The wonderfully named Watercress Line (although the Bluebell Line is even more wonderfully named) runs from Alresford to Alton in Hampshire. The first weekend in March brought the Spring Steam Gala: three days of steamy pleasure for all railway nuts.
The icing on the cake and the irresistible draw was the presence of the recently built A1 Pacific Class ‘Tornado’ amongst many other locomotives steamed up and pulling the passengers.
(below) A1 Class ‘Tornado’ approaching Ropley station
An ambitious timetable of a train every half hour proved too ambitious on the Friday when I was there. A signal problem first and then an event that was unexpected and almost unbelievable. The west-bound 12:51 from Alton, pulled by Gresley A4 Pacific ‘Bitten’ completely ran out of pulling power on the steep gradient up to the summit of the ‘Hampshire Alps’. Plenty of power from the loco but wheelslip slowed the train down to a complete standstill. Repeated attempts to get rolling again only succeeded in rolling backwards as gravity proved to be applying more force than ‘Bittern’.
(below) ‘Bittern’ is hidden in the steam as it tries in vain to haul the train up the incline
A long wait for some rescuing motive power ensued. And, as the stalled train was unfortunately blocking a stretch of single-track line, the whole day’s timetable was thrown by well over an hour. Southern Railway 4-6-0 ‘Lord Nelson’ saved the day and partnered ‘Bittern’ up and beyond the summit point before rejoining its own train at Medstead.
Nobody grumbled. People looked bemused rather than annoyed. If it had happened on a South West Trains service tantrums would have been thrown. It certainly didn’t spoil a grand day out.
It was an unplanned visit to the stone circle at Avebury, on the way back from visiting a friend in Brinkworth. A cold, foggy morning so I thought it would be worth stopping for a few photos. The fog cleared more than I would have wished but without any sunlight breaking through so it was a very flat light.
Anyway, this shot pleases me. Looking at it on screen still gives me a weird and uncomfortable feeling. There are so many histories here.
A view of the historic bridleway known as Quakers Walk in Devizes.
This view will be lost for ever when the green field the other side of the track is filled with housing. The roads are already being built. The sales offices for Wimpy and Persimmon Homes are in place, flags fluttering in the chill breeze. I spoke to a lady who was walking her dog and she told me that the walk will be closed for six months while it is dug up to allow for the laying of major new drains.
It’s sad when owners* of agricultural land sell out to the developers. (*The Merchant Venturers, based in Bristol. Try Googling it.)
For me, it’s even sadder that all the new homes will be cramped little boxes with pocket handkerchief gardens (if lucky) and all looking like pattern book variants of various Victorian village buildings. But with smaller windows. Mean and cheap.
Why can’t these companies build 21st century homes that include the new technologies for renewable energy? Can’t they build zero carbon housing? (c.f. BedZed) Where’s Kevin McCloud when you need him?
We had a Day Out in Dorset on Wednesday. Emily (aka Garmin SatNav) guided us to Kimmeridge Bay, which I’d never visited before. I wasn’t expecting to be so excited by the pure play of light on the sea, especially on the horizon line. Almost a dead calm day, the light was ever changing all day: sometimes magical, sometimes flat.
My only regret is that we left there at 4.45pm, when the sky was looking distinctly unpromising. Two hours later, standing by the bridge in Wareham, the sky had cleared for a golden sunset and I tried not to think how wonderful it would be back at Kimmeridge. Damn. Lesson learned.
Even more from the archives: A new scan from an old negative. A labour of love which took a lot of time ‘spotting out’ in Photoshop to lose the scratches, dust and other grot accumulated over almost 40 years. Anyway, thank goodness for the cloning and healing tools. Much easier than mixing up tints of lamp black and dabbing it on with a brush with two hairs.
The shot was taken in early 1969, the last year of my graphic design course at Liverpool College of Art, but I haven’t any record of the exact date. It looks like early afternoon, judging by the low number of people on board: well before the evening rush. I’d been photographing on the Wirral that day: by train from Liverpool to West Kirby and back to Birkenhead. Just for the hell of it, instead of staying on the train I decided to take the ferry back to Liverpool and was rewarded with the best shot of the day.
Rummaging Through Old Photos Department: I can’t remember which year this photo was taken – it could be 1967 or 1968. It’s while I was living in Anfield, anyway. And it’s obviously winter. A fall of snow late at night tempted me out onto the streets with my camera and in St Domingo Grove I found this little gem. It’s still a favourite image of mine.