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 7 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

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.