006 and 67005. The outward run was booked to go via Worcester but in the event went straight down the Old Road. I was at Norton Junction after photographing the Round Oak to Margam steel empties and decided not to move onto the main line for a shot because the light would have been tricky, to say the least. In any event, the ECS was booked to go to Worcester for servicing so there was every chance of a photograph on the northern end of the Cotswold Line. Here is 67006 leading the colourful ensemble towards Worcester with 67005 bringing up the rear.
A train running as an STP appeared in the Hatton schedule for 8 March 2018 which at first sight appeared to be some self-propelled OTP travelling from Rugby Depot Access Lines to Princes Risborough. After doing a bit of a search it seemed that a locomotive was running LD from Bescot to Rugby and collecting whatever was there and taking it up the Chiltern Line. As the locomotive was then going on to Hinksey Yard it seemed likely that a Colas class 70 would be the motive power and as these are unusal in daylight around Hatton it was worth a drive over. There were, of course, no postings about the train , 7Z45, but it wasn't really any surprise when 70815 appeared on the curve from Hatton North Junction towing what seem to be cranes used for moving track panels around in a possession. What was a surprise was that the sun came out of thick cloud as I heard the train approach.
Rail travel across much of the UK was disrupted by heavy snow during the first few days of March 2017. On the Friday afternoon, all Saturday and Sunday morning no trains ran to Stratford and it seemed that one snowdrift in particular near Wilmcote was particularly deep, at least according to a mapping site which showed it on the down line. I had a message from a friend on Sunday 4 March saying that 50049 was running as a snowplough across the line to Stratford although this was soon changed to 37611 because of ROG crewing issues. No times were available but on searching the mapping site I found 0Z99 between Lichfield and Blake Street on the Birmingham Cross City Line. The locomotive went into platform 12 at New Street betfore making its way to Bordesley Junction. Tysleley and Solihull before turning right at Hatton North Junction and then heading for Stratford. I went to the station to find that the newer of the 2 footbridges was closed so had to go for a ground-level shot and 37611 ran into platform 1. Sod's Law intervened and the sun came out at just the wrong moment; I would never deliberately take a shot from the shady side if there were any possible alternative as there is nothing remotely attractive about such an image and almost always results in over-processing in an attempt to counter the rubbish lighting angle.
The sun became veiled as 37611 stood in the platform at Stratford on 4 March 2018 so I took this view with my Canon G10 as the crew were debriefed by mobile 'phone and given their instructions for the next leg of the journey. Ironically, most of the snow had gone from here by the time that 0Z99 arrived but there was evidence on the plough shown in the photograph above that at least one deep accumulation had been encountered.
By 12.30pm 0Z99 was ready to leave and is pictured here moving away under the GWR footbridge. I later saw that it again ran via Hatton and went straight back to Derby and then presumably Leicester. I had never before seen a snowplough operation at Stratford hence my interest in this working. I wouldn't usually have bothered to leave the house for a light engine move!
Another move of class 350/2 stock was down to run between Northampton EMD and Long Marston on Saturday 24 February 2018 and according to a message posted on the previous evening promised to be more interesting than recent runs as Pullman liveried 57312 was to be the motive power. The weather forecast was favourable for the following day and I was looking forward to at last getting a sunny image of a 57 in this colour scheme, despite the yellow binliner covering the Dellner coupling. By Saturday morning the locomotive allocation had changed to 37601 but given the beautiful light I still went for a few shots. Here is 5Q94 passing Evesham signal box towing 350253 to Long Marston for treatment to some corrosion on the bodywork.
After photographing 37601 at Evesham on 24 February 2018 I waited on the bridge to take a shot of whatever turned up (if anything given the shocking service GWR has provided in recent weeks) on 1P47, the 12.27 Worcester Foregate Street to Paddington. I have just bought a used Canon G10 compact camera, on of those with a proper zooming optical viewfinder and importantly, the ability to shoot in RAW format. I took this image of 1P47 formed of an IET slowing down for the Evesham stop and for the first shot I had taken with the camera was pleased with the result. I've no idea of the unit's number and I don't know where to look for it anyway but as they all look the same, who cares! An HST was waiting for the road to Norton Junction in Evesham station and this is that scene with the two generations of express passenger trains in the platforms.
I couldn't make up my mind whether or not to hang around for another shot of 37601 with another 350/2 returning to Northampton from Long Marston on 25 February 2018 but given the perfect light it seemed rude to make the minimal effort necessary. The choices were either Lower Moor or Honeybourne and for various reasons I chose the latter, not the least of which being that it is on the way home from Evesham. The first indication that some action was imminent was a rumbling noise coming from the background trees and then 37601 with 350255 poked its nose around the corner before stopping at the Staff Hut to deposit the single line token. This image was taken with my Canon G10 compact with zoom on about 120mm (35mm equivalent).
There was plenty of time after taking the image shown above to have another shot on my DSLR as 37601 with 5Q95 was about to pass the road bridge at Honeybourne and run non-stop through the back of the station and onto the down main line. Despite the clear light there was a bit of haze in the background and I quite like this aspect of the image as it accurately reflects the way that a high-pressure weather system affects the atmosphere at this time of the year.
While waiting for 5Q95 on the road bridge at Honeybourne on Saturday 24 February 2018 I was told that a pair of class 73/9s was topping and tailing a 1Q69 train from Hither Green to Derby and was due to pass Hatton at 16.15. This was too good a chance to miss for a bit of rare motive power on the GWR line north of Leamington Spa especially if the weather held up. It did and just after 16.00 I joined the 4 or 5 other photographers at Hatton North Junction ready for this image of 73965 leading the stock and 73962 on their way north. Thanks to Martin Loader for the gen on 1Q69.
The monthly 1Q48 test train from Derby to Tyseley via Stratford-upon-Avon ran on 20 February 2018 but in a much more user-friendly set of timings than those to which we have bencome accustomed. The North Warwickshire Line was covered at the ideal time for a shot from the Edstone Aqueduct and I arrived in time to take an image of the preceding passenger train, 2S24, the 09.57 from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon. This location is one of the few on the line where the sun is in a decent position and which has a good background rather than just some anonymous undergrowth. The sun was in cloud when I heard 172323 approaching but the brisk wind blew it away just in time.
Those of us in the Warwickshire area who like to photograph test trains have been used to getting night shots of 1Q48 over the past months. It was pleasing to see that for the February 2018 run on the 20th of the month ran in a completely different schedule which saw it pass Henley-in-Arden at 11.13; the ideal for a shot from the cast-iron canal aqueduct at Edstone, just to the north of Bearley Junction. Quite a lot of cloud was blowing around in the breeze and just as with the preceding passenger train the whole scene was quite dark when the horns were blown for a foot crossing just around the corner. Luckily for the 4 of us waiting for a shot the sun found a good clear patch at just the right time and I took my first fully sunny shot of 67023 tnt 67027 on one of these trains.
After 1Q48's first run of the day to Stratford-upon-Avon on 20 February 2018 and a layover of nearly 90 minutes in platform 3 it was scheduled to go south to Banbury via Bearley Junction and Hatton West and Station Junctions. I investigated a few roadside shots near West Junction but thought them too anonymous being little more than gaps in a lineside hedge. The roadbridge at Hatton station offered a much better view even though a multiple trunked tree hides the rear locomotive. With 67027 now leading the train is about to enter the Stratford branch platform where it was booked to stand for long enough to allow 2 passengers trains to pass including 168107 running from Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street.
Following the short stop at Banbury on 20 February 2018 1Q48 went to Stratford upon Avon again, this time entering platform 2. Although not brilliant for a shot on a sunny day it's infinitely better than P3. Unfortunately, the sun came out about 5 seconds too late and illuminated the rear locomotive and background very nicely but leaving 67023 in deep shade. I made do with this platform-edge shot as it stood alongside the freshly plated floral display provided by FOSS, the Friends of Stratford Station. I waited a few minutes for this image as a class 172 was in P1 alongside 1Q48 and this was a bit distracting.
Another of the regular class 350/2 drags from Northampton to Long Marston took place on Saturday 17 February 2018. The feeds to RTT, Liverail and various other bits of software on which we tend to rely were down so I didn't actually know if 5Q94 was running until one of the increasingly rare email postings arrived, this one from Kings Norton. I couldn't get out in time for the arrival at Long Marston and by the time I reached the road bridge 37601 was shunting the incoming unit so that it could be uncoupled and attached to the one to be taken out. The departure time was 13.30 and no-one seemed to be in any hurry to leave any earlier but this did allow the time to wait for a brief gap in the clouds to take a shot with my long lens.
By the time 5Q95 was moving away from the exchange sidings on 17 February 2018 the cloud had been blown over the sun but as 37601 stood under the bridge while a crew member collected the single line staff from the ground frame it came out again. I don't much go for arty-farty going-away shots into the sun but took this one as the train went off towards Honeybourne. Some of the new rails that were dropped on the branch on 31 January 2018 are visible in this view so we should have a sleeper drop and some ballast workings to look forward to in the coming weeks.
Some sunshine and 2 freights in relatively quick succession tempted into a drive to Hatton on Thursday 15 February 2018. The first train I expected was 6O30, the 14.27 from Castle Bromwich Jaguar to Southampton, and on checking an mapping app saw that it had nearly an hour early and was at St. Andrews Junction. I left home straight away and after a quick journey arrived to find that it was in Small Heath South Loop and seemed likely to wait until the booked time. A few minutes later 6X01 passed it and headed south only to end up in Dorridge Loop so I stayed in my car to see what happened and when. The car train left the loop at Small Heath and had an uninterrupted run allowing to stay out of the wind until it passed Lapworth. Not a shot for "sun on the front" brigade and with more than enough shadows 66200 approaches Hatton station with its very long train of open wagons together with what appeared to be a full set of covered vans tagged onto the back. This is one of the longest trains on this line and rivals a diverted Wembley to Longbridge service which I photographed at Whitnash on 24 March 1994behind 47326.
I was in two minds on 15 February 2018 about whether to wait for about 20 minutes at Hatton for 6X01 after photographing 6O30 as shown above and in retrospect probably shouldn't have. The shadows were a bit over the top and 66139's train wasn't a very interesting short load of rail carriers en-route from Scunthorpe to Eastleigh.
In perfect lighting conditions for the sludge-like colour scheme of WCRC diesel locomotives 57316 was photographed approaching its journey's end at Stratford-upon-Avon on 14 February 2018. I knew nothing about this train, 1Z97 from Chester-le-Street, until a couple of hours before its arrival time when a friend sent me a message to say that it was on the way. For those passengers who joined the train at Chester-le-Street they will have had, by the time they get home, 13 hours travelling for a 2 hour visit to Stratford; barelt time for a reasonable lunch. It sounds like purgatory to me...
The return from Stratford-upon-Avon to Chester-le-Street was 1Z98 with a scheduled departure time of 16.40. On at least its third visit to the terminus 57313 provided the motive power and is pictured here shortly after arrival with stablemate 57316 on the other end. The building work in the background is a large complex of what will be a gloomy development of apartments on the site of the old cattle market.
A sunny afternoon on Wednesday 7 February 2018 and the prospect of a few freights saw me have a visit to Hatton North Junction. I arrived though just in time for a passenger train, 1R33, the 13.10 London Marylebone to Birmingham Show Hill which was running 5 minutes late; luckily for me or I should have watched it go past from the footpath leading from Shrewley.
Some of the express workings operated by Chiltern Railways are followed a few minutes by a local service stopping at the less busy stations between Leamington Spa and Birmingham. Following 68015 on 1R33 was a very clean 165019 on the 14.32 Leamington Spa to Moor Street, 2R33 photographed passing Hatton North Junction on 7 February 2018.
An infrequently running freight and one that I hadn't previously photographed is 4E18, the Freightliner operated 09.47 from Fairwater (Taunton) Yard to Doncaster engineering service. I saw that it running on 7 February 2018 and from a message, one of very few these days, posted onto an email site had noted that it was triple-headed. It had left Taunton the best part of an hour late but there are a couple of waits booked in loops and by missing out the one scheduled for Banbury was close to right time by Leamington Spa. I watched 4E18 entger Hatton DGL on a mapping app and then leave a few minutes later just as the sun came out of a patch of cloud and took this as my cue to move from the footbridge to the field. The heavy train, not made any lighter by the presence of 2 dead class 66s, seemed to take ages to reach Hatton North Junction and to be honest I should have preferred just a single locomotive so as to have been able to see more of the train. I'm not interested in recording locomotive numbers but the leading 2 are 66559 and 66596; I couldn't quite make out the third from the RAW(NEF) image.
I had my second pop at 6O30 from Castle Bromwich to Southampton on Wednesday 8 February 2018 whilst at Hatton North Junction. This isn't the best location for a southbound train in early February given the height of the lineside trees but decent 2 way spots on this line are few and far between and I had a few northbound workings in mind. On this occasion it was a huge train with open wagons and several covered blue vans on the back, all hauled by 66055. The class 172 on the down line had just left Hatton North Junction after travelling from Stratford-upon-Avon on its way to Stourbridge Junction. Some would object to its presence but I find it unobtrusive and adds a little railway interest to the scene.
Just as 4E18 was leaving Hatton DGL 6M40 from Westbury to Stud Farm with 66720 in charge was being sidelined to allow a couple of passenger trains to pass. The light levels had dived by the time it was released as a large block of cloud which had been approaching from the North-West reached the sun. The last time I saw 66720 was on the same train but when diverted to run via the Gloucester to Birmingham line on 12 August 2017 in better light than today.
A train appeared in the working timetable in 2017 that, as far as I am aware, ran for the first time on 5 February 2018. I didn't notice this until it was too late but saw that it was due to run the following day so kept it mind to check at the departure time. The working in question was 6O30, the 14.27 from Castle Bromwich Jaguar to Southampton Eastern Docks, conveying JLR's automotive products for export. The light was dreadful on my arrival at Hatton but it's always good to get a shot of a new working in the bag in case it doesn't run again. It was few minutes late passing Bordesley Junction but was close to right time by the time it reached me with 66055 providing the power. The DBS colour scheme isn't my favourite but it is quite handy in the dark. I was expecting some form of covered wagon given the high retail value of the SUVs being conveyed so was mildly surprised to see the open flats in use on this occasion.
A potentially interesting train appeared on RTT during the last week of January 2018 which was scheduled to run from Bescot to Honeybourne North Junction on Wednesday 31st. To my mind this could mean only an engineering train entering a possession on the Long Marston branch. It appeared to be locomotive hauled and was given the service code indicating that it was a Colas job. On Tuesday 30 January the only Colas locomotives at Bescot were 56094 and 70813 so they seemed likely for 6C99 the following day. It left about half-an-hour late and after a losing a path from Worcester to Evesham arrived at Honeybourne the thick end of an hour down. I heard a horn for one of the crossings and then the sound of a 56 accelerating away from a signal check a few moments before it arrived onto the Long Marston branch with 56094 leading its train tailed by 70813.
The PICOp at Honeybourne had told me that the train was to drop new rails at various locations along the branch and that the possession started at Honeybourne Staff Hut where he had earlier placed a "Stop" sign. The train ran slowly through the station and I took this shot of 70813 ticking over on the rear of 6C99. Most of the Long Marston is difficult to photograph and with no idea of the rail drop locations I left at this point.
While waiting at Stratford-upon-Avon, in the wrong place as it turned out, for 37116 + 37057 on a test train during the evening of 23 January 2018 I took this shot of the general scene at the station showing a class 172/3 in platform 1 and a 165 in P3. I really took this image only because of the attractive sky in the few minutes before complete darkness arrived.
The regular test train from Derby to Tyseley, 1Q48, ran yet again on 23 January 2018 with an early evening visit to Stratford-upon-Avon where it was booked to arrive into platform 3. There seemed to be a chance that it would use P2 as a Chiltern unit scheduled to leave after the 1Q48's arrival went into P3 leaving the platform better suited to photography clear. The unit left on time but the test train waited around the corner and ran, a few minutes late, into platform 3 headed by 37057 and tailed by 37116. I'm not keen on this shot but one has to make the best of things and I took the opportunity for a shot showing both red and white lights on the front of the locomotive in the minute or two before the driver removed the tail light and took it down to 37057.
Before leaving Stratford-upon-Avon 1Q48 sits in the platform for about 30 minutes which does give the chance for a few different angles although with the train on the platform edge ooptions are limited. I took this slightly wider view before leaving but that was about it.
There was a railgrinder move from Okehampton to Derby on Saturday 13 January 2017 involving 50008 and 56104. I quite liked the idea of an shot of that so went to Stoke Prior near Bromsgrove. Things didn't run smoothly for 4Z03 and first along was 66018 with 6V93, the Saturday vesiion of 6V92, the Corby to Margam empty steel train. On such a dull afternoon it was something of a relief to see newly(ish) liveried 66018 coming around the curve from Bromsgrove.
What is apparently a new Loram railgrinding set was taken from Okehampton to Derby on Saturday 13 January 2017. The motive power was originally 50008 topping with 56104 tailing the formation as far as Gloucester where it reversed to allow 56104 to lead as the 50 wasn't supposed to head a train up the Lickey Incline. Things with old locomotives don't always run smoothly and I saw on one of the mapping sites that 4Z03 was sent into Eckington loop where it sat despite there being nothing behind it for miles. It soon transpired that 56104 had failed and that 50008 ran round and prepared to lead again. Clear signals was the order of the day and an on-time Hereford to Birmingham New Street was held at Stoke Works Junction to allow the railgrinder, now about 2 hours late, to have a clear run at the bank. The gaggle of photographers waiting in the dark and cold heard 50008 coming from miles away and it was certainly having a good run when it passed us.
In addition to the railgrinder move on Saturday 13 January 2017 there was also a pair of class 350/2 trains from and to Northampton. I didn't bother with 5Q94 to Long Marston and had no intention of hanging around for about 90 minutes after 4Z03, had it run on time. As it turned out it was obvious that 37884 with 350257 would follow the former within about 10 minutes so I stayed at Stoke Prior despite the rapidly worsening light. Unlike 50008 the class 37 was going quite slowly as it due to be routed into the Bromsgrove loop, just around the corner from this bridge.
The former London Midland franchise was taken over by Abbellio who now operate services as West Midlands Trains. At the time of writing just one of their class 172 DMUs has been reliveried into a distinctive purple, grey and orange colour scheme. This unit visited Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday on Saturday 23 December 2017 and having been told about during the morning went down to the station to photograph its arrival as 2S30, the 10.57 from Stourbridge Junction via Henley in Arden and the subsequent departure, 2J43 at 12.26. The weather was dull to say the least but I thought it worth the walk to record 172339's first visit to the terminus in its new coat.
The turnaround time at Stratford-upon-Avon for Stourbridge Junction trains is only about 5 minutes so I hung around until it left as 2J43, the 12.26 return. Chilern's 165004 wasn't in the best place for this picture so I took a third shot as the train went past with the intention of showing the centre carriage's advertisements.
I took my first shot of a GWR IET on Tueday 19 December 2017 when 800014 ran from Stoke Gifford to Hereford Diesel Sidings and back via the North Cotswold Line. The down run was early in the morning but the return was convenient for me as it was due to arrive at Evesham at about 10.30. I wanted an image with a decently solid background on a misty morning and the road bridge near the signal box seemed to be the best bet. The train, 5Z26, ran a few minutes early and arrived in between patches of good sunshine thanks to some low cloud and banks of mist floating around. Turning around from this shot found 166217 standing in the down platform forming the 08.21 Paddington to Hereford, 1W00, waiting for the right-away and making an interesting contrast with the sleeker lines of the newer vehicle.
Chiltern Railways is marking Christmas 2017 by brightening up DVT 82302 with some festive vinyls. I had been told about this a few days ago so was pleased to receive a message from a friend at lunchtime on 5 December saying that it was to lead 1H45, the 12.55 from Birmingham Snow Hill to London Marylebone. The light was dire but I thought a quick drive to Hatton worthwhile in case another opportunity in better light doesn't present itself. The train, propelled by 68009, was on time but the fly in the ointment was 66416 on an early running 4E28 which was in the DGL at Hatton and looked likely to be released as soon as a northbound Chiltern unit had passed. The problem with this was 82302 was about halfway between Lapworth and Hatton and was a real candidate for being obscured by the Freightliner. In the event the liner, running on an STP to Hunslet Yard and without a single container in tow, managed to miss being a nuisance but only by the tightest of margins. I like the DVT's new coat of vinyl but I can almost hear the sniffs of disapproval from certain quarters...
The 40 plus year-old HSTs aren't going around on the North Cotswold Line for many more months if plans to introduce the new class 800s run smoothly. On 30 November 2017 I was at Lower Moor for yet another shot of a test train but made sure that I was there in time to photograph 1W23, the 11.22 Paddington to Great Malvern service. I was pleased that it was formed of a standard liveried set as I am not keen on those with oddly coloured power cars. The location is Lower Moor, near Pershore, one of the few spots with a clear enough trackside to avoid too many shadows on the track.
Thursday 30 November 2017 was another cold and sunny day which saw the third leg of the class 37 hauled test train that I had photographed on the 2 previous days. This time it ran from Bristol to Tyseley retracing its route along the North Cotswold Line though Evesham and with few locations other than Lower Moor worth the drive, that's where I went. The green locomotive, 37057, was again leading and 1Z22 arrived a few minutes before the lights went out as some cloud blew in from the North-West, probably formed as the Malvern Hills caused some atmospheric anomalies. I do like the light at this time of the year as one gets good dense black shadows with a lot of contrast to the bright subject; if the temptation to use the Shadows and Highlights tool is overcome... On this occasion the train served its purpose and must have detected a track defect, an out-of-gauge section at Finstock, which resulted in a temporary closure of the line with a few cancellations and some late running.
The monthly test train from Derby to Tyseley via Stratford-upon-Avon, 1Q48, ran on 28 November 2017 with class 37 motive power making a change from the 67s that have featured for quite a while. The locomotives allocated were 37057 + 37254 and the former led into Stratford station's platform 3 as booked about 30 minutes early. Platform 3 is the least photogenic here but with a Chiltern service in P2 and a train from Stourbridge Junction due a little while later into P1 there wasn't a lot of choice. It is worth keeping an eye on a mapping service in case the Chiltern train happens to go into P3 but this is unusual and didn't happen on this occasion. As is the norm these days there were no posts to any email groups I use which gave a clue to which locomotive was leading on this leg of the journey so I went down in case the green painted 37057 happened to be on the back of the 3 coaches as I didn't have a shot of it here but it wasn't to be. The other locomotive, 37254, came to the terminus on 21 February 2017 and I had to take a platform-side image then when it stopped in platform 3.
The second part of the test train diagram which started on 28 November 2017 ran the following day when 1Z22 went from Tyseley to Bristol High Sidings via the North Cotswold Line. The green liveried 37057 led the train and with sun almost guaranteed I went to Briar Close at Evesham for a shot as it ran past the distinctive signal box, albeit without any semaphore signals to enhance the scene and a far from attractive radio mast on the roof. I had hoped that some Autumnal colours would be visible in the background trees as was the case on 2 November 2016 but recent strong winds had removed most of them.
Another class 350/2 was moved from Northampton to Long Marston on Saturday 18 November 2017. This time the motive power was 57305 hired-in by ROG presumably because of problems encountered by 37601 on the previous Sunday. The weather as dreadful with little light and a misty drizzle but as I had missed 57305's previous (and by all acounts sunny) visit through being on holiday I decided to waste a bit more petrol and go for an image or two. The train, 5V94, ran on time from Worcester and I didn't have to wait for long at Honeybourne before the locomotive in Northern Belle colours came onto the Long Marston branch towing 350237.
Long Marston is on my way home from Honeybourne and it's usually possible to beat a train between the two points. This was the case on 18 November 2017 and I had 3 or 4 minutes in hand before hearing 5V94 approaching one of the farm crossings on the branch. The light had further deteriorated and the drizzle was still falling all of which conspired to make a dull and slightly damp looking portrait as 57305 came towards the road bridge.
Here is a general view of Long Marston yard as 57305 stands coupled to another 350/2 prior to returning to Northampton EMD. I waited for a while to take a departure shot but it soon became clear that there was some difficulty being experienced because the crew was having to force open the unit's doors and I guess that the on-board sensors were not allowing the brakes to be blown off because of some issue with the safety interlocking. At the time of typing this, 16.35 on the same day, it seems that the train has not yet left Long Marston or at least not reached Evesham, the first timing point usually shown with an actual time on RTT after departure. In the few minutes before I left I noticed that some scaffolding was being built around the TEA tanks that had arrived behind 60065 in the dark a few days earlier. This would appear to be the preliminary work for a temporary structure inside which the cleaning and refurbishment will take place.
A class 350/2 unit was taken from Northampton EMD to Long Marston for remedial work on some corrosion on Saturday 11 November 2017, in a much later path than originally intended. The balancing movement much later that night taking a similar unit back to Northampton was cancelled and ROG's 37601 ran light engine to Worcester with the train being rescheduled for the following day. The locomotive arrived at Long Marston some 40 minutes early at around 11.00 on Sunday 12th and I hoped that, as usually happens with these trains, the earliness would continue with the booked departure time of 12.35 being at least an hour after the actual departure. With this in mind I went straight to Honeybourne expecting just a short wait in the sun. In the event the sun went missing and the train, 5Z70, didn't appear as expected to take an available path to Worcester at just after 11.45. It actually appeared just about 5 minutes early but did manage to arrive at the Staff Hut, where the single line token for the branch to Long Marston is kept, in sunshine. I took this image with a long lens partly to show the Autumnal colours in the background and partly in case the sun disappeared again before 37601 brought its load towards the road bridge.
It seemed to take an age before 37601 and 350239 moved away from Honeybourne Staff Hut and I'm not sure if the locomotive was in the best of health because there were a couple of plumes of exhaust smoke before the train moved. There was quite a lot of cloud about but I was fortunate in that the sky around the sun was mostly clear as 5Z70 ran slowly towards its stop at the signal proecting Honeybourne North Junction. It was good to get this image as I had missed the first two movements of 350/2s through being on holiday in October and didn't bother with the late afternoon movement on 11 November. I don't know what happened later on Sunday 12th but 5Z70 stood at Washwood Heath for 68 minutes before continuing its journey. Later... 37601 was aided by 37608 from Washwood Heath so maybe my thoughts about the former's health were correct.
It could have been worse... On 11 November 2017 the Tyseley pannier tanks 9466 + 9600 ran to Stratford-upon-Avon and Kidderminster for their usual Autumnal ramble. I had not planned to photograph this as a 5V94 conveying a 350/2 for corrosion removal from Northampton EMD to Long Marston was down to run but this was cancelled and re-scheduled to work later in the day by which time it would have a bit too dark for my tastes. I therefore walked up to Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway Station as this is the nearest location to my home where the diminutive locomotives would be working hard. There was always a chance of the incoming class 172 getting in the way but I was happy enough to take the risk on the basis that I had never intended to take this image. Sure enough, the 172 from Stourbridge was in the platform as 1Z28 approached and the driver seemed to pause for quite a while after receiving and acknowledging the 2 buzz code to pull away from the guard. I simply put my 24-70mm zoom onto its widest setting and ran off about 10 shots as the panniers came through the station and actually quite like the result showing as it does the contrast between ancient and modern. Here is another view of the same locomotives taken a few years ago from the adjacent bypass bridge while the station was under construction.
My first shot for a few weeks following an Autumn break on Exmoor is the usual test train from Derby RTC to Tyseley via Stratford-upon-Avon, 1Q48, which ran on Tuesday 31 October 2017 once again with 67023 + 67027 in charge. Because of the recent clock change this was the first of the early evening runs scheduled to arrive after dark so I went down to the station for a shot. The train arrived a minute or so early and the driver had soon switched ends and lit up the front of 67023 giving the 3 of us there plenty of time for some bracketed exposures uder the bright platform lights.
The 2 single unit DMMUs until recently operated by Chiltern Railways left Aylesbury on 13 October 2017 to make their final main line journey to Tyseley before starting new lives on preserved lines. The train, running as 5T01, was due to pass Hatton at 11.04 and I felt that an image of 121020 + 121034 taken with a easily identifiable background would be best and with no prospect of any sun went to Hatton station. There were a few Autumnal tints on the lineside trees as the train passed the platforms and given the low light levels I was pleased that the blue example was leading. The desintation blind showed "Stratford", an appropriate location as single units were an everyday sight at Stratford-upon-Avon for many years as shown in this shot from 1 July 1986 which shows 55034 sandwiched between 55005 and 55000 with the 18.30 to Birmingham Moor Street. Another shot, this time showing 55034 numbered as T014, was taken on 10 August 1992 as it left Stratford upon Avon in the company of 55032 running as the 14.12 to Leamington Spa.
After photographing a pair of single unit DMMUs at Hatton on 13e October 2017 I hung for a couple of minutes for a shot of DR73929 on its way from Kings Norton OTP Depot to Bicester presumably in connection with some weekend engineering project. The train, 6J40, was running 13 minutes late after a short fester in the loop at Dorridge to allow 68013 on 1H33 to London Marylebone to pass it. I don't usually bother with going-away shots of these Chiltern services but took an image on this occasion to show the developing Autumnal colours around Hatton station.
Another VSTP for Long Marston was showing on RTT on the morning of 12 October 2017. This time it was a 6Z27 from Lindsey Oil Refinery and it seemed likely that some oil tanks were being taken for either storage or for purging prior to scrapping. There were no reports of sightings that I saw so had no idea what length of train that 66040 would be hauling; experience has shown that anything between 1 and 30 vehicles can turn up on this type of working. The weather was sunny after a misty start but I knew that there would be a lot of shadows across the line near the road bridge so took a long lens whch would allow a shot avoiding the worst of them and which would also compress the perspective and show the attractive Autumnal colours off to their best advantage. The train ran close to right time from a short layover at Worcester and was 2 or 3 minutes early when 66040 came into view on the final half-mile or so of the branch with its long set of TEAs and TDAs in tow.
One of the things I like about Long Marston is the frequent opportunity to photograph something unusual along with the intended target. On 12 October 2017 a single driving car of a former 3 vehicle DMMU in Network Rail yellow was running around the circuit and happened to present itself in just the right spot as 66040 with 6Z27 from Lindsey was waiting for the gate to be opened. It looked as if there were several devices on the roof of the unit and although I have no real idea about what they might be they did look a bit like GPS receivers. In this picture the unit looks slightly unsharp and this is a result of passing behind the heat haze and exhaust from 66040.
A schedule for an 0V94 light engine move from Leicester LIP to Long Marston appeared overnight on 5/6 October 2017 with another for a 6X56 from Long Marston to Toton later being input for the early afternoon on 6 October. It didn't take a lot of working out that a railvac would be the load for 37601 as it had gone in some weeks earlier. The departure time for 6X56 was 13.30 but experience has shown that it might well happen much earlier. I was playing the organ for a funeral just half-a-mile down the road and was doubtful that I would be able to get to the road bridge in time. I arrived at about 12.55 and found just one other photographer there who told me as I stopped on the bridge to ask if it was ready to go that 37601 and the railvac were on the branch outside the gates. I quickly parked and walked back to the bridge and just had time for this picture before the sun went behind a cloud. A few moments later the train reversed back toward the exchange sidings where some examination of the railvac took place.
It seemd that the examination of the railvac was to ensure that the vacuum hoses were firmly in place and as soon as the crew were satisfied 37601 pulled away and re-joined the branch to Honeybourne. There was a brief monent of brightness just as the train moved away but the sun didn't come out properly until I was driving through Long Marston village on the way home. I looked at the sky in the Honeybourne and Evesham directions but it looked to be cloudy so didn't bother with trying for another shot bearing in mind the minimal load being conveyed. Just in case anyone is interested the road from the junction of Station Road, Long Marston to the junction with Pebworth Road will be closed for 5 weeks from 16 October 2017. This includes the road bridge over the branch to Honeybourne. I imagine that some access will be possible to allow for access and egress for Bridge Farm. A short walk may be necessary...
For the first time since the signalling at Stratford-upon-Avon and the North Warwickshire Line was transferred from mechanical signalboxes to the West Midlands Signalling Centre, on Tuesday 3 October 2017 an RHTT ran to the terminus during daylight hours. The train was 3S02 from Kings Norton and was timed to arrive at Stratford at 10.50 and with it looking likely that the sun would be fully out I went to the station for an image or two. Running a few minutes in front of 3S02 was 172340 forming 2D16 from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford via Dorridge and Hatton North to West Junctions which as usual was routed into platform 1. The RHTT was held on the North Warwickshire Line at Bearley Junction for 2D16 to pass and as soon as the section was clear was released to run into the terminus and as booked came into platform 2, the best for photography at this time of day.
Once DR98908 had stopped in Stratford-upon-Avon's platform 2 the driver had to walk to the other end before a reversal could be made prior to a run to Hatton before returning here and then off again to the West Midlands via Henley-in-Arden. There was plenty of time for this posed portrait before I left for home, pausing for a moment to take a final view from alongside 172340 just before 3S02 pulled away.
The Arriva class 143 DMU that went into Long Marston on 29 July 2017 left the rail facility on its return to Cardiff Canton on 27th September after a false start on the previous Saturday for when a schedule had appeared but was later cancelled. Despite the gloomy and misty weather I went across to take a few images as it left but thought, as the departure time, 09.20, came and went with no sign of movement that another cancellation was on the cards. However, at 09.30 there was a movement in the yard and 143606 soon appeared through the murk and made its way past Pandora before reversing and going into the exchange sidings. In this picture the train, 5Z78, is actually coming towards the camera despite the impression given by the red lights.
It was some 15 minutes later that 143606 made its ways onto the branch where it was stopped to await a member of the ground crew who brought the single line token to the driver so that he had the authority to travel to the staff hut at Honeybourne. I don't know the reason for the visit but there is a new vent and metal patch on the roof which may indicate that some new equipment has been fitted. A similar unit was due to leave Canton for Long Marston later the same day and this seems to indicate an odd railway practice. The driver for 5Z78 was presumably brought in to Long Marston by road to take the train out and another driver will bring the next unit in and then leave by road. Wouldn't it make more sense for the inward train to run first and for the same driver to take the outward working back and so avoid wasted money and road journeys? Maybe I'm missing something or is this just a case of railway dogma?
A third class 319 EMU was due to be taken from Long Marston on Friday 22 September 2017; this time the destination being Allerton depot where the train will be prepared for further use by Northern Railways. The locomotive, 37884, left Leicester LIP about one hour late and this deficit continued until 0V94 arrived at its destination. I was ambivalent about going over for a shot but it looked as if the morning sun might hold for long enough and it did, but only until the gates into Long Marston were opened. While waiting for 37884 to arrive I took an image of Pandora which is gradually undergoing restoration before going to a preserved line in Devon and since the date of my last photograph it appears that some work has been carried out on the bogies.
I didn't think that it would be long before 5N36 from Long Marston to Allerton started on its journey so went without delay to a foot crossing over the line along side the Pebworth Road. Wrong again... The train was just about 30 minutes late when it finally moved by which time the sun had gone behind thick clouds. The last time I was here the bush to the right of the line wasn't anywhere as large and didn't obscure half the train but as the branch to Honeybourne is almost devoid of worthwhile locations I stayed put. While waiting for 37884 to appear I spent a few moments taking some pictures of honey bees busy collecting nectar from a lineside thistle.
A quick trip to Hatton for just the one shot on Tuesday 19 September 2017. The train in question was a 5Z44 10.00 Burton-on-Trent Wetmore Sidings to Eastleigh with an unknown locomotive taking an unspecified load for unknown reasons. As usual no-one who saw 5Z44 between Burton and Hatton bothered to post so it was just like the old days before mobile communications made everything easier. It was therefore a pleasant enough surprise when what seemed to be a freshly painted 66055, complete with supplementary headlight for when in use as a Lickey banker, came around the curve from Hatton North Junction with its modest load. The contrasting colour schemes carried by the coaches represented 2 of the liveries carries by locomotive-hauled stock which were commonplace on this line in times past. I have little knowledge of coaches but the chocolate and cream example leading seems to have an exhaust port in the roof so may carry a generator for ETH supply while the other looks scruffy enough to be privately owned and used as a support coach for steam specials.
Despite writing yesterday (13 September 2017) that I had little intention of photographing a short set of flats leaving Long Marston on 14 September I changed my mind when I saw that ROG's 47813 was allocated to 0Z94 from Leicester and 6Z86 to Eastleigh. I really hadn't fancied yet another class 37 shot here especially with such an unexciting load but the freshly painted 47 was a much more attractive proposition. It was close to the road bridge when I arrived and there was just had to line up this view of the locomotive which fitted nicely enough in a small gap, although I did have to stand in the middle of the road to achieve the correct angle! In common with the previous day the sun made some timely appearances and allowed a reasonable portrait in the few minutes before the gates into Long Marston were opened. This wasn't 47813's first appearance here as shown by this image taken on the early evening of 11 May 2005 when it appeared in its Cotswold Rail colours with 87027 and a set of Virgin Trains' coaching stock.
The set of 4 flats, TIPH 93488, 93477, 93323 & 93462, were well down the exchange sidings and once 47813 had been coupled to them it seemed ages, sitting under a clear sky, before 6Z86 moved away towards the branch line to Honeybourne. Some cloud did pass across the sun during that short journey but all was well as it approached the road bridge. On this occasion my usual but sometimes broken rule about the train being of more importance than the motive power wasn't applied and I was happy to take a sunny shot of 47813 in a good location with a satisfyingly black sky in the background. My thanks to The Flump for the headcode and stock details.
It looked as if the sun would last for a few more minutes after 47813 with 6Z86 moved away from Long Marston en-route to Honeybourne and Eastleigh. I just had time to drive around the corner to a farm crossing on the Broad Marston and Pebworth road but the sun didn't stay out quite long enough and the resulting shot wasn't quite as well lit as the earlier images.
A class 319 was due to be taken from storage at Long Marston to Wolverton on 13 September 2017. Unsurprisingly the locomotive was ROG's 37884 with its Dellner coupling system and 0V94 ran from Leicester, arriving at Long Marston 12 minutes early at 12.10. The mostly cloudy sky had a few clear patches so it was just a case of waiting for a suitable break while the crew switched and scotched the points to allow the locomotive into road no. 1 of the exchange sidings. The unit to be taken out was 319007 and it seemed worthwhile taking a shot as it stood alongside a variety of freight and passenger stock.
The sun angle at Long Marston just after noon isn't ideal for photography but one has to be content with whatever is available at the time even though images taken on the dark side would not usually be something anyone would consider. The sun may well have been at full strength at this moment and I had hoped that this situation would stick for the next 30 minutes or so but my planned shot from a foot crossing on the branch to Honeybourne had to be shelved when a monsoon-like storm blew in from the South-West. The rain was so heavy that I bolted for my car and left for home. Just behind 319007 a short set of flat wagons can be seen and this will form a train from here to Eastleigh on 14 September 2017; not an inspiring load whatever the motive power and one which I very much doubt that I shall witness.
On Tuesday 5 September 2017 the test train from Derby RTC to Tyseley via the East Midlands and Stratford-upon-Avon ran again after a gap of 2 months, the August working having been cancelled not long after departure because of a fault with the on-train recording equipment. The evening of 5 September was bright and sunny when I left home for the short walk to the station where I had planned on taking a well-lit shot of 67023 arriving with 1Q48. The intention was to feature the displays of flowers on platform 2 provided by FOSS, the Friends of Stratford station, and this week would be the last possible chance before the darker evenings arrived. The class 170 which came into platform 1 as I crossed the footbridge was beautifully lit but by the time that this had left and cleared the crossover heavy cloud had covered the sun making the light so poor that the automatic platform lights had switched themselves on. Given the poor conditions there didn't seem to be much point in hanging around but I did pause to take this view of the main flower display.
The final train of Thameslink class 319s from Bedford Cauldwell Depot to Long Marston took place on Thursday 31 August 2017. I was ambivalent about going out yet again but thought that an image taken from the road bridge at the south end of Evesham station would be worth having. Unfortunately, the shot wasn't available because of heavy shadows cast by lineside trees in the car park although there was a reasonably clear patch further along the platform. I settled for that although some care on selecting the exact spot was required to avoid too many intrusive posts appearing to grow out of the locomotive's roof. The Rail Operations Group's 37884 was again in charge with the units being moved 319443 + 319440. Just for the record I took a view of 5V94 as it receded from the camera with 37884 under heavy power as the driver tried to make up about 10 minutes of time lost through a delay encountered by FGW's 1W29.
Monday 28 August 2017, a Bank Holiday, was for once a hot and sunny day. There were a few trains about on the Birmingham to Gloucester line, the first of which was the DIRFT to Wentloog "Tesco Express" running in the later afternoon path. I didn't get this largely because of early running which I saw on the online systems from home so didn't go out. Another freight I was keen to photograph was 6V35, the 12.20 Bescot to Avonmouth empty cement tanks, again running in a different path from the inconvenient, for me, one around 17.30. Today's schedule had it passing Abbotswood Junction at 14.18 and with sun looking guaranteed I went to the bridge at Croome Perry. There wasn't long to wait before 66167 appeared coming through the wood with its distinctive Hanson branded silver tanks in tow. The pony in the field to the right of the railway is a long-term resident there but this year is almost dwarfed by the vegetation in his domain.
The 10.21 Corby to Margam empty steel coil carriers, 6V92, isn't one of the most photogenic trains on the network with its load of rust brown wagons although on 28 August 2017 the 2nd wagon was slightly different to the others in the consist. The train, headed by 66051, is booked to pass Abbotswood Junction at 14.32 and was a minute or so early when it came out of the shadows of Croome Perry wood on 28 August 2017.
After taking 2 shots at Croome Perry on the afternoon of 28 August 2017 I called in at Lower Moor to photograph another Bedford Cauldwell Depot to Long Marston move of class 319 EMUs. First along though was an HST forming the slightly delayed 1P57 14.25 Great Malvern to Paddington led by power car 43169. I was pleased to see that none of the tarted-up power cars were on the train; I much prefer the overall uniformity of a single colour scheme. In contrast to the pony at Croome Perry the 2 grey horses at Lower Moor have been able to keep the vegetation in their field under control!
The 13.21 Paddington to Worcester Foregate Street, 1W27, is usually formed of an HST set but on Bank Holiday Monday 28 August 2017 the arrangements were changed and the working was given over to FGW's green liveried 166213. The field to the left of the railway hasn't yet ripened and the whole green effect is a bit overwhelming. I had a play with the image in Photoshop and came up with this in order to make the unit stand out a bit. Incidentally, 166213 was the first of its type to use the Long Marston branch when, on 27 April 2015 it went into the facility for upgrades to its air conditioning system.
The week of the August Bank Holiday 2017 sees the final 3 trains of redundant class 319 EMUs going into storage at Long Marston. On 28 August 2017 5V94 ran in the usual path as usual headed by 37884. Indeed, because of the snap couplers on this locomotive it is unlkely that anything would be used. To misquote Dean Koontz, if anything else were to appear on it, bears would leave the woods and use a public lavatory... Anyway, the train left Worcester TC a bit earlier than scheduled and with 319432 + 319426 forming the load it passed me at 15.39. Despite my general aversion to going-away shots these really provide the far more interesting view as seen here with 5V94 passing the hydroponic greenhouses at Lower Moor.
The Network Rail test unit, 950001, was due to run north through Hatton on the morning of Saturday 26 August 2017 and with one or two other trains of interest in the area I had a shot of it. The train, the headcode of which escapes me, sat in Hattin DGL for a while to allow some passenger workings to go by before being released onto the main line, on this occasion via the Stratford branch platform and the spur just on the other side of the bridge. This isn't the greatest shot ar around 09.40 but the sun wasn't fully out which made life a little easier. I took another view as 950001 went away across the spur onto the down main line.
There was a great deal of scheduled engineering work on various main lines over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August 2016. One, possibly the only, welcome result of this was the use of ROG class 47s on a few extra services between Birmningham Moor Street and London Marylebone. On Saturday 26th the first run was 1H92 which left Moor Street at 09.34 and due to pass Hatton at 09.58. Just before leaving home the sky began to clear and on arrival at Hatton there were some good clear patches. The sun wasn't fully out when 47812 led the train around the curve from Hatton North Junction but this wasn't entirely a bad thing as it's really still a bit too head on at this time of day. I'm probably in a majority but I quite like the Anglia liveried coach as it gives an additional splash of colour. Over the years 47812 has carried several colour schemes and here it is at Honeybourne on 6 June 2012, while being operated by Riviera Rail, with a set of flats on the way to Long Marston.
A Freightliner service, 4O90 from Leeds to Southampton ran not far behind the class 47 hauled additional to Marylebone and a wait of a few was worthwhile as the sun seemed to be picking up a little by then. The locomotive was 66556 pulling a fully loaded train, unlike another occasion recently when just a single container was carried. I didn't take a shot of that one...
The return of the class 47 working shown above ran in the mid-afternoon of Saturday 26 August 2017. As far as I was concerned the only location worth the effort in the area was Hatton North JUnction where mI arrived with about 10 minutes to spare. Running just in front of 1R92 was a Chiltern locomotive-hauled service, 1R33, with 68013 in charge. It's been quite a while since 2 such trains ran so close together on this line so I was glad to have arrived in time. It is a matter of luck whether one can catch the 3 front lights illuminated; on this occasion the pulse width modulation control for the LEDs means that the shutter on my camera caught one of them in the "off" cycle.
The two ROG 47s left Marylebone for Moor Street on 26 August 2017 at 12.53 with a passing time at Hatton North Junction of 14.49. The sun was much stronger than earlier in the day which was very welcome given that the locomotive now leading, 47813, is the first to carry the stylish new colour scheme of the Rail Operations Group. The train, 1H92, ran close to right time for all of the journey and was only 2 minutes late as it approached Hatton North's footbridge at 14.51 with its six coaches and dead in train 47812. This locomotive was one of those operated by the long defunct Cotswold Rail and I had quite a few shots of it taking loads to and from Long Marston. This one, taken from the foot crossing at Lower Moor with a long rake of IZAs being taken to Long Marston from Bescot.
I had a quick browse through the Hatton page of RTT during the morning of 25 August 2017 and noticed that there was a 3Z40 from Derby RTC to Reading. These are almost invariably a single locomotive with 2 or 3 coaches and a DVT and the general rule seems to be that the locomotive will propel the train going south. There was absolutely no information about the train's formation posted on any of the email groups to which I subscribe, not unusual these days even when a class 37 is scheduled, and I made up my mind not to bother. Out of idle curiosity I watched the train on a maps app and saw that it went into Small Heath loop and stayed there. I assumed that there had been a failure of some sort until a friend contacted me to say that a relief crew was running late and that it wouldn't leave until at least 13.15, oh and by the way the locomtive was 37057 and it was on the front of the train. This, on a day that seemed to offer guaranteed sun, was enough of a temptation so I went off to Hatton. I saw that it left the loop at 13.49 and waited another 10 minutes before leaving my car and walking to the road bridge where 3Z40 appeared at 14.15. The post for the repeater signal is clearly reflected on the shiny nose of 37057 and the split headcode clearly displayed the legend 1A16, whatever that may be. Another movement of class 319 EMUs to Long Marston was also taking place but yet another picture of 37884 didn't appeal on this occasion so I went home to have a delayed lunch.
There can't be many more stock moves of class 319 EMUs to Long Marston as few units are, on 23 August 2017, left in service. I had already taken most of the images I wanted of 5V(or Z)94 but one remained on my wish list. I am not one of those dogmatic photographers who slavaciously use only a fixed focal length standard as I feel some variety in my images is desirable. On this occasion I used my longest lens to capture 37884 with 319006 + 319459 just after it had joined the Long Marston line at Honeybourne North Junction with the intention of showing some extreme compression of the perspective and to leave the rear coaches of the units on the curve from the main line. The line leading off to the right is the entrance and exit from Honeybourne Sidings and despite the untended undergrowth a couple of buffer stops are just about visible. I have made this image a little larger than usual to increase its impact and your browser may alter the size with some effect on quality. A single mouse click anywhere on the image will expand it to the correct size.
As soon as 37884 with 5V94 had passed under the road bridge at Honeybourne on 23 August 2017 I crossed the road to take a final image as the train was stopped to allow the staff to collect the single line token from the staff hut. The sun was in and out but there was plenty of time to wait for it to appear to taken a conventionally lit picture alongside some bushes already showing signs of Autumnal colour change.
Trains of oil tanks are a rare sight on the GWR line between Leamington Spa and Birmingham and those with GBRf power even more unusual. There is just one timetabled and even this is an infrequent runner. The working in question is 6E45, the 13.30 from Theale to Immingham empty tanks which runs SO as required. To the best of my knowledge it has run only twice this summer and I didn't know about the first until it was too late because I didn't check RTT. The second working was on Saturday 19 August 2017 when 66712 was scheduled and I had checked on its running earlier in the day. It ran close to right time all the way and although the forecast sun didn't materialise a drive to Hatton North Junction was well worth the effort just in case it doesn't run again before the clocks go back by an hour in September.
There were 2 trains in my area involving heritage old locomotives on Monday 14 August 2017. The first was a 6Z20 move of the barrier tanks used for LUL stock moves between Derby and West Ruislip and Amersham, the barriers being required for a northbound run. I initally thought that the train was cancelled but it was just that the locomotives were late in arriving at Derby. A resulting late start, some 95 minutes, was made but with plenty of recovery time in a couple of loops, especially that at Dorridge, not being required the train was only 31 minutes at Hatton. I rarely see with the stock moves as I simply can't be bothered to turn out at 8pm on the occasions it runs but I thought that an easy morning run would be worth a trip. The leading locomotives were 20905 + 20096 with 20311 + 20314 trailing the light load. The weather was dull and slightly wet but the multi-coloured motive power still look attractive as 6Z20 approach Hatton station. The up line is sorely in need of a visit from a weedkiller as there is a good crop of growth in the four foot.
The afternoon of 14 August 2017 saw yet another move of redundant class 319 EMUs from Hornsey depot to Long Marston once again with 37884 providing the horsepower. It ran close m,to right time throughout the whole run which is always welcome as it means that timing my exit from home to drive somewhere suitable is easy. It looked as if the sun might be out for 5V94 so I went to Honeybourne which is the best bet should this happen. It didn't but it was reasonably bright when the train left the up main line at Honeybourne North Junction. Much of the lineside buddleia has passed its best in terms of colour but a few sprigs were in evidence as the train went under the road bridge prior to stopping at the staff hut to allow the crew to pick up the single line token.
It is usually possible to beat a train from Honeybourne to Long Marston provided that buses, milk tankers, tractors, combined harvesters and groups of cyclists are not encountered on the narrow roads. On this occasion all was well and I arrived in time to hear 5V94 on the jointed track just out of sight further down the branch. It arrived within 2 minutes in reasonably bright conditions with some early red berries providing a splash of colour in the bottom left corner of the frame.
On arrival at Long Marston on 14 August 2017 I saw that Vivarail's class 230 DMU, running in a 2 car formation, was making its way around the circuit. This gave the chance for an unusal image showing it together with a class 37, some stored class 319s, more D Stock hopefully awaiting conversion to class 230s and a variety of wagons. The gate was just about to be opened to allow 37884 with 319002 + 319002 to enter the exchange sidings.
The Long Marston staff member opened the gate for 5V94 and set the points for No 2 road giving me the opportunity to show the latest arrivals passing 319444 which had arrived on a previous occasion. I didn't hang around for 37884 to uncouple and prepare to leave for Leicester ready for another run the following day but went home.
The third and possibly final train of TTA tanks from Fawley ran to Long Marston on Thursday 10 August 2017 after being taken from Hampshire to Bescot on the previous day. I was keen to take a shot of this as I had missed the 2nd run by no more than 10 seconds thanks to agricultural vehicles on a B road and a lengthy traffic light stop in Bidford on Avon. I went to Evesham so as to obtain a reasonably wide shot showing the tanks which, after all, are the reason for the train so a head-on shot seemed pointless. Because of largely unchecked lineside vegetation there are few decent locations on the North Cotswold LIne at the moment so Briar Close seemed the best bet. The train, 6Z30, headed by 66167 ran close to right time throughout but as usual picked up just over 10 minutes after leaving Worcester Traffic Centre.
There was another first for the Long Marston branch on Saturday 29 July 2017 when Arriva's 143606 ran there as 5D94 from Cardiff Canton. The unit ran early throughout and I was alerted that an early arrival at Long Marston might be on the cards when a booked stop at Gloucester was missed and departure from Worcester Shrub Hill was 96 minutes early. Unusally, 5D94 did not report at Norton Junction and didn't appear until it had passed Evesham. I made a quick exit from home and made it to the road bridge over the end of the branch just as 143606 came into view along with, to my surprise, 3 other photographers. Who would have thought we all had gone out for a Pacer; one of most derided trains on the network! The gate into the site was already open and the unit entered the facility within a few seconds. The reason for the visit is currently unknown, to me at least, but may be apparent when it leaves.
A set of Fastline coal hoppers was scheduled to leave Wellingborough yard for Avonmouth BBHT on Thursday 27 July 2017 with Colas Rail's 60056 providing the power. The hoppers are destined to be used on a twice-daily Avonmouth to Aberthaw pwer station coal flow. I thought that this would be worth a shot despite the poor weather and planned to go somewhere between Brosmgrove and Spetchley. The train, 6V22, left Wellingborough 46 minutes late and the deficit increased to 75 minutes on the approaches to Birmingham and with no way of knowing how it would run from there I left home and went south. It looked as if some sunshine might appear and I headed for Claydon, just south of Ashchurch. Heavy traffic intervened between the junctions to Broadway and Stoke Orchard largely thanks to a broken down HGV and I stopped by some houses near the main road bridge adjacent to Ashchurch station and checked my phone. It had passed Abbotswood Junction just 9 minutes late and could not have been far away. I ran to the bridge and could see a headlight on the straight stretch of line north of the station; I had arrived with no more than 90 seconds to spare. In retrospect a location with a recognisable background was a good thing for such an unusual working rather than a bland bit of countryside. This isn't 60056's first odd working with coal hoppers; on 2 August 2007 it worked 6V17, the 16.32 Bescot to Portbury which I photographed at Croome Perry.
The TTA tanks that ran from Fawley to Bescot on 19 July 2017 were combined with another rake of similar vehicles which had arrived from Alexandra Dock Junction and were taken to Long Marston the following day. Just after arriving at Honeybourne to photograph 6Z30 headed by 66116 one of the others present noticed a barn owl flying close to the branch platform. It's unusual to see these birds in daylight and I can only assume that last night's rain had made hunting difficult and that some juveniles needed food. It landed close to the track but the combination of dense undergrowth and my not having a long lens with me made a decent image tricky and this was the best I could do until 6Z30 came onto the branch and pushed it towards the camera. For anyone interested the conventional view of the train is here. I did drop in at Long Marston on the way home but there was no sign of 6Z30 and I think that it may have been delayed by the lack of a Network Rail man in a van to take the staff for the single line out of the staff hut and conduct the train to its destination. There was another working along the line later in the day with 37884 taking 2 319s but this seemed to be no more than a severe case of deja-vu so I stayed at home.
The GWR line between Leamington Spa and Birmingham sees little variety in its freight traffic in 2017 with the majority being container and infrastructure trains. On Wednesday 19 July 2017 a train of TTA oil tanks was to be moved from Fawley to Bescot where there were due to be staged overnight before going to Long Marston where any remaining oil will be purged to allow for them to scrapped without the danger of fire or explosion. This type of load is rare on the line so I went to Hatton North Junction where a decent views of the tanks can be had from the footbridge. The train, 6Z29 hauled by 66125, left Fawley 60 minutes late but managed to make up most of the deficit and passed me about 15 minutes late. It was booked to go into Hatton Down Goods Loop but even had it been on time it would not have done so as the loop is currently out of use and I imagine that it would have used either Fenny Compton or Dorridge loop too allow a CrossCountry service to pass. The weather was poor with a drizzly rain just starting to fall but the rarity value made the shot worthwhile.
A locomotive hauled train from the Plasser works at West Ealing to Long Marston appeared in the schedules during the week commencing 9 July 2017. There was no information about the consist or motive power nor any live sightings gen posted during the morning once the train had begun its journey nearly an late. It ran via Wembley and the WCML to Nuneaton where it turned off for Birmingham and the Gloucester line. It turned out that ROG's 37800 was hauling a Mobile Maintenance Train to Long Marston, reason unknown, before going light engine back to Leicester. Most of time lost before departure was made up and 6M94 ran close to right time through the West Midlands although a short delay was encountered around Evesham resulting in a 10 minute late arrival at the destination. I'm not really interested in photographing these moves anywhere but the North Cotswolds Line or the Long Marston branch so went to a public footpath adjacent to the road bridge at Long Marston where the sun was nearly clear of a small bank of cloud at just before 20.30.
On Wednesday 12 July 2017 the fourth train of withdrawn class 319 EMUs ran to Long Marston, this time from Bedford's Cauldwell depot. The original schedule showed the train running via London but what appeared to be a more sensible set of timings appeared under which it, 5Z94, ran to Nuneaton and Birmingham. The same locomotive as on the previous runs, 37884, was the motive power and with a reasonable chance of sunshine I left home for Evesham once 5Z94 had left Stoke Works loop. On arrival at Briar Close something had happened to the data feeds supplying RTT and Liverail and the train had disappeared from the systems. One might have hoped that there would have been a posting to one of the email groups from the Worcester area where there are usually plenty of photographers but as usual these days there were none. There wasn't really any chance of a cancellation and sure enough 37884 with 319428 + 319425 appeared in the distance just as the cloud cleared the foreground.
The second train of withdrawn class 319 EMUs went to Long Marston on 10 July 2017 with 37884 with 2 class 319s forming 5M94 from Bedford. This was one of those shots for which cloudy but bright conditions would have been ideal but the sun decided otherwise and came out onto the middle and back of the train as it ran around the back of Honeybourne station passing the micro-platform erected to a recent rail event at Long Marston and used by Vivarail's prototype class 230 DEMU. This made for some slightly tricky work in both the RAW convertor and Photoshop; something I am not keen to do but don't mind on occasions for something unusual.
The early running before Worcester evaporated and an on-time arrival at Honeybourne saw 37884 along with 319421 + 319003 pass through the station's branch platform and towards the hut in which the single line token is stored. I initially didn't bother to process the conventional locomotive-leading shot seen above because of the horrible lighting conditions and because I was mostly interested in getting a decent shot of the 319s with the dark sky over the background hills. Unfortunately, the sun didn't quite find a large enough hole in the clouds for this second image.
On Saturday 8 July 2017 two class 319 EMUs were showing as being taken from Hornsey to Long Marston where they are destined for storage. There was a small amount of confusion in the morning over whether the train, 5M94, would run as the path for the inward light locomotive move from Leicester had not been used but it later transpired that an earlier path the previous evening had seen 37884 go to Hornsey to collect the units. Various bits of early running meant that I didn't have time to reach the location I had in mind so the bridge at Long Marston was as good as it got. The arrival shot of 5M94 was of little consequence apart from the clean buffers on 37884 but the view of 319423 and 319430 was more interesting. Previous runs with 47812 necessitated barriers wagons between the locomotive and stock but 37884 has appropriate couplers and the lack of barriers makes for a better shot. I also took an image of Pandora sitting in the sun awaiting her fate, which I understand is for preservation and future use on the North Somerset Railway. Thanks to John Beale for the information on Pandora.
A railgrinding unit has been in the railway news recently following the failure of 31452 with a Derby to Lydney run over the weekend of 24 June 2017 which resulted in the train being dumped in Abbotswood Loop for a couple of days before a rescue was effected by 56303. On Thursday 29 June I had been practising the organ for a wedding in a local church where I left my smartphone and noticing too late to retrieve it, the building by then having been locked. Luckily, I checked emails at home and found a message from a friend saying that 50008 was to take the same unit from Chaddesden Sidings to Okehampton during the mid-afternoon. This was rare enough to tempt me out even in very poor weather with low cloud and drizzle so I went to Croome Perry which is just the spot for a short train. I had left with plenty of spare time as 4Z01 was about 20 minutes early approaching Water Orton and I knew that I would no access to any updates after leaving home. It turned out that the train was back to the booked times and here it is leaving Croome Perry wood running behind a Great Malvern to Brighton service and 6V92, the Corby to Margam empty steel coil carriers.
Normal service at Long Marston was resumed on Saturday 24 June 2017 with the running of a 6Z27 from Immingham Sorting Sidings. The train, led by 66140, consisted of about 15 bogie tank wagons destined either for storage or maintenance all of which left Immingham about 2 hours late. Arrival at its destination was down on the schedule by 75 minutes or so, arrivng at a convenient time for me as it fitted in nicely with some organ playing I had to do at nearby Welford-on-Avon at about 11.30. The light was improving after a dull start to the day but the sun was still quite weak as 6Z27 became audible as it ran along the branch from Honeybourne. There was no return load and 66140 went back to Immingham light engine later in the morning.
Following the test run of The Vivarail prototype DEMU 230001 over the North Cotswold Line on 14 June 2017 the unit was scheduled to provide a shuttle service for visitors to the Rail Live event between temporary platforms at Honeybourne and Long Marston. I had a rough idea of the shuttle times based on arrival times of FGW services at Honeybourne and arrived at Long Marston just in time to see 230001 running along the exchange sidings and out onto the branch. The early morning mist and murk hadn't dispersed completely but a bit of weak sun did manage to illuminate the train.
There was no point in chasing 230001 to Honeybourne as the light there would be all wrong at around 10.00 so I stayed at Long Marston to await the first arrival of the day and the unit's first ever run with members of the public on board. By the time it came back from Honeybourne the light was close to perfect with the lineside shadows having cleared the track. Some new sleepers have been installed in recent weeks along with other work having been carried out to ensure that the branch was up to standard for passenger use.
I don't often take more than one image of an approaching train as in most cases there is an optimum spot for the best shot and any viewers will be bemused by one taken too far away with bare track in the foreground and a third taken with such a wide angle lens as to create distortion of the subject. Just now and again though a particular location can offer maybe two sufficiently different views and this one at Long Marston does that through having a slight kick in the track just before the road bridge.
Once the first shuttle was inside the Long Marston site I had a gentle drive to Honeybourne to see what sort of photographic opportunties were available as 230001 arrived and then stood at the temporary platform awaiting its second load of punters. Not many, as this image shows with some of the Vivarail staff ready to welcome passengers on board. The micro platform was close to the road bridge and as the train stopped with the first doors in the correct place the other end was on the other side of the bridge.
I waited at Honeybourne until the FGW turbo had dropped off its passengers, most of whom crossed the footbridge to board 230001. The branch to Long Marston isn't over-endowed with photographic locations but there are a few foot crossings where footpaths cross the line and this is about the best for a train heading towards the site. On the longest day of the year the sun is too high for really good images much after 11.00 so this was my last picture of the day as 230001 ran the last half-mile or so to the gates at Long Marston.
The next leg of the test train that I photographed on 13 June 2017 was Tyseley to Bristol via Worcester and Oxford during the following day. The weather was much brighter on 14 June and although the sun is too high in the sky at 11.15 at this time of the year I went to Honeybourne for a shot, largely because something more interesting than yet another class 37 hauled test train, albeit with a different paint job, was also in the area. The test train, 1Z22, was a couple of minutes late leaving Norton Junction but after a bit of smart running looked set to be back on time not long after it passed me.
My real reason for being at Honeybourne was to take some images of Vivarail's prototype class 230 DMU, 230001, which was due to make some runs over the North Cotswold Line before being used for Long Marston to Honeybourne shuttles during a RailLive event the following week. Running as 5Z23, the train came along the Long Marston branch towards Honeybourne at its booked time carrying a revised colour scheme which has been applied since its previous main line run.
Vivarail's 230001 ran non-stop along the Long Marston branch at Honeybourne using the calling-on lights on the signal to gain the up main line on 14 June 2017. During the RailLive event there is to be a temporary platform here, on the branch, to allow passengers to board and be transferred to Long Marston. There is no sign of it at the moment and I imagine that some work over the weekend will take place to put it in place.
It didn't take long for 230001 to reverse at Honeybourne North Junction before it ran up the main line towards Moreton-in-Marsh for another reversal. Although the sun was too high for good photography I was pleased to take another shot in a completely recognisable location; in my view important for a first run of anything.
Following 230001's journey to Moreton-in-Marsh I went to Evesham for some more pictures as it ran through the station, down to Evesham West Junction and back after reversal. On arrival at Briar Close bridge I could hear an HST waiting in the station until an up train cleared the single track from Norton Junction. Bearing in mind that both HSTs and Adelantes (Adelanti?!) are not long for this line a shot of the two crossing seemed worthwhile. The HST was forming 1W01, the 10.22 Paddington to Hereford and 180102 the 12.06 Worcester Foregate Street to Paddington, 1P47.
Following the departure of 1W01 it wasn't long before 230001 entered Evesham and ran under clear signals to Evesham West Junction for another reversal. Since Long Marston reopened for traffic a lot of traffic never before seen on the North Cotswold Line has appeared but an ex-LUL train converted for main line use was probably never envisaged until Vivarail started their project to convert the former D Stock.
As soon as 230001's reversal at Evesham West Junction had taken place 5Z24 ran back past the signal box towards Moreton-in-Marsh. As this was not a locomotive-hauled train it generated relatively little interest with just a handful of photographers being around to witness the moves. I'll wager that a class 47, running light engine to Long Marston a little while earlier, passed more cameras than 230001... On the run to Moreton-in-Marsh to Evesham a problem was encountered which meant that the unit achieved only 15mph on Campden Bank and so, after leaving Evesham, it ran into Honeybourne Sidings and thence back to Long Marston. I was later told that the problem was no more than a slight issue with electrical mapping of the engine control software which was quickly rectified. The engineers felt that the runs had provided sufficient data and that would be no need for further running. This freed the Long Marston branch to allow the temporary platform to be built. Thanks to Steve Widdowson for the initial information regarding the termination of the train.
The monthly test train to Stratford-upon-Avon from Derby ran on 13 June 2017. This time the power was provided by 2 Europhoenix class 37s, 37611 and 37608, instead of Colas Rail's 67s which were on the previous couple of trips. The weather was poor and it was only because the locomotives were in a new colour scheme for Stratford that I went down to the station to take a coujple of images. Here is 1Q32 ariving into platform 1. In my view, this is a livery that needs sun to show it off to its best advantage but was a commodity sadly lacking on this occasion.
I took another shot of 1Q32 at Stratford-upon-Avon on 13 June 2017 as 37608 stood at the north end of the train. This locomotive was quite grubby but at least I now have a record shot and can always hope for another visit in good light.
There is a Rail Live event at Long Marston during the third week of June 2017 in connection with which the former D class train, now 230001, is to run run a shuttle service for attendees between Honeybourne and Long Marston. On 12 June and for subsequent days RTT showed that some paths were available between Honeybourne, Moreton-in-Marsh and Evesham to allow for main line acceptance and mileage accumualation runs. It's only a short drive for me so I went to Long Marston on the MOnday morning and as soon as I arrived I heard flanges squealing as the unit made its way around the loop in the site, running in a clockwise direction. As it went around the loop there was a gap just large enough to take this broadside view of the train as it left the heavily wooded area and passing the often-seen roe deer in the midground field. More wildlife was in evidence near the bridge in the form of a juvenile fox sniffing around for food.
One of the withdrawn single unit DMMUs, latterly 960011 Pandora is parked close to the road bridge at Long Marston. On 12 June 2017 I took this image of it looking a little the worse for wear compared to when I photogaphed it at Hatton North Junction on 4 September 2007.
It had become obvious by 10.30 that the main line runs for 230001 were not going to happen on 12 June 2017. The unit had made some clockwise runs around the circuit but switched to anti-clockwise which gave the chance for a slightly better image as it ran along the exchange sidings towards the camera. I imagine that the Vivarail staff and management are keen to ensure complete reliability before allowing 230001 onto the main line between Moreton-in-Marsh and Evesham and the mileage today would have provided some valuable data for the engineers.
The amount of freight along the Birmingham to Gloucester line is probably at an all time low with just a handful of workings during daylight hours. One reasonably reliable train is the Corby to Margam empty steel carriers, 6V92, although even this runs less frequently than in previous years. It ran on 31 May 2017 and passed Defford close to right time with 66165 in charge.
I don't often photograph the Bridgwater to Crewe nuclear flask train, 6M63, because I'm not espeically keen on very short trains but I was already at Defford on 31 May 2017 and as this was the first time that I had seen class 68, the new norm for nuclear flask workings, on such a train I was happy enough to take this image of 68005 + 68020 just after they had crossed the River Avon. It seems that the end of the line for class 37s owned by DRS may not be far off now as the majority of their core work has gone.
It is uncommon for anything but class 66 to work the DIRFT to Wentloog "Tesco Express" but on 31 May 2017 locomotive failure in the Washwood Heath area resulted in 3 class 37s to be sent from Crewe to effect a rescue. One of them took the errant 66 back to Crewe and the others, 37609 + 37602, took the train forward to South Wales. Even though there was little prospect of any sunshine the rarity of something other than a class 66 on this train made a trip out worthwile. I had missed the first use of a class 68 on 4V38 a few days earlier through being in a swimming pool when the information was sent to me and then not having time to walk home and drive somewhere so was keen to obtain an image on this occasion. It was only the second occasion on which 37s had been used on 4V38 the first having been on 17 September 2012 when I saw it passing Ashchurch. The locomotive swap today took absolutely ages and the train left Washwood Heath some 5 hours late but had a decent run south and passed Defford at 15.21 in just about the worst light of the whole afternoon.
During the evening of 15 May 2017 a friend messaged me to say that ROG's 20205 + 20189 were to take a 6X64 from Leicester LIP to Long Marston. I didn't know what the consist would be but assumed that it would be a railvac. The train was routed via Derby and ran reasonably close to time until it reached Stoke Works Junction near Bromsgrove when some 30 minutes earliness was achieved although it was unlikely that this would continue all the way to Long Marston because of the need to wait for the single line between Evesham West Junction and Norton Junction to be free. In the event 6X64 left Worcester about 15 minutes early and stuck to this until arrival at its destination. RealTime Trains has recently had some issues with VSTPs but a bit of digging found an alternative source of live running details so I was able to leave home at a reasonable time without the need for a lot of hanging about. I went only to Long Marston because 1) the weather was dreadful with light rain beginning to fall and 2) such a short train doesn't inspire me to travel far. I believe that there's some sort of gala at the Severn Valley Railway during the coming weekend although as I have no interest in preserved lines I don't know any details, but this pair of 20s was due to go there after leaving Long Marston so I guess that they are due to make an appearance.
There were 2 trains of interest to me on the Birmingham to Gloucester during the afternoon of Saturday 13 May 2017. The first was 6W09, the 14.22 Bescot to Llanharan, a shortish set of what I take to be autoballasters which I chose to photograph at Defford as a 2 way location was needed on this occasion. The train was booked to sit in Abbotswood loop for a while to allow a passenger train or two to pass but despite this it was 9 minutes early when it came around the curve with 66174 in charge. It was lucky that the sun was out for this image as a large bank of cloud was building up from the South-West which boded ill for the other working I was after a few minutes later.
One of the few remaining class 31s to be active on the national network took a new rail grinding set, numbers 79401 to 79404, to Okehampton on 5 May 2017. I wasn't able to get out for this but went for the return on Saturday 13 May when it ran as the 11.45 from Okehampton to Chaddesden Sidings, 4Z02. My default location for a northbound afternoon shot on the Gloucester to Birmingham is Defford as it has a decent rural backdrop and if feeling lazy is very accessible. Although running as a class 4 the formation was limited to 45mph which meant that a number of loops were visited on the way north so it was just 2 minutes early when it was heard coming over the River Avon at Eckington. The sun had disappeared in the few minutes since 66174 had gone south which was a pity but such a rare working was well worth recording, not just for the locomotive but also the consist which usually is seen only at night.
The monthly test train which visits the North Warwickshire Line and Stratford-upon-Avon ran on Tuesday 9 May 2017. Colas Rail's 67023 + 67027 were again allocated and as these are still unusual on the NWL I went to Danzey station where I stood in beautiful sun for about 10 minutes before 1Q23 was due. Just before it came around the curve from the Wood End direction a small patch of cloud went across the sun and stayed there until the train had passed by. I'll take a sunny image of these locomotives one day...
I went to Long Marston on the morning of 10 May 2017 because an MPV from Kings Norton was working a road learning special from Kings Norton, 6Z13, before the weedkilling season gets underway. While waiting for it to arrive I heard a whistle and saw that a single car from one of the trains of D Stock owned by Vivarail was running around the circuit. This picture won't win any prizes but it does show a battery powered version of a class 230 unit undergoing tests. The lighting at this time of day couldn't have been less favourable but here is another view as the car runs away from the camera along the exchange sidings.
An MPV weedkiller, 6Z13, on a crew training run from Kings Norton to Kings Norton via Long Marston and Moreton-in-Marsh arrived at Long Marston about 10 minutes early led by DR 98960. There have been far fewer MPV moves along the branch than locomotive hauled trains so I was more than happy to get a few shots in the warm sunshine of 10 May 2017 but predictably enough was alone on the road bridge.
The MPV from Kings Norton was due to stand at Long Marston's gate for nearly 2 hours on 10 May 2017 but one of the crew arranged with Evesham signalbox that 6Z13 would run back to Honeybourne to await its path to Moreton in Marsh. This shot was taken just before departure and also shows Vivarail's battery test unit in the far background in the exchange sidings.
I wanted to go to Honeybourne after visiting Long Marston on 10 May 2017 to photograph a test train so tied this in with a few more shots of 6Z13 as it stood behind the up platform while awaiting its path, via a crossover and reversal, to Moreton-in-Marsh. There was a pathing stop here of nearly 2 hours which must make life a bit boring for the crew but on this occasion at least the weather was perfect so some time could be spent soaking up some sun. This train has been scheduled to run several times but on each previous occasion has returned to Kings Norton after covering just a few miles.
The test train I had photographed at Danzey on 9 May 2017 went from Tyseley to Bristol the following day. The weather looked to be settled with good sunny spells so there was a reasonable chance that I would be able to break my duck with a sunny shot of the 2 Colas Rail class 67s. The train, 1Z22, was on time as it went though Worcester and with nothing due on the down line I was confident that a decent image would be had. A tiny piece of cloud went across the sun a minute or two before I heard 67023 + 67027 in the distance but it had cleared by the time they came around the curve from the Evesham direction. There was no-one else around which probably wouldn't have been the case had class 37s been allocated but that's not always a bad thing...
Wednesday 10 May 2017 was a sunny day and there was at one stage an evening train scheduled from Wolverton to Long Marston conveying a class 319 unit for storage. This was cancelled so rather than waste the sunshine I went to Hatton North Junction for a couple of northbound trains; nothing special but the only time that I bother with routine workings is when the light is good. My first shot was of 168002 on 1G43 from Marylebone to Birmingham followed by the only freight that one is likely to see at this time, 4M52 from Southampton to Castle Bromwich, the empty car carriers hauled on this occasion by 66122.
I do like to take the odd photograph of Chiltern Railway's class 68s on the Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill trains. The best bet for good light at Hatton North Junction is the 16.45 from London to Kidderminster, 1K45. The view from the field is largely obscured by undergrowth at this time of the year and I really can't be bothered to lug a heavy stepladder around when a perfectly adequate shot is available from the bridge - I don't take my hobby seriously enough to make life awkward. On 10 May 2017 68010 was allocated to 1K45 and it was right on time as it became4 audible climbing the middle section of Hatton Bank. A large number of flying insects have clearly met their end during the journey through the Chilterns judging by the appearance of the yellow panel.
The only charters I bother to photograph these days, with few exceptions, are those that run either to or near to Stratford-upon-Avon. One of these took place on Saturday 6 May 2017 when "The Spirit of The Lakes" ran to the terminus from Bridlington with WCRC power in the form of 57316 topping and tailing 57313. The weather was dull in the extreme so I didn't go far for the inward journey, just a few miles to the attractive station at Wilmcote with its original GWR buildings and bridge albeit with the latter carrying a dirty pink colour scheme. Trains such as this, 1Z84, have quite slack timings and it was no surprise that it was 3 minutes early when it passed by.
The return of the charter from Bridlington carried the headcode 1Z85 and with 58313 leading was due to leave Stratford-upon-Avon at 15.52. About 40 minutes before departure time the sun came out and I almost changed my plan for a walk to Stratford Parkwat station because I really didn't want a shot with the sun on the wrong side as few things look worse and are taken only when there's no choice because of a last minute change in cloud cover. I would have had time for the trip to Hatton North Junction but the sky soon clouded over again leaving Parkway as my destination. The light was marginally better than earlier in the day when 57313 appeared on the curve but it was still dull although OK for a record shot. This was 57313's third visit to Stratford in the past year having arrived solo with a charter from Scarborough and in the company of 40145 on a separate occasion.
A VSTP working from Tyseley to Stratford-upon-Avon and back via the North Warwickshire Line ran on 4 May 2017. This had escaped my attention so when a friend pointed it out I decided that even though it was steam operated it worth be a worth a walk to Stratford Parkway station, about the only place on the line where the sun is at a decent angle at around 13.45. It is, after all, just over 4 years since the last time I saw a steam locomotive! The headcode was 5Z96 so it didn't need a lot of imagination to work out the the locomotive would be pannier tank 9600, built by the GWR in 1945 and it was entirely predictable that the inward journey would be with it running bunker first. This is perfectly acceptable as these engines were designed with this in mind unlike those with tenders which look ridiculous running the wrong way round. This location was under construction on 3 November 2012 when I photographed the same locomotive double-heading with 7752 on a train running around the West Midlands. I'm sure that "purists" would decry an image in this sort of spot as it makes no attempt at recreating anything and in my view it's much the better for it.
A light engine ran from Immingham Sorting Sidings to Long Marston on Tuesday 25 April 2017 with a loaded return showing to Lindsey Oil Refinery. No great brain power was needed to work out that the train would consist of oil tanks but the size of the train was a different matter as on many occasions only a single vehicle was due to be moved; not an especially interesting prospect. I arrived just before 66037 came into sight on the branch from Honeybourne and noted that a long rake of TEAs and TDAs was in No. 2 road so it seemed likely that this was the train to form 6Z28. The gates were still closed but a Long Marston shunter was on the way around the loop with a single ICA which it took to back of the consist and tacked onto the back.
The gate was soon opened and 66037 was coupled onto the tanks. A crew member walked the length of the checking that the handbrakes were released while an air brake test was carried out by the driver. Quite a variety of stock is visible in this long lens view including several lines of ex-underground stock some of which will hopefully be converted into class 230 DMUs or one of the varieties thereof planned by Vivarail. On the other hand what the future holds for some of the freight wagons, including steel "hoods" is probably less secure with just the scrappers torch awaiting them. As soon as the brake and other checks were completed 6Z28 was free to move out of the Long Marston site and onto the branch. The sun just managed to miss this movement and with the sky looking very doubtful in the Honeybourne direction I headed for home.
Colas Rail's class 67s, 67027 + 67023, paid their second visit in recent weeks to Stratford-upon-Avon on Tuesday 18 April 2017 with a test train from Derby RTC to Tyseley. On this occasion their arrival was timed to be just before 18.00 with 1Q32 being routed into platform 1; the best for photography at this time of day should the sun be out. The previous train 2S64 from Kidderminster came before a bank of thin cloud found the sun but the light had faded a bit when 67027 led 1Q32 into the station. Still, this was my first image of a Colas 67 in the terminus as when the pair first ran here a few weeks ago a combination of dreadful weather and the train going into platform 3 didn't inspire me enough to make the effort after photographing it at Edstone Aqueduct. The first ever visit of a class 67 to Stratford took place on 15 August 2009 when once again 67027 led its train into the station; photographed from the GWR footbridge a few yards further down the platform than the new bridge from I took the later shot.
There wasn't much of a layover at Stratford for 1Q32 and the driver had soon switched ends and turned on the white lights ready for 67023 to lead away from the station towards Leamington and Fenny Compton loop where another reversal took place before the rest of the diagram was fulfilled. The sun did come out a little more strongly for a few seconds while 67023 was waiting to leave so I took the opportunity for a reasonably lit image as it stood under the bridge.
Bank and public holidays often have scheduled engineering work on the railways and these sometimes cause the diversion of freight services. On Good Friday, 14th April 2017, the Exeter Riverside to Bescot loaded china clay train was diverted from its usual route via the Lickey incline and ran via Oxford, Leamington Spa and Solihull. I like to record these occasional workings so went to Hatton station to take an image of 6M60 with a suitable background to identify the ususual nature of the train. It ran early for most of the journey and is seen here as it passed the platforms at Hatton at no more than 15mph having almost finished climbing the average gradient of 1/100 of Hatton Bank. The locomotive was nicely grubby and the early Spring blossom in the nearby foliage lifts the scene a little on a very dull morning.
Pathfinder Railtours usually run a tour covering several days over Easter weekends and 2017 was no exception when they operated a charter from Eastleigh to, on the first day, Inverness. Charters don't hold a great deal for interest for me these days but such trains are uncommon on the GWR line north of Leamington Spa as most use Coventry and Birmingham International as pick-up points. On this occasion though 1Z37 ran via Hatton and as I was already in the area having photographed a diverted china clay train I hung around for a short while albeit with a drive to the tall bridge at Shrewley just north of Hatton North Junction. The light picked up a little just before 37609 + 37259 appeared rounding the curve in the background having just climbed Hatton Bank.
During the late morning of Thursday 6 April 2017 I saw a message suggesting that 4V38, the daily DIRFT to Wentloog "Tesco Express", may have failed in the Washwood Heath area. I checked a few online sites and saw that an 0V38 was on the Sutton Park line although there was no clue to the identity of what was clearly a rescue locomotive. I had a vague hope that something other than a class 66 from DRS's vast and under-utilised trainset, perhaps even a 68, might have been allocated so had a trip over to Croome Perry near Pershore. On arrival I saw that 4V38 was nearing Kings Norton some 220 minutes late which didn't leave too long a wait. It was at 13.49 that the train appeared with 66403, looking newly painted, dragging 66423 and the usual set of wagons. The leading locomotive was one of those originally operated by Fastline Rail which I photographed on 6 December 2008 at a shadowy Hatton North Junction as it operated 6M90 from Avonmouth to Ratcliffe Power Station hoppers of biomass.
On Friday 30 March and Saturday 1 April 2017 Pathfinder Railtours ran a series of charters with one on the Saturday, 1Z77, making a visit to Long Marston. I don't often go out for charters these days but this was the first passenger train to have used the realigned formation at Honeybourne since it opened in August 2011 so I felt that a trip there would be worth the effort. The train was topped and tailed by DRS's class 37s with 37716 leading at this point and 37069 dead in train on the back. To be honest I should have preferred a pair of 68s as it would been another first for the line and one that will probably take a long time to happen. Everything ran according to plan, even the light, and here is 1Z77 running around the back of the main line platforms with a few onlookers on the ramp of the footbridge. I took another shot, on 35mm slide film, on 29 April 1994 as the locomotive passed Stenson Junction with an train of empty steel wagons; arguably a far more interesting working than the current one and with long-gone 58031 about to leave Willington power station.
The purpose of the Crewe to Long Marston train on 1 April 2017 was to give the participants a ride around the loop at the site. I stopped by the road bridge there on the way home and took a single image just as the train drew to a halt in the exchange sidings where 37716 was detached and Motorail Logistics' own diesel shunter, just about visible in the background, was attached. I don't know if 37069 stayed on the train for the circuit as I went home having achieved the photograph I wanted.
A DBC-operated train from Immingham to Long Marston ran on the morning of Monday 27 March 2016 but with cold, dull and misty weather and no idea of what comprised the load I didn't turn out. Later in the day I noticed from RTT that a very late addition to the schedule was a 5D67 from Bristol SPM to Long Marston with a correspong 5D81 return. These were, I guessed the class 153 moves that were arranged but then cancelled on the previous Saturday. The weather had improved so I made the short journey across to Long Marston arriving just as 153368 came around the curve in the background, still a bit misty but clearing quite quickly. The lineside blossom is beginning to show well so I made the shot a little unbalanced to include as much as possible.
I had hoped that the repainted unit would be waiting in the exchange sidings and that a quick changeover would be made but the crew of 153368 changed ends and set off, with a man walking in front, all the way round the inner loop to the workshops on the far side of the site. I hung around in the warm sunshine for nearly an hour with some light entertainment being provided by some local wildlife and a microlight buzzing around the area. At 17.09 I heard a horn in the distance and soon saw some movement, expecting this to be a class 153 in light grey paintwork as on the previous occasion. This time though the unit was in FGW green and I took this shot of it on the loop with 5 roe deer and 4 rooks feeding on the field.
The Long Marston site has an overall speed limit of 5mph so it took a while for 153318 to arrive at the exchange sidings but once there the crew soon changed ends and moved the unit onto the branch to Honeybourne. As the sun was now quite strong this was my cue to head off to the roadbridge adjacent to Honeybourne station for a final image.
The car park at Honeybourne on 27 March 2017 had plenty of spaces so I was able to park easily and made my way to the roadbridge where 153318 had just moved away from the hut containing the single line token thus giving me about 20 seconds to arrange my shot. All was fine and a nice sunny shot of the smart paintwork was achieved. This colour scheme isn't the easiest to photograph in some lighting conditions so it's good to have a decent one in the bag at an early stage.
The monthly diagram of the test train that visited Stratford-upon-Avon on 21 March 2016 sees it leaving Tyseley the following morning and running to Bristol High Level Sidings. I didn't photograph this leg of the journey but did go out for the return, 1Z23, on Thursday 23 March. At around 13.30 on what had a reasonable chance of being a sunny day there are relatively few decent locations for a down train and I usually end up at Lower Moor. On this occasion I really wanted to have a different shot so had a wander around some footpaths in the Wyre Piddle area. Much of the line is obscured by vegetation but I did find one clear spot and here is 67023 leading 1Z23 with 67027 on the back of the formation. This picture has most things I dislke in a railway photograph; a low viewpoint and nothing to identify the location but at least it isn't Lower Moor! The sun came out fully just as 67027 passed...
The second of the 2 movements of class 319 EMUs to Long Marston this week took place on Tuesday 21 March 2016. The light looked promising so I went for a shot at Evesham to make the location recognisable. The same invalid path as the previous day was used so first along was the 12.09 Hereford to London Paddington, 1P51. HSTs aren't going to be this for much longer once the introduction of class 800s has started so a few more images are welcome. I was glad on this occasion that a standard set was in use as I'm not a fan of the power cars in one-off liveries.
As soon as 1P25 was clear 47813 with 319372 + 319373 in tow was released from Norton Junction with 5V67 from Cricklewood to Long Marston where the units are to be stored. I chose this spot because 1) it's completely recognisable and 2) it looked as if the sun might be out and this is probably the best piece of line in the area for a sunny shot at this time of day.
Colas Rail has recently acquired 2 class 67s for use on test trains and with a 1Q48, which includes the North Warwickshire Line and Stratford-upon-Avon in its itinerary, being scheduled for 22 March 2016, I wondered if they might be allocated. I saw that overnight they had moved from Toton to Derby RTC which shortened the odds and I soon had a message from a friend confirming that 67023 + 67027 were indeed on the train. I think that this was their first run other than some tests so was keen for a shot or two and, with the good weather, was planning on a trip to Henley-in-Arden. After the booked stop near Tyseley 1Q48 joined the North Warwickshire Line some 8 minutes early so I headed off only to be faced with dark skies and rain along with horrendous traffic leaving an industrial estate on the outskirts of Stratford. This forced a quick change of plan, a different route and me bolting to a closer location, Edstone Aqueduct, near Bearley Junction. This was really the last place I wanted to go because I had photographed the first 67 working on the line there just a few weeks ago. Whatever, I made it with a few minutes to spare and just before the really heavy rain arrived. I don't much go for going-away shots because they look all wrong to my eyes but here is 67027 bringing up the rear. I waited in the small car park at Edstone to see into which platform 1Q48 was routed at Stratford and as it went into No. 3 for its 2 hour layover I went home. The later visit was at midnight and went unseen, by me, at least.
A number of class 319 EMUs have been scheduled for storage at Long Marston. A couple of trains have run, but under cover of darkness and although a shot of them passing Honeybourne station at night would be perfectly feasible I couldn't be bothered. On 20 and 21 March 2017 trains from Cricklewood were scheduled with much more sociable timings, due to pass Honeybourne at around 14.30. The path around Worcester Shrub Hill seemed invalid with a clash with at least one FGW service so it wasn't really a surprise that a delay of around 30 minutes was encountered. The motive power on 20 March was ROG's 47815 and the load consisted of 319452 and 319454 which I have shown separately as, after all, the locomotive hauling them was largely irrelevant other than to provide the horsepwer. The weather was considerably better than it had been an hour earlier when torrential rain was falling in the area although some 5 minutes before 5V67 arrived the sun was in a patch of clear blue sky...
Thursday 9 March 2017 was the first sunny day for what seemed like ages and with 3 freights running relatively close together I spent part of the afternoon at Hatton North Junction. The first to come was 6M40, the 11.56 Westbury to Stud Farm empty ballast wagons, hauled on this occasion by 66778. It was 20 minutes late at Fenny Compton but because of this avoided its booked wait in Hatton DGL and so passed me, and 172336 waiting to join the main line from the Stratford-upon-Avon branch 18 minutes early.
Here is one of the hourly Stratford-upon-Avon to Stourbridge Junction trains about to join the main line at Hatton North Junction on 9 March 2017. The unit, 172336, had to wait for a few minutes to allow an early running 6M40 to pass but was still on time as it passed under the footbridge. I have included more sky in this view than is usual for a balanced composition because the blue with thin white clouds superimposed looked so attractive.
The view looking north from the footbridge at Hatton North is a little shadowy at this time of the year, 9 March 2017 but by using the shadow some decent results can be had. For this shot of 66118 with the 10.17 Scunthorpe to Eastleigh rails, 6X01, I included the gnarly oak tree while a silhouette of it before foliage appears is possible. I have avoided any temptation to make the image look contrived by bleaching out the shadows by misuse of the shadows and highlights tool; it's better to use what's there as a prop to show the actual scene on the day in my view.
For my final 2 shots at Hatton North on 9 March 2017 I moved from the footbridge to the bank at the edge of the field. This view disappears when the undergrowth gets going and has gone altogether by May so it's worth having a few shots on a sunny day. I don't bother with day-to-day traffic if the weather is dull as there's usually something better to do! This image shows 168004 forming 1G39, the 14.40 from London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill, framed by a variety of still dormant vegetation. The sun was just passing through a thin piece of cloud which took the edge off the light - what, for some reason, used to be called "soft light", a euphonism for slightly dull...
A additional train running as a short term plan has been serving the stone terminal at Banbury in recent weeks. As the usual train runs in the late morning a shot of it on a sunny day is tricky given that the sun would be shining on the tail-lamp! The STP working is booked at Hatton North at 16.15 so given the pleasant weather on 9 March 2017 I went for a pop at it. The train uses the same headcode, 6M31, as the one in the earlier path but I noticed before departure that is had changed to to 4M31 denoting that it would be able to run at up to 75mph. Because of a late departure it was held in Fenny Compton loop to allow 2 passenger trains to pass but because of this didn't go into Hatton DGL so was close to right time as it rounded the curve from Hatton station. I was expecting a Self Discharge Train and even the fact that it was running as a class 4 didn't register with me so I was mildly surprised to see this rake of grey box wagons behind 66083.
First Great Western's 153305 has been in Long Marston since 11 February 2017 and the story was that it was having a repaint into the current corporate green colour scheme. A train from Long Marston to Bristol St. Phillips Marsh on Saturday 4 March 2017 appeared on RTT during Thursday 2 March and with a departure time of 08.07 was photographable given a reasonably bright morning. I arrived at 07.40 in case of some earliness and within a few minutes saw some movement in the distance as the single unit moved around the loop at the regulation 5mph. It was soon in the exchange sidings and ready for an on-time departure. Rumours of a repaint were correct although it seems that a bit more work will be needed before the train is ready for public use. The FGW green livery isn't the easiest to photograph in most lighting conditions but this light grey undercoat is a much easier prospect.
As soon as the single line token for the branch to Honeybourne was handed to the driver 153305, running as 5D657, left Long Marston and headed off on the first leg of its journey. I had planned to go to a foot crossing just around the corner but as the single line token was in the cab there was no need for a stop and thus no chance to drive half-a-mile or so and make the 2 minute walk to the crossing.
There was a late addition to the Sunday schedules for 26 February 2016 when a 5Z02 from Woking to Derby RTC showed up on Saturday evening. These are usually worth keeping an eye on and this was the case on this occasion when 73965 + 73965 were on the train on top-and-tail mode. Unlike the last time a similar working happened today's train ran close to right time throughout, being scheduled to pass Hatton at 13.40. With plenty of time to drive over I went to Hatton North Junction where I had only about 10 minutes to wait before hearing 73964's horn as it passed the station at Hatton. The light wasn't great but with just enough brightness to show the poor workmanship on the locomotive's panelwork which look as if it has had attention from a gang with rubber hammers.
Test trains to Stratford-upon-Avon now run on a regular basis meaning that the terminus sees far more locomotive-hauled services than since before the closure of the line to the south. On 21 February 1Q48 was allocated 37421 in top-and-tail mode with 37254. The schedule meant that the first of 2 visits to Stratford was just before sunset but in the event there were problems around Rowley Regis meaning that safety inspections were being carried out leading to delays for London Midland passenger services. Because of this 1Q48 with 37421 leading joined the North Warwickshire Line at Tyseley 17 minutes early and with nothing else on the line progress was rapid and it arrived in front of my camera 42 minutes early. Thanks to a Chiltern Railways unit being in platform 3 rather than P2 as booked the test train went into P2; much better for photography and with a little unexpected sun lifting the scene.
The driver of 1Q48 soon removed the portable tail light from 37254 and turned on the headlights. It seemed likely that the train would adhere to the booked departure time so there was plenty of time for a few pictures taken from different angles. Even had the sun not been out, albeit being a bit weak given the time of day, there would have not been a shot available from platform 1 because the train hadn't run far enough down the station so a platform-side view was the only choice but you have to make do with what's available on the day.
A charter from London Euston to Stratford-upon-Avon via Bedford and Coalville ran on Saturday 18 February 2017. I'm not overkeen on photographing most charters but this involved class 67s 67029 + 67022 and was routed over the North Warwickshire Line via Henley-in-Arden and was, as far as I know, the first working of the class over the line although several have reached Stratford from the Hatton direction. In the past I have usually headed for Henley station for charters but fancied a change so, bearing in mind that some of the stations on the line such as Danzey and Wootton Wawen are dull to say the least went for a shot as 1Z67 passed under Edstone aqueduct, near Bearley Junction. The light was abominable but I felt that it was well worth getting a record shot as the train, in top and tail mode slowed for the junction. The return to Euston via Hatton North Junction was scheduled for an after dark departure leaving Stratford at 17.36 and went unwitnessed by me at least.
The first working on the Long Marston branch of a class 153 DMU took place on Saturday 11 February 2016 when FGW's 153305 ran as 5D67 from St. Phillips Marsh, Bristol to receive a repaint, presumably into FGW's green colour scheme. As it was a first for the line I had a drive over despite the very cold afternoon and filthy light with low cloud and mist predominating the scene. I don't think that anything other than a first run of something on the branch would have tempted me out and predictably enough I was alone for the few minutes spent on the road bridge largely because, of course, a locomotive wasn't involved... I arrived just as the gates into Long Marston were being opened so knew that 5D67 wasn't far away and took this shot from the north side of the line as such a short formation seems to fit better on the kink in the track. There was just time for me to cross the road for another view as 153305 paused for a few seconds while the single line token was placed in the ground frame to allow it into the exchange sidings.
On Saturday 4 February 2016 ROG's class 56s 56098 + 56104 ran light engine from Leicester to Bristol Temple Meads High Level Sidings. They didn't appear to move during the weekend but on the following Monday they ran to Long Marston; a long way round for reasons as yet unknown. What I did guess, correctly as it turned out, was that the purpose of the visit was to collect a Railvac taken there by 56081 on 5 January. I don't always bother with a shot of a light engine move but the combination of the bleak winter landscape and the trace of exhaust smoke made this one worthwhile.
The reason for the use of 2 locomotives became clear a few moments later. It was not, as I perhaps cynically thought, because of any unreliability on the part of old (I refuse to use the ridiculous epithet "heritage") engines but because the Railvac was to be taken to Doncaster in top and tail mode. In the event though the train reverted to double-heading in Kings Norton loop; I've no idea why. The use of a long lens for this shot has exacerbated the mistiness around Long Marston but it has also made visible the rows of D Class LUL stock in the sidings, some of which will hopefully be given a new lease of life in the coming months. Within a couple of minutes all the required checks had been carried out and 6Z23 moved onto the branch to Honeybourne now with 56104 leading.
I left Long Marston straight away and drove to Honeybourne, slightly more slowly than usual because of a blue Citroen Saxo the driver of which thought that 28mph was a suitable speed on roads suitable for twice that speed although with few overtaking opportunities. The train was standing at the Staff Hut when I walked up to the roadbridge and soon moved away towards the station. It stopped at the signal protecting Honeybourne North Junction and waited until a Paddington to Hereford train had gone past and cleared the section towards Evesham.
Another visit to Stratford-upon-Avon of the now regular 1Q48 test train took place on Tuesday 25 January 2017. This time the locomotives were the less than inspiring 37601 and 37611 topping and tailing the usual 4 vehicles. The train was due to make 2 visits to the terminus with the first arrival timed for around 17.30 and with a destination of platform 3. This is worst for photography but I had kept an eye on RTT to see if the preceding Chiltern unit went, as often is the case, into this platform meaning that 1Q48 would probably go into P2. This happened so the 4 photographers present set up on P1 ready for an on-time arrival. Sod's Law intervened with the test train being held outside the station for 10 minutes until the unit left and cleared the section before running along P3 and coming to halt. In the intervening few minutes a very nicely coloured evening sky with good cloud formations had disappeared and just a mediocre image was possible with a bit of a colour cast on the front of 37611 thrown by the orange lights in Morrison's car park. I didn't bother going back for the later visit at 21.50 partly because of the commonplace nature of the blue locomotives which I have photographed previously on more interesting workings. Here is 37611 making an extremely rare appearance on the Ashchurch MOD train and 37601 leading a DRS Cruise Saver at Hatton.
I was going to Hatton North Junction for a shot of 37608 when a friend let me know that an earlier train, the 09.29 Southampton to Garston freightliner, 4M28, was double-headed by 66416 and 70016. Images of this sort of thing are always worthwhile so I drove over a little earlier and arrived with a few minutes to spare before it arrived. A previous shot of 66416 double-heading a class 70 was arguably more interesting when I saw it in February 2012 a little way south of today's location.
A third class 37 has just been reliveried in Europhoenix colours and it saw its debut on 12 January 2017 on a return test train run between Eastleigh and London Waterloo. On the following day it led a 3Z01 Eastleigh to Derby which was due to pass Hatton at around 13.45 so as it's always a good idea to get an early photograph of something new or repainted in case things go wrong later I went to Hatton North Junction. Time keeeping wasn't far from the booked schedule after a slightly late start but it somehow managed to convert a 2 minute early arrival at Leamington Spa to a 6 minute deficit by the time it passed Hatton. The train wasn't moving fast and there was little exhaust noise although one wouldn't expect a lot with a short and lightweight formation. The locomotive's colour scheme is more eye-catching than its previous incarnation as seen here as it arrived at Stratford-upon-Avon in July 2016. Another freight, 4E69, was in Hatton Goods Loop a few minutes later but I couldn't be bothered to wait for another dull shot of an intermodal so left for home.
Trains ran from Crewe to Long Marston both on 10 & 11 January 2017. The first which I was unable to photograph was 66513 with some large box wagons and the second 66585 with another set of JXAs. The booked arrival time for 6Z65 was around 10.00 but guessing that it could easily be 15 minutes early even after a right-time passing of Evesham I left home with time on hand. I had planned to go to foot crossing on the Broad Marston Road but paused for a look over the bridge at Long Marston and heard a horn just around the corner so stopped and had to make do with this slightly shadowed shot as 66585 arrived. There was a second train shown as running here later in the day with an after-dark arrival time of about 17.00. On the face of it this was of some interest being Colas Rail's 60002 with a load from Immingham but reports said that it was no more than a single ICA wagon being moved. Even in strong light I doubt that I would have bothered with covering such a short formation; one surely not worth the expense of running at all bearing in mind that there was no return load and that the locomotive was heading light engine to Washwood Heath.
A railvac was due to be taken from Leicester to Long Marston on Wednesday 4 January 2017. After a false start involving both changes to the locomotive allocated and the schedule the train set off and reached Worcester Shrub Hill in the late afternoon and due to reach its destination after dark. It was no surprise that it was cancelled at Worcester and allocated a new path in the light the following day. Thursday was cold but with cystal clear light so I went to Honeybourne because I feel that a short train looks better in a tight location than open countryside. I left home well before 6D67 led by ROG's 56081 was due to leave Worcester and arrived in the station car park with, as I thought, some 40 minutes to enjoy the sunshine. On arrival I checked RTT and saw that the train hadn't moved so had a look at whatever was due at Norton Junction only to find yet another schedule showing that it had left 18 minutes early and was past Evesham. There had luckily been a parking space right opposite the platform gate and footbridge so grabbed my camera bag and ran to the appropriate spot just as 56081 joined the Long Marston branch. I just had time to switch to the long lens necessary to avoid shadows cast by the footbridge and peeled off a few shots as the train passed through the station. I didn't bother with chasing it to Long Marston as the light there is useless at around midday with the sun shining straight down the lens while on the roadbridge.
Vivarail's 230001 made another daylight run on Friday 30 December 2016; this time the schedule showing it go from Tyseley to Nuneaton via a reversal at Leamington Spa in order to perform platform acceptance tests at the stations between Coventry and Nuneaton. It was spot on time for my photograph at Hatton but a late running Chiltern service from Marylebone, 1R25, very nearly blocked the shot as the unit was right underneath the road bridge as I pressed the shutter release. Sadly for Vivarail things went very wrong shortly afterwards. Smoke was seen coming from the front car as 5Z30 passed Old Milverton on the Coventry branch and by the time it reached Kenilworth, unfortunately before it managed to get into the loop, a serious fire had broken out. The fire brigade attended but had some difficulty in accessing the scene presumably because the building works at the site of the new Kenilworth station were secured for the Christmas holiday. This picture at Kenilworth taken by Mike Hollick and used with his kind permission shows 230001, the evacuated Vivarail personnel and the fire brigade. I'm glad to have seen reports that there were no injuries to any of the on-board staff; clearly this was the main concern of all.
The Vivarail class 230 unit, 230001, had been in the Civil Engineers Sidings at Nuneaton for the thick end of a week as I write this on Sunday 18 December 2016. It should have made several mileage accumulation runs to Coventry Yard on the previous Wednesday, Thursday and Friday but paperwork issues between the DfT and London Midland prevented it from turning a wheel. On 18 December it was shown to run to Tyseley, a more secure location, the route being via Kenilworth and Leamington Spa where a reversal was to take place. As this was its first daylight run I made up my mind to have a shot of it at Hatton and waited for 5Z23 to begin its journey. It started out about 30 minutes late and I had an idea that the 31 minute layover at Leamington might be curtailed so left earlier than may have seemed sensible. In the event 230001 had just passed Warwick Parkway when I arrived at Hatton station so only a short wait was needed before the 3 car unit came around the curve.
The bright and sunny morning of Tuesday 29 November 2016 saw a light engine move from Bescot to Long Marston scheduled along with a return loaded train. Just as I arrived on the road bridge over the end of the branch from Honeybourne I saw movement on the tracks in the background and within a few moments this appeared. I first thought that it was a single car "bubble" DMMU but it was in fact the driving and motor car of a 3 car set running around the complete circuit. It made a further 2 trips before the locomotive from Bescot arrived and stopped the exercise, presumably some testing after repair or maintenance work.
The locomotive that had run light from Bescot, 66148, arrived and was soon coupled to the set of 5 oil tanks at Long Marston on 29 November 2016. As soon as a brake test had been carried out it left an hour early and running as 6Z16 back to Bescot. The undergrowth here is becoming intrusive even in the winter but at least there is some colour from the myriad of berries on the bushes. Old and superstitious country lore would have us believe that this is a portent to a hard winter. Absolute nonsense of course, it is the result of a favourable Spring and a good growing season allowing the bushes to fruit prolifically.
Following the departure from Long Marston of 66148 with 6Z16 on 29 November 2016 I had a drive over to Honeybourne and walked onto the road bridge to await the train's arival. It wasn't many minutes before it came along the branch where the crew did the business with the single line token and moved towards Honeybourne station. The shadows from both the lineside hedges and the new housing estate were just about clear of the tracks and allowed a view of the blue tank on the back of the consist which, as the NR crewman told me a few minutes later, is one that was severely damaged at Kingsbury but has been repaired and making its first trip on this occasion.
Stratford-upon-Avon has seen more test trains in recent weeks than for the past 2 years and another one appeared in the schedules for Tuesday 29 November 2016. Once again it was 1Q48 from Derby RTC to Tyseley via parts of the East and West Midlands and was due to make 2 visits to the terminus, the first being at 16.30. I went down for this early run for 2 reasons the main one being that the sky would not be completely black and thus give an attractive quality to the light and second, the next visit was at 22.40 and a cold night was forecast! Colas Rail's 37219 and 37421 topped and tailed the 3 coaches which as planned ran into platform 1 and as soon as the leading locomotive's front lights were switched on a series of exposures was made. The station lights here give a really strong and contrasty light; the amount of post-processing of the RAW (NEF) image was minimal; just a touch of sharpening at 0.2 pixel radius and a very small amount of highlight reduction on the footsteps facing the camera which the bright lights had almost burned out.
The class 230 DMU which Vivarail, based at Long Marston, has converted from "D" class tube stock made its main line debut on the evening of 28 November 2016. The unit, 230001, ran as 5Z26 from Tyseley to Leamington Spa where it arrived into platform 4 at 21.48 and stood there for about 20 minutes allowing for a small variety of shots to be taken. This platform is a little restrictive for photography but was the only possible option given the amount both of freight and passenger traffic using the station at this time of time. The train was well loaded with staff and a number of Dutch engineers on hand to attend to any problems with the traction equipment.
The train was constructed as a 3 car unit but ran without the centre carriage on this occasion presumably while additional work is carried out on it. This picture was taken just before 230001, now running as 5Z30, left Leamington Spa on the return to Tyseley. A London Midland class 172 was sharing platform 4 ready to form an early morning service to Worcester the following morning. There were just 3 photographers recording the event but some of the crew members took the opportunity to takes some mobile 'phone footage. The unit's lights were switched off for a few seconds and this allowed some colourful reflections of Leamington Spa's platform lights in the windscreen.
After problems with class 56s on Cotswold LIne RHTT trains earlier in the week commencing 6 November 2016 when wheelflats on 56078 and power delivery trouble with hired-in 56104, Freightliner came to the rescue in the form of 66513 + 66523. Their first working was 3S33 on 9 November 2016 from Gloucester Horton Road to Swindon, Worcester Shrub Hill, Moreton in Marsh and back to Worcester and Gloucester. The weather was atrocious in Stratford-upon-Avon but cleared a little during the drive to Evesham station where on arrival I found that there were problems with FGW passenger trains with 2 cancellations and an STP, 1Z12, from Oxford to Worcester Foregate Street replacing a Paddington to Great Malvern. This ran late and caused some 20 minutes delay to 3S33. The deficit was reduced to 16 minutes when 66513 came through the station passing the well-tended garden adjacent to the up side platform.
Once 3S33 was on its way to Moreton on Marsh I left Evesham and went to Honeybourne where, on checking RTT, saw that it reversed quite quickly and left 1 minute early. I arrived on the road bridge with about 3 minutes to spare and decided on a wide view of the line so as to include as much Autumnal colour as possible despite the poor light. Now with 66523 leading and adding to the surrounding wetness 3S33 runs alongside the Long Marston branch just before passing through Honeybourne station. I noticed later that the train reversed at Norton Junction rather than run to Worcester Traffic Centre and thus converted a 3 minute deficit to being 3 minutes early when it ran into Ashchurch loop for the booked pathing stop.
The North Cotswold Line RHTT was retimed for a few days in the second week of November 2016 because of the line's closure for engineering work during the night. Monday 7 November was a beautifully clear morning and although 3S34 was scheduled to pass Evesham at 08.25 when the sun would be low in the sky I knew that the line would be free of shadows by the foot crossing between Lower Moor and Fladbury. I arrived just after 08.00 and waited for Evesham's up distant to change to green. It didn't until about 08.45 when a down passenger train, 1P35, the 08.26 Worcester Foregate Street to London Paddington was at Norton Junction formed of FGW's Adelante 180103. There were some convenient and attractively Autumnal trees in just the right place to nicely frame the unit.
Another photographer appeared with the news that one of the class 56s on 3S34, 56078, had been failed with severe wheel flats and that 56105 would be making the trip alone. I had never previously seen an RHTT set that wasn't topped and tailed so looked forward to taking an unusual image. It wasn't long before the signal flicked to green and 56105 was soon heard approaching the bridge at Lower Moor and came past the foot crossing in perfect light and surrounded by Autumnal colours. I don't usually take going away shots of wagons but thought that this one showing RHTT wagons with a tail light instead of another locomotive was worthwhile. After this shot I walked back to where I had parked in Fladbury and headed for home.
I hadn't intended to turn out again on 7 November 2016 but saw a message saying that 56104 was en-route from Washwood Heath to Worcester to assist 56105 and, importantly from a photographic point of view, lead 3S34 from there to Gloucester Horton Road. This was sufficient incentive for me to return to Worcestershire and went initally to the road bridge at Lower Moor. The RHTT was due to follow 1W02, the 10.22 from London Paddington to Hereford formed of a FGW HST led by power car 43030. I'm always happy to photograph an HST and I'm probably in the minority by saying that I much prefer the uniformity of a standard set rather than one with power cars repainted into old-style colour schemes.
This location was one of the better in the area for this shot as it showed the unusual formation of 56105 with its RHTT wagons forming 3S34 but with no trailing locomotive as is usually the case. There was a lot of cloud in the background but fortunately for those of us on the bridge the sky around the sun was almost completely clear as the train sprayed along the track from Evesham.
After Lower Moor the obvious and probably best location for a picture of 56104 leading 3S34 was Croome Perry. There was predictably enough quite a gathering of photographers in this easy to reach and convenient location and with a lot of cloud flying around there was a lot of angst about whether a sunny shot would be had. It seemed an age before the train left Worcester Traffic Centre and, with a clear patch of sky around the sun, although probably not for long, it seemed even longer before it was heard coming from Abbotswood Junction. The reason for the long delay was apparent as soon as I saw the train as it was travelling very slowly and stopped at the signal on the long straight stretch of track between here and Defford. Something must have been amiss for at the time of writing, 16.33 on the same day, 3S34 is still showing as being in Ashchurch loop close to 4 hours late.
After returning home from organ playing duties on Sunday 6 November 2016 I found on my 'phone a message from a friend saying that 73962 + 73965 were to top and tail a 1Z13 Woking to Derby test train, 1Z13, via Oxford and Hatton rather than the more usual route down the Midland Main Line. I have missed similar albeit southbound moves on 3 occasions through being on holiday (twice) and a light engine move (didn't bother) so was keen to get a shot this time. The booked time at Hatton wsas 16.47 which would have been in the dark but fortunately the train left Woking 55 minutes early, the earliness increasing to 121 minutes by Aynho Junction, which I took as my cue to leave home for Hatton. I wanted a shot with a recognisable background for such a rare picture so went to the station footbridge arriving just as 1Z73 was passing Leamington Spa. It soon appeared, now 127 minutes early, and although it was dull in the extreme neeeding ISO 800 to get a fast enough shutter speed the result is a new class for me in the area. The verticals for a shot here are awkward; I have taken the radio mast in the background as my guide because the lamp posts and shelter on platform 3 do actually lean "backwards" because the platform has quite a camber...
I was having a quick look at RTT on Friday 4 November 2016 to see if a Bescot - Long Marston - Bescot train cancelled earlier in the week had been rescheduled when I noticed that the Swindon to Gloucester Horton Road RHTT had been diverted to run to Moreton-in-Marsh and back. I understand that this was because of some heavy leaf fall on Campden Bank where FGW trains can have adhesion problems. The weather was a bit dull but with a few patches of thinner cloud appearing in the south-west sky. I wanted a shot only in a easily recognisable spot because of the rarity of the working in daylight so went to Honeybourne station where I knew that there would be a shadow-free patch on the down line should the sun appear. It nearly did with the sun just beginning to poke out of the clouds as 3S33 with 56105 and a filthy 56078 came around the curve from the Evesham direction. I wasn't able to wait for the return as a gym training session was booked for 10.15 and with a clear sky breaking out a location for a northbound shot in the sun at this time of day would have been tricky to find.
The third test train in the last few weeks visited Stratford-upon-Avon on 2 November 2016. Some extra interest was given to 1Q48 because 37025 was one of the locomotives allocated; a popular photographic subject because of its large-logo colour scheme and the split-box marker lights. By looking at the schedule on RTT and knowing that the other locomotive, 37421, was on the front at a certain point it was a simple matter to work out that 37025 would lead into the terminus for its first visit timed to be just after 16.30. The light was never going to be good as the clocks had just been put back to GMT but one should never underestimate the capabilities of decent digital cameras and a good lens. In the event I was more than happy with this image taken at ISO 800 using 1/200 at f3.2. The low light levels can be gauged by the brightness of the platform and car park lamps.
Test train 1Q48 from Derby to Tyseley stopped in just the right spot in Stratford's platform 1 on 1 November 2016 for a shot of 37421 once its front lights had been turned on. The friendly driver had just told the small group of photographers that the route was to be changed because he didn't sign the North Warwickshire Line and his pilotman had other duties in the near future. This meant that 1Q48 went straight to Tyseley via the NWL from Stratford and then ran to Leamington Spa and Fenny Compton to regain the booked route. This change clearly involved an extra reversal and this meant that 37025 would be on the back of the train when it returned at around 22.30 later that evening.
My tripod saw some more use on 1 November 2016 when 1Q48 made a nocturnal visit to Stratford-upon-Avon with 37025 and 37421 providing the power. The rear locomotive as it came into platform 2, a late change from P1, was 37025 and as soon as the driver had switched on the lights a number of shots with different aperture settings were taken. If I were to be picky it would have been better had the train stopped a few yards further down the platform as space at the extreme end of platform was a little limited and quite a wide angle lens had to be used. That said, there isn't a lot wrong with the shot and it was pleasing that no lights were sticking up out of the locomotive's roof.
The test train in the photographs above went to Tyseley for stabling on the night of 1 November 2016 before forming 1Z78 to Bristol Temple Meads on the following day, routed via Stourbridge Junction, Worcester, Evesham and Oxford. Something happened overnight, perhaps when the locomotives were fuelled, because 37025 should have led up the North Cotswold Line but as soon as 37421 came into view at Evesham hopes of a sunny shot of the large-logo locomotive were dashed. In truth the attractive Colas livery matches the subtle Autumnal tints in the scene around the signalbox but it is much easier to obtain an image of a Colas locomotive than a large-logo split box example.
The Structure Gauging Train visited Stratford-upon-Avon during the evening of Friday 28 October 2016 running as 1Q06 from Tyseley and was routed via the GWR main line to Hatton North Junction where it was to turn right and join the Stratford branch. The locomotive was Colas Rail's 37219 which, unfortunately from a photographic point of view, was on the south end of the formation. Local passenger services were disrupted due to track damage at Hartlebury and several train were cancelled. Just in front of 1Q06 was 2D63 from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford which was 48 minutes late and arrived at the terminus just before I did. It ran into platform 2 and was soon turned round, its 6 coaches leaving as 2Z86 to Worcester Shrub Hill. Platform 1 contained a 3 coach class 172 which screwed up the chances of a decent shot from there as 1Q06 stopped in platform so the only choice was this just after it had stopped. The driver turned off the headlight before his train came to a halt which made a poor image even worse. I moved over to platform 1 for a shot of the DBSO where the lighting is much better and with some attractive interplay of light and shadow in the platform-side trees.
The Rail Oerations Group's class 37s, 37800 + 37884, hauled a railtour on Sunday 23 October 2016 running from Derby to Derby via the East Midlands, Birmingham, Hereford, Severn Tunnel Junction, and Worcester Shrub Hill. I don't chase coats of paint (or vinyl) around the the country as soon as something new appears but wait for it to reach somewhere convenient for me and this tour fitted the bill nicely. The train ran close to right time throughout the day and I took the easy option and went to the road bridge at Defford where a reasonably clear shot is available although some lineside junction boxes are a bit of an eyesore and could, I suppose, have been removed in post-processing. On arrival the sky was dark and sunshine non-existent but a clear patch developed over Bredon Hill which luckily spread to the tracks as 1Z37 crossed over the River Avon just behind the trees towards the back of the train. I do like the contrast from the shadowy patch in the mid-ground which adds some visual texture to the scene. On a chilly day ETH current was supplied by 47815 on the back of the formation now repainted from its former BR style livery. I took a similar shot here in 2002 when 37521 + 37114 operated a footex along the line in even more dramatic lighting.
I was vaguely aware that FGW had begun to repaint their small stock of class 150 DMUs into the new green colour scheme but had yet to see an example until this one appeared at Croome Perry on 19 October 2016. The train is 2O90, the 12.51 Great Malvern to Weymouth a service which I imagine rarely if ever sees a passenger aboard for the whole journey. The green livery will probably look quite reasonable in fully sunlit conditions but appears a bit dull in the poor light extant on this occasion. I had not before seen a bicycle logo on the corridor connection of a train and assume that this means that accomodation for bikes is available at this end rather than suggesting that a saddle may be more comfortable for long journeys than the seats provided in the DMU...
Autumn 2016 has again seen RHTT trains using Colas motive power on the Cotswold circuit with class 56 being this year's choice. Having missed the first Saturday run by a few minutes through early running I kept an eye on the weather forecasts for a sunny lunchtime during the following week. Wednesday 19 October looked promising so I went to Croome Perry for a shot of 56302 + 56078 topping-and-tailing their short train, 3S33, in the knowledge that the location would be free of shadows. It certainly was as the sun was about 10 minutes away from coming out when I heard the train appraching the occupation bridge in the background. At least there is a shot in the bag for knowing the English weather and class 56 reliability on occasions there is no absolute guarantee that a fuilly lit version will be had in the next 6 or 7 weeks.
Tuesday 18 October 2016 saw a second rake of TEA tanks taken for storage from Cardiff Greenergy to Long Marston. I wasn't able to to get out for the first movement but was free for this move so went to Honeybourne in the hope that the mostly blue sky would remain to enable a sunny shot to be taken. The train, 6E33, was hauled by GBRf's 66767 left South Wales about 45 minutes late but was close to right time when it appeared crossing over from the up main line to the Long Marston branch. The sun, unfortunately, was behind some thick cloud at the crucial moment and frustratingly came out as 6E33 waited for the ground crew to arrive and join the train for the run along the branch.
I didn't rush away from Honeybourne after photographing 66767 join the Long Marston branch but hung around for a while having a chat before walking the few hundred yards back to my car needed after finding the station car park full to overflowing. As I approached the road bridge at Long Marston it was clear that 6E33 hadn't arrived so I parked on the roadside and wandered to the bridge. The lighting was a challenge to say the least as the sky had now cleared but I quite like the impressionistic result which makes most of the tanks appear silver. They were actually quite colourful as this view of the first TEAs show as the train waits for permission to enter the site.
Whenever a test train is scheduled to visit Stratford-upon-Avon I keep an eye open in case Colas locomotives are allocated as this is one colour scheme I had yet to photograph at the station. On 4 October 2016 1Q48 from Derby to Tyseley was due to make 2 visits to the terminus and 37219 and 37175 in top-and-tail mode were reported as providing the power. The first visit was around 16.30 and although it was booked to run into platform 3, the worst possible for photography, I hoped that with no trains using platform 1 at that time and with a clear sky promising sunshine it might be routed into that platform. It wasn't and ran as booked and this shot was about the best possible in the circumstances. I didn't have a long lens with me but some judicious cropping did the job although having to compromise between shadows on the front of 37219 and its nose appearing to clip the fence was unfortunate. Even so it was better than the light on the wrong side view for which it was barely worth pressing the shutter release. Just to complete the story I took a third image as 1Q48 left Stratford for the next part of its journey around parts of the East Midlands.
As I mentioned above 1Q48 made 2 visits to Stratford-upon-Avon on 4 October the second being due to arrive just about 22.30. Following the poor results earlier in the day I dug out my tripod and went back to the station to have a crack at a time exposure under the platform lights. This time 1Q48 was due to arrive into platform 2 and it did so meaning that there was a good chance of obtaining a decent image after the driver had changed ends and switched on the cab and headlights. The station lights here are quite bright and the exposure used on ISO 200 was 1.3 seconds at f5.6 in contrast to the lighting in the days when I used 100asa medium format slide film when about 15 seconds was needed. After a decent interval allowing several bracketed exposures the train pulled out of the station for the final part of the day's itinerary to Tyseley LMD.
On Wednesday 5 October 2016 37219 + 37175 continued their test train duties with a 1Z78 from Tyseley to Bristol running up the North Cotswold Line via Evesham and Oxford. The morning was notable for absolutely clear skies and it would have impolite not to have gone for a shot somewhere south of Evesham where the light would be favourable. I decided on Clayfield level crossing between Evesham and Honeybourne a location not visited since the line was doubled some years ago. The train was close to 50 minutes late at Droitwich but by curtailing a couple of booked stops was only a minute or so late when it passed the former crossing keeper's cottage on this very quiet lane now protected by the usual automatic half barrier gates. I found out earlier that if sitting in the car only a few feet away there isn't time to get out and walk to the line if one waits for the klaxons to sound; I had missed an up Adelante quite convincingly a short while earlier so I put myself in place with a minute or two to spare ready for a grubby 37219 leading its train past the crossing at what must have been close to the maximum speed of the elderly locomotive.
The mainline registered 40145 hauled a railtour from Castleton in Lancashire to Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday 1 October 2016. This was the first time that I had seen a member of the class here although while waiting for 1Z49's arrival was shown a picture of 40078 standing in the ertswhile goods loop on an Adex some years ago. I was mostly interested in taking an image of the train's arrival rather than anywhere else and as the day had been dull and wet thought that a shot from the new bridge as it ran into platform 2 would be the best bet. As I prepared to leave home for the short walk to the station the sun came out fully and stayed out when 172337 forming 2S42 from Stourbridge Junction arrived, also into platform 2 rather than its booked platform 1. This made me wonder if 40145 would go into P1 which, if the sun were out, would be absolutely spot on for the light. It didn't but the sun did find a small piece of cloud at just the right moment and so avoided one of those awful contre-jour pictures which tempt some into over-use of the shadows and highlights tool on Photoshop without altering the parameters governing the tonal width and radius of the settings resulting in very strange and over-processed-looking images. Given the circumstances I was reasonably happy with the result and noticed the faint rainbow in the right background only when uploading the image file.
During the week before 40145's trip to Stratford-upon-Avon there were 3 alternative routes suggested for the return to Castleton; 1) to Leamington Spa for reversal with 57313 leading, 2) straight back via the North Warwickshire Line after a double run-round of the 2 locomotives and 3) as 1) but with a reversal at Warwick. Option 3) was selected which gave the chance for a relatively rare view of a locomotive hauled train leaving the Stratford branch at Hatton Station Junction. The leading locomotive, 57313, was making its second visit to the terminus in recent months following a trip from Scarborough on 16 August 2016. I don't often take going-away shots but couldn't resist this one as 40145 trailed the train through the Stratford Branch platform at Hatton on the way to Warwick.
After leaving Hatton 1Z50 ran to Warwick where it waited on the up line until Chiltern's 1R45 had passed by on the down line. It then, with 40145 now leading, used the emergency crossover to gain the down line before starting the run up Hatton Bank. The light was dreadful and a wet and muddy walk to Hatton North Junction seemed pointless so I decided on this shot as the train ran through the platforms at Hatton station; an easily recognisable location rather than some attractive but slightly featureless countryside. I'm not one for adjectival excess in photo captions but will say that it was good to see and hear the elderly English Electric locomotive hauling 10 coaches and a dead class 57 climbing the 1/110 gradient with a decent show of exhaust.
The stock from the recent "GBRf 15" 4 day charter was returned to Burton-on-Trent's Wetmore Sidings on Monday 12 September 2016. In direct contrast to the ECS before the tour which used 2 of the oldest locomotives on the network today's train was hauled by the newest, GBRf's 66779 Evening Star, the last of the class to be imported into the UK. This was marked by it being finished in the attractive BR-style green as used on the steam locomotive of the same name. The light was poor when I left home for Hatton North Junction but some breaks did begin to appear during the walk to the footbridge. A time deficit of some 30 minutes before Didcot was made up and 5Z15 was close to right time when it appeared on the curve from Hatton station and, remarkably, a clear patch of sky appeared at just the right moment. I am probably alone in this opinion but I feel that the mixed stock behind 66779 enhances the scene, especially the Anglian liveried first coach.
Extensive engineering work took place on the main line south of Standish Junction over the weekend of 10/11 September 2016. Several trains were booked to return to Westbury via the North Cotswold Line and 3 of these fitted in with time that I had available over lunchtime. As usual with engineering trains things didn't work out exactly as planned and so I am a little unsure of the identity of the 2 I photographed. I think that this one led through Fladbury by 70810 may be 6C24 but in any event I was fortunate in that it just missed the slowly retreating shadow as the sun came out of a patch of cloud. There was no 3G mobile signal at Fladbury while I was there but a down class 166 passed just as I arrived and as soon as this had cleared Norton Junction Evesham's up distant, some distance behind me, flicked to green meaning that there wasn't long to wait.
As soon as 70810 had passed Fladbury I drove to Briar Close near Evesham station where the station's up starter was already showing a green aspect and with no passenger trains due this meant that the next freight must be on its way from Norton Junction. With 2 minutes I saw 70805 with a short partially loaded train of spoil wagons coming around the curve in the background. I wasn't so lucky with the sun this time and 6C25 (possibly...) would have been better lit a short time later. There was still no 3G signal and so with no way of knowing where the third train might be I left for home. I saw from RTT when I was at home that there would have been more than 50 minutes to wait at the location south of Evesham I had decided upon so wasn't too bothered to have missed it.
A two day schedule for a 1Q05 Derby to Derby test train running via Weymouth saw 37069 + 37608 travelling both up and down the North Cotswold Line on 8 & 9 September 2016. The light on the first day was poor and with DRS 37s being relatively commonplace on the line I didn't bother but on Thursday 8th the afternoon brightened up nicely and rather later than might have been sensible I drove to just about the nearest spot to my home which is a nicely green and rural scenic location. It turned out to be a bit more green than was ideal and with a smelly bonfire of old horse manure alight directly behind me not especially pleasant. The first train to come along was 1P63, the 15.50 Worcester Foregate Street to London Paddington and was of course on the up line but being an HST I took a going-away shot as the FGW livery looks attractive with this sort of background. As 1Q05 came around the curve in the background I was lucky that the smoke from the fire wasn't blowing over the line and a nice enough if slightly restricted view was recorded.
GB Railfreight is running one of its 4 day railtours in September 2016, commencing at Eastleigh, and marking the 15th year of its involvement in the rail industry in the UK. The empty stock for the train was taken from Wetmore Sidings, Burton-on-Trent, on 7 September 2016 the traction being provided by red-stripe Railfreight class 20 locomotives 20132 + 20118. I decided to go to Bentley Heath Crossing footbridge for 2 reasons, 1) to be able to see the full length of the train and 2) to hopefully avoid the shot being obscured by a long and quite slow-moving 4M28 from Southampton which was due to pass Hatton very close to the booked time of 5Z15. In the event 5Z15 was 12 minutes late approaching Bentley Heath and 4M28 on time making the chances of something annoying happening much more likely here than at Hatton. Here are 20132 + 20118 (insert hyperbolic adjective here...) away from a signal check at the colour light behind the 4th coach just in time to avoid 66538 with 4M28 which was just approaching Dorridge station from the south.
An unadvertised charter operated by WCRC ran from Scarborough to Stratford-upon-Avon on 16 August 2016 with 57313, 6 mixed livery coaches and 57316 making up the consist. Although I knew that the sun would be a bit too straight at Stratford station at the arrival time of just before 13.00 the uninspiring colour scheme of the locomotives led me to save some petrol and just make the walk there for an arrival photograph. The train was booked to arrive into platform 2 which it did about 5 minutes early. The return to Scarborough was to run to Birmingham along the North Warwickshire but on a sunny day around 16.30 even half-decent locations are few and far between so I shan't bother.
Test trains have run over parts of the North Cotswold Line quite frequently in recent weeks. On Monday 15 August 2016 a 3Q22 from Derby RTC to Cardiff Canton was scheduled to use the line as far as Honeybourne before running to Long Marston. The locomotive allocated was 37057, one of Colas's fleet in so-called "heritage" livery, in this case BR green with small warning panels. As I don't chase locomotives around but wait for them to come to me I hadn't seen this evolution so with sun just about guaranteed went to the footbridge at Honeybourne. The train appeared at Honeybourne North Junction just about on time and passed the 2 photographers on the bridge with the recently grown buddleia adding some colour to the left of the branch. The time I photographed 37057 was way back in December 1994 when, paired with 37012, it made a smoky departure from Calvert with the Avon bins in, unfortunately, the worst possible lighting condtions with the unwelcome sun coming from exactly the wrong place. I had driven to Honeybourne in my 1969 Morris Minor and was mildly surprised to be able to park next to a white 1970 traveller.
Another trip to Defford on 12 August 2016 largely because the sun was shining and because there were 3 freights running within a few minutes of each other. Before the freights there were a couple of southbound passenger trains of which the most photogenic was FGW's 158960 forming 2O94, the 14.50 Great Malvern to Weymouth which passed a few minutes after an unidentifiable CrossCountry Voyager running as the 13.07 Manchester Piccadilly to Bristol Temple Meads, 1V57.
The first freight I photographed at Defford on 12 August 2016 was 6V07, the 14.27 Round Oak to Margam empty steel carriers. This had left Round Oak 26 minutes early but given the extensive passenger service on the Stourbridge Junctiion line this was reduced to 5 minutes by the time it was allowed to leave Kingswinford Junction and it was just 2 minutes early when it passed me. Some cloud was floating around as the train went though Abbotswood Junction but by the time 66082 came under the road bridge in the background a clear sky was the order of the day.
Running just 4 minutes behind 6V07 at Defford on 12 August 2016 was the 10.15 Scunthorpe to Eastleigh rail train today running as 6O01 rather the the usual 6X01. This train was diverted from its usual route via Solihull, Leamington Spa and Oxford because of flood alleviation works behind carried out around Hinksey Yard. It was quite a long train today with a rail-borne crane, just about visible in the background, bringing up the rear.
This train is the real reason I made my second visit, on 12 August 2016 to Defford in 2 days. It is 6M40 from Westbury to Stud Farm diverted for the final time (unless things go horribly wrong...) from the Oxford and Leamington Spa line because of engineering works at Oxford and with the sun being almost guaranteed thought another shot of 66720 was worth the trip. I went on the previous day because previous experience has shown that 6M40 doesn't always run on Fridays and I had wanted to get at least a record shot of it on the Gloucester line. Once again, as soon as the Eastleigh-bound rail train had gone south the headlight on 66720 was visible in the distance which gave me a couple of minutes to cross the road and set up the shot. This location is one of the few in the area where a decent view in both directions is possible; the northbound view being particularly attractive with the backdrop of Bredon Hill dominating the scene.
During August 2016 the line between Leamington Spa and Didcot has seen considerable disruption because of engineering possessions at Banbury and Oxford. As is inevitable these days, instead of interesting diversions being put in place, passenger trains were replaced by buses for part of the journey. Freight services were diverted and several were booked to run along the Gloucester to Birmingham line instead of their usual route. One of these was 6X01, the 10.16 Scunthorpe to Eastleigh, conveying new rails. I had been waiting for a decently sunny afternoon which was convenient for me but by Thursday 11 August 2016 I hadn't been out for this and one other train so went to Defford despite the poor light. On this occasion the train, hauled by 66027. was quite short but at least fitted nicely between the 2 bridges. One of the other freights I had been hoping to photograph was the empty blue car carriers running between Southampton Docks and Castle Bromwich but it seems that the rail blockades coincided with the annual summer shutdown of the Solihull works.
The two diverted freight trains I wanted to photograph at Defford on 11 August 2016 were due to pass me within a few minutes of each other therefore with a risk of crossing at just the wrong spot. Nothing went wrong this time and as soon as 6X01 had passed I crossed the road and saw a distant headlight as 66720 with the 13.19 Westbury to Stud Farm empty boxes, 6M40, came into view. The light had picked up a little since I arrived but was still a long way from being sunny but I was happy enough to have a record of the diversion.
A test train from Tyseley to Bristol High Level Sidings was down to run on 10 August 2016 and part of its route was over the North Cotswold Line as far as Finstock where a reversal was due to take place instead of at Oxford North Junction, this section of line being closed for engineering work. A message on the previous day indicated that 37254 + 37219 were on the stock at Tyseley and with reasonable weather forecast I made a note to go to Evesham after a visit to my health club swimming pool. I saw from RTT when I left the club that 1Q05 was 15 minutes early at Stoke Works but thought that it would be back to right time before I reached Evesham and this proved to be the case. The shot at Briar Close is gradually disappearing under a mass of foliage but there are still one or two clear spots although the composition isn't all one might wish. The sun was in and out but managed to be behind some thin cloud when 37254 appeared in the distance; about 3 minutes later would have been good. I went to Lower Moor for the return from Finstock but some quite heavy delay was met between Charlbury and Finstock, the single track section, and with thick cloud looming I decided not to bother with a probably dull shot of 37219 leading and returned home.
On Thursday 4 August 2016 there was an Arpley Yard to Kineton MOD train booked to run early in the morning along with a later return. As these trains are unusual on the GWR line from Leamington Spa to Birmingham and this was presumably runnng only as a result of the extensive blockade at Banbury a trip to Hatton was in order. I had been hoping for a long train and no sun but was thwarted on both counts; 6V03 hauled by 66156 consisted of a single ferrywagon and managed to arrive about 10 minutes early in the only clear patch of sky.
During the week commencing 1 August 2016 a 9 day blockade at Banbury was in force to allow extensive engineering work to be carried out involving replacing the entire signalling system. There were predictably a number of trains involved including some from Bescot and on the afternoon of 3 August I went to Hatton to record some of them. The first I saw was 6P37, the 12.09 to Banbury Reservoir Junction hauled by 66057 which I photographed as it approached Hatton station. The light was indifferent but I felt it worthwhile to have some record of the event.
My next shot on 3 August 2016 was of 66121 returning from Banbury to Bescot, 6P33, which I took from the footbridge at Hatton North Junction. The light lifted a little as the heavy train reached the summit of Hatton Bank but it missed some full sun by some time. Had it come on time rather than about 50 minutes late it would have been a very different picture.
I rarely photograph Arriva CrossCountry Voyagers but on 3 August 2016 the combination of bright sunshine, a black sky and some colourful lineside flowers prompted me to press the shutter release. The train was 1O88, the 11.35 Newcastle to Leamington Spa which, as the headcode suggests would have gone on to Bournemouth or somewhere but the Banbury blockade meant that its journey was curtailed.
I was lucky to take one sunny image of a northbound engineering train from Banbury Reservoir Junction on 4 August 2016. This one was 6C31 led by 66030 which I took with a wide-angle lens to show a slightly different aspect of Hatton North Junction. A very strong wind was blowing as can be seen from the angle at which the poplar tree on the extreme right-hand edge of the image amd by the buddleia flowers being blown through the railings of the footbridge. I took a couple of other shots of similar trains during the afternoon but haven't put these online as I think that enough is enough - I'm not trying to create photo-journalism...
Other than a couple of OTP moves and an overnight visit by a weedkiller there has been nothing along the Long Marston branch since 29 June 2016. On 1 August a light engine, 66075, was sent from Bescot to Long Marston and after wondering if the move was cancelled after the locomotive stood at Castle Bromwich for over an hour I finally saw that it was on the move some 70 minutes late. A lot of time was gained by not having to be looped further into the journey and its eventual arrival was only in the region of 20 minutes behind schedule. The load for the return train, 6Z01, wasn't especially inspiring being just a brace of TEA tanks but it took very little time for 66075 to be coupled to them and the necessary checks completed. I took this picture during the short time that both the red and white lights were lit; something I don't recall having shot before.
Within a few minutes the train was ready to leave Long Marston and pulled out onto the branch to Honeybourne at 13.21, 24 minutes early. The length of the train and poor weather combined to disincline me from going either along the branch or to Honeybourne for another shot so I left for home. I later saw from RTT that 6Z01 appeared to have run via Kidderminster rather than Bromsgrove and it arrived at Bescot about 80 minutes early.
I had another brief visit to Hatton North Junction at lunchtime on Friday 29 July 2016. The first train along was 4M28, the 09.26 Freightliner from Southampton to Garston, hauled by 66593 which I photographed just about to reach the summit of Hatton Bank. At the same time the 12.55 from Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone was running south propelled by a Chiltern Railways class 68. The freight service was a long and almost fully loaded train which the average gradient of the bank, 1/110, had managed to slow down to something in the region of 25mph.
My second shot at Hatton North on 29 July 2016 was of 66721 with an ECS from Eastleigh to Doncaster, 5Z22, ready to form a a GBRf staff charter on the following day. I hadn't photographed this locomotive since its previous Metronet livery was replaced with the current depiction of the London Underground map. I don't chase locomotives around when something like this happens as it will probably turn up close to home at some point. The light today was poor but I now have an image in the bag and may be able to improve on it on another date when the sun is shining. The London Midland train waiting on the spur from Hatton West Junction is formed of 172216 + 172215 running as 2W78, the 13.03 from Stratford-upon-Avon to Stourbridge Junction.
An early morning locomotive list on 26 July 2016 suggested that 60074 had worked a SDT from Mountsorrel to Banbury. This would usually mean that 6M31, the returning empty wagons, would have the same power so whilst not being especially bothered about class 60s on their usual trains quite fancied a shot of one on something much more unusual. As the sky was cloudy I just went to Hatton North Junction arriving just in time to take this image of 66572 slowly climbing the last yards of Hatton Bank with 4M55, the 08.55 Southampton to Lawley Street Freightliner which was about 10 minutes late. When I checked RTT for 6M31 I saw that its code had changed to what appeared a light engine move which was confirmed by a message from a friend saying that it had been seen passing Warwick Parkway. That wasn't something that interested me so I started the walk back to the station car park. As I walked along the canal towpath I heard the locomotive approaching and was sure, even with only a quick glimpse through the heavy undergrowth, that some yellow wagons were behind it. I had wondered why it had been put into Hatton DGL when the following train was still south of Leamington Spa as a light engine would be well clear at least to Dorridge. I shall probably never know.
A "first" for the North Warwickshire Line looked to be likely on Sunday 24 July 2016 when a 6Y56 Bescot to Hall Green ballast train with Freightliner locomotives was booked to run to Stratford for a reversal before retracing its steps to enter a possession. I am fairly sure that no Freightliner locomotives had previously been to Stratford so was keen to take a record shot. I left home when a friend sent me a text message when he saw the train pass Shirley with 66506 + 66513 topping and tailing about 20 four-wheeled wagons. After arriving at the station I took this shot of a pair of class 172/2s leaving as 2V28 to Worcester, the last NWL train of the day. The ballast train should have been just around the corner but on checking an online system saw that 6Y56 was still standing just to the south of Whitlocks End station and it didn't take a lot of working out to realise that it would reverse there and not make the journey down to me. My friend at Shirley confirmed that that was excatly what happened despite the systems feeding RTT using their alogorithms to "fill in the gaps" and show it arriving at departing from Stratford a few minutes early. The whole thing really was a bit of a shame as a shot of something new down here would have good on such a sunny evening...
I had a few minutes at Hatton during the morning of 16 July 2016 with the intention of taking an image of a class 68 hauled test train. First along though was 4O29, the 08.20 Crewe to Southampton Freightliner service, I didn't what class of locomotive was hauling the train until I heard power being applied as it approached Hatton North Junction, out of sight around the corner. The front portion of the long train was unloaded but the rear half was fully laden and the first of them are just visible on the bend.
A test train from Derby RTC to Reading Triangle Sidings, the former DMU depot, ran on Saturday 16 July 2016. The service code was 52495113 which indicated a Colas operated train, including the OHL inspection vehicle, but despite this 1Z16 was allocated DRS locomotives 68001 + 68005. Maybe something a bit newer and more reliable than class 37s was required for wherever the testing as to take place, presumably on the newly electrified GWML. The weather at home looked as if some clear blue patches would appear but on arrival at Hatton the cloud cover was complete although not desperately thick. I decided on a shot using a bridge-side ash tree as a frame but a few gusts of wind at just the wrong time blew the foliage a bit too far to the right. Bringing up the rear of the train was the overhead line inspection coach which had its lights operating despite there not being much in the way of OHL for it to inspect.
Class 172 172344 arrives at Stratford-upon-Avon station on 12 July 2016 with 2S54, the 14.57 from Stourbridge Junction, the photograph being taken from the relatively new footbridge which incorporates lifts. Much as I like taking pictures here I usually wait for sunny conditions for these everyday scenes but on this occasion there was a Network Rail test train, 1Q48, with topped and tailed class 37s just a few minutes behind the DMU.
A Network Rail test train, 1Q48, was scheduled to visit Stratford-upon-Avon on Tuesday 12 July 2016. The train left Derby RTC 163 minutes late but regained right time by missing out a return trip along the Coalville Line and although the weather wasn't good I felt that it was time that I photographed a couple of class 37s, 37608 + 37611, at my home station. The plan was for 1Q48 to run into platform 3, the worst for photography but when I arrived a Chiltern class 165 was in there and what appeared to be some relief crew members were in the platform shelter on platform 2. I took this as a clue and set up with this shot in mind. I had no idea that the former DRS branding on the locomotives had been removed and, as seen on 37611, a Europhoenix branding applied.
As soon as 1Q48 had arrived into platform 2 at Stratford-upon-Avon on 12 July 2016 it was clear that there was not to be a shot of it departing from platform 1 which is the shorter of those at the station. I therefore went to the end of platform 2 for a record shot of it leaving where I also took this view of a crew member from the class 165 taking an image on his 'phone. Before joining the train one of 1Q48's crew told me that due to a route knowledge issue they would not follow the booked route to Hatton and Leamington Spa but would have to retrace their steps along the North Warwickshire Line through Henley-in-Arden before reversing onto the GWR main line through Solihull. The train was due to return to Stratford at around 22.45; not a move I planned to see. This would have to wait for another day when, with luck, some Colas locomotives would be rostered; something that I have yet to photograph at the terminus.
Two special trains were run to Worcester Shrub Hill on Saturday 9 July 2015. The first was 1Z80, the 09.59 from London Victoria, which was formed of the VSOE stock top and tailed by DBS's 67015 and 67018; a class relatively unusual along the North Cotswold Line these days. The light during the morning was poor so with no prospect of any sun I went to the road bridge adjacent to Honeybourne station which gives a reasonably wide view from the north side so that the stock can be seen. The train ran close to right time during most of the journey but was a few minutes early when it appeared in the distance running alongside the Long Marston branch which, incidentally, looks ready for a visit by the weedkiller. As usual these days I didn't see a single posting about this train from anyone who photographed it further south nor were there any about the second train from Southend Victoria but as this was operated by WCRC I didn't bother to wait for it, the thought of their sludge-like locomotive colour scheme not exactly filling me with joy on such a dull day.
Trains of tube stock for modifications returning to Derby from Amersham recommenced on Friday 1 July 2016. For some reason I can very rarely be bothered to go out for the southbound workings of new stock, 7X09, which are perfectly photographable during the Spring and Summer but the northbound trains seem to have more interest; possibly because few others go out for them. For the first run of this tranche of trains HNRC's 20314 and BR blue 20107 led 7X10 which left Fenny Compton loop 13 minutes early; the cue for me to start the 15 minute drive to Hatton where I wanted to take an image of the train passing the platforms and still almost deserted car park. The early running was an advantage as it lessened the chances of a southbound passenger train getting in the way. My picture shows them approaching the summit of Hatton Bank around 7 minutes early at 06.48 having lost a few minutes through following a class 172 on 2V06 from Leamington Spa to Worcester. On occasions this train has run very late which gave other opportunities such as on 3 December 2013 when a mid-morning run led by 20314 + 311 took place which I shot at Hatton North Junction. One or two also ran early on Saturday morning such as this one on 3 May 2014 which I photographed leaving the down loop at Dorridge with 20188 + 20132 in charge.
The final train of stock from the Long Marston rail event was taken from the site on Wednesday 29 June 2016. Colas Rail's 47739 was sent from Washwood Heath to collect the rail-borne crane and associated bits and take them to Scunthorpe, running as 6X56. The weather just 7 miles Long Marston wasn't too bad so I decided to go over for a shot but by the time I had reached Welford on Avon rain was falling and on arrival at Long Marston, at the same time as 47739, it was hammering down with a strong wind blowing making the conditions very unpleasant, not to mention dark. It took only a few minutes to attach the locomotive to the stock and leave the yard which was partly obscured by the rain. I had no intention of hanging around any longer so, to misquote Sameul Pepys, " and so to swim"...
A test train from Derby to Old Oak Common HSTD ran on 30 June 2016 and was booked via Birmingham, Hatton and Leamington Spa. This, 1Q16, is normally an HST turn but on this occasion was formed of the NMT replacement powered by 68004 and 68020, as far as I know, the first of the class to operate a NR service over the line. The passing time for Hatton was 17.38 and even though the weather was poor I went over for a shot ariving just as it was shown as passing Dorridge meaning that there was only about 5 minutes to wait. One of the problems here at that time of day is the frequent passage of northbound passenger train, in particular the locomotive-hauled 1K45 from London Marylebone to Kidderminster the booked time of which is uncomfortably close to the passing time of 1Q16. It was disconcerting to hear the unmistakeable sound of class 68s from both directions but the passenger train arrived first, just, and an obscured view was narrowly avoided.
Another train providing exhibits for the Long Marston rail event ran during the morning of 20 June 2016. The time it was a Mobile Maintenance Train from the Plasser works at West Ealing topped and tailed by ROG's 47848 + 47812. This had worked north along the North Cotswold Line and being TnT was able to reverse at Honeybourne North Junction in order to gain the Long Marston branch thus obviating the need to run all the way to and from Worcester yard. Timekeeping was good for the whole journey, unlike the weather, and here is 6Z47 about to arrive at the gates protecting the site. It was perhaps good, given the dark and wet conditions, that the MMT is bright yellow to help it stand out against the murk. I had been tempted not to bother with this train but living so close by it seemed silly not to make the small effort for a record shot before heading off for my daily swim.
The second train of stock to run on 20 June 2016 for the Long Marston rail exhibition provided a different challenge to the class 47 hauled move earlier in the day. This time it was some OTP from Scunthorpe in the hands of Colas's 56302 + 56087 which left its starting point 205 minutes late. This gave an arrival time at the destination of somewhere between 21.00 and 21.30 if it managed to gain some time after leaving the West Midlands conurbation. The evening was relatively sunny so, more in hope than expectation I made the short journey once RTT showed that 6X56 had passed Evesham. On leaving my car I heard the train on the branch and so had a couple of minutes to use the public footpath over the line to reach a spot where the line is relatively clear. The very last of the light was just disappearing behind a cow shed at Bridge Farm as the the pair of 56s with their short train passed a field of broad beans on the final few yards of the line.
The weekend of 18/19 June 2016 saw major engineering work taking place at Malvern Wells. There was a northbound ballast from Hinksey yard to Newland East signal box which was operated by Freightliner. This is relatively unusual for the North Cotswold Line and with no organ playing duties for me during the morning I went to Honeybourne station to show the train in a recognisable environment. Here is 66524 leading its long train of assorted wagons, 6Y77, passing at speed with a dead 66536 bringing up the rear. The change of gradient under the road bridge is quite noticeable; this is the start of Campden Bank for which in steam days a few bankers were kept ready for work at Honeybourne to assist southbound (up) freights.
There were 2 return train working from the Malvern Wells possession to Hinksey yard on Sunday 19 June 2016. The first, 6Y71, left around 60 minutes late which meant a long wait for me - keen to get a shot of at least one of them. Here is 66128 climbing away from Evesham pictured from the tall occupation bridge at Aldington. It was fortunate that the sun wasn't out at the time as the shot from the south side is heavily restricted by the last few years unchecked vegetation. The second returning train was about 30 minutes behind 6Y71 but I couldn't be bothered to wait any longer so went home.
The following 3 images taken on Saturday 18 June are of indifferent quality because I inadvertently set my camera to a low resolution jpeg mode instead of the usual NEF(RAW). I was fiddling about with the ISO setting and must have pressed one of other 2 buttons on the control dial. Using jpeg gives little flexibility for exposure compensation and virtually no scope for post-processing so these are pictures are much as they left the camera which, of course, decides using its own algorithms how the image should look - awful!

One of the biennial rail events is due to take place at Long Marston during the week commencing 19 June 2016 and the first rail-borne exhibits arrived on Saturday 20 June 2016. This was a railvac hauled from Derby by 31452 and was about 10 minutes early arriving at Honeybourne in poor light on an afternoon that saw intermittent breaks at, unfortunately, the wrong time. Running in front of 6Y31 was 1P51 from Great Malvern led by 43002 in a representation of its original colour scheme. I hadn't photographed this before so took a record shot although I do think that the admirable HSTs look best as designed; in a consistent overall livery.
There have been several stock involving Great Western HST carriages from Plymouth Laira to Barclays works at Kilmarnock where repainting has taken place. I hadn't yet photographed such a move although along with others I did, through very early running, narrowly miss a sunny shot of 2 grey 56s some time ago! On Saturday 18 June 2016 47848 + 47812, recently acquired by the Rail Opertions Group (ROG) did a southbound run due to pass through Worcestershire at around 16.00. I went to a farm crossing near Eckington where a shot of the whole train is possible and where, by looking at the sky, some decent sunshine was possible. In the event the sun was about 10 minutes in front of 5Z47 and with the load being a GWR-style dark green a very muddy image was the result, not helped by the poor quality provided by in-camera conversion to jpeg. Nice sky though...
A light engine ran from Bescot to Long Marston on Thursday 2 June 2106 from where a load was to be collected and returned to the West Midlands. The locomotive allocated to 0Z01 was 66125 and with an arrival time of shortly before 12.30 I arrived just in time to hear it rolling down the branch from Honeybourne. At the same time a helicopter employed by those responsible for the electricity grid was flying around and just as 66125 came into sight was checking the junction in the cables by the railway line, presumably for hot spots. Within a few seconds the aircraft had flown away so I was fortunate to have taken this image.
The load for which 66125 ran to Long Marston was a far from inspiring single VTG bogie oil tank. The only upside was that after a long wait in the yard with what appeared to be problems with the wagon's brakes the sun managed to come out as 6Z01 began its journey back to Bescot. Another locomotive, 66727, was on the way here from Toton to collect something destined for Wellingborough but wih no clue as to what the consist might be and with at least 90 minutes and possibly more to kill before anything was likely to happen I called it a day and went home. In the event it later transpired that 6Z20 was cancelled so for once I made the right move!
Charlbury station, on the southern section of the North Cotswold Line, became busier than usual on Tuesday 31 May 2016 with 2 locomotive-hauled charter trains, of the "better" variety scheduled to drop off passengers there. The first was a 1Z71 12.32 from London Victoria formed of the Northern Belle stock with 57305 + 57312 which earlier had run ECS from Crewe. The line has limited spare paths so once the passengers had been dropped off the ECS, 5Z71, left within a few minutes to return to Crewe via Evesham, Worcester and Kidderminster. The weather was dark with the threat of rain but with, as far as I know, the DRS class 57/3s not likely to have a long future I thought that a shot of an example in Northern Belle livery would be worth a trip. I picked a shot possible only from the north side of line where it passes what appear to be some decrepit pigeon lofts by Mutton Bridge in Blackminster, close to the site of Littleton and Badsey station, just to the south of Evesham. There was no 3G signal for my 'phone but the barriers protecting the road in the background give one a few minutes warning of an approaching train. The second locomotive, 57312 which had led from Crewe to Victoria, was on the back adding at this point about three carriages worth of dead weight. The second train, the full VSOE with class 67s was running about an hour later but the weather was getting worse with rain just beginning to fall so I went home.
An engineering possession listed as starting at Standish Junction was scheduled for the Sprink Bank Holiday weekend and in connection with this some rare locomotive-hauled trains were running over the North Cotswold Line on Saturday 28 May 2016. There were 4 photographable workings but for the sake of domestic harmony I missed the first, scheduled to pass Honeybourne at 06.19. The second was a bit more sociably timed and I arrived on the bridge by the station some 10 minutes before the due time, 07.20, to find that thanks to a late running FGW HST, 6C23, the 04.46 from Westbury, was in the region of 20 minutes late. While waiting, some early mist and cloud blew away which meant that the lighting conditions became more difficult for a work-stained 70806 with its rake of empty ballast wagons. The same locomotive led a diverted 6M50 past here last year and this comparison shows the ever-increasing lineside vegetation, not to mention the new housing development.
The second of the engineering trains that I photographed on the North Cotswold Line on 28 May 2016 was, according to the service code on RTT, a DBS working so giving some variety to the Colas jobs of the other three. The locomotive allocated to the 05.40 from Westbury, 6W08, was 66124 which is shown between Moreton-in-Marsh and Honeybourne passing a field of broad bean plants. I have been waiting for something non-passenger to run here for a while given that anything with locomotive haulage is rare on the section of line south of Honeybourne and even more so early enough in the day to allow a shot from this side. I don't think that a "sun on the front" shot would ever be possible here but that doesn't really matter a great deal to me; the rarity value trumping other considerations. Just before the freight arrived a FGW class 166 went north running as 1W11, the 06.10 London Paddington to Great Malvern and just fitting nicely in the gap between lineside bushes.
My final North Cotswold Line shot on Saturday 28 May 2016 was of 70807 with what I took to be 6C24, the 08.24 from Hinksey running somewhere in the region of 5 minutes early. I walked about 10 yards along the lane from the previous shot to take advantage of the roadside tree's framing possibilities in order to fill in just a little of the foreground. The hazy sun was well round towards the back of the train by this time but this is was of little consequence given the wide and distant view of the train. All three trains I had photographed this morning were empty wagons destined to be filled with spoil from the engineering works around Standish Junction. I intend to return on Bank Holiday Monday to take some shots of the loaded return workings. In the event things went awry with a locomotive failure in the possession so most trains ran very late and unwitnessed at by me.
A schedule appeared in the system showing a GBRf light engine move on Thursday 26 May 2016 from Toton to Long Marston followed by a Long Marston to Wellingborough train of freight stock. The locomotive turned out to be 66757 and the stock a long rake of JNAs which had arrived here on 15 April. As usual, the locomotive arrived early having been allowed an unfeasibly generous time to travel from Honeybourne and it wasn't long before it and the JNAs were coupled together, the headlights switched on and the appropriate brake and other checks carried out. This is one of the few locations to which I carry my 200mm f2.8 lens as the compressed perspective it provides gives an idea of the variety of stock in storage.
While waiting for the main line train to move onto the Honeybourne branch at Long Marston on 26 May 2016 the VivaRail test unit, 230001, converted from a redundant D Stock LUL train, was having a run out around the inner circuit. This was the first time that I seen it moving and although a completely clear view was not possible this shot between the masses of blossom does give a decent idea of how the train looks. I don't know what the prospects are of seeing these units on the main line but I should have thought that there are branch lines suitable for them; perhaps including a reopened Honeybourne to Stratford-upon-Avon line should this happen.
The view of a train leaving Long Marston becomes tighter with each passing year as the undergrowth encroaches on the line. As a result of the blossom it wasn't too unattractive on 26 May 2015 as 66757 left the yard with its train of new JNAs running as 6Z66 to Wellingborough but once it has died down little more than a green tunnel will remain.
There is usually plenty of time to drive from Long Marston to Honeybourne when a train has left the former, particularly if the consist is as long as that forming 6Z66 to Wellingborough on 26 May 2017. There was no exception to this general rule on this occasion and it was quite a while before 66757 came into view in the distance. This delay did allow the light a chance to pick up slightly which brightened up the scene considerably as the train ran towards Honeybourne station which was passed non-stop under a green signal to allow 6Z66 to cross over onto the down main line. The wagons arrived in completely plain grey paint and it seems that the visit to Long Marston was to allow some decals and the statutory information to be applied.
If there's a sunny afternoon with little chance of cloud in the Spring I like to make to a trip to Hatton North Junction to photograph a few trains that run around 17.00. As these are routine everyday workings I don't see the point if there's no sun as the results will be worse than others I have already. The first train along shortly after my arrival on 12 May 2016 was an unidentifiable CrossCountry Voyager; I rarely press the shutter for these but in such nice light it seemed worthwhile for once if only to check that my camera was working properly. The train was the 15.45 Reading to Newcastle, 1E56, which was running about 10 minutes late after meeting some delay in the Didcot area.
The first train I had set out with the intention of photographing at Hatton North Junction on 12 May 2016 was 4M52, the 11.32 Southampton Eastern Docks to Castle Bromwich Jaguar. On this occasion the motive power was provided by DBS liveried 66101, one of relatively few class members to have received this colour scheme. As is usually the case 4M52 was running close to right time here although was about 15 minutes late until Fenny Compton where its booked spell in the down loop put it back to schedule.
Chiltern Railways' timetable is slightly different in 2016 compared with the previous year in that a pair of locomotive-hauled trains used to run within 20 minutes each other whereas this year they are an hour apart. On 12 May 2016 68009 was allocated to 1K45, the 16.15 from London Marylebone to Kidderminster and on a perfectly lit evening a shot framed between new growth on the left and last year's buddleia stalks on the right seemed just the job. It won't be long before a lot more undergrowth will spring up and may make some shots from this part of the footpath out of the question. A large number of flying insects were flitting about in front of the camera more intent on procreation than keeping out of my photograph and several have been clone-stamped from this picture. I have left them in this picture of 172219 as it heads towards Stratford-upon-Avon on its journey from Stourbridge Junction a few minutes previously.
Thursday 5 May 2016 was a warm and sunny day and it seemed almost rude not to take advantage of the conditions and get a shot or two in the bag. With the prospect of something a bit unusual on the Gloucester to Birmingham line I went a short distance to the south of Abbotswood Junction arriving a few minutes before 66147 appeared some 20 minutes early with 6V92, the 10.22 empty steel coil carriers from Corby to Margam. I had hoped that more hawthorn blossom would be present in this spot but guess that I have missed the best by some days. This is yet another location that has seen much vegetation growth over the years. Here is what I think is one of the first shots I took here in 1992 showing 37504 + 37241 as they worked a special from Albion Oil Terminal in the Black Country to Waterstone refinery.
My primary reason for being just to the south of Abbotswood Junction on 5 May 2016 was to take a shot of 6M63, the 11.58 nuclear flask train from Bridgwater to Crewe. For the first time, this working was worked by the unusual combination of 68011, in Chiltern Railways colours, and 57003 and it was fortunate that the 57 had apparently failed and was on the tail of 6M63 with 68011 doing the work, albeit not much of it on such a light load. I wanted a shot that was close to being a broadside view but with an attractive background so decided on this spot from the roadside on the Littleworth to Wadborough road. Despite the short train it was possible to hear it coming for quite a while and it was good to get a "first" in some warm sunshine. I'm sure that this class of locomotive will become the norm on flask trains when the next batch arrive from the manufacturers and DRS shed their older traction. I seem to remember that 68011 has been out of service for a while following a fire involving the exhaust system but stand to be corrected as I don't follow what's going on with individual locomotives especially closely.
On Saturday 30 April 2016 a railtour, The Pines Express, was run from London Euston to London Waterloo via Manchester Piccadilly and Bournemouth. The southbound run from Manchester was routed via Birmingham, Solihull and Oxford and with the skies being relatively bright I thought that a shot here would be worth a drive out given that the motive power was GBRf's 66747. As it turned out the weather turned unpleasant so I just went to the roadbridge at Hatton, this being the closest spot to my home. The train, 1O95, was running on time and managed to avoid the heavy shower approaching from the North-West by a few minutes.
I was at Hatton North Junction waiting for a northbound freight when a fellow photographer told me that Chiltern single unit 121020 was coming south within the next few minutes working from Tyseley to Aylesbury. After a swift move from the field to the footbridge the newly repainted bubble car appeared under the Shrewley Road bridge and stopped at the up line signal to allow a Chiltern Railways train from Stratford-upon-Avon to leave Hatton station for Leamington Spa. A longer lens might have been a better bet for this shot given that there is no scope here for a more broadside view but I had only the one piece of glassware with me on this occasion.
A one-off Colas working appeared in the schedules for 28 April 2016 running from Eastleigh Arlington to Derby St. Andrews Economac (whatever that may be...). The train turned out to be 47739 with 5 KVA ferrywagons which were being taken to Oxwellmains via Derby to be used, I assume, for the conveyance of bagged cement. Anything other than a container train is noteworthy on the line through Hatton so having watched 6S47s late departure from Eastleigh and its progress I arrived at Hatton North Junction with about 20 minutes to wait. The train was around 30 minutes late before Leamington Spa but lost another 15 or so standing in the centre down road there to allow 2 passenger trains to pass. Just as 47739 climbed Hatton Bank the rain that had been threatening for a while, after a sunny start to the day, blew in from the west making this quite an unpleasant place to stand. It's been a while since I photographed a Colas class 47 here so didn't mind too much.
After photographing 47739 at Hatton North Junction on 28 April 2016 I stayed on for a few minutes to take an image of 66572 with 4M28, the 09.32 Southampton to Garston Freightliner service. The rain had just stopped and the shower clouds are visible over the pair of class 172/2 units waiting at the signal whilst working from Stratford-upon-Avon to Stourbridge Junction via Dorridge.
It has become usual for a steam hauled train to visit Stratford-upon-Avon on the Saturday nearest to 23 April, St. George's day on the anniversary of William Shakespeare's birth and, it is alleged, his death although the latter isn't actually recorded. In 2016 gauging issues at Wilmcote station prevented steam being and this resulted in WCRC's 37706 + 47760 working 1Z44 from Paddington to Stratford. It is typical of WCRC that what is probably their dirtiest locomotive was leading the train as it passed through Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway station running just about one minute ahead of schedule and missing some sunshine by about 5 minutes. Just as I arrived on the road bridge at Bishopton this fox was scouring the hedgerow for prey. I photographed 37706 when it looked far better in its petroleum sector colours as it approached Basingstoke station on 28 September 1990 at the head of a morning Micheldever to Ripple train of empty oil tanks. The slide from which this scan was taken wasn't in the best of condition accounting for the rather poor quality of the blue sky's rendition.
I noted from RTT that a Honeybourne Sidings (Freightliner-speak for Long Marston) to Southampton train was running on Thursday 21 April 2016 with a departure time of 12.06. I left my gym and swimming pool at about 10.45 and while driving along the road towards the Long Marston site saw that a Freightliner class 70 was standing in the exchange sidings with the front lights switched on and looking ready for departure. I soon parked and walked to the bridge where I took this shot as the very short train, 6O33, stood as the last few checks to the wagons were made.
It was only a few minutes before 70006 began to move from the sidings at Long Marston onto the branch to Honeybourne. It was a complete surprise to me that a class 70 had been allocated to this working and I had seen no posts to email groups suggesting that this was the case although this is far from unusual these days when most people seem happy to take information provided to lists but don't want to post anything themselves. As far as I am aware this is the first Freightliner 70 to have worked over the North Cotswold Line and thus the first to this site. The sun tried to come out for 6O33's departure and there was certainly a bit of brightness; enough to cast some shadow.
I'm not all that keen on short trains as they can look a bit silly in a lot of locations but I knew that this spot on a farm crossing on the Pebworth road would be just the job for 70006 with its modest load. Just before the train arrived two Network Rail vans drove towards me on the side of the trackbed behind the camera and I hoped that they would stop rather than park in the usual spot right by the gate on the right. They did and so my shot was still on where I was perching on a load of concrete blocks which gave just enough height to include the oilseed rape plants in the field on the other side of the track. I didn't bother with a chase to Honeybourne as this train was too small for such a wide view.
This wasn't a train that I had planned to photograph on 21 April 2016 but when I arrived at Evesham to photograph the first Freightliner 70 to have used the North Cotswold Line the final leg of a 3 day test diagram was only a few minutes south of the station. 37609 + 37612 had to wait until the preceding down train, 1W29, had cleared the single track at Norton Junction and my picture was taken as they pulled away towards the road bridge. The light was poor but it did allow an image from the north side of the line to be taken which shows the layout of Evesham station quite nicely.
Having photographed 70006 on the first visit of the sub-class to the Long Marston branch I was keen to have another shot on the North Cotswold Line itself and preferably in a completely identifiable location. I therefore went to the Briar Close road bridge to include Evesham's recently refurbished signal box in the view. The light was poor but I would much rather have a first shot of the class in the area in the bag whatever the light than wait for a sunny day; it may not happen again for a long time or indeed ever again.
Having been comprehensively stuffed in my attempt for a shot of a test train at Henley in Arden on 19 April 2016 I went out on the following day for another try of it on the next leg of its diagram. Wednesday 20 April 2016 was another fine day and I took my 1969 Morris Minor for a long run around Warwickshire and Worcestershire with a short break at Lower Moor, between Pershore and Evesham, to take this image of 37609 + 37612 on 1Z22 from Tyseley to Bristol High Level Siding. I was slightly surprised to have been alone on the bridge here given the alleged popularity of class 37s in the sunshine. I chose this spot because it's a pleasant rural aspect but with enough of a background to make it identifiable. The fact that it is impossible to have one's shot blocked on a single line didn't enter my mind...
I spent a short time at Bentley Heath crossing near Dorridge during the afternoon of 19 April 2016. One of several units I photographed was this, 168329, forming the 14.55 from Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone, 1H53. Until the train passed the footbridge and I noticed the number I had no idea that there was such a sub-class numbered 168/3 although I must admit that the numbers of any stock rarely make any impression on me so I may well have seen others without noticing. I inderstand that the 168/3s were originally Northern and Trans-Pennine class 170s which Chiltern acquired for own use. Thanks to Chris Morrison for this information.
The regular train of loaded rail carriers from the Scunthorpe area to Eastleigh is usually hauled by a DBS class 66 but on occasions a 60 is turned out, presumably to allow drivers to keep their route and traction knowledge up to date. On 19 April 2016 60044 was provided and as it was a beautifully sunny afternoon I went off to Bentley Heath crossing near Dorridge for a shot as 6X01 was slowing down to take its booked stop in the up loop. The train was quite short on this occasion and the left foreground of the image rather messy but with the sun shining brightly on this recognisable location I was quite happy with the shot.
A rare daylight run of a test train over the North Warwickshire Line was shown as running on 19 April 2016 and with a passing time for Henley-in-Arden of 17.16 I thought that a shot here would be well worth the 10 Minute drive from home. Earlier in the afternoon 1Q48 with 37609 + 37612 met some delay in the Burton upon Trent area because of the failure of a class 60 on a Kingsburty-bound oil train. I had already planned to be in place for the preceding unit and here are 172211 with a sister unit running as 2S60. the 15.57 from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon. The test train should have been a section or two behind the units but in fact was the thick end of 30 minutes late and managed to coincide its passing through Henley exactly at the same time as a train from Stratford to Stourbridge Junction. It was a bit of a pain but at least it wasn't the hoped-for pair of Colas class 37s which I had previously thought might be on the working. As it was just a pair of DRS 37s I didn't bother with a night shot later in the day as 1Q48 made another visit to Stratford shortly after 11pm as I would have had it been in the hands of Colas locomotives.
It's not that frequently that trains run on consecutive days to Long Marston but this did happen on 14 and 15 April 2016. The latter train was 6Z66 from Wembley Freight Operations Centre conveying 26 JNA wagons hauled by GBRf's 66749, one of the fleet imported from the Dutch railway network. There was some early running before a planned layover at Worcester TC but it was held to time there presumably because a "man in a van" was due to meet the train at Honeybourne to operate the branch token equipment and the Long Marston ground frame. Some time is usually picked up between Evesham and Long Marston and this was the case for 6Z66 resulting in a 20 minute early arrival at about 17.10. I had considered taking a shot similar to this but decided against it for several reasons the main two being the murky background and the fact that a long train will straddle the public foot crossing for quite some time as the gates into the site are opened and before it is taken inside. The JNAs look brand new and appear still to be in grey primer so maybe they will emerge from here at a later date in some new colour scheme.
The second attempt to run a Besccot to Long Marston and return train took place on 14 April 2016, the schedule shown for the previous week having been cancelled. The light engine working from Bescot, 0Z01, arrived at Long Marston as expected about 30 minutes early and here is 66151 passing the foot crossing at the end of the path amidst the first of this year's hawthorn blossom. The weather was quite dull and misty alhough a little brightness did appear just as 0Z01 apeared in the distance. The outward load consisted of 3 VTG TDAs which can be seen here just after 66151 had been coupled up and already, some 90 minutes early, preparing to leave. The resident shunter is on th eright-hand of the picture , its front end pointing directly at the camera. The misty conditions are even more evident in this image although several rows of what I think are D Stock ex-LUL trains can be made out in the sidings behind the rows of tanks. I wonder if these will ever be converted to class 230 DMUs and used on the main line network?
With just 3 tanks forming 6Z01 on 14 April 2016 I had decided to take another shot of the train from one of the crossings on the Pebworth road just around the corner from Long Marston. As I drove towards the one I had in mind it was evident that I should have to change my plan because a Network Rail van was parked on the side of the single track and would be all too prominent in the picture. I carried on to Honeybourne where there was only a short wait until 66152 came around the curve towards the staff hut running some 80 minutes early. As soon as the branch staff had been replaced in the hut the train pulled forward fortuitously running alongside an HST forming 1W02, the 10.22 from Paddington to Hereford. I assumed that 6Z01 would follow the HST as soon as the down line was clear but it was held to its booked time before being released. I've no idea why it had to wait but the early running at least allowed the staff at Long Marston site crew and the Network Rail man who had arrived in a van to deal with the staff at Honeybourne and the ground frame at Long Marston to avoid hanging around for over an hour.
Saturday 9 April 2016 saw a locomotive-hauled train scheduled to visit Stratford-upon-Avon from Skegness. The original plan was for a steam locomotive to work the inward leg with a diesel, left on the back of the stock after the ECS move, powering the return. The slightly scary combination of West Coast Rail and Network Rail managed to change the plan several times during the preceding week, with the eventual, allegedly final, schedule showing the steam to be removed at Duddeston Junction (Saltley) and a WCRC class 47 bringing 1Z62 to Stratford. Even on the day things changed with the locomotive swap taking place at Landor Street where 47760, which had run from Rugby, came onto the front. OK, a maroon 47 doesn't make for the greatest image but we don't get many locomotives at Stratford so I walked down to the station for a shot from the new foot and lift bridge. I was watching 1Z62's progress and saw, oddly, that it had run through Hatton station on the up main line where it stood before reversing at Hatton South Junction, running though the Stratford branch platform and so back onto its booked route. The reason for the unusual manoeuvre was a track circuit failure somewhere around Hatton North Junction. This all meant that the far more attractive 47580 was now leading, albeit with a tail-light on the bracket, and it managed to arrive at platform 2 in the last of the sunshine before thick cloud made everything a lot duller. With a half-decent shot of 47580 in the bag my plan to go out for the return working could be abandoned.
While browsing RTT on 7 April 2016 I noticed that 6V35, the Bescot to Avonmouth cement train, had 2 schedules for the following morning. The first was a VAR showing the train running via its normal route via the Lickey and the second a VSTP with it going through Solihull, Hatton and Didcot. I thought that the second would prevail and the Friday morning showed this to be the case. Even though the light was poor a shot of a new train for the line attracted me enough to go over to Hatton where 66061 with 6V35 was running a few minutes late and losing some more time because of a speed restriction on the up line. This was unfortunate as it meant that a Chiltern Railways unit on the down line managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The situation was salvageable to some extent because of a decent 24-70mm f2.8 zoom lens and some judicious cropping in Photoshop.
Extensive engineering work over the Easter weekend around the West Ealing and Greenford area saw the diversion of 6E38, the 14.18 train of 28 empty TDAs from Colnbrook to Lindsey Oil Refinery. The corresponding up working conveying around 2000 tonnes of aviation fuel for Heathrow had run via Birmingham, Hatton and Oxford during the night of 27 March 2016 instead of over its usual Midland Main Line route but it was the return that caught the interest of local enthusiasts. No oil trains are currently scheduled over the Hatton line and the chance for a photograph was too good to miss. The weather during the afternoon picked up nicely after a wet morning and as viewpoints worth the effort on a sunny evening are very limited I had no problem with going to Hatton North Junction. The sun did disappear behind some cloud as 60002 passed Leamington Spa but came out again as I heard the long train passing over the pointwork just to the south of Hatton station just a couple of minutes late at 17.52.
On Saturday 26 March 2016 a First Great Western unit move, 5V65, was showing as running via Hatton and Leamington Spa between Wolverton and Reading Traincare Centre. FGW's DMUs aren't exactly common on this line so I went over to Hatton intending to take an image as it passed through the station. Also running was a 1Z36 Eastleigh to Eggborough Power Station charter and whilst I am ambivalent about "specials" I thought that I might as well have a crack at this too. On arrival at Hatton there was no 3G signal and so neither RTT nor Railcams was available. I knew that the charter had been on time before I left home so guessed that it wouldn't be far off its booked time here, 09.09. It came about 2 minutes early behind 66059 and with a decent load of 12 coaches. The weather was poor with heavy cloud and light rain but it was still worth a shot for the relative rarity value. Once it had passed I 'phoned a friend to ask about 5V65 only to be told that it hadn't moved and looked like a cancellation. This subsequently proved to be the case.
Test trains over the North Cotswold Line have been relatively frequent of late with the latest example, 1Z02, running on 23 March 2016. This was scheduled for the NMT HST but on the day it turned out that DRS's 37601 + 37688 were allocated to top and tail the yellow vehicles. The train left Derby for Bristol High Level, via Weymouth, 7 minutes late at 07.00 and with stopovers in various loops wasn't due to pass Evesham until 11.09. I had to be in the area for other reasons but had time to drive to Briar Close for a photograph. This was the ideal location in such misty and dull conditions where something solid in the background helps to counter the gloom. Just as 1Z02 approached the signalbox the signal for the down line cleared to allow a class 180 Adelante working 1W21 from Paddington to Worcester Foregate Street to leave Evesham station.
I noticed from RTT that on 21 and 22 March 2016 something was running from Westbury to Worcester, Oxford, Didcot, Swindon and Gloucester. It turned out to be 70810 working light engine but with the Fugro Rail Data Automated Rail Geometry testing equipment fitted. I had heard of this but never seen it so drove over to Honeybourne where a suitably head-on shot in a recognisable location would be available. The train, 0Q01, was running on time when it appeared but with, unfortunately, the equipment on the back cab! I had placed myself on the end of the down platform so the only possible shot was as 70810 passed under the road bridge. This made for a tricky bit of RAW image post-processing as the front half of the locomotive was in daylight with the other half in the deep shadow of the bridge but at least the equipment, including cameras and GPS locaters, can be seen.
While I was at Stoke Prior to photograph 56098 on 8 March 2016 I thought that a morning shot from here on a sunny day would look good to take advantage of the wider vista recently opened up by the vegetation clearance. Unfortunately, there is little northbound freight on the line at the right time of day but I happened to notice from RTT that a Cwmbran to Bescot empty ballast train was due to run on Sunday 13 March, due to pass at around 09.55. Just as I arrived I saw a passenger train leave the branch from Droitwich and 170502 with a class 153 on the back soon passed by forming 1M06, the 08.54 Worcester Foregate Street to Birmingham New Street. The background was a little hazy with some morning mist but this I quite like as it gives the atmosphere of early Spring.
Northbound freight trains running in the morning are a bit thin on the ground on the Cheltenham to Birmingham line at Stoke Prior, the only semi-regular working being the Margam to Corby steel train. Having seen that the shot here has been opened up by the removal of some small trees I was interested in taking an image of something locomotive-hauled on a sunny day. Sunday 13 March 2016 offered the chance of such a train in the form of 6W01, an 08.00 Cwmbran to Bescot due to pass just before 10.00. I saw from RTT that it was running in the region of 30 minutes early so made sure I was in place with some time to spare. The train, headed by 66183, managed to lose 8 minutes between Spetchley and Stoke Works Junction but, with its uniform consist of HOAs, made for an attractive shot in the Spring sunshine. This was one of those occasions when the train and its location were of more importance than the locomotive pulling it. Anyway, I had no idea what was on the front until it appeared but was happy with the result.
Preserved 37025, on hire to Colas Rail, ran light engine from Cardiff to Crewe during the morning of 11 March 2016 prior to working a 6Z90 12.00 from Crewe to Didcot. This was scheduled to pass Hatton at 14.38 which, on a bright and sunny afternoon, gave several options for a shot. I was torn between Bentley Heath and Hatton North Junction footbridge but decided on the latter so that I could photograph a couple of northbound workings due at around the same time. In the event it all went wrong with 6Z90 departing Crewe 156 minutes late because of a problem with the crane which formed the load for Didcot. The lateness grew to 177 minutes by Walsall and a passing time for Hatton station looked to be about 17.05. I left home with what I thought was plenty of time but some 40 minutes was made up around the back end of Birmingham and arrived on the roadbridge just as 37025 passed Dorridge. The light was dreadful by this time but odds and ends like this are always worth recording and digital equipment gives one the flexibilty to achieve something respectable.
After photographing 37025 at Hatton on 11 March 2016 I stayed on the bridge to take a shot of 66589 + 70801 double-heading 4O95, the 12.12 Leeds to Southampton Freightliner. I don't know why the Colas Rail locomotive was in the train but assume that it was either on hire to Freightliner or was hitching a lift to save a light engine path. In the 20 minutes since 37025 had passed the light had deteriorated and I needed to up the ISO rsting to 800 in order to be able to use 1/1000 second at f3.2.
For various reasons I have been unsuccessful in photographing most of the recent class 56 hauled trains that have run up and down the Birmingham to Gloucester line. On Tuesday 8 March 2016 a Cardiff Tidal to Chaddesden Sidings train of empty scrap wagons was schedules to run in a path that was convenient for me and with 56098 from the UKRL stable in charge. There was heavy cloud cover but I thought it well worth the drive to Stoke Prior, near Bromsgrove, where I arrived to find some lineside tree clearance had been carried out and that a new, non-pallisade, fence had been installed. This opened up the shot a bit and allowed for a tree in the field to act as a framing prop on the left-hand side of the frame. The train, 6Z34, ran close to time throughout its run from Cardiff and was soon approaching me under adverse signals ready to be turned into Bromsgrove Up Goods Loop. A Berkeley to Crewe nuclear flask train with presumably, a pair of DS 37s, was only a few minutes behind 6Z34 but there wasn't a lot of attraction there to keep me standing any longer in the cold wind...
One of infrequent Network Rail test trains was booked to run from Derby RTC to Long Marston on leap year day, 29 February 2016. Early reports said that 37421 was the motive power with a DBSO leading for the first part of the journey which meant that the locomotive would be on the front on the return along the Long Marston branch. The train, 3Q22, ran close to right time until Worcester Shrub Hill when a delay of some 45 minutes was encountered. It was unfortunate that it didn't report on the systems feeding data to RTT which left me waiting on a foot crossing on the branch with no information forthcoming. I eventually heard a horn from the Honeybourne direction and with no passenger trains around at the time concluded that it had to be 3Q22 leaving the North Cotswold Line. Sure enough, a few minutes later I heard something coming towards me along the jointed track and I took this image as the train approached the crossing.
The scheduled time at Long Marston for the reversal of 3Q22 with 37421 was 10 minutes but it actually took exactly 30 minutes for the train to reappear at the foot crossing at which I was waiting. In the intervening period the sun had passed into some high cloud which took the edge off the light although it was still quite bright. Whilst waiting I could hear a lot of shunting activity at Long Marston itself and could catch the odd glimspe of something moving around. By the time 3Q22 had passed and I had driven around the corner to the road bridge adjacent to the site activity had ceased and the crews were taking their lunch break. A pity, because they had been moving some of ex-Manchester trams around and some decent pictures would have been on offer.
Whilst having a quick look at the Hatton page of RTT on the morning of Saturday 27 February 2016 I noticed a Friars Junction (Acton in West London) to Bescot engineering train due to pass in mid-afternoon. I wondered about whether to go out for photograph but when a friend told me that the locomotives were 60002 + 66850 I thought that it would be worth a look given that there are few Colas Rail workings on the line between Leamington Spa and Hatton. The weather wasn't brilliant as 6C26 approached Warwick but a clear patch did appear that would have meant a sunny shot if it were not to be turned into Hatton DGL. Even though the following train, 1E48, hadn't reached Leamington Spa the engineeering train was looped which allowed the clouds to come back before it reached Hatton North Junction. I had hoped that the locomotives would be double-headed and wasn't bothered which of the 2 was leading but as is usual with this type of train they were in top-and-tail mode with 60002 bringing up the rear. In times past any locomotive on the back of a train climbing Hatton Bank would have been a banker added at Warwick but today 60002 was dead and simply adding 100 tons plus of extra weight.
Privately owned 37025 has been on hire to Colas Rail for a while and has been used for crew training on the type. On Tuesday 23 February 2016 it was booked to run light engine from Barry to Washwood Heath where some ex-Motorail wagons were waiting to be taken to South Wales. The inward move ran early and it was no surprise that the return followed suit so I made sure that I left plenty of time to drive to the footbridge at Northway, near Ashchurch, for a photograph. A few minutes after arrival 56104 came into view running light engine from Washwood Heath to Bristol and although I don't often take light engine images it seemed almost rude not to take one on this occasion given the perfect light. It wasn't long before RTT showed that 37025 with 5V37 had passed Eckington and, needless to say, some wispy cloud began to approach the sun. I was disappointed that the train was so short but it was actually quite fortunate for once because at least all of it was in clear sun between a few shady patches. I don't know to what use the vans will be put but they don't look as attractive in 2016 as they did I saw them at in November 2006 whilst en-route to Long Marston.
After photographing 37025 at Ashchurch on 23 February 2016 I hung for a shot of 6V92, the empty Corby to Margam steel coil carriers hauled by 66184. In some ways the afternoon shot here is better than that available from the other side of the bridge in the morning because much more of Bredon Hill is visible. It was slightly ironic that there was no danger of the cloud for this shot, unlike that of 5V37, but I am always happy to get a well-lit shot of a routine or daily working which aren't usually worth the effort in poor light as better versions are already in the bag. Just before 6V92 appeared a northbound freight was due in the form of a late-running 6E41, the Westerleigh to Lindsey empty oil tanks with 60017 on the front. Not an image that I would normally even consider taking but there is some conjecture that DBS 60s are on their last legs so it seemed appropriate to put this one on record.
Thursday 18 February was a clear and sunny day so even though there was little of particular interest around I decided that it would nice to get a shot or two during the afternoon. I went to Eckington Bridge and as soon as I drove into the riverside car park a bunch of dark cloud appeared coming from the south-west. I made the short walk to the railway bridge and watched a couple of passenger pass by in either direction before the sky began to clear just as I saw that 60011 with 6E41, the Westerleigh to Lindsey discharged oil tanks had passed Ashchurch. This is only 6 or 7 minutes away from where I was standing and it was fortunate that the cloud cleared completely from the sun as the train accelerated away from a p-way speed restriction and crossed the River Avon.
The second train I photographed on 18 February 2016 was the nuclear flask working from Berkeley to Crewe, 6M56, hauled on this occasion by 37612 and 37605. One of the few good things about these very short trains is that fit well in a restricted broadside view such as this location where the Gloucester to Birmingham line crosses the Warwickshire Avon at Eckington. This isn't a location that I visit very often as the variety of shots available is a bit limited but it is a pleasant and ghenerally quiet spot, albeit a bit muddy, on the odd occasion.
A new bridge combining passenger lifts and stairs has recently opened at Stratford-upon-Avon station; not replacing the listed GWR bridge although the latter is rather overshadowed by the new contruction. The new bridge is of the standard modern design but with some welcome embellishments such as brick facias and wooden valances to reflect the Great Western character of the station as seen here just before completion. This is marked contrast to similar examples at Shirley and Henley-in-Arden which are less sympathetically finished. I hadn't been onto the station for a while and was curious to find out if any photographs of trains arriving at the station were available from the new structure so with there being little of any interest around, apart from the sun, on 16 February 2016 I walked down to have a look as 2D12, the 09.40 from Leamington Spa, pulled in platform 2. A perfectly reasonable shot is on offer so all that is now needed is a slightly more interesting working to visit here. As the Global Gathering Festival seems unlikely to take place this year the chance of a Chiltern class 68 coming seems rather remote and diesel-hauled trains here are rarer than hens teeth so long wait is likely. I intended to return later in the day when the sun on the other side for an arrival into platform 1 but the sun had faded by the optimum time so another visit will be in order at a later date.
The empty cement train from Theale to Earles Sidings is usually routed along the Midland Main Line but on occasions like 24 August 2015 is diverted via Oxford and Solihull. Another such occasion was Saturday 13 February 2016 when 66620 was rostered for the train and despite it being a cold and slightly damp day I went over to Shrewley for a shot of it, 6M91, coming north from Hatton. The train was routed into Hatton DGL to allow a slightly late-running CrossCountry service to pass and is shown here in the deep cutting just to the north of Hatton North Junction which is just about visible through the murk. This clearly isn't a location that anyone would choose to use on a sunny day as the sun would be on the side of the down line and therefore casting shadows all over the place but it's OK on a dull day for a record shot of an ususual working. The last time I saw 66620 was back on 6 September 2006 when it rescued a couple of failed DRS locomotives on the Bridgwater to Crewe flasks.
Thursday 11 February 2016 was a rare sunny day with just odd wisps of cloud in the sky so with the prospect of a test train running south along the GWR line from Birmingham to Leamington Spa I planned a trip out. My original idea was to go to Bentley Heath but the test train was 40 minutes early just north of Birmingham and with no way of knowing if it would be allowed a run or turned as booked into Bordesley Loop I went instead to Hatton to make sure of a photograph. In the event the test train was held and so I first had this image of 168219 heading south with 1H40, the 11.12 Birmingham Snow Hill to Marylebone service.
Next along, or at least the next train I photographed at Hatton on 11 February 2016 was 165001 forming 2L41, the 11.34 stopping service from Birmingham Moor Street to Leamington Spa. Chiltern Railways provide the off-peak trains to stations such as Lapworth and Hatton with London Midland adding to the stoppers in peak hours for commuter traffic. In all honesty, these stations have a very poor level of service compared to pre-privatisation days when many more trains stopped and therefore carried more passengers.
My primary target at Hatton on 11 February 2016 was 1Q04, a test train from Derby to Derby via Reading. I was expecting this to be led by Colas liveried 37421 which had been on the appropriate diagram earlier in the week but a couple of early messages said the 31233 had replaced the 37. Anything is better than DRS 37s on these trains which have become a bit old hat but it was a surprise that a 31 had been turned out; I thought I had seen the last of these on such workings. The train reached Landor Street some 40 minutes early and without knowing if the early running would continue I changed my plan to go to Bentley Heath as 1) I might not make in time and 2) if it did run early the sun would be too straight for a decent image. The road bridge at Hatton seemed the best bet so that was the spot for me. 1Q04 turned up 12 minutes early with 97301 under power on the back of the formation completing the overall yellowness.
This is not a new image but one taken at Leamington Spa station on 10 October 2008. It shows 66568 hauling the morning Leeds to Southampton Freightliner service, 4O54, out of what is locally called the dip. This is a short but quite stiff gradient just before the junction with the line from Coventry. In past times signallers were instructed that heavy southbound freights should not be stopped or even checked if at all possible when approaching to avoid the possibility of stalling in a critical location. With modern traction this is less of an issue but the exhaust haze from 66568 shows that full power has been applied to keep this heavy train moving at a decent speed.
Empty stock workings before and after railtours are often as interesting, or more so, than the railtour itself. The train shown here passing Hatton is 5Z34, a 10.53 from Toton to Eastleigh, which ran on Monday 1 February 2016 following a charter on tbe previous Saturday. Two of the three class 67s used on the Royal Train and the 2 in the appropriate claret colour scheme were rostered for the job which made it well worth a shot as double-headed 67s are not all that commonplace, around here at least. The train left Toton 42 minutes late but picked up quite a lot of time en-route and passed me just 14 minutes behind schedule. I made it to the roadbridge at Hatton with only 2 minutes to spare having failed to find a parking spot at the station car park and so having to drive to an alternative. The weather wasn't brilliant but the unusual nature of 5Z34 made up for that and it was good to see that buffers on the 67006 had been cleaned; another unusual feature for a common or garden ECS move.
Tuesday 19 September 2016 started off with patchy fog but this had cleared by late morning leaving a beautifully clear blue sky. It seemed almost rude not to take advantage of this even though there was little of any real interest on my local lines. I went to Defford, near Pershore, on the Birmingham to Gloucester line and first along was 1M99, the 12.45 Cardiff to Nottingham operated on this occasion by a pair of Arriva Voyagers. I don't often photograph these but the longer than usual train gave the opportunity to show the new signal adjacent to the road bridge. This is probably no more than 100 yards to the south of the existing installation but regulations deemed that it was necessary. Luckliy, it has not been positioned in an awkward place for photography and can easily be omitted from the picture altogether by using a slighly longer lens.
There were only 2 freights in prospect at Defford on the afternoon of 19 January 2016. The first to appear, running about 10 minutes early, was 6M56 from Berkeley to Crewe which conveys nuclear waste for onward movement to Sellafield. There has been some misinformation about this working in recent weeks which suggested that the trains had stopped running. In fact, trains conveying spent fuel rods with the associated high levels of radioactivity have ceased but there is plenty of lower-level waste still to be removed from the site. I have relatively few pictures of this working largely because I'm not especially interested in very short formations nor the so-called "heritage" traction used on them but I couldn't recall photographing a 37 + 57 combination so thought that one for the record would be worthwhile. Here are 37609 + 57003 approaching the road bridge having just crossed the Warwickshire Avon at Eckington Bridge.
Despite the clear sky at Defford on 19 January 2016 some shadows were beginning to encroach on the line when 66199 working 6V92, the 10.22 Corby to Margam empty steel carriers came around the curve some 4 minutes late. I can see that this location might become a little more difficult when the undergrowth has sprouted in Spring and Summer and that a tighter angle of view might be in order. There is a semi-permanent although small p-way yard here and some S&T work was underway, no doubt in connection with the new signal which has been erected on the other side of the road bridge. The signal no longer considered well-placed can be seen here, the new being no more than a hundred yards further south.
The first train of 2016 to Long Marston ran on Wednesday 13 January when GBRf's 66754 arrived as 0Z71 from Hams Hall to collect a set of wagons destined for the Crossrail site at Plumstead Yard. The locomotive arrived about 15 minutes early having been allowed over 30 minutes for the journey from Honeybourne and was soon waved into No. 1 road of the exchange sidings where a very long rake of boarded flat wagons was waiting for it. The sky was relatively clear although some cloud was evident to the South-West and this was moving towards the sun. The decent light hung on for long enough, albeit not in the best position, to allow an image to be taken just after the lights had been changed from the red to white on the locomotive. The departure time was 14.59 but it was just about an hour before this that 4Z71 moved onto the branch to Honeybourne just after the sunlight had faded a little making the scene look far more wintry and cold.
As soon as 4Z71 had gone a little way onto the Honeybourne line I went to Honeybourne itself to await its arrival. The light had collapsed entirely during the 10 minute journey and I was resigned to a dull record shot. In the event it was about 45 minutes later when 66754 was heard rattling along the branch before appearing in the distance. In the intervening period the sun had found a long but quite narrow patch of clear sky and the 4 of on the roadbridge were lucky enough to score a nicely lit shot as the train of flats passed us before going into Honeybourne station where it stood for a minute or two as an up FGW class 166 cleared the junction. A large new housing estate is under construction to off the picture to the right and the roofs are, at this time of the year, just about casting shadows across the tracks but it was possible to find some clear patches.
My first photographs of 2016 were taken on 2 January when Pathfinder Railtours ran a train from Bristol Parkway to Birmingham New Street via the Round Oak steel terminal, North Cotswold Line, Oxford's Cowley branch, Swindon, Bath and Bristol. The main motive power from Round Oak was 60020 with 66001 assisting on the Cowley branch and various carriage sidings and as the class is not common on the North Cotswold Line I had made up my mind to go somewhere for a shot. The weather was dreadful so it seemed a waste of time to go too far from home and I ended up at Evesham's Briar Close which also allowed for a shot of the newly refurbished signal box. The train now running as 1Z61, was close to right time as it rounded the curve from the single line beyond Evesham West Junction, and any hopes of finding a use on a very dull day for the garish DBS livery were dashed when a grubby 60020 came closer. I was alone on the bridge here despite the relatively wide view which also allowed a glimpse of 66001 bringing up the rear of the train. The last time I photographed 60020 was way back on 8 September 2006 at Hatton North when it operated a 6Z41 Theale to Lindsay empty oil train before the working became a regular for several years as 6E55, now gone from the timetable.