My interest in railways began at the age of 8 when I spent a fortnight holiday with an aunt and uncle in London. My older cousin, Sidney Mallett, was a very keen and knowledgeable enthusiast, and he took me around all the major termini and some of the main line stations further down the lines so that I could experience express steam locos going at full tilt. Diesels were by then in charge of some of the premier expresses and I saw representatives of all the main classes, including 2 of the Metrovick CO-BOs (latterly class 28). When I returned home, the enthusiasm stuck with me, and I spent a lot of time at Stratford-upon-Avon station as the line was still open south of the town and saw many different classes of steam and diesel locomotives. Sadly, the likes of the Cornishman had ceased to run this way the previous year but the line was still busy with freight. I remember blagging a cab ride to Honeybourne and back on a 9F; this was both exhilarating and frightening - the fire doors seemed very close and hot! I got into serious trouble when arriving home that afternoon covered in coal dust and smuts. It was worth it...I had occasional trips to Leamington Spa and Birmingham Snow Hill and at the former saw the only GWR King left in service, not to mention the Blue Pullman, which was the highlight of that particular day. My route to both primary and grammar schools took me across the Evesham Road level crossing where I had to wait every morning for the passage of a coal train. I waited for it whether the gates were closed or not and saw 31s, 37s and 47s together with Hymeks and a variety of DMUs. I longed to visit the signal box, but never had the nerve to approach the bobby for permission.
As a became a bit older, my enthusiasm waned a little and I bitterly regret not recording the diesel hauled freight that used the line through Stratford up to the line's closure in 1976. I lay the blame for this entirely on the shoulders of a young lady upon whom I had designs, and who lived near the railway where it passed under Sanctus Road. I used to walk home from work this way and often saw a freight heading south but in spite of owning a Praktica LTL3, I never dared to carry it with me to photograph the train in case this most attractive girl saw me and decided that I was nothing but a train spotter and not worthy of her intentions. Despite all my efforts I didn't get anywhere with her, but by the time I realised it was a no-hoper, the line had closed...
I started taking photographs in around 1980 and used colour negative film so that I could easily view my photographs. I made a huge mistake when I sold my first flat to buy somewhere bigger, as I threw away thousands of negatives never thinking that they could, 20 years later, be scanned and make perfectly acceptable images for the web. By 1984 I had started using slides and progressed from my Praktica to an Olympus OM1 and it is these images that form the basis of the older material on this site.
My attitude to railway photography has never changed. I refuse to take it seriously and do it because I want to enjoy it. I have never been one of those photographers who simply have to travel the length and breadth of the country to record something because they feel they have to do so in order to remain credible in the eyes of others. I rarely chase trains from one location to another as I simply can't be bothered. There have been times when I have chased around, and in a lot of cases the second photograph has either been missed or wasn't as good as the first. This thinking applies particularly to railtours. I have a sort of mental rule that stops me driving for much more than 45 minutes for any railtour. If it doesn't come close enough to me then I don't bother. I rarely travel far for a shot these days. It was a different matter when there was a lot more variety on the railway and if I wanted to photograph, for example class 33s on heavy freights then I had to go to Kent or Hampshire. These days, by and large, I stick to the central and west Midlands area, with fairly frequent forays to the north east of Birmingham.
I hope you enjoy looking the photographs. I shall continue to expand the site both with archive and contemporary material, but above all I shall still enjoy standing near railway lines and watching the activity. There is, on the Index page, a link to enable you to contact me with comments or corrections. Please feel free to use it.A lot of the photographs on this site were taken using 35mm cameras, the very earliest up until early 1985 with a Praktica MTL3, followed by an Olympus OM1n. I also used an Olympus OM2 on occasions, often with Fuji 50asa film for those days when the sun was guaranteed. A variety of Zuiko lenses were used, ranging from 28mm wide angle up to an f4.5 300mm super-telephoto. I have 2 of the incomparable 50mm f1.4 standard lenses and my favourite, a f2 85mm short telephoto.
Film has varied from Kodak Ektachrome in the early days, through Kodachrome 64 until mid-1989, since when Fuji 100 was my standard stock until digital photography came along. The black and white images were mostly taken on one of my Mamiya 645 1000S medium format cameras, using Kodak TRI-X rated at 400asa and processed at home in my own darkroom. The colour images now appearing and marked "645" were taken on Fujichrome 100 in a Mamiya 645 10000S. Lenses were selected from an 80mm f1.9, 110mm f2.8, 150mm f3.5 and 210mm f4.
Since November 2004 I have been using a Nikon D70 digital SLR in conjunction with a Tamron SP AF 28-75MM F/2.8 XR Di zoom lens, and more recently a superb Sigma f2.8 70-200mm DAPO DG HSM zoom. As the Nikon DSLRs have a crop sensor, the effective focal lengths compared to 35mm usage need to be multiplied by approximately 1.5. The supplied Nikon lens gave good quality results but was simply too "slow" for railway photography where fast shutter speeds are required. Digital photography has meant that a whole new set of skills have had to be learned because of the need for electronic processing of the RAW image into a jpeg image suitable for web use. Towards the end of June 2006 I bought a Nikon D200 digital SLR and it will be interesting to see if the more advanced hardware will produce much of an increase in image quality. At much the same time I also bought a Nikon 35-70mm f2.8 zoom. This is the older "push-pull" version and was acquired to benefit from the extra optical and constructional qualities compared to the newer plastic 28-80mm Nikkor. Since May 2012 I have been using a new Nikon D300s camera body along with the Nikon G Series 24 - 70mm f2.8 lens. I was never entirely happy with the low light performance of my D200 so decided that a change was due. The new equipment meant that a new RAW convertor was needed and I upgraded to Photoshop Elements 10 and the latest convertor available. Doing 95% of the processing work in the RAW convertor means that a better quality TIFF image can be obtained from which the small JPEG file for the web can be produced with minimal "photoshopping" so that a more natural looking image is made without excessive contrast, colour saturation and sharpening.
The 35mm transparancies and 35mm black & white negatives were scanned using a Primefilm 3560u slide and film scanner which has "Digital Ice" dust removing technology built in. I manipulated the film-based images with Adobe Photoshop and Neat Image, and the digital ones with the same software, but with the addition of Raw Shooter from Pixmantec - a superb Raw Convertor. I am only too aware that the quality of some of my earlier material is somewhat poorer than I would like but hope that the nostalgic content will outweigh some of the technical shortcomings. I hope that when I get around to scanning some more recent material, including some of my 1000s of medium format slides and negatives an improvement will be noticeable. This process has now started as I bought an Epson F3200 film scanner at the end of August 2005. The scans taken from medium format stock are differentiated from 35mm by a "645" legend at the end of the narrative.A new Epson flatbed scanner was bought after Christmas 2012 and maybe, with newer and faster technology, a few more scans from my huge archive will appear.
I cannot continue this section without acknowledging the enormous amount of help and encouragement given to me by Andy Williams who has expertly and unselfishly guided me through the sometimes perplexing world of HTML. Without Andy's help this site would not exist. I have for a while been keen to have a photographic website but did not want to go down the fotopic route as although they are a quick and easy way to publish material on the web, I find them clumsy to navigate and not sufficiently individual. Additionally, the appalling quality of the images on the majority of Fotopic sites prompted me to try and do something better and taught me not to upload every image I take. The tedium of so many sites and the way that images are dreadfully over-sharpened in the post-processing stage is almost beyond belief. This is surely the downside of easily accessible digital photography. I followed Andy's example by using decently sized thumbnails upon which one clicks to access the fullsize image, as I believe this is the easiest way to navigate a site with a lot of images. If you haven't seen Andy's own website please do so, it is far more than a gallery of photographs and well worth spending some time browsing.....Andy Williams Railway Photos
It is hard to imagine in 2005 how we photographers managed to get any shots of unusual and newsworthy workings in the days before mobile communications. The fact is, in my case at least, anything unusual was usually dropped upon by sheer chance. That said, there were several hundred more locomotives in daily use than there are today and the variety it was normal to see on virtually any line was quite staggering by today's standards. This means that today up-to-date information is more important than it ever has been and I place on record my thanks to all those who post "gen" to the various mailing lists, both public and private, and to those individuals, some of whom work on the railway, who provide me with information directly. It would not possible or desirable to name anyone individually, but thanks to you all.
I have never been good at taking notes on the trains I photograph and constructing this site has meant a good deal of trawling through scrappy old notebooks and finding long-hidden working timetables. The job of finding out information about many of the railtours featured on the site would have been very much more difficult without the excellent "Six Bells Junction" website and database. Even if you are not looking for specific workings this site is well worth spending some time in browsing - it will surely bring back many memories. Click here to go to this site..... Six Bells Junction
Last, but by no means least, my thanks to Pam for her support and encouragement - and for not minding too much when I disappear at a moment's notice to get that "last" working - or to "just pop over to Hatton".