Steer for the deep waters only

Robert Day's thoughts on his photography, his writing and his business

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Well, the job hunting took over again; then a fairly major car problem has kicked me right back. The car was diagnosed with a fuel delivery fault, but a week later it seems that the fuel pump was not the culprit, contrary to first impressions. The garage the RAC towed me to is now looking at fuel line leaks, but these can be difficult to find. And despite not having had a new fuel pump after all, the hours worked on the car are mounting. So it’s entirely possible that Christmas may have to be cancelled and replaced with the 24th, 25th and 26th December…

Still, the past few months haven’t been entirely without photographic interest. At the end of August, I took a trip to mid-Wales, as the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway were having a gala weekend, and I hadn’t been to see them for nearly 30 years.

Welshpool & Lalnfair train

Welshpool & Llanfair train

I was struck by how quick and easy it was to get to Welshpool – just twenty minutes or so beyond Shrewsbury by car. I was also surprised by the way the main-line station at Welshpool had changed. When we photographed it in the 1970s as part of the photographic survey of the Cambrian Railways, we were surprised to find a wedding party descending on the station, only afterwards realising that the upstairs of the main station building was being used as a reception venue. That seems to have continued; and if that has been the reason for the retention of a rather fine station building, then that’s all to the good. The station building is now detached from the railway and no longer serves any transport function; and road developments now mean that what was the station forecourt is now basically the site of a roundabout. The goods shed where, in 1973, the railway historian George Dow kept his holiday home carriage, a beautifully-restored Midland Railway inspection saloon, has now been swept away. I wonder where that vehicle is now?

Anyway, the Welshpool & Llanfair’s terminus, which in 1985 was a bare site with a new brick-built signal box, was now a nicely laid-out terminus station with a quaint and very ‘secondary-railway’-looking timber station building. The W&L has the added interest of a train of Austrian rolling stock, mainly from the Zillertalbahn, but with one coach from the long-closed Salzkammergutlokalbahn. They also have an Austrian locomotive, though in the way of such things, it was built in France to the order of the German Army and only later ended up in Austria. But that’s not in service at the moment, so the prospect of a wholly Austrian train was denied us. Instead, I took a train to Llanfair Caereinion in one of their replica coaches which recreate the rather ornate rolling stock that was provided at the opening of the line back in 1903 – and very fine they look, too.

Gala traffic

Replica W&L carriage









Llanfair Caereinion was the main site for the     gala celebrations, with a silver band, traction  engines, a model railway exhibition and a visiting Stanley Steamer – a 1912 steam car that pottered around the site and from time to time disappeared off into the countryside emitting a cloud of steam but otherwise making very little fuss.

Stanley Steamer, 1912

Stanley Steamer, 1912

I had stumbled upon a book launch; David Scotney was present for the publication of a magnum opus on “30-inch railways worldwide”; and his publisher, Frank Stenvalls from Sweden was also present. It is a wonderful book, full of detail and obscure lines; but the price puts it way outside the “impulse buy” category, and the big problem with Stenvalls is that the firm doesn’t have good access to the UK book trade through being identified as a foreign-language publisher (even though many of the books he publishes are in English). I’ve been looking for a publisher with an interest in overseas railways, and Stenvalls is one possibility; but that would be only one step removed from vanity publishing, because the number of outlets that take Stenvalls titles I can think of are minimal. Having said that, one of them is the bookshop at Llanfair Caereinion; this turned out to be a treasure trove of books on overseas railways, narrow gauge railways and a range of obscure titles. Indeed, I saw one book there that I had not expected to see in the this country ever…

After I took a train back to Welshpool, I decided to indulge myself with a mountain drive into Wales. It was further than I thought, but I’d not been along some of those roads in very many years and I enjoyed the experience…

September saw me engaging in some shows – the Sutton Modellers’ show came first, where my photographs provided a memorial to the sadly-missed Doug Burchall; and then I took Jim Bell’s engine shed layout Glockingen to the German Railway Society show the week after. For that, l needed some help, as the Mercedes turned out to lack a major feature of the Saab – a folding rear seat. The baseboards for Glockingen all turned out to be too large to fit in the car by a matter of inches, so I had to call for help. Axel Klozenbuecher came to the rescue, and the attention that the layout got was all the justification I needed for having rescued it in the first place. I was helped by its appearance in Continental Modeller, which came as a bit of a surprise. The show organiser had circulated all the exhibitors about six weeks beforehand, asking for 500 words of description and a few pictures, as Andy Burnham of CM wanted to run something on the show, it being a major fixture in the European railway interest community’s calendar. So I rattled something off and selected some pictures from the archive. My expectation was that there would be an item in the magazine’s “News” section, and perhaps the odd thumbnail image on the exhibition diary page. Imagine my surprise, then, when my next issue arrived, to find that my text and pictures formed a one-page feature in the body of the magazine! I’ve been pitching articles to Andy for some time now, without success, and to find something that I’d thrown together casually given prominence was quite a surprise. Even more surprising, I got paid for it!

I’d planned one more excursion whilst I still had folding money, and that was a return trip to see the ‘Red October’ event at the Tramway Museum at Crich in Derbyshire. ‘Red October’ is a day in the Autumn where the museum invites owners of former Eastern Bloc vehicles, and reconstructionists, to change Crich into part of Karl-Marx-Stadt or Leningrad for the day. I’d been a few years ago, and was so taken with the vehicles on display that a return trip has long been an ambition. This time, there were a number of military vehicles and more reconstructionists than I’d seen before (though no Tatras, sadly). I decided to join in the fun by going in a large black coat and fedora, and took a copy of Pravda to read on the tram, just to add atmosphere…

The lack of a car made my most recent excursion, to the Warley Model Railway Show at the NEC, a bit problematical, though some of my Austrian Railway Group colleagues were ahead of me. As I had volunteered to staff the ARG’s sales stand, they were able to swing round by mine and give me a lift to the site. it was a busy and tiring couple of days, leavened by some beautiful modelling on display. In particular, there was a nice O gauge layout from Belgium and a Dutch mountain diorama that employed forced perspective to great effect. (That’s a diorama from the Netherlands, not a diorama depicting the Dutch mountains, you understand. Though that’s not for want of a desire for mountains; some Dutch modellers have a peculiar yearning for lumpy landscape, and I have seen layouts in the Netherlands depicting great mountain ranges but with Dutch trains running through them…)

But for me, the highlight must be the photographs I was able to get on the Saturday morning on the way into the exhibition hall. A new leisure complex is under construction, and I was able to get some remarkable pictures of the rising sun shining through this construction site amidst early morning mist.

Pendigo Morning - the NEC at dawn

Pendigo Morning – the NEC at dawn

So the year closes. There is little on the cards in the way of work, although I have some irons in the fire which, if I were to be successful, would mean quite a change to my working life and would fulfill some quite serious ambitions. But we shall have to wait and see.


Written by robertday154

November 28, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. It’s many years since we travelled on the dear old “Llanfair”. Your description brought it all back. Missed you at club. WARNING! After a bout of shingles in my face, I’m now a bearded old fellow, but fit and well! – KEN G.

    Ken Gosling

    December 2, 2013 at 2:10 pm

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