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

There were two DMU moves at Long Marston on Monday 14 January 2019 with class 166s coming from and back to St Phillip's Marsh HSTD. I left home when I judged that the incoming train, 5Q94, was passing Evesham and arrived at Long Marston to find the on-site crane just about to move to wherever it was required to work. The driver was just climbing back on-board after changing the points just in front of the vehicle
It wasn't more than two or three minutes before 166213 came around the curve on the branch from Honeybourne on 14 January 2019 and moved slowly towards the bridge. This wasn't the unit's first visit here; indeed it was first of its type to work along the line when on 27 April 2015 and in much better weather it was sent here for work on the air conditioning system and before it was put into the slightly more bland GWR colour scheme. Once the gates had been opened 166213 reversed prior to its short journey around the circuit and is seen here just as it began to move.
The unit returning to Bristol from Long Marston on 14 January 2019 was ready and waiting in the workshop area and soon came around the loop at the required 5mph. This time it was 166215 which is still in the earlier and more colourful livery of its operator and it left about 15 early on the booked time, 11.15, and went straight off towards Honeybourne.
The second train of 2019 to Long Marston ran on Wednesday 9th January when 66769 took a pair of bogie oil tanks from Cardiff Greenery to the site for, at a guess, deep cleaning. The first train of the year had run the previous day but I wasn't able to photograph it as I needed it to have been at least 20 minutes late leaving Worcester when it was actually about 40 early. The GBRf train left Worcester 25 early but bearing in mind the single track from Norton Junction to Evesham West Junction and an on-time down FGW service there was no way it was going to be more than a few minutes early leaving Norton. This was fortunate for me as I encountered 3 sets of temporary traffic lights and 2 diversions between Stratford-upon-Avon and Honeybourne! I wanted to try a shot from the far end of the newly extended up platform where I thought that there would be a clear patch in the undergrowth; just right for a short train such as 6Z31. The space was just right with a slightly wide-angle lens but once the vegetation has grown up in the Spring I doubt anything will be possible there. There was a return train, 4Z32 to Hams Hall, but I didn't feel like hanging about in the cold wind for what was likely to be no more than a few container flats.
My first photographic outing of 2019 was a quick trip to Hatton for an image of 66504 taking 23 coal hoppers from Southampton to York. Coal trains were a very frequent sight on this line some years ago when Didcot Power Station burned that commodity but have become a rare sight; so much so that to see that one is running in 2019 means a shot is worthwhile even in horribly dull conditions. I needed ISO 1000 for this view of 66504 passing the platforms at Hatton station which I chose 1) because it's a recognisable spot and 2) I couldn't be bothered to walk up to Hatton North Junction in such poor light. The last time I saw coal wagons around here was on 17 May 2018 when 66524 worked 6V40 Barrow Hill to East Usk Yard which, in much better light, I photographed from the bridge at Shrewley, a mile or so north from Hatton.
It has been known for some time that the trackwork on the Long Marston branch has been a bit ropey, to say the least, and I've been keeping an eye open for any engineering trains scheduled to visit there. On Tuesday 11 December 2018 a Hinksey to Honeybourne was booked with a very user-friendly arrival time of 11.50. I had a gym class earlier in the morning (during which I saw two low-loaders taking class 319 trailers away from Long Marston) but had time to go home and collect my longest lens. This was needed because of the unforecast appearance of bright sunshine as I planned to go to Honeybourne station but knew that there would be a lot of shadow around at this time of year. I stopped briefly in Long Marston village to check on 6Y40's progress and saw that it had missed a lengthy stop at Charlbury (good old GWR timekeeping...) and was now 30 minutes early. There was still loads of time and I arrived well before 66585 + 66592 topping and tailing a very decent load came down from Moreton in Marsh. Before it could reverse, cross over and join the branch it had to wait while the the non-stop 1P27 from Great Malvern passed by. There is a short but steep gradient onto the branch and the sound of 66592 slipping a little as it lifted the heavy train up the bank was clear to the 3 of us taking photographs. The OTP also ready for use during the work is visible in Honeybourne sidings just above the autoballasters.
Once 6Y40 had partly passed by it was stopped for the train crew to be given instructions by the ground crew waiting alongside the staff hut. This gave me time for a walk to the road bridge to take a more panoramic view of it moving away along the branch and have a close-up of one of the more unusual vehicles in the consist. This wasn't 66585's first visit to the branch as it took some box wagons for storage at Long Marston in January 2017 and it is clear to see that the rusty patch under the cab window hasn't seen any attention in the intervening period.
I took advantage of a Black Friday offer to buy an additional Nikon camera body and used it for the first time on Tuesday 4 December 2018. The target was 1Q18, the Derby to Tyseley test train with 37219 and 37116 topping and tailing 4 coaches and the acid test of the new hardware was to take a shot of the train as it accelerated away from Stratford-upon-Avon through the town's parkway station. It was clearly pitch black outside the station and there was mist and quite heavy rain to make the scene look extra murky. The train was running early at this point, about 19.45, and the driver seemed keen to have a good run at the 1/75 of Wilmcote Bank but a shutter speed of 1/500 in conjunction with f2 and ISO set at 6400 seemed to do the business. I had considered going to Stratford's GWR station and 10.40ish for a static shot but the locomotives were far from clean and there seemed little point in repeating a previous effort.
I saw over the weekend of 24/25 November 2018 that a DMU of some description was going from Etches Park at Derby to Long Marston on the following Monday and had it in the back of my mind to go over if it was convenient on the day. The arrival was showing as 12.37 but when I arrived home at 12.00 after a swim I saw that it was running 15 minutes early at Evesham so decided it would be a bit tight. I then saw a a solitary email about 5V94 from someone at Northfield saying that the unit was 156497 and as I wasn't aware that another of its class had been along the branch grabbed my camera and had a "sports mode" drive over. My arrival at 12.18 was just in time to see the unit on the long straight section of track alongside the Pebworth Road and it was only a few moments before the East Midlands liveried train slowly approached the gates into Long Marston.
The weather at Long Marston on 26 November 2018 was largely overcast but there was a bried glimmer of light as 156469 stood at the gates while the ground crew unlocked them. I understand that Chrysalis Rail are doing some work on 156s here so there will probably be more moves of this nature to come. Within a few minutes the gates were closed, the driver had switched ends and 156497 was ready for its trip around the loop to the workshop area.
Some out of the ordinary trains between Tyseley and Birmingham Moor Street are planned for shoppers over the Christmas period of 2018. These will apparently run with a steam locomotive topped and tailed with a diesel, probably 47773, with 50007 acting as a back-up in case of any problems. The class 50 made a crew familiarisation run from Kidderminster SVR to Tyseley on Friday 16 November 2018 running via the North Warwickshire Line and Stratford-upon-Avon. I had previously photographed just 4 class members in the station environs so had a walk down for a shot of a different example. The arrival time was 15.29 and although one wouldn't want the sun out for a platform 3 arrival at that time of day some light would be have welcome as 0Z65 ran slowly along the platform line.
After having a chat with the driver about another class 50 move with which he was involved in 1986 there was time on 16 November 2018 for a couple more images as 50007 stood under the bright station lights.
I do like to include people in photographs on stations as long as their presence is appropriate! Here is a view of the crew alongside 50007 on 16 November 2018 just before departure time. The starting signal was already on green and it wasn't long before everyone was on board and 0Z65 was on its way to Tyseley.
One of the MkV TransPennine Express stock moves was due to take place on Thursday 15 November 2018 with the train running via Oxford, Leamington Spa and Hatton. I arrived at Hatton North Junction a minutes before 47773 was due to come off the Stratford-upon-Avon branch with a crew training run, 0Z66, from Tyseley to Stratford and return. This run had escaped my attention but was worth a shot in the Autumnal sunshine especially as its passing coincided with 68013 heading south with 1H45, the 12.55 from Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone. Here is an alternative view of the class 47 as it starts away from a brief signal check at the colour light protecting Hatton North Junction.
Trains of MkV stock for the new TransPennine Express trains have been running on an occasional basis for a while but because of engineering work around Filton on 15 November 2018 5Q32 ran via Didcot, Oxford, Leamington Spa and Hatton. Previous sets of stock have suffered damage because of Network Rail's failure to keep vegetation clear of the line on the Portbury branch so this set looked as if it had been shrink-wrapped to protect the paintwork. ROG used a de-branded 57305 to provide the power and this image shows the colourful ensemble passing Hatton North Junction with some very decent Autumnal colours in the background. I was tempted into taking another shot as the DVT passed by, showing the plastic wrapping to some advantage. Class 57 was common enough here on Freightliner services but somewhat rarer on other trains. Here is 57301 in October 2006 on a Virgin rescue mission.
One of the few classes of locomotive not to have visited the terminus station of Stratford-upon-Avon was, until 4 November 2018, a 68. Some extensive engineering work resulting in single line working between Hatton and Tyseley made many timetable changes necessary and Chiltern Railways, with some admirably lateral thinking, took the opportunity to run one of their locomotive-hauled sets to Stratford. The ground breaking locomotive was 68010 which arrived with 1D27, the 11.40 from Marylebone, and this image shows the train ariving spot on time and as booked into platform 2. The weather was dull and slightly damp but the first, and probably last class 68 here unless a railtour comes this way, wasn't something I wanted to miss. The scene is lifted by the intense Autumnal colours around the station. I took a series of images on maximum speed "motorwind" in the hope that at least one would show all 3 lights illuminated; I was lucky on this occasion...
The first class 68 to visit Stratford-upon-Avon didn't tempt out many photographers, only 3 of us being present at the station but there were reportedly over 60 cranks haulage enthusiasts on board and many of them wanted, naturally enough, to have a picture of the locomotive as it stood on the back of what was now 1H37, the 13.50 to Marylebone. That being so I waited until they were back on board before taking my record shot in rapidly failing light and in the shade of the canopy of platform 1.
I don't usually go for the photo-journalism approach to railway photography as too many images of one train or location can be tedious but on this occasion I took several different views because this is quite possibly the only chance there will to record a class 68 at Stratford-upon-Avon. This one shows 68010 propelling 1H37 out of platform 2 and making quite a racket in the process; certainly enough to make the footbridge vibrate to some degree. The departure was 4 minutes late because there seemed to be some confusion about whether this train, or the late-running West Midlands class 172 in platform 1 should go first. Pragmatism won the day and 1H37 was sent off first probably on the basis that it would clear the section more quickly than the unit!
There was a late addition to the timetable on Saturday 3 November 2018 when 5V84, the 12.30 from Doncaster Wabtec to Laira, appeared along with the information that it comprised 47812 with a short form GWR HST set; 43040, GW02(48131, 49112) and 43153. This was unusual enough to tempt me to drive to Hatton for a shot and I left home with the train running 5 minutes late at Water Orton, thus giving me time for passing horses, cyclists or whatever on the country roads. I arrived with about 15 minutes to spare but as there was a fellow photographer on the bridge I started to walk up for a chat rather than watch 5V84's progress on a mapping app. I glanced at RTT as I walked away from my car and saw that the train was now 10 minutes early. A quick run to the bridge left me with about 15 seconds to get ready and with virtual darkness being the order of the day I just had time to crank up the ISO setting to 800 before firing off 3 shots. The RAW image needed a bit(!) of fiddling but overall the result was better than I had expected after first seeing the unadjusted version.
A train of wagons to be operated by GBRf was shown as running from Eastleigh to Hexthorpe Yard on Thursday 25 October 2018 with the headcode 6Z59. It didn't take a lot of imagination to work out that 59003 would provide the power but what was slighly less clear was whether or not it would run because it used the same path as 6M40, the Westbury to Stud Farm empty ballast hoppers. The latter was soon cancelled but in view of the very dull and cloudy afternoon I had decided not to bother. A text from a friend further south chnaged my mind when it became clear that 16 ex-Fastline coal hoppers was the load; something quite unusual along the GWR line from Leamington Spa to Birmingham. I left it very late to make the drive from Hatton to the Dark Lane overbridge and arrived just as a mapping app showed 6Z59 about to enter Hatton DGL. Despite the train travelling at walking pace while climbing through the loop an ISO setting of 800 was needed such was the light but no-one would want to take this shot on a sunny day with the sun being all wrong.
After taking the shot shown above there was plenty of time to drive to Hatton station for another image as 59003 with 6Z99 passed the station. As this train was in the same path as 6M40 the reason for it being looped was the same; to allow Chiltern Railways' 1R37, the 14.10 from London Marylebone, to pass. As soon as 168218 had passed the points allowing egress from the loop were switched and 59003 soon appeared with the vandalised hoppers. A similar set of wagons was taken from Chaddesden to Long Marston which I photographed at Blackminster in April 2010, one of several such moves at that time.
The Indian Summer of 2018 continued on 10 October 2018 so when a light engine move from Doncaster to Long Marston showed up on RTT a quick trip during the afternoon seemed to be in order. I arrived at the latter a few moments before 66717 and watched it run into the exchange and couple up to the 6 large box wagons in road 2 ready for the run to Hexthorpe Yard. This view was taken as the crew prepare to leave with 6E31, and with some varied stock visible in the yard, including some D Stock hopefully awaiting conversion to class 230 in one of its guises.
It takes quite a while for anything to traverse the length of the Long Marston branch at the moment so it was necessary to wait at Honeybourne while 6E31 picked its way over the rotting trackwork on the parts of the line. There was no prospect of the sun going anywhere as there wasn't a cloud to be seen ion the sky over Honeybourne station as 66717 moved towards a green signal giving it the road onto the down main line. The GBRf man in the background had come by road to operate the ground frame equipment and walked back to his vehicle. What a ridiculously disjointed railway we have at the moment. Someone has to drive from heaven knows where for a simple operation like this on a branch line backwater. The worst I have seen here was when a man had to drive from Woking to operate the equipment for both inward and outward moves and then drive home. It could have been worse; it might have been a taxi as is the case all too often.
Tuesday 9 September 2018 was a clear and sunny day in the Autumn, or Indian Summer as it seems to be at the time of writing. There was the prospect of an unusual train over the North Warwickshire Line so after a gym class I went over to Edstone between Wootton Wawen and Bearley Junction where the cast iron aqueduct (the longest in England) tales the Stratford-upon-Avon canal across the flood plain of the diminutive Rive Alne. First along was newly painted, or vinyled, 172338 running as 2D22 from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon, its colour scheme matching the changing colours on the surrounding trees.
Vintage Trains of Tyseley has, in October 2018, just been been granted a Train Operating Company (TOC) licence. The first train run under the licence was a 5Z65 Tyseley to Stratford-upon-Avon ECS and early morning chat suggested that 47773 would in charge. By the time I reached Edstone Aqueduct this allocation had changed to 4965, Rood Ashton Hall, which was quite a disappointment especially considering that it would be running tender first in this direction. Still, I suppose that the train is notable if only because of its tiny place in the history of the privatised railway.
A trip to Hatton North Junction was in the offing for the sunny afternoon of 9 October 2018 with a few decent bits and pieces at which to aim the camera. Just a few minutes after my arrival on the footbridge along came DR98908 with the daily RHTT from KIngs Norton to Kings Norton via large chunks of the West Midlands. I never mind taking the occasional image of a MPV and used to cover their workings along the North Warwickshire Line in some detail before the advent of the West Midlands new signalling system when the signal boxes and their associated limited opening hours pushed the trains' operation into the nighttime hours. The odd substition was welcome though; albeit not actually on the NWL.
There were several freight movements at Hatton North on 9 October 2018 and although I did photograph all of them the images from a single location can look a bit repetitive so edited highlights only... This shot of 66127 with 4M71, the 0947 Southampton Western Docks to Birch Coppice, is included because of the exhaust from the locomotive as it climbes the final few yards of Hatton Bank after leaving the Down Goods Loop to allow a couple of passenger trains to pass. The class 172 waiting at the signal is the 14.03 Stratford-upon-Avon to Stourbridge Junction, 2W80,formed of 172345.
The train due to pass Hatton North on 9 October 2018 which interested me the most was a 5L46 from Bristol Temple Meads to Ely Papworth MLF Sidings. This was a FGW HST with just 2 coaches led by 43175 and destined for storage; not so much HST GTi but HST M-Sport! There was some early running in the Thames Valley but this was knocked out by a fester in Hatton DGL where its booked path was regained. This wasn't the first FGW HST to pass here nor was it the first 2+2 formation I have photographed but very much worth going out for.
By the early part of October the shadows for a southbound shot at Hatton North Junction ared becoming a bit intrusive but it is just about possible to take a half-decent shot of 6O30, the Castle Bromwich to Southampton train of JLR vehicles. Here is 66087 with the usual impressively long train of open wagons and vans. I imagine that the higher value vehicles are in the better protected environment towards the back of the train.
A pair of GBRF container trains has recently started to operate between Southampton and Hams Hall. The afternoon working is 4O69 and on Tuesday 9 October 2018 it ran, some 75 minutes late, with 66713 on the front. As I mentioned above the shot from the footbridge at Hatton North is becoming shadowed but a broadside view is available at a few points along the footpath away from the line. It was unfortunate that there were no containers on the front wagons as an extra splash of colour would have been welcome. The stock feeder in the left foreground is unlikely ever to be used; this has been a turf producing farm for many years. Just a few sections behond 66717 was palindromically numbered 66066 with 6X01, the Scunthorpe to Eastleigh train of long welded rail sections.
One of the attractions of a sunny Autumn day is the deep shadows that are cast by the sun as becomes lower in the sky. This is demonstrated in this view of 59003 with 6M40, the Westbury to Cliffe Hill empty ballast wagon train as it passes Hatton North Junction on 9 October 2018. It seems to the fashion in some quarters to use the Shadows and Highlight Tool in Photoshop to such an extent that no truly deep black is visible. I was always taught that a full range of from 0 to 255 should be the aim to show fully in every digital image and not to bleach out blacks in shadowed areas. GWR Hall 4936 was coming this way but I didn't feel like hanging around for the thick end of an hour so left although I did see the kettle from my car shortly after the train had left Stratford.
The continuing saga of WCRC's 57313 at Stratford-upon-Avon finished on Saturday 6 October 2018 when 33207 was sent from Southall to collect and take it to Carnforth. The schedule for 0Z51 appeared during the previous evening and whilst I sort of hoped that a 33 would be diagrammed for the novelty value of a class 33 at Stratford it didn't seem all that likely. An early morning posting confirmed the allocation and despite the pouring rain and cold wind I walked to the station for a shot or two. There was early running between Oxford and Hatton and I thought that with some smart working it could arrive before the 09.03 Stourbridge Junction via Dorridge service needed the single track between Bearley and Hatton West junctions. It wasn't to be so I had a chilly wait in the basic shelter on platform 2 until a horn announced 33207's presence just around the corner. The light was dire but considering the minimal effort needed to be here it was worth the walk.
The failed 57313 was stabled just beyond the end of platform 1 and had necessitated the closure of the platform to all traffic. It wasn't long before 33207 had coupled up to the class 57 but there were 2 local trains to arrive and depart before it was due to leave. Once the 10.03 to Stourbridge Junction had gone 0Z51 was moved along platform 1 under a yellow signal where the driver kindly paused for a few seconds to allow me to take some shots with bracketed exposures before pulling away. This final image shows the pair of locomotives heading for the crossover onto the up main line.
Another of the WCRC charters to Stratford-upon-Avon ran on 4 October 2018, this time originating as 1Z50 from Scarborough. The arrival time at Stratford was 13.51 and as the day which had started with cloudy skies had become clear and sunny I walked down to the station for an image or two. Running a few minutes in front of the charter was 172334 with 2D44 from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford via Dorridge and Hatton North Junction and diverted into platform 2 to allow 1Z50 to use P1. The sun was still a bit straight at this time but as virtually all recent charters here have run in cloud it was good to see 57313 (on at least its 5th visit here) and the uniform stock in strong sunlight. Out of sight at the back of the formation was 47746. The booked dparture time for the return, 1Z51, was 16.40 but as I type this at 16.55 it was still in the platform, albeit under a green signal...
After returning home from photographing 57313 arriving at Stratford-upon-Avon on 4 October 2018 I looked out for 1Z51's departure on a mapping system. The booked time, 16.40, came and went with no sign of movement until the green signal for platform 1 eventually was returned to red because of the imminent arrival of a class 172 from Stourbridge Junction. It was some 80 minutes later when the train finally left for Scarborough no doubt to the huge amusement of the passengers. On my way to my health club the following morning I happened to glance over the road bridge by the station and could see some WCRC maroon through the bushes and assumed, wrongly, that it was 47746 dumped there following some failure or other. I went for a walk to the station in the early afternoon and found that it was 57313 that had failed and been shunted a little way to the south of the platforms. This meant that platform had had to be closed to all traffic and all passengers for the busy Birmingham line trains had therefore to cross over to P2. At the time of writing I don't know what is wrong with 57313 but guess that a brake fault might have been found and that either a fitter will be sent by road or with a rescue locomotive in the near future.
The regular test train, 1Q18, from Burton Wetmore Sidings (or Derby RTC in the past) is generally formed of the NMT HST. On the sunny day of 25 September 2018 this was apparently under maintenance and 4 vehicles were topped and tailed with 37025 and 37099. I had so far failed to take a properly sunny image of 37025 although I do have an after-dark picture taken on a similar working at Stratford-upon-Avon which is, in some ways, more satisfying. Anyway there seemed little chance of the sun disappearing and with the train being on time from Hereford a drive over to Croome Perry seemed like a good idea given that this is one of the more attractive locations which is not too far from home. All went well and 1Q18 came south from Norton and Abbotswood Junctions passing the wood the trees of which are in the early stages of gaining their Autumnal colours.
Whilst waiting for 1Q18 with 37025 + 37099 in charge at Croome Perry on 25 September 2018 I saw from an online mapping app that the Corby to Margam empty steel coil carriers was behind a red signal on the main line Abbotswood Junction. As soon as the test train had cleared the section 6V92 was released and soon appeared under the farm occupation bridge. Just a few minutes later the Berkeley to Crewe nuclear flask working, 6M56, came north and with a lineside tree in just the wrong place I simply stayed where I was and took this view as it went away towards Abbotswood Junction.
Several years ago it would have been possible to take around a dozen shots of freight workings on the Birmingham to Gloucester line but in 2018 there are far fewer and sheer boredom makes it moe likely than photographs of passenger units will be taken. Here is 170109 working 1V10, the 13.04 Nottingham to Cardiff Central service on 25 September 2018 passing Croome Perry near Pershore.
A train I hadn't photographed before 25 September 2018 was 6V50, the 13.04 Burton-on-Trent to Cardiff Tidal. This is of interest largely because it utilises ex-MOD ferrywagons thus making for a relatively rare sight on the line through Croome Perry. It ran about 60 minutes early from Cofton Junction which was handy because there was no way that I would have waited for an on-time arrival! It was held for a few minutes in Stoke Works loop to allow a couple of passenger trains to pass but after that had a clear run. Here is 66024 with its vans in an interesting colour scheme no doubt applied by brain-dead vandals in a yard somewhere or other.
There were a few trains of interest to me on Tuesday 18 September 2018 including 50008 taking a few flats from Long Marston to Wembley and Vivarail's 230003 going to its new home at Bletchley. As planned there would have been an inconveniently long gap between the two but 50008 was delayed for ages at Landor Street resulting in a very late arrival at Long Marston. This made things a bit easier so I went for the 50 which I probably wouldn't have if everything was on time and decided to go straight to Honeybourne for a shot as 4Z68 approached the station running about 90 minutes late. The light was pretty awful but a 50 on even a not very inspiring freight is worth a frame or two especially against a backdrop of foliage beginning to gain its Autumnal tints. I later saw that the lost time was made by the sensible expedient of running 4Z68 from Landor Street to Rugby and the WCML via Nuneaton rather than by the convoluted booked route through Sutton Park, Walsall, Bescot and some twiddly bits around Birmingham.
Following 50008's late departure from Long Marston there was a knock-on effect with a delay caused to 230003 running as 5Q13 to Bletchley. The Long Marston branch is a One Train Only line and after the token had been dropped at the Staff Hut it was necessary for it to be collected and driven back to Long Marston. A West Coast man was ready and waiting to do this to minimise any further delay. As the unit appeared in the distance a 5 car IET moved away from the Honeybourne stop giving the chance for a shot of the two very different trains; a shot that will be difficult to repeat!
There is currently a severe speed restriction over most of the branch but it wasn't long before 230003 appeared in the distance, dropped off the token and made its way into the station area ready for a reversal at Honeybourne North Junction. The light had picked up a little but wasn't strong enough to cast anything but the lightest shadow. Still, there is only once chance for these moves and one has to take what's available on the day.
I was keen to take my final shot of 230003 in a recognisable location and in any event there wouldn't have been enough time to drive to another decent location especially as I had gone over in my Morris Minor; not built for belting around country roads! I was happy enough to get a record shot as 5Q13 passed through Honeybourne station even though the light had collapsed altogether by that time.
Vivarail's first production unit, 230003, made its debut on the main line on Monday 17 September 2018. It should have run the previous week but there was apparently a small problem with the fuel system found while on test within Long Marston. To avoid the possibility of a fruitless wait as happened when the run was aborted before, I waited at home until I saw from RTT that 5Z01 had actually moved. The original plan was for a run from Long Marston to Moreton-in-Marsh, thence to Evesham before returning to Long Marston so I arrived at Honeybourne in good time for 5Z03 from Evesham and planned to take a shot as the train ran along the branch line but it struck me that it seemed to be taking an awfully long time to come the short distance from Evesham and wondered if it had stopped to arrange an alternative path back to Moreton. With this in mind I stood on the footbridge over the up main line just in case. This proved to be a good choice as 230003 came from Honeybourne North Junction on the main rather than the branch line. I waited on the platform for the return to Evesham, now 5Z04, but the sun came out at just the wrong time making for a poor result.
The next stage in 230003's test programme on 17 September 2018 was shown to be another trip from Evesham to Moreton in Marsh. As there wasn't time to move to another location I stayed at Honeybourne to take an image from the down platform as 5Z05 headed south. Once again though things went differently from the plan and the first thing I saw was 230003 moving slowly along the Long Marston branch rather than on the up main line. A quick sprint was needed to get up and over the enormous footbridge and I made it with no time at all to spare so this is very much a grab shot as it ran slowly towards its current home base. The unit is in its final livery ready for a new life on the Bedford to Bletchley line and here is some bodyside detail clearly showing this.
At the time of writing there is a severe speed restriction due to poor track condition over the whole of the Long Marston branch so there was no need for a high speed dash from Honeybourne to record 230003's arrival. The light stayed poor but I was more than content to have scored some reasonable shots on the train's first outing. I took another view as it entered the yard mostly to show 230003 with an unrestored example of the same original class in a siding.
A casualty of the hot and dry weather of the 2018 summer was a steam special from Preston to Stratford-upon-Avon which had to be postponed until the threat of the countryside being set alight had passed. By 8 September everywhere was nice and damp so 46100 Royal Scot was allocated from Crewe. The train met about an hour's delay around Wigan because of a problem with the diesel locomotive used from Preston and this delay stuck for the rest of the journey. I don't have much of an interest in steam photography although I quite enjoy seeing and hearing the locomotives in action; what does put me off is the crowds that tend to gather in every single location. There is a spot near the station which I have meaning to check out for a while and I thought that 1Z48, the return to Preston, would be the ideal chance. It turned out to be not too great but I did bang off a few as 46100 prepared to leave. The smoke was a bit of a nuisance and the sun came out at the wrong moment but it gave me an idea of what might be possible if we ever get a decent train first thing on a summer morning.
The exit from Stratford-upon-Avon is awkward for the crews of steam locomotives because it is on a adverse gradient, has some quite severe curvature and worst of all if the train is in platform 1 it has to negotiate a crossover to the up main a short distance from the station. It is quite usual for a diesel to give the train a shove and on 8 September 2018 D1935 was used as was working quite hard as I took this shot. The picture of Royal Scot leaving wasn't a success because of steam and smoke obscuring the front of the locomotive. The white tanker in view just in front of D1935 was the one used to water the steam engine; good to know that the tender tank and boiler won't be clogged up with weeds!
One of the occasional Longtown MOD to Fenny Compton MOD trains ran on Wednesday 5 September 2019. I had been meaning to to go for a shot of one so with the times of 3F04 being convenient went to Hatton road bridge. I had seen from a mapping app that the train headed by 66131 was likely to escape from the Birmingham area early and even though there was a chance that it might be held to time in Dorridge loop I went in plenty of time. This was a good job as the app showed it passing Lapworth, about 3 minutes north of Hatton, as I arrived on location. MOD traffic can carry a huge range of different wagons and although today's wasn't the most inspiring I have seen the combination of 4 wheel open trucks and containers made for an interesting contrast.
My interest in all railway related matters has been waning recently, so much so that I couldn't be bothered to go out for topped-and-tailed class 47s with some ECS at Hatton on Saturday 1 September 2018. The most I could be bothered to do was to walk to Stratford-upon-Avon station for a single shot of 172335 as it arrived with 2D40 from Stourbridge Junction. The novelty of the new colour scheme will wear off quite soon as more units are repainted from the current green colour scheme...
I was walking along the towpath of the Stratford-upon-Avon canal on the morning of 18 August 2018 when I saw a reliveried class 172 about to enter Stratford station. I assumed that it was the 08.21 arrival from Stourbridge Junction and after returning home worked out that the same unit should return on the 14.21 arrival. Luckily, a friend texted me to say that it was actually on 2D40, the next service which ran via Dorridge and Hatton North Junction which meant that the train I had seen earlier was 5D70 from Tyseley depot running early. I had a walk to the station in the afternoon taking my Canon G10 and arrived a few minutes before 172335 in its new colour scheme arrived with 2D40.
To my eyes the colours applied to 172335 by West Midlands Trains really suit the lines of the class, more so than the original green as seen here at Bentley Heath on the same unit in 2012. I don't know if this will become the standard livery for the class but intend to kep an eye on this example in the hope of getting a sunny shot next time. There were no Chiltern Railways services on 18 August 2018 as engineering work caused their replacement by a fleet of buses such this being loaded with passengers and their luggage against the new backdrop of Stratford-upon-Avon's hideous new high-density housing scheme. Thanks to Chris Morrison for letting me know the correct train that 172335 was working.
D'oh, a deer; but not a female deer. A roe deer buck crosses the exchange sidings at Long Marston on Monday 13 August 2018 as 230001 approaches with 5Z01 to Moreton-in-Marsh. I saw from RTT that something was making some test runs between Moreton and Evesham and wondered if it might be one of the class 230s earmarked for use on the Bedford to Bletchley line. With that in mind I thought a shot or two would be in order so went across to Long Marston to see what was running. There was nothing in view until a few moments before the booked departure time, 09.40, when I saw some movement in the background.
It didn't take many seconds for the gates to be opened and for 230001 to exit the Long Marston site and head for Honeybourne. I have many images of the this unit in good light and with little prospect of much sun in the short term I left and headed to my health club for a swim. Had one of the later units been in use I should have had a good chase around to get a few pictures in the bag but on this occasion... I later saw from RTT that 230001 ran to Moreton-in-Marsh and Evesham West Junction but then returned to Long Marston with further runs for the day cancelled.
The monthly 1Q48 test train from Derby RTC to Tyseley via Stratford-upon-Avon and the North Warwickshire Line was retimed quite significantly on Tuesday 7 August 2018 and made its first of two trips to the terminus at lunchtime with an arrival time of 12.47. The sun's angle was most favourable around the Stratford Parkway area and I had a short but very hot 15 minute walk there from home. The train was running a bit early and passed the station 8 minutes ahead of schedule with 67023 leading 4 coaches and 67027. There is a bit too much ironmongery poking above the locomotive's roof but that is typical of both modern and recently refurbished stations.
After visiting Stratford-upon-Avon for the first time on 7 August 2018 1Q48 ran to Fenny Compton before returning to Stratford via Hatton, Claverdon and Wilmcote. The station at the last of these retains some GWR artefacts and with a passing time of just after 15.00 this was just the spot to take advantage of the light and to give a good interesting background. A passenger train was due a few minutes after 1Q48 and I took this image at an appropriate spot to show those waiting to join their class 172 DMU for the short journey to Stratford and no, I wasn't tempted to bleach out the shadows as seems to be the fashion at the moment. A shot of the northbound train isn't worth the effort in this past of the world so I left after 67023 + 67027 had passed. I must admit to not being too disappointed when 67s are diagrammed for the this working; on a sunny day with 37s in charge there would have been far too many bodies around in the best locations!
I don't often photograph charters but there are one or two that make me think, "I suppose that I really should go out...". Such was the case on Sunday 5 August when 50049 + 50007 worked a train on a circular route from Birmingham International via Worcester, Ledbury, Hereford and Bristol. It was due at Defford at around 16.30 and with the weather decent enough I went there for a shot, with Bredon Hill in the background, from the road bridge. There was quite a lot of cloud around the sun and when the gathered throng heard 1Z50 approaching from Eckington the line was in shadow but it cleared at the last moment with no more than 3 seconds to spare. The sun was just round enough to please everyone so no fiddling about with the Magnetic Lassoo tool on Photoshop should be needed. For some unfathomable reason the locomotives are numbered 50011 and 50006 respectively on the side visible here but have the correct numbers on the other side - ridiculous! Seeing 50007 paired with another of the class reminded me of my shot from November 1986 when it was leading the Saturday morning Cardiff to Glasgow service through Longbridge before the BL factory disappeared. No-one who saw the Boston steel also on a Saturday morning but in 2014 would forget that sight in a hurry...
A set of JSA steel hoods has been due to leave Long Marston for Eastleigh for a couple of weeks and the second attempt to shift them took place on 24 July 2018. The locomotive was 47813 which arrived a bit late and had to wait a long while inside the site while the stock was shunted out of a storage siding after more delay casued, I think, by brake problems. Even when coupled to 47813 the stock seemed to be causing problems and much examination of the wheel areas took place. Another light engine move, this time from Bescot, was due and RTT showed it having passed Evesham and I made the entirely wrong assumption that it had reached Honeybourne and had been put into the tamper sidings there. A drive down there showed that nothing was there so I turned around and went back towards Long Marston but saw 47813 with 6O86 some 90 minutes late heading along the branch where it runs parallel with the Broad Marston road. Not having taken a long lens with me on this occasion this picture giving a panoramic view of Long Marston yard was all I managed. Oh well, it gave my Morris Minor a good run around the lanes... I later discovered that a wagon had been shunted out of the rake and that whatever had come from Bescot had been turned round at Evesham.
Another brief outing for my Canon G10 on Monday 16 July 2018 when LSL's D1935 (47805) ran as 0Z48 from Crewe HS to Stratford-upon-Avon. I'm not all that bothered about light engine shots but the chance of a two-tone green class 47 at Stratford without making any effort was worthwhile. The timings were such that a 2 minute diversion while on my way home from the gym and swimming pool, with my lightweight camera in my bag, would find me at the station at just the right time. The road-learning move, in preparation for steam specials later in the year (if it rains before then!) was booked into platform 3 and arrived exactly on time. The sun, had it cooperated would have been in just the right place as D1935 ran into the station against the backdrop of Morrisons supermarket. This wasn't 47805's first visit to the terminus as it was here on 29 November 2006 in the company of 47815 when they operated a Compass Tours charter from Liverpool South Parkway. It was here again in 1991 when in Intercity colours and when there were still semaphore signals on the platform ends.
As soon as 47805 had stopped in platform 3 at Stratford-upon-Avon on 16 July 2018 the diesel engine was stopped and the four man crew alighted and took a few photographs of their locomotive before walking under the nearby road bridge to inspect the headshunt and locomotive release points. The locomotive has also carried Virgin and DRS colour schemes and has been to Long Marston on several occasions.
My enthusiasm for going out for photographs is inversely proportional to the outside temperature so I haven't bothered during the heatwave during June and July 2018. Although the evening of 10 July was quite warm it wasn't too bad so I had a walk to Stratford-upon-Avon station for a shot or two of 67023 + 67027 with 1Q48, the Derby to Tyseley test train. I took only my lightweight Canon G10 compact camera secure in the knowledge that with its RAW image capability it is more than capable of taking a decent picture without the weight of a DSLR and heavy lens. The train was about 15 early joining the North Warwickshire Line which put it in front of 2S64, the local passenger service from Stourbridge. There was therefore a possibility that it would be routed into either platform 2 or 3 the latter of which had just been vacated by a Chiltern service to Leamington Spa but I was hopeful that it would run as booked into P1. It did and made for an attractive scene as it drew to a halt alongside the beautiful floral display sponsored by FOSS, the Friends of Stratford Station.
The test train operated by 67027 + 67023 was followed into Stratford station by 172344 which had to terminate in platform 2 rather than its booked platform 1. The latter is just visible in the this view as the incoming and outgoing passengers swap over. I thought that 1Q48 might be allowed to leave before the passenger train but the signal for platform 2 flicked to green as I took this telephoto view from the extreme end of platform 2 so it was time to leave but with a short pause to take this wide-angle view of 67027 as it stood awaiting departure time. The picture also shows a tiny part of the hideous and gloomy high-density housing scheme under construction on the site of Stratford's cattle market.
It's Saturday therefore it must be 37601 on 5Q94. So it was on 30 June 2018 and after playing the organ at a nearby village I thought that there might just be time to reach Honeybourne to grab a shot as the train joined the Long Marston branch on its way to the site where corrosiion repairs to 350264 will take place. The sun at just after midday is much too high for decent photography but that can be mitigated to some extent by using a long lens and having a head-on shot as shown here. Not one for those who stick to some dogma or other about using only a "standard" lens but at least a change in perspective now and again alters the effect for the viewer and makes a for a less consistently similar appearance of images than is sometimes seen. A FGW HST (43154 OC52 43010) was in the platform as 5Q94 stopped at the staff hut to collect the single line token and the heat haze from 1W02 slightly blurs this view of 350264.
The annual Rail Live event is taking place on Wednesday and Thursday 20th and 21st June 2018. As usual there were stock moves planned to bring in various items for exhibition and the first of these took place on Monday 18 June when a 5Q94 from Derby Litchurch Lane ran early in the morning. I had no idea what was going in but it turned out to be a class 345 unit from the new Crossrail stock build hauled by ROG's 37800. It was due to arrive just before 07.00 and although it reached Worcester 11 minutes early it was held there, presumably because of a late-running passenger train, and reached Long Marston 21 minutes late. I don't keep up-to-date with some of the new stock being built and didn't know what the train was until I saw the number on the side of the front coach.
There was the usual short wait while the single line staff was put into the ground frame to allow 37800 with 5Q94 to enter the exchange sidings at Long Marston. As soon as this had been done the train moved forward allowing this shot of the rear cab to be taken amidst the unchecked vegetation threatening to obscure this view altogether. The sun had just began to come out and there is a faint glimmer of light on the roof. One of the older fixtures at Long Marston, Pandora has moved and replaced with an elderly-looking diesel crane.
On 19 June 2018 Network Rail sent a short-formation test train for display at Long Marston topped and tailed by 67027 + 67023. As far as as I know this was only the second time the class has been on the line and the first since 67016 hauled the first revenue earning train along the new formation at Honeybourne following the North Cotswold Line partial re-doubling. Here is 1Z05 arriving at Long Marston and again a few moments later as it entered the site.
It soon became clear that the 67s were not to be part of the exhibition as they were uncoupled from the stock and stabled at either end of road 3 where a variety of withdrawn or stored stock is kept.
The second arrival at Long Marston on 19 June 2018 was a first (and probably a last!) for the North Cotswold Line and the Long Marston branch. DRS sent a class 88 to Rail Live for display and this ran as 0Z76 from Crewe with an arrival time at Honeybourne of 13.42. This gave me more than enough for a drive there from Long Marston as 0Z76 had got caught up with the usual GWR late running arounf Worcester. I don't always bother with light engine moves but this one was just about unusual enough fot a shot or two.
I thought that a quick belt down to Long Marston would be required to take a second shot of 88004 on 19 June 2018 but in the event it took the locomotive much longer than expected to make the short journey, possibly the single line staff hadn't been taken back after 1Z01's arrival. Anyway, it did arrive and made a unusual sight as it approached the road bridge and soon went into number 2 road, making an interesting front-end contrast with the other stock, before going round the circuit into the exhibition.
The rail-mounted crane at Long Marston which has recently been stabled close to the road bridge was fired up on 20 June 2018. After some checks that was working properly it moved towards the main complex and began doing whatever it had to do.
On both days of the Rail Live event at Long Marston a special train was organised running from London Paddington directly to the platform within the site. The stock involved on 20 June 2018 was a 4TC set topped and tailed by 73963 + 73962 and this was a first for the Long Marston branch, if not the North Cotswold Line itself. Three of the class, 73006, 73138 and 73201 , have been dragged to and from Long Marston but there have been no examples of them visiting under their own power. I wanted a shot as the train, 1Z73 surprisingly enough, arrived so went no further than the road bridge at the site entrance. The sun was in and out but wasn't too bad as it approached.
The ground crew were keeping a careful eye on the points as 1Z73 moved along No. 1 road on its way to the small platform which is out of sight around to the right at the end of the exchange sidings. The train is passing 5 oil tanks which were due to be taken to Lindsey Oil Refinery by 70811 later in the day.
The return of 73962 + 73963 from Long Marston to Paddington was due to leave the latter at 14.54 and I arrived at Honeybourne with about 15 minutes to spare. There was some speculation that there was a problem with the brakes on 1Z74 and this was borne out when the arrival time came and went. Another train was due to run into Long Marston as 70811 was on its way with a single tank from Lindsey Oil Refinery but with the single line occupied there was a bit of confusion about what was going on as RTT showed that 6Z25 was in the Evesham area with nowhere for it to be looped. In the event 1Z74 came first and made for a decent enough image as it ran from the staff hut to the road around the back of the station. It ran ran straight through and was supposedly heading for the crossover just around the corner for a reversal and return via the up main line. It later transpired that the train ran straight to Evesham where the passengers were turfed off to use a scheduled service to Paddington while the 73s and stock went to Worcester Yard to see what could be done. There was nothing possible there and 5Z74 went to Eastleigh via Cheltenham and Bristol the locomotives by then double-heading the stock.
The class 73s and 4TC set shown above had only just gone around the corner to Honeybourne North Junction when 70811 appeared with its modest load heading for Long Marston. I'm not a fan of very short formations but this isn't too bad as the locomotive and tank fits quite nicely into the space between the bridge and signal. There was a return load for 70811 but I had had enough of hanging around by then and headed for home.
Following the problems with 4TC stock on 20 June 2018 I wasn't sure if the train would run as booked on the following morning. However, a quick check saw that at 5Z73 had run to Paddington P12 from Eastleigh, the stock being 4 carmine & cream Mk1s. I wanted to have a drive in my Morris Minor and somehow found myself at Honeybourne just in time to witness 1Z73 arriving at the station on the up main line in somewhat challenging lighting conditions. Reversal at Honeybourne North Junction didn't take many minutes and the train soon ran onto the Long Marston branch for its trip to the Rail Live exhibition.
For the final run of the class 73s from Long Marston to Paddington I went to a bridge between Honeybourne and Moreton-in-Marsh. This shot needs a relatively wide angle lens so that as much of the train as possible is clear of the shadows from lineside trees. This stretch of line sees few locomotive-hauled workings so it's always having a shot somewhere along here when the opportunity arises.
On Thursday 15 June 2018 ROG's 47813 + 47812 took 6 barrier coaches from Leicester LIP to Portbury in readiness for another stock movement of TPE Mk5 coaches to Manchester. This train, 5Q32, ran the follolwing day and was due to pass Stoke Works Junction, the nearest location for me, at about 11.50. This gave me time to have my morning swim before driving over from Stratford-upon-Avon to the road bridge beyond the junction. The journey took longr than usual because of grass verge cutting, 2 tractors, 3 horses and a slow-moving B & Q lorry but I arrived with about 15 minutes in hand before the slightly late train was due. There was a Cross Country train immediately behind 47813 + 47812 with the new stock and barriers providing brake force so it seemed likely that it would be crawling along prior to being turned into Bromsgrove loop but two huge plumes of exhaust smoke as the train came into sight put paid to that idea. The smoke eased back a bit before 5Q32 passed the bridge but there was still enough to mask the stock to some extent as power was kept on ready for the climb up the Lickey Incline.
I had a message during the morning of Monday 11 June saying that 59003 was working 6M40, the Westbury to Stud Farm empty stone hoppers. This was well worth a shot so I went to one of the very few remaining northbound locations on the Leamington Spa to Birmingham line, Hatton North. The first freight to pass was 4E18, the 09.47 Fairwater Yard to Doncaster Wood Yard train conveying new concrete sleepers. This train is often used to move spare Freightliner locomotives around the system but on this occasion just one, 66531, was in use. It's notable that this was the engine used for the first train to Long Marston after the branch from Honeybourne had seen no traffic for several years. This ran on 16 September 2005 when some Virgin coaches and DVTs were taken for storage.
One of the regular runners on the line through Hatton North Junction is the 11.56 Westbury to Stud Farm stone empties, 6M40. This is invariably a GBRf class 66 job but this habit was changed on 11 June 2018 when 59003 was allocated. The light was good during the afternoon and the sun had just about dropped enough for a decent shot; it being much too high and harsh between about 11am and 3pm at this time for a good result even if it is on the front... The empty stone hoppers are booked into Hatton DGL for about 10 minutes but because of a Chiltern service running 2 minutes late it was 3 minutes leaving. I could hear 59003 working hard after leaving the loop mand passing through Hatton station but it was accelerating well as it came towards North Junction.
Bank Holiday Mondays usually throw up one or two diversions and 28 May 2018 was no exception with 6M50, the 07.55 Westbury to Bescot departmental train, being sent to Birmingham via Hatton instead of the longer route through Coventry and Nuneaton. The timings were convenient for me so I had a run over to Hatton to take an image in a location which showed that 6M50 was off its normal route. There was no load between Westbury and Hinksey Yard but the headcode was changed from 0M50 at Oxford so there was going to be at least something behind 70817 and DIT 66849. This service wasn't booked to run into Hatton DGL but as it was a few minutes early it had to be looped to allow a Chiltern class 168 to pass and this picture shows the last of the autoballasters crossing to the down main line.
Five new imporetd Mk5 coaches for use on the new Trans-Pennine locomotive-hauled services were due to be taken from Portbury Automotive Terminal, Bristol, to Manchester on 25 May 2018. The locomotives and barrier stock were taken from Leicester to Portbury on the previous day ready for 5Q43 which had a departure time of 09.00 and a route via Gloucester and Cheltenham. There was unfortunately considerable disruption around Bedminster on Friday morning with trespassers apparently being chased up and down the lines by BTP. {Cue Benny Hill music...}. I originally planned to drive to Stoke Prior immediately after my morning swim but when I checked RTT in the gym car park saw that the train was still at Pill. I went home and kept an eye on 5Q43 and saw that it eventually left over 2 hours late which was marginally better for me as the torrential rain had almost stopped by then. I had a quick drive to Defford and soon saw 37611 + 37884 leading the 5 coaches (including what I call a DVT), 4 barriers and 47812. The heavy load behind the new stock made me wonder if they were included for brake force as maybe the Mk5s were without operational brakes and therefore through-piped. The weather, although without the heavy rain, was still filthy with almost no light and heavy mist everywhere. I wouldn't have bothered but know full well that I shall never be inspired to travel and photograph the stock in action on the Trans-Pennine route.
After photographing the first Mk5 stock move on Friday 25 May 2018 I stayed at Defford for a few minutes as the NMT HST was heading from Reading Triangle Sidings to Derby via Paddington and South Wales. I hadn't seen this train for ages so waited, despite the dire conditions, for 1Z20 to come along led by 43013 and tailed by 43062.
I have been waiting for a chance to take a sunny image of 1Q48, the monthly Derby to Tyseley test train, at Stratford-upon-Avon station for a while so when 22 May 2018 had mostly clear skies I walked down for a shot or two. The sun was in the middle of a blue patch of sky as 67027 led its train and 67023 into platform 1 a few minutes late following a unit failure somewhere or other beyond Snow Hill. Platform 1 was free for about 10 minutes which allowed the shot I wanted to be taken as the train approached the footbridge.
The sun stayed out just long enough Tuesday 22 May 2018 to take a photograph of 67023 with 1Q48 standing in platform 1 at Stratford-upon-Avon station. The distracting background of scaffolding shows a tiny part of a huge sink estate of the future undergoing construction on the site of the cattle market. The consensus of local opinion of which I am aware suggests that within a few years this part of the town will be very much a no-go area after dark. Well done, Stratford DC...
The prototype class 230, 230001 made some more runs from Long Marston on Thursday 17 May 2018. I had intended to take some pictures of all the trips but had a message before leaving home saying that something even more unusual was running on the line through Hatton a bit later on. I still went to Long Marston for the first part of 5Z01 and arrived a few minutes before 230001 came into sight as it ran along the exchange sidings. Within a vey short time the gates were opened and it started on the short journey to Honeybourne. Over to the right and out of shot the diesel shunter was on the loop moving a class 319 EMU around towards the exchange sidings in preparation for its journey to Wolverton during the afternoon.
Vivarail's 230001 paused on the Long Marston branch at Honeybourne for a few moments until the signal was cleared to allow it to go to Honeybourne North Junction and to reverse on the main line and head off to Moreton-in-Marsh, Honeybourne isn't the most attractive station in the area but it does at least have a GWR-Style piece of ironwork on some of the platform's benches. The sun was at full strength but still a little straight at this time of the morning, just on 10.00. There were some more moves during the rest of the day along with another Long Marston to Wolverton class 319 drag but I went home for some coffee before going to Hatton.
Coal trains have been a very rare commodity of the GWR line from Tyseley to Leamington Spa in recent years. On the morning of 17 May 2018 I had a message from a friend saying that a Freightliner locomotive was in charge of a 6V40 Barrow Hill to East Usk Yard and was due at Hatton at 11.50. I changed my plans so as to be able to take a photograph of this unusual working and decided to go to the high bridge at Shrewley, just to the north of Hatton North Junction. The train, which had originated at York on the previous day and had been recessed overnight at Barrow Hill, was running about 20 minutes late but this wasn't a bad thing because 4M55 hauled by 66516 was in Hatton DGL and was a candidate for blocking out the view of an up train. All was well however and 6V40 came around the bend surrounded by Spring greenery and a healthy sprinkling of hawthorn blossom. Talking of flowers, this iris was growing on the narrow grass verge alongside the bridge.
Vivarail's 230001 made some more runs between Evesham and Moreton-in-Marsh on Tuesday 16 May 2018 and as I had limited time went to Thistley Hill near Mickleton for the second up run although knowing that the sun would be too straight for most people's taste. First along was am IET forming 1P25, the 0954 Great Malvern to London Paddington which was running about 10 minutes late and certainly not being pushed to make up considering how slowly it passed me. I don't know which unit it was; I don't bother much with numbers and don't separately record them. Recent vegetation clearance has really opened the view along this stretch of line; this shot would have been impossible until the clearance works. It won't last...
This was the train I went out to photograph near Mickleton on 16 May 2018. Vivarail's 230001 was making some more testing and mileage accumulation runs and had already gone from Long Marston to Moreton-in-Marsh and then down to Evesham and I was here for 5Z03 from Evesham West Junction back to Moreton. RTT showed that it had arrived at Evesham but whichever system activates the train on the railway computer systems hadn't done so and until I saw it coming up Campden Bank wasn't sure that it was on its way. The next run due in about an hour would have been better for the light but I couldn't wait so was sort of relieved to see later that it had been cancelled with 230001 returning to Long Marston from Evesham.
During the late morning of 15 May 2018 a schedule appeared suggesting that a class 143 pacer, running as 5Z43, was on its way from Cardiff Canton to Long Marston. As the afternoon was clear and sunny and as my previous shots of 143s here had been in poor light I went across to Long Marston for a shot or two. This one taken as 143601 ran the final few yards along the branch from Honeybourne from the top of a pile of earth left in the field during works to update Pebworth's sewage facilities by taking the village's waste to the nearby Milcote sewage works.
The usual procedure for moving a class 143 at Long Marston ws followed on 15 May 2018 when 143601 entered the exchange sidings and immediately reversed to reach the workshop area by running anti-clockwise around the circuit. This shot was taken just as it began to move and against a backdrop of a variety of stored stock.
The first run of a 9 car IET over the length of the North Cotswold Line was on Monday 15 May 2018 when 800302 worked 5X23 between Stoke Gifford and Oxford and back again. The afternoon leg of the test was better for me and I went to Lower Moor between Evesham and Pershore, a spot where the full length of the train could be seen to advantage. The bland overall green blends all too well with the background as the train passes the hydroponic glasshouses growing various salad crops.
Defford, on the main line from Birmingham to Gloucester, is only a few minutes drive from Lower Moor and with another shot of the IET to be had along with one or two bits and pieces that is where I went next on 15 May 2018. First along and running the thick end of 2 hours early was 37099 propelling 3Z62, the 12.32 Derby R.T.C.(Network Rail) to Exeter Old Yd Waggonersway. Much of the earliness was the result of missing out a lengthy layover in Abbotswood Loop and as my mobile data provider sent a new SIM card at the weekend but without telling anyone that the APN settings for data had to be set from scratch I had no access to anything so didn't know where trains were.
The roadbridge at Defford is one of the few in the area where a decent two-way shot can be had. I like the northbound view because of the attractive vista of the valley of the River Avon and the mass of Bredon Hill in the background. If standing on the bridge ready for a southbound shot it is easy to keep an eye for anything coming the other way on the long straight through Eckington and when a headlight is seen there is time to cross the road. On this occasion, 15 May 2018, the light was on the front of 43301 leading 1S61, the 12.25 Plymouth to Glasgow Central, the HST being in what I think is by far the best of the current crop of colour schemes on that class of train.
My second shot of 800302 on 15 May 2018 was as it returned to Stoke Gifford from Oxford via a reversal at Worcester. It is shown here passing the site of Defford station still running at 5X23 once again matching the green background. I think the colour could have been a shade or two lighter and much more like the Middle Chrome (Brunswick) Green with a contrasting lining-out used by the GWR on its express passenger locomotives.
There were at least 2 movements of old locomotives on the main line on Monday 15 May 2018 but this one took my fancy more than a pair of class 50s running light engine. The train pictured here at Defford is a 5Z20 11.15 Ferme Park to Kidderminster SVR presumably to take locomotives and stock there for some gala or other. I nearly went to Dog Bridge at Norton Barracks but decided on an image from here to take advantage of the wider angle to better show 20205, 20189 and 73136 leading a 4 TC set with 20142 and 20007 bringing up the rear.
Worcester has been a popular destination for rail charters during early May with the VSOE on Wednesday 9th and a slightly less luxurious train in Saturday 12th. I couldn't get out for the VSOE but did go for the latter working on Saturday from Letchworth. This had the unattractively liveried 67018 providing the power but despite this I went to Honeybourne as it was my first chance for a shot of a locomotive-hauled passenger train at this recently cleared location. The light wasn't particularly good but the mass of hawthorn blossom all around made up for this to some extent.
Vivarail's 230001 was shown as running between Moreton-in-Marsh and Evesham on Tuesday 8 May 2018 and with what appeared to be guaranteed sunshine I went over to Evesham for the second of the day's runs. I arrived at Briar Close just in time to see 165113 forming the 10.39 Great Malvern to Paddington, 1P27, approach the signal box for a stop in the station where a class 800 was waiting to head north. The new GWR colour looks smart but it's not easy to achieve a good photographic result of it even in strong sunlight.
I'm always keen to take a photograph of Vivarail's 230001 on its various test runs and must admit that I find it a more interesting prospect than yet another 37 hauled stock drag. On Tuesday 8 May 2018 230001 made some runs on the North Cotswold Line and unusually it started from Honeybourne sidings where it had been stabled, for reasons of which I am not aware, since the previous weekend. I wasn't able to get out for the first run between Moreton-in-Marsh and Evesham but did make it to Evesham in plenty of time for the second. Here it is arriving at Evesham station as 5Z04 and after a short wait at the signal just on the other side of the bridge until a preceding class 800 had reached Norton Junction went down towards Evesham West Junction before crossing over to the up main line.
Now running as 5Z05 after its reversal at Evesham West Junction 230001 is about to pass non-stop through Evesham on the way back to Moreton-in-Marsh. It would reverse again there before the final journey of the day and its return to Honeybourne Sidings.
A sunny morning on 5 May 2018 and the prospect of an unusual triple-headed freight on the Solihull line saw me head to Hatton for a few minutes. Running in front of the freight was 165011 forming 2L27, the 11.34 Birmingham Moor Street to Leamington stopping train. When I left home the sky was cloudless but during the drive over a lot of cloud bubbled up; inevitable on a warm morning after some wet weather earlier in the week. There was still more blue sky around than cloud so I wasn't going to turn this image of a 2 car unit.
An early morning message said that the 08.55 Freightliner from Crewe Basford Hall to Southampton was to be headed by 70015, 70004 and 70003, clearly a way to take 2 locomotives from unbalanced diagrams for work next week. This to me was a much better option than yet another shot of 37601 with a class 350/2 EMU going to Long Marston. It was a pity that 57301 wasn't still around following its trip to Warwickshire on the previous day - the choice of train would then have been more difficult. Anyway the novelty aspect of a triple-header appealed and here is 4O29 passing Hatton's banner repeater signal running 4 minutes late. This slight lateness was fortunate as a northbound Chiltern service is due here at exactly the same time and also because the sun managed to be in the middle of a large clear patch of sky.
Track relaying work on the Long Marston branch finished sometime during the night of 3/4 May 2018 and the first revenue-earning train ran on the morning of 4 May. A light engine was shown to be running from Crewe Gresty Bridge and after a bit of digging, not helped by the fact that the reporting number was changed from 0V70 to 0V94 near Wolverhampton, found that 57301 was the locomotive involved. This was the first DRS liveried, as opposed to the Pullman coloured, class 57 to go along here so I went over for a shot. There was no return train schedule showing at the time but the headcode suggested that a stock move, probably a class 319, was going to leave the site. Some delay was encountered along the Stourbridge Junction line but a little time was picked up and arrival was at 10.24 some 20 minutes late. As this was the first non-infrastructure move over the new track I took this image of it a few yards from the end of the branch. While 57301 stood in the sun with 319008 waiting to be collected another unit was being propelled to join the other but I wanted to get to my health club for a swim and I have previously witnessed how long it can take for 319s to be coupled and for the door locking mechanism to be made operational I stayed no longer. I later saw that 5Q70 left for Wolverton 70 minutes late at 12.22...
The engineering work on the Long Marston branch continued over 2 and 3 May 2018 with another 6X04 from Fairwater Yard on the Tuesday afternoon. Knowing that a lot of vegetation had been removed from the North Cotswold Line I went, in hope, to a spot near Mickleton where a clear shot would be available. The location had seen significant clearance work and I was hopeful of a decent outcome at shortly before 20.00. Running in front of 6X04 was 1W36, the 17.52 Paddington to Worcester Shrub Hill which was 2 or 3 minutes late when it passed me formed of 165109.
The shadows at Mickleton were becoming a bit intrusive on 2 May 2018 as I was waiting for 6X04, the 13.45 from Fairwater Yard to Honeybourne North Junction. The preceding passenger service didn't help matters by being 2 or 3 minutes late as the sun was sinking rapidly and the remaining lineside bushes' shadows were encroaching on the line. Nonetheless, freight of any description is as "rare as the stars upon a clouded night" (Louise Morgan Sill) along the North Cotswold Line south of Honeybourne so to take an image in mostly decent light was more than welcome. The locomotives were 66543 and 66526, the same as Monday's run and the train's consist looks to be much the same. The location has seen a lot of lineside work work since my previous visit in September 2016 but there was still a huge smouldering pile of manure casting smelly smoke around. Fortunately the slight breeze drifted it away from the line.
Some much-needed engineering work is, at the time of writing, taking place on the Long Marston branch following a few days of road learning by Freightliner drivers with several light engone runs having taken place the previous week. The first train to run on 30 April 2018 was a 6Q53 from Reading Triangle Sidings and althought this was inevitably going to be a track machine I thought it worth the short trip to Honeybourne to have a record shot. On arrival on the roadbridge I was pleased to see that a lot of clearance to the heavily overgrown trackside vegetation had taken place with the result that a shot of an up train from the south side was again available after a gap of many years. The tamper (or whatever it is) ran to time and is seen here approaching the end of its journey and will go through the station before a reversal to cross over to the up main line and then on to the Long Marston branch before another reversal to gain the sidings.
After the first reversal at Honeybourne on 30 April 2018 the OTP waited at the signal for the road to be set for the sidings by Evesham signal box. The driver was about to exit the cab and walk to the other end of the unit when I took this image and within a few moments the move was complete.
The first of the infrastructure trains to the Long Marston branch was 6X04 from Fairwater Yard at Taunton which ran during the afternoon of 30 April 2018. The arrival time at Honeybourne wa 19.52 and as the weather had improved from the poor forecast earlier in the week I had my second drive of the day across there for a shot. The sky had been consistently cloudy albeit with decent light levels and this was just the job for this time of time of day. Unfortunately, the sun dropped out of the cloud a few minutes before 66543 and 66526 appeared by which time it was too late to go to an alternative location a couple of miles further down the line where the sun would have perfect. That being so I went for a head-on view to minimize the impact of the sun's angle and compromised the composition a little to include the belt of dark cloud which I thought made for a better picture. The track machines were at the back of the train, these I think being the devices used for laying the new track.
On 2 May 2018, the day following the date of the shots shown above, I had a drive around the Long Marston and Honeybourne in my Morris Minor and took just a compact camera in case anything was around. I stopped at the roadbridge at Long Marston and could hear ballast being moved around with shovels. This shot shows a p-way gang levelling the ballast prior to tamping. Most of the branch is well away from roads so my next visit was to Honeybourne where a short ballast train, 6Y05 I think, was standing at the end of the possession. My compact's zoom was at full stretch and some cropping was done in post-processing to achieve this poor result showing 66507 and 66528 waiting for permission to return to Westbury. This was at about 11.30 and as far as I know the train didn't move until 16.00. The train booked for later in the day was cancelled as was that the next morning. Whether anything will run is at the moment unknown...
A rare visitor in the form of 50008 went to the Long Marston branch on Monday 23 April 2018. While waiting for it to arrive the on-site shunter, 10547, was moving some withdrawn tram stock around and it came forward just enough for a long lens shot over the field. At first sight amongst the trees the vehicle looked a little similar to a GW observation car, if such a thing ever existed.
One of the occasional railvac moves from Toton to Long Marston took place on Monday 23 April 2018 and as has been usual in recent months 50008 was the motive power; a humble task for the former 100mph express locomotive. This notwithstanding it was very welcome to me as this was one of the classes of locomotive I was yet to photograph on the branch as the first visit took place before daylight one morning last Winter. Thankfully the light was a little better today and it wasn't far from right time when 6X50 appeared in the distance and soon came to the end of the branch amongst the blackthorn blossom. The rapeseed is coming into flower in the adjoining fields and whilst I am not especially keen on the sometimes overwhelming yellowness a bit of background wasn't unwelcome.
It didn't long for 50008 to be uncoupled from the railvac and run to the points at the far end of the exchange sidings before returning along No. 2 road. As the sun was shining and the background nicely filled with a variety of stock the chance for a shot or two was taken in view of the unusual locomotive for the yard at Long Marston.
Within a few minutes 50008 had left Long Marston yard on 23 April 2018 and stood in the sun while the gates were closed. I don't always take light engine shots but on this occasion I relented to take advantage of the sunshine and background panorama.
A Great Western HST was scheduled to from from Okehampton to Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday 21 April 2018, the charter being organised by Okerail, the group dedicated to opening for full passenger use the line from Cowley Bridge Junction via Crediton. This wasn't the first HST to visit the terminus at Stratford but rare enough to warrant some pictures. The arrival was shown as 11.32 and I chose the roadbridge near Stratford Parkway station for a shot of 1Z44, formed of 43188, LA15 and 43093, as it approached its destination. Running a few minutes in front of it was 172335, the 09.57 from Stourbridge Junction and this unit nearly made a nuisance of itself as it returned to Stourbridge. The charter was running 2 minutes early which made a clash at Parkway possible and it very nearly went all wrong as this image shows. I don't know if the timing of the charter for this day was deliberate but the participants would have the town solid with people taking part in the annual Shakespeare's Birthday celebrations which takes place on the nearer Saturday to his birthday, 23 April.
After disgorging the passengers from Okehampton at Stratford-upon-Avon the HST set went to Banbury on 21 April 2018 either for servicing or to avoid clogging up one of the relatively short platforms at Stratford. This meant that a picture of the train leaving the Stratford branch at Hatton was on the cards. For reasons of which I am not aware the train ran as 1Z56 rather than the class 5 one would expect for what seemed to be an ECS movement. It is seen here with 43093 leading about to pass under the roadbridge at Hatton, run non-stop through the branch platform, cross over onto the up main line and thence on towards Leamington Spa and Banbury. Not long before 1Z56 was due a Birmingham Moor Street to Leamington Spa stopping service was due and here is 165002 forming the 11.34 to Leamington formed of 165002.
The stock for the return charter to Okehampton ran from Banbury as 5Z45 and I decided on a shot of it entering platform 1 at Stratford-upon-Avon. Had the sun been out this would have been a really good spot for it but unfortunately the sky had clouded over with some light rain having just fallen. This is, therefore, no more than a record shot. It was few minutes early because a West Midlands train from Stourbridge Junction was missing. There was considerable disruption to all services from Stourbridge on 21 April 2018 caused by the failure of 47749 on a railtour from Newport (South Wales) to York and Scarborough when it died at Old Hill. It took, almost unbelievably, nearly 4 hours to find an assisting locomotive and get the failed train into Rowley Regis loop. Somewhere in excess of 20 passenger services were cancelled and the charter itself had to miss out out York and go straight to Scarborough. I wonder if there will be repercussions about the use of single heritage old locomotives on charters following this expensive fiasco?
Thursday 19 April 2018 was a perfect warm and sunny day and with the prospect of several freights over the line through Hatton a trip to the North Junction there was in order. This is the only location in the area with a two-way shot even worth the thought although the view for a down train is better for an up working. First along was 66082 with 6O30, the very lengthy Castle Bromwich Jaguar to Southampton, a train always worthy of an image because of the good load and different wagons in use. It is seen here about to pass under the footbridge at Hatton North Junction with the covered wagons at the back still under the road bridge at Shrewley.
No more than a minute so after 66082 had gone south at Hatton North on 19 April 2018 66777 came in the opposite direction with 6M40, the 11.56 Westbury to Stud Farm empty boxes, running about 12 minutes early after missing the booked stop in Hatton DGL. Some white stone dust is visible on the locomotive's roof; clearly a legacy of the loading point for the full load the previous night. Some signs of Spring foliage are beginning to appear in the background and this will soon become reminiscent of a green tunnel given the unchecked growth around here.
Another regular southbound runner was next along, this being 66047 with the loaded rail train from Scunthorpe to Eastleigh, 6X01, on this occasion just a short formation. This is probably the best time of year for this view as the background is still relatively clear, a situation which will change once the trees are in full leaf.
I don't often photograph light engine moves and would rarely go out specifically to photograph one but on this occasion it seemed churlish not to point my camera at 47749 going away from the bridge at Hatton North on 20 April 2018. The locomotive, although now owned by GBRf, is still in full Colas colours and indeed appears to have received a thorough cleaning routine ready for railtour duties over the coming weekend. It will soon be repainted (or vinyled, if that word can be considered a verb!) in Caledonian Blue and exiled to Scotland. The working was an 0Z48 from Leicester LIP to Eastleigh. Once again, this was probably the only location in the area where this quality of light could be had, everywhere else being either heavily backlit or, horrors, contre-jour.
After shooting 47749 at Hatton North on 19 April 2018 it was time to move slightly to the right to take advantage of the greater angle currently available from the adjacent field before it is obscured by rampant undergrowth. Having so far ignored passenger trains I took this image of 168107 working 1G41, the 15.10 from London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill.
A recent addition to the Hatton WTT is 6E45 from Theale to Immingham discharged oil tanks. This is generally run on Wednesday and has recently produced 3 of GBRf's "celebrity" or locomotives in a non-standard colour scheme. This week however the train ran a day later on 19 April 2018 and had 66724 providing the power. The train left Theale 81 minutes late but by missing out booked stops in a couple of loops was just 34 minutes behind schedule. Despite several attempts this is my first shot of 6E45 in decent light and I opted for a fairly wide view to show a bit of the Hatton landscape. The train is routed this way for only a few more weeks until engineering work on the Midland Main Line is completed so it's been worth getting a few in the bag.
Some paths between Long Marston, Moreton in Marsh and Evesham West Junction appeared on RTT on Friday 13 April 2018 and were, I guessed, some test runs for Vivarail's class 230 DMU. On Monday 16 April I went to Long Marston to see what, if anything, happened and arrived at 09.20 some 20 minutes before the departure time. Nothing was in sight and it stayed like that for some time until a van appeared and after a short break the driver unlocked the gates protecting the site. A bit of a clue there and 230001 soon came into sight, ran along no.1 road, and stopped by the ground frame just as the sun came out.
After a short pause 230001 moved onto the branch and given the amount of cloud blowing around I was lucky to take this image in a patch of good sunshine. The light was just about high enough to leave the majority of track unshadowed and the Spring blossom has begun to flower in the warmer temperatures of the past few days. The train, running as 5Z01, stopped under the road bridge while the single line token was collected from the ground frame and this was my cue to head for Honeybourne.
The usual simple drive from Long Marston to Honeybourne was more of a trial on 16 April 2018 as 1) I had a lengthy wait in Pebworth while a bin lorry negotiated a long line of parked cars and 2) the direct road was closed for resurfacing. After a lengthy diversion I arrived at Honeybourne and was surprised to find several parking parking spaces in the station car park. The train was just coming from the staff hut and stopped at the signal protecting Honeybourne North Junction. Worryingly, some of the many staff on board alighted and appeared to be examining something adjacent to the front bogies.
While 230001 was standing around the back of Honeybourne station on 16 April 2018 an up passenger train arrived, this being 1P25, the 09.54 Great Malvern to Paddington formed of 800012 which picked up a solitary passenger. I have a feeling that this may be the first picture taken showing an IET with a class 230 in the background...
It soon became apparent that not all was well with 230001 and the lights were switched from red to white. At about the same time RTT showed that all the runs on 16 April 2018 were cancelled so the only option was for the train to return to Long Marston. This image was taken as its journey began and this one was taken from the down platform as it ran towards the staff hut.
Saturday 14 April 2018 saw yet another 5Q94 from Northampton to Long Marston conveying a class 350/2 EMU for repair work and once again 37601 was in charge. Having had very few well lit shots of these trains I thought with clearing skies that a trip out might be worth the effort. I left it a bit late to have much choice of venue and ended up at Honeybourne with, as I thought, about 10 minutes to wait which was reduced by the early running of 5Q94 to just 2 or 3. I went to the road bridge and was lucky with the sun this time but only by a few seconds as this view of 350288 shows which was taken in light cloud. There was no point in chasing the train to Long Marston as the sun would be exactly into the lens at this time and with a class 166 on the way to here from Reading I stayed put.
The class 166 for which I was waiting at Honeybourne on 14 April 2018 had just pulled away from the signal just down from the station when 1P51 from Hereford to Paddington approached for its stop. The sun failed to stay out quite long enough for this but I took a shot anyway as HSTs won't be on the North Cotswold LIne for much longer.
Class 165s and 166s are being sent on a regular basis from Reading Train Car Centre for some work or another the details of which I don't know. On 14 April 2018 166221 was the unit involved and this picture shows it shortly after joining the Long Marston branch. Just after I took this image 5Q66 stopped to wait, I think, for the single line staff to be delivered from Long Marston where it had gone with 37601 and 350258. The sun came out a few moments later and I did attempt a static shot but the angle wasn't especially favourable and a very wide angle lens was needed which inevitably created some distortion. As the train went past I noticed the nameplate which seemed appropriate given 5Q66's originating point.
A light engine move from Leicester to Long Marston on the morning of 11 April 2018 followed by a train to Eastleigh via Moreton-in-Marsh was shown in the schedules but the latter soon changed to show the loaded train running via Worcester and Birmingham. The powers that be really don't seem to like freight running south of Honeybourne on the North Cotswold Line - and come to think of it, trains of any sort given FGW's lamentable cancellation record in recent times. The completely accurate weather forecast had predicted low cloud, mist and light for the whole day and with, or so I thought, yet another visit of one of ROG's class 37/8s to Long Marston I wasn't inspired to go out. I've nothing in particular against 37/8s but they are getting a tad commonplace in the area. However, in the event I was pleased to see that 47812 was allocated to 0V94 so went over to see what the load going to Eastleigh might be. I arrived just after 47812 had been coupled to the rest of 6Z86 and it was pleasing to see that a rake of 13 JSA steel hoods was leaving the site. A 200mm lens isn't really the right tool on a misty morning but I still like the way that the persepctive is compressed to show the myriad of stored stock in the yard. Just out of sight in this view was a graffitied single car from a train of D Stock; maybe a candidate for conversion to part of a new class 230 unit.
It wasn't many minutes on 11 April 2018 before 47812 left Long Marston yard and joined the line to Honeybourne. I deliberately took this wide view to show both the early blackthorn blossom and the steam coming from an exhaust pipe in the background which I think is from a newly covered area used for safely removing flammable materials from oil tanks brought in either for re-use or scrapping. The poor light is demonstrated by the poor depth of field in this image - the class 319s being rendered in what I could call soft-focus...
Given the decent load behind 47812 a drive to Honeybourne on 11 April was in order and just as I was walking to the road bridge I could hear 6Z86 coming along the branch. Within 2 or 3 minutes the single line token had been returned to the hut and 47812 was coming slowly towards the station. There would have been plenty of time to go somewhere along the main line for another shot but the light was still dreadful and I decided that going home was a better option. Some of the woodland behind the train has been cleared and I have a horrible suspicion that yet another anodyne housing estate, one of several in the village, will soon form the backdrop to photographs taken from here.
Another Wednesday and another of GBRf's non-standard liveried class 66s on the Theale to Immingham empty oil tanks, 6E45, once again diverted via Oxford and Hatton. This time on 4 April 2018 it was 66783 (previously DBC's 66058, once a Lickey Banker) which has been adorned with a bright orange colour and named The Flying Dustman to mark GBRf's associatiion with Biffa, the waste management company. No over-the-top transatlantic political correctness with the name here, thank goodness; The Flying Refuse Collection and Disposal Operative wouldn't have had quite the same effect. I had intended to take my image as 6E45 climbed Hatton Bank on the DGL but late running made it obvious that the booked layovers at Fenny Compton and Hatton wouldn't happen so I went to Hatton station to get a decent background given that it looked unlikely that sun would be out. As it happened it looked as if it might have been sunny at Hatton North but I didn't feel like yet another walk across the gooey and muddy footpath from the canal towpath.
RTT showed a light engine running from Nuneaton Holding Sidings to Long Marston during the morning of 3 April 2018. The service code showed that the operator was ROG so not much imagination was needed to work out that one of the seemingly omnipresent class 37\8s would be involved. I arrived on the road bridge at 08.40 just as 37800 appeared in the distance on the branch from Honeybourne running some 20 minutes early. There was nothing in the exchange sidings but before the gates into the site were opened the resident shunter propelled a single oil tank onto road no.1 - not a very inspiring load, I thought. However within a minute or two 319446 was pushed onto road no.2 and slowly moved to 37800 which by now was in place. The weather wasn't too bad to start with but within 15 minutes it had gone dark, the background hills had disappeared and it was pouring with rain. A schedule showing a departure time of 11.00, about 90 minutes hence, had appeared and with the crew apparently sheltering in the cabs of 37800 I left.
Thanks to a tip-off from a friend during the morning of 29 March 2018 I saw from RTT that 6E45, the Theale to Immingham empty oil tanks was running under a VAR schedule via Oxford and Hatton instead of its usual Midland Main Line route. I like to get shots of these workings especially as there are currently no regular oil trans on the Hatton line, at least in daylight. So, over to Hatton North Junction where I arrived just in time to take an image of 66594 leading 66538 on 4E18, the Fairwater Yard to Doncaster rail infrastructure train. This service often seems to have more than one locomotive working it and I assume that it is a convenient way for Freightliner to move spare resources without the expense of a light engine path.
Just a couple of minutes after 4E18 as shown above had passed Hatton North Junction on 28 March 2018 a southbound freight appeared. This was 66087 in charge of 6O30 from Castle Bromwich JLR to Southampton Docks and as usual this was an impressively long train with the wagons easily spanning the distance between the road bridge at Shrewley and the foot bridge at Hatton North. Although the sun had appeared just before 6O30 there was quite a strong and cold wind blowing light hail straight into the camera lens.
The next freight at Hatton North on the unusually busy afternoon of 28 March 2018 had followed 4E18 quite closely from Banbury to Budbrook Junction where it was turned into the DGL. This was, of course, 6M40 the 11.56 Westbury to Cliffe empty ballast boxes. I didn't know which GBRf class 66 was hauling this until 66723 appeared carrying its distinctive livery including the Royal Airforce Standard, the aircraft number ZA from the Chinook fleet and the view of a Chinook twin-rotor helicopter, all to commemorate the 100th anniversaryof the RAF in 2018. With the accompanying dark sky and strong sun this was easily my favourite image of the day despite what was approaching from the south. My previous shot of 66723 on this line was a little different; it was taken on 8 July 2014 and shows the rescue from Banbury of 7X10 when one or more of the usual class 20s failed.
GBRf is well known for not sticking dogmatically to the corporate colour scheme on its class 66s and one of the latest to receive something different is 66789. This used to be operated by DBC under the number 66250 but has been repainted into a slightly updated version on the BR large logo livery to mark the 70th anniversary of British Rail. I'm not sure if I like the look of it but it's always worth a getting a shot of something new while still reasonably clean even though the sun failed to cooperate; the train would have needed to be either 30 minutes late or early for that to have happened. Anyway, the main point of interest is that this picture shows 6E45, running on a VAR schedule, an oil train on the GWR line north of Leamington Spa, a rare event these days. The usual route is along the Midland Main Line although a Saturday path via Oxford and Hatton is occasionally used. I imagine that the diversion is used to maintain drivers' route knowledge for when diversions are necessary.
A late addition to the schedules on Monday 20 March 2018 was a train of 5 tanks, ICAs, from Ribble Rail at Preston to Long Marston for either storage or deep cleaning. The locomotive allocated was Colas's 60095 and as the class is a rare visitor to the North Cotswold Line and the Long Marston branch I had a run over. The train had run on a circuitous route via Warrington, Chester, Shrewsbury and Sutton Park but arrived at Honeybourne close to the right time. It, 6Z56, is seen here passing the platforms having joined the branch at Honeybourne North Junction which can be seen behind the last platform lamp on the up side.
If things had gone according to plan there should have been a GWR class 165/166 from Reading to Long Marston shortly after 60095 but I decided that I would on this occasion prefer another image of 6Z56 so drove straight over to the road bridge by the yard at Long Marston. I arrived just as 60095 appeared in the distance along with some veiled sun and it slowly ran to the gates where there was a short delay until the ground crew appeared to open up. Here is a reminder of how 60095 used to be be employed on coal traffic from Avonmouth to Didcot as it leaves the latter on 6 March 1997 in a wide angle and slightly distorted view.
The Long Marston shunter arrived and after reversing in the headshunt by the bridge moved forward and coupled to the tanks ready to draw them forward. The original plan had been for 60095 to spend the night here and then have an early departure on 21 March 2018 taking another set of tanks to Lindsey Oil Refinery but as the shunter pulled forward I could see that the white lights on the Colas locomotive had been switched on and then heard a brake test being carried out. I checked Liverail and RTT to find that a new schedule had been inputted showing a 6Z57 16.00 Long Marston to Toton. Having grabbed this image with my Canon G10 and pausing only to take a view of Pandora in the afternoon sunshine I hurried back to Honeybourne.
It doesn't take long to get to Honeybourne given some clear roads and I was soon on the road bridge adjacent to the station. With no way of knowing when or even if 6Z57 would actually run it was just a matter of hanging around until something happened. For the thick end of an hour all that did happen was an IEP coming down on 1W29 and the cloud becoming thicker and darker. There were though two glimmers of hope. The first was that the incoming GWR DMU appeared to have been recessed at Moreton in Marsh presumably to allow 60095 a path over the branch and second, as the sound of empty tanks rumbling over the jointed track of the branch became audible a crack appeared in the clouds which seemed to heading towards the sun. The light was never going to be perfect but it was a lot better as 60095 approached the bridge at 17.09 than it had been for for the past hour.
Another Saturday, another run of 5Q94 and 5Q95 between Northampton EMD and Long Marston. On 17 March 2017 the weather was windy, cold and with the promise of snow but I fancied a drive out so went to Long Marston arriving just in time to see 37601 (again) comng along the branch from Honeybourne. The light was poor but even and at this time of day the last thing one wants here is the sun shining as it would be virtually straight into the lens. A little snow can be seen on the hills in the extreme background and more was forecast for the rest of the weekend. Here is 350243 being dragged onto No.1 road from where 37601 was to propel it into the visible under the first coach of the unit.
Once the shunting move outlined above was done and the locomotive uncoupled from 350243 it went back into the exchange siding and picked up 350247. While this was being done the sun came out in the background over Stratford-upon-Avon and gradually worked its way over Welford on Avon, Rumer Hill, Long Marston village and eventually the former MOD site. Just as it began to fade again 5Q95 pulled forward onto the branch and managed to approach the roadbridge with 350247 about 20 minutes early in less than the perfect light I thought it worth waiting for in the freezing wind. Next time...
The Cheltenham Festival ran between 14th and 16th March 2018 and I remembered that in 2007 there were several locomotive-hauled trains between Birmingham New Street and Cheltenham to cater for fans of horse racing. This image and the following few show some of this traffic along with a Tote special with a class 67 in charge. Here is 57601 at Norton Junction on 16 March 2007 shortly after leaving the pick-up stop at Worcester Shrub Hill wirth the distant signal showing caution as the signal protecting Abbotswood Junction was set at danger. This bracket signal has recently been removed and replaced with a modern LED version the disadvantge of which from our point of view is that there is no advance warning of a train being imminent. This is slightly academic anyway as there is currently so much undergrowth here as to make photography difficult.
Three days before the image shown above was taken this was the same train, 1T66, a little way down the line towards Worcester as 57601 rounds the curve at Norton Barracks, also known as Dog Bridge because of a noisy but friendly terrier that lived in an adjacent house the garden of which ran along the bridleway over the bridge. The sun was in and out during the morning but unusually managed to stay out for all the photos. In 2018 there were a few additional trains to Cheltenham but nothing that created any interest for the enthusiast.
Central Trains hired 47826 + 57601 together with a rake of stock to give extra capacity on a couple of Birmingham New Street to Cheltenham workings during the 2007 Cheltenham Festival, and here is the former with the first train of Tuesday 13 March a few minutes late at 10.40. It is passing under clear lower quadrant semaphores at Norton Junction, where the Cheltenham line diverges from the Cotswold Line to Oxford and Paddington. The distant arm is on the "off" position which tells the driver that he won't have to stop at Abbotswood Junction, but has a clear road over the single track lead and thence onto the main line. It's a shame came out about 30 seconds too late but at least the locomotive rather than the back of the train is in the spotlight.
Not long after the shot of 57601 above was taken on 13 June 2007 another train heading for the Cheltenham Festival came along. This was a Tote special from Euston which had been routed via Nuneaton, Birmingham and Worcester and hauled by 67021 which at the time was one of the favourite locomotives for special workings of any nature.
I've no interest in horse racing, but the Cheltenham Festival could until recent years be relied upon to produce one or two trains taking punters to the racecourse. On 16 March 2010 a Euston to Cheltenham special ran, unsurprisingly powered by 67006 and 67005. The outward run was booked to go via Worcester but in the event went straight down the Old Road. I was at Norton Junction after photographing the Round Oak to Margam steel empties and decided not to move onto the main line for a shot because the light would have been tricky, to say the least. In any event, the ECS was booked to go to Worcester for servicing so there was every chance of a photograph on the northern end of the Cotswold Line. Here is 67006 leading the colourful ensemble towards Worcester with 67005 bringing up the rear.
A train running as an STP appeared in the Hatton schedule for 8 March 2018 which at first sight appeared to be some self-propelled OTP travelling from Rugby Depot Access Lines to Princes Risborough. After doing a bit of a search it seemed that a locomotive was running LD from Bescot to Rugby and collecting whatever was there and taking it up the Chiltern Line. As the locomotive was then going on to Hinksey Yard it seemed likely that a Colas class 70 would be the motive power and as these are unusal in daylight around Hatton it was worth a drive over. There were, of course, no postings about the train , 7Z45, but it wasn't really any surprise when 70815 appeared on the curve from Hatton North Junction towing what seem to be cranes used for moving track panels around in a possession. What was a surprise was that the sun came out of thick cloud as I heard the train approach.
Rail travel across much of the UK was disrupted by heavy snow during the first few days of March 2017. On the Friday afternoon, all Saturday and Sunday morning no trains ran to Stratford and it seemed that one snowdrift in particular near Wilmcote was particularly deep, at least according to a mapping site which showed it on the down line. I had a message from a friend on Sunday 4 March saying that 50049 was running as a snowplough across the line to Stratford although this was soon changed to 37611 because of ROG crewing issues. No times were available but on searching the mapping site I found 0Z99 between Lichfield and Blake Street on the Birmingham Cross City Line. The locomotive went into platform 12 at New Street betfore making its way to Bordesley Junction. Tysleley and Solihull before turning right at Hatton North Junction and then heading for Stratford. I went to the station to find that the newer of the 2 footbridges was closed so had to go for a ground-level shot and 37611 ran into platform 1. Sod's Law intervened and the sun came out at just the wrong moment; I would never deliberately take a shot from the shady side if there were any possible alternative as there is nothing remotely attractive about such an image and almost always results in over-processing in an attempt to counter the rubbish lighting angle.
The sun became veiled as 37611 stood in the platform at Stratford on 4 March 2018 so I took this view with my Canon G10 as the crew were debriefed by mobile 'phone and given their instructions for the next leg of the journey. Ironically, most of the snow had gone from here by the time that 0Z99 arrived but there was evidence on the plough shown in the photograph above that at least one deep accumulation had been encountered.
By 12.30pm 0Z99 was ready to leave and is pictured here moving away under the GWR footbridge. I later saw that it again ran via Hatton and went straight back to Derby and then presumably Leicester. I had never before seen a snowplough operation at Stratford hence my interest in this working. I wouldn't usually have bothered to leave the house for a light engine move!
Another move of class 350/2 stock was down to run between Northampton EMD and Long Marston on Saturday 24 February 2018 and according to a message posted on the previous evening promised to be more interesting than recent runs as Pullman liveried 57312 was to be the motive power. The weather forecast was favourable for the following day and I was looking forward to at last getting a sunny image of a 57 in this colour scheme, despite the yellow binliner covering the Dellner coupling. By Saturday morning the locomotive allocation had changed to 37601 but given the beautiful light I still went for a few shots. Here is 5Q94 passing Evesham signal box towing 350253 to Long Marston for treatment to some corrosion on the bodywork.
After photographing 37601 at Evesham on 24 February 2018 I waited on the bridge to take a shot of whatever turned up (if anything given the shocking service GWR has provided in recent weeks) on 1P47, the 12.27 Worcester Foregate Street to Paddington. I have just bought a used Canon G10 compact camera, on of those with a proper zooming optical viewfinder and importantly, the ability to shoot in RAW format. I took this image of 1P47 formed of an IET slowing down for the Evesham stop and for the first shot I had taken with the camera was pleased with the result. I've no idea of the unit's number and I don't know where to look for it anyway but as they all look the same, who cares! An HST was waiting for the road to Norton Junction in Evesham station and this is that scene with the two generations of express passenger trains in the platforms.
I couldn't make up my mind whether or not to hang around for another shot of 37601 with another 350/2 returning to Northampton from Long Marston on 25 February 2018 but given the perfect light it seemed rude to make the minimal effort necessary. The choices were either Lower Moor or Honeybourne and for various reasons I chose the latter, not the least of which being that it is on the way home from Evesham. The first indication that some action was imminent was a rumbling noise coming from the background trees and then 37601 with 350255 poked its nose around the corner before stopping at the Staff Hut to deposit the single line token. This image was taken with my Canon G10 compact with zoom on about 120mm (35mm equivalent).
There was plenty of time after taking the image shown above to have another shot on my DSLR as 37601 with 5Q95 was about to pass the road bridge at Honeybourne and run non-stop through the back of the station and onto the down main line. Despite the clear light there was a bit of haze in the background and I quite like this aspect of the image as it accurately reflects the way that a high-pressure weather system affects the atmosphere at this time of the year.
While waiting for 5Q95 on the road bridge at Honeybourne on Saturday 24 February 2018 I was told that a pair of class 73/9s was topping and tailing a 1Q69 train from Hither Green to Derby and was due to pass Hatton at 16.15. This was too good a chance to miss for a bit of rare motive power on the GWR line north of Leamington Spa especially if the weather held up. It did and just after 16.00 I joined the 4 or 5 other photographers at Hatton North Junction ready for this image of 73965 leading the stock and 73962 on their way north. Thanks to Martin Loader for the gen on 1Q69.
The monthly 1Q48 test train from Derby to Tyseley via Stratford-upon-Avon ran on 20 February 2018 but in a much more user-friendly set of timings than those to which we have bencome accustomed. The North Warwickshire Line was covered at the ideal time for a shot from the Edstone Aqueduct and I arrived in time to take an image of the preceding passenger train, 2S24, the 09.57 from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon. This location is one of the few on the line where the sun is in a decent position and which has a good background rather than just some anonymous undergrowth. The sun was in cloud when I heard 172323 approaching but the brisk wind blew it away just in time.
Those of us in the Warwickshire area who like to photograph test trains have been used to getting night shots of 1Q48 over the past months. It was pleasing to see that for the February 2018 run on the 20th of the month ran in a completely different schedule which saw it pass Henley-in-Arden at 11.13; the ideal for a shot from the cast-iron canal aqueduct at Edstone, just to the north of Bearley Junction. Quite a lot of cloud was blowing around in the breeze and just as with the preceding passenger train the whole scene was quite dark when the horns were blown for a foot crossing just around the corner. Luckily for the 4 of us waiting for a shot the sun found a good clear patch at just the right time and I took my first fully sunny shot of 67023 tnt 67027 on one of these trains.
After 1Q48's first run of the day to Stratford-upon-Avon on 20 February 2018 and a layover of nearly 90 minutes in platform 3 it was scheduled to go south to Banbury via Bearley Junction and Hatton West and Station Junctions. I investigated a few roadside shots near West Junction but thought them too anonymous being little more than gaps in a lineside hedge. The roadbridge at Hatton station offered a much better view even though a multiple trunked tree hides the rear locomotive. With 67027 now leading the train is about to enter the Stratford branch platform where it was booked to stand for long enough to allow 2 passengers trains to pass including 168107 running from Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street.
Following the short stop at Banbury on 20 February 2018 1Q48 went to Stratford upon Avon again, this time entering platform 2. Although not brilliant for a shot on a sunny day it's infinitely better than P3. Unfortunately, the sun came out about 5 seconds too late and illuminated the rear locomotive and background very nicely but leaving 67023 in deep shade. I made do with this platform-edge shot as it stood alongside the freshly plated floral display provided by FOSS, the Friends of Stratford Station. I waited a few minutes for this image as a class 172 was in P1 alongside 1Q48 and this was a bit distracting.
Another of the regular class 350/2 drags from Northampton to Long Marston took place on Saturday 17 February 2018. The feeds to RTT, Liverail and various other bits of software on which we tend to rely were down so I didn't actually know if 5Q94 was running until one of the increasingly rare email postings arrived, this one from Kings Norton. I couldn't get out in time for the arrival at Long Marston and by the time I reached the road bridge 37601 was shunting the incoming unit so that it could be uncoupled and attached to the one to be taken out. The departure time was 13.30 and no-one seemed to be in any hurry to leave any earlier but this did allow the time to wait for a brief gap in the clouds to take a shot with my long lens.
By the time 5Q95 was moving away from the exchange sidings on 17 February 2018 the cloud had been blown over the sun but as 37601 stood under the bridge while a crew member collected the single line staff from the ground frame it came out again. I don't much go for arty-farty going-away shots into the sun but took this one as the train went off towards Honeybourne. Some of the new rails that were dropped on the branch on 31 January 2018 are visible in this view so we should have a sleeper drop and some ballast workings to look forward to in the coming weeks.
Some sunshine and 2 freights in relatively quick succession tempted into a drive to Hatton on Thursday 15 February 2018. The first train I expected was 6O30, the 14.27 from Castle Bromwich Jaguar to Southampton, and on checking an mapping app saw that it had nearly an hour early and was at St. Andrews Junction. I left home straight away and after a quick journey arrived to find that it was in Small Heath South Loop and seemed likely to wait until the booked time. A few minutes later 6X01 passed it and headed south only to end up in Dorridge Loop so I stayed in my car to see what happened and when. The car train left the loop at Small Heath and had an uninterrupted run allowing to stay out of the wind until it passed Lapworth. Not a shot for "sun on the front" brigade and with more than enough shadows 66200 approaches Hatton station with its very long train of open wagons together with what appeared to be a full set of covered vans tagged onto the back. This is one of the longest trains on this line and rivals a diverted Wembley to Longbridge service which I photographed at Whitnash on 24 March 1994behind 47326.
I was in two minds on 15 February 2018 about whether to wait for about 20 minutes at Hatton for 6X01 after photographing 6O30 as shown above and in retrospect probably shouldn't have. The shadows were a bit over the top and 66139's train wasn't a very interesting short load of rail carriers en-route from Scunthorpe to Eastleigh.
In perfect lighting conditions for the sludge-like colour scheme of WCRC diesel locomotives 57316 was photographed approaching its journey's end at Stratford-upon-Avon on 14 February 2018. I knew nothing about this train, 1Z97 from Chester-le-Street, until a couple of hours before its arrival time when a friend sent me a message to say that it was on the way. For those passengers who joined the train at Chester-le-Street they will have had, by the time they get home, 13 hours travelling for a 2 hour visit to Stratford; barelt time for a reasonable lunch. It sounds like purgatory to me...
The return from Stratford-upon-Avon to Chester-le-Street was 1Z98 with a scheduled departure time of 16.40. On at least its third visit to the terminus 57313 provided the motive power and is pictured here shortly after arrival with stablemate 57316 on the other end. The building work in the background is a large complex of what will be a gloomy development of apartments on the site of the old cattle market.
A sunny afternoon on Wednesday 7 February 2018 and the prospect of a few freights saw me have a visit to Hatton North Junction. I arrived though just in time for a passenger train, 1R33, the 13.10 London Marylebone to Birmingham Show Hill which was running 5 minutes late; luckily for me or I should have watched it go past from the footpath leading from Shrewley.
Some of the express workings operated by Chiltern Railways are followed a few minutes by a local service stopping at the less busy stations between Leamington Spa and Birmingham. Following 68015 on 1R33 was a very clean 165019 on the 14.32 Leamington Spa to Moor Street, 2R33 photographed passing Hatton North Junction on 7 February 2018.
An infrequently running freight and one that I hadn't previously photographed is 4E18, the Freightliner operated 09.47 from Fairwater (Taunton) Yard to Doncaster engineering service. I saw that it running on 7 February 2018 and from a message, one of very few these days, posted onto an email site had noted that it was triple-headed. It had left Taunton the best part of an hour late but there are a couple of waits booked in loops and by missing out the one scheduled for Banbury was close to right time by Leamington Spa. I watched 4E18 entger Hatton DGL on a mapping app and then leave a few minutes later just as the sun came out of a patch of cloud and took this as my cue to move from the footbridge to the field. The heavy train, not made any lighter by the presence of 2 dead class 66s, seemed to take ages to reach Hatton North Junction and to be honest I should have preferred just a single locomotive so as to have been able to see more of the train. I'm not interested in recording locomotive numbers but the leading 2 are 66559 and 66596; I couldn't quite make out the third from the RAW(NEF) image.
I had my second pop at 6O30 from Castle Bromwich to Southampton on Wednesday 8 February 2018 whilst at Hatton North Junction. This isn't the best location for a southbound train in early February given the height of the lineside trees but decent 2 way spots on this line are few and far between and I had a few northbound workings in mind. On this occasion it was a huge train with open wagons and several covered blue vans on the back, all hauled by 66055. The class 172 on the down line had just left Hatton North Junction after travelling from Stratford-upon-Avon on its way to Stourbridge Junction. Some would object to its presence but I find it unobtrusive and adds a little railway interest to the scene.
Just as 4E18 was leaving Hatton DGL 6M40 from Westbury to Stud Farm with 66720 in charge was being sidelined to allow a couple of passenger trains to pass. The light levels had dived by the time it was released as a large block of cloud which had been approaching from the North-West reached the sun. The last time I saw 66720 was on the same train but when diverted to run via the Gloucester to Birmingham line on 12 August 2017 in better light than today.
A train appeared in the working timetable in 2017 that, as far as I am aware, ran for the first time on 5 February 2018. I didn't notice this until it was too late but saw that it was due to run the following day so kept it mind to check at the departure time. The working in question was 6O30, the 14.27 from Castle Bromwich Jaguar to Southampton Eastern Docks, conveying JLR's automotive products for export. The light was dreadful on my arrival at Hatton but it's always good to get a shot of a new working in the bag in case it doesn't run again. It was few minutes late passing Bordesley Junction but was close to right time by the time it reached me with 66055 providing the power. The DBS colour scheme isn't my favourite but it is quite handy in the dark. I was expecting some form of covered wagon given the high retail value of the SUVs being conveyed so was mildly surprised to see the open flats in use on this occasion.
A potentially interesting train appeared on RTT during the last week of January 2018 which was scheduled to run from Bescot to Honeybourne North Junction on Wednesday 31st. To my mind this could mean only an engineering train entering a possession on the Long Marston branch. It appeared to be locomotive hauled and was given the service code indicating that it was a Colas job. On Tuesday 30 January the only Colas locomotives at Bescot were 56094 and 70813 so they seemed likely for 6C99 the following day. It left about half-an-hour late and after a losing a path from Worcester to Evesham arrived at Honeybourne the thick end of an hour down. I heard a horn for one of the crossings and then the sound of a 56 accelerating away from a signal check a few moments before it arrived onto the Long Marston branch with 56094 leading its train tailed by 70813.
The PICOp at Honeybourne had told me that the train was to drop new rails at various locations along the branch and that the possession started at Honeybourne Staff Hut where he had earlier placed a "Stop" sign. The train ran slowly through the station and I took this shot of 70813 ticking over on the rear of 6C99. Most of the Long Marston is difficult to photograph and with no idea of the rail drop locations I left at this point.
While waiting at Stratford-upon-Avon, in the wrong place as it turned out, for 37116 + 37057 on a test train during the evening of 23 January 2018 I took this shot of the general scene at the station showing a class 172/3 in platform 1 and a 165 in P3. I really took this image only because of the attractive sky in the few minutes before complete darkness arrived.
The regular test train from Derby to Tyseley, 1Q48, ran yet again on 23 January 2018 with an early evening visit to Stratford-upon-Avon where it was booked to arrive into platform 3. There seemed to be a chance that it would use P2 as a Chiltern unit scheduled to leave after the 1Q48's arrival went into P3 leaving the platform better suited to photography clear. The unit left on time but the test train waited around the corner and ran, a few minutes late, into platform 3 headed by 37057 and tailed by 37116. I'm not keen on this shot but one has to make the best of things and I took the opportunity for a shot showing both red and white lights on the front of the locomotive in the minute or two before the driver removed the tail light and took it down to 37057.
Before leaving Stratford-upon-Avon 1Q48 sits in the platform for about 30 minutes which does give the chance for a few different angles although with the train on the platform edge ooptions are limited. I took this slightly wider view before leaving but that was about it.
There was a railgrinder move from Okehampton to Derby on Saturday 13 January 2017 involving 50008 and 56104. I quite liked the idea of an shot of that so went to Stoke Prior near Bromsgrove. Things didn't run smoothly for 4Z03 and first along was 66018 with 6V93, the Saturday vesiion of 6V92, the Corby to Margam empty steel train. On such a dull afternoon it was something of a relief to see newly(ish) liveried 66018 coming around the curve from Bromsgrove.
What is apparently a new Loram railgrinding set was taken from Okehampton to Derby on Saturday 13 January 2017. The motive power was originally 50008 topping with 56104 tailing the formation as far as Gloucester where it reversed to allow 56104 to lead as the 50 wasn't supposed to head a train up the Lickey Incline. Things with old locomotives don't always run smoothly and I saw on one of the mapping sites that 4Z03 was sent into Eckington loop where it sat despite there being nothing behind it for miles. It soon transpired that 56104 had failed and that 50008 ran round and prepared to lead again. Clear signals was the order of the day and an on-time Hereford to Birmingham New Street was held at Stoke Works Junction to allow the railgrinder, now about 2 hours late, to have a clear run at the bank. The gaggle of photographers waiting in the dark and cold heard 50008 coming from miles away and it was certainly having a good run when it passed us.
In addition to the railgrinder move on Saturday 13 January 2017 there was also a pair of class 350/2 trains from and to Northampton. I didn't bother with 5Q94 to Long Marston and had no intention of hanging around for about 90 minutes after 4Z03, had it run on time. As it turned out it was obvious that 37884 with 350257 would follow the former within about 10 minutes so I stayed at Stoke Prior despite the rapidly worsening light. Unlike 50008 the class 37 was going quite slowly as it due to be routed into the Bromsgrove loop, just around the corner from this bridge.
The former London Midland franchise was taken over by Abbellio who now operate services as West Midlands Trains. At the time of writing just one of their class 172 DMUs has been reliveried into a distinctive purple, grey and orange colour scheme. This unit visited Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday on Saturday 23 December 2017 and having been told about during the morning went down to the station to photograph its arrival as 2S30, the 10.57 from Stourbridge Junction via Henley in Arden and the subsequent departure, 2J43 at 12.26. The weather was dull to say the least but I thought it worth the walk to record 172339's first visit to the terminus in its new coat.
The turnaround time at Stratford-upon-Avon for Stourbridge Junction trains is only about 5 minutes so I hung around until it left as 2J43, the 12.26 return. Chilern's 165004 wasn't in the best place for this picture so I took a third shot as the train went past with the intention of showing the centre carriage's advertisements.