Days Out – Some Sun but no Son

Having posted recently about my long-suffering Son’s trips out with me, I thought a quick post about a couple of recent days out on my own might be in order. With spring drawing to a close here are some shots from two contrasting days – although to look at the photographs you might think both were sun-bathing weather! At the end of April I decided to do a short local trip to West Hampstead Thameslink. The sun was out and the sky was blue but it was actually a pretty chilly day and a coat was a wise choice with showers expected from lunchtime. Routing via Upper Holloway I got the chance to photograph the Didcot to Dagenham car empties passing through. There are always little cameos of life on railway stations – I enjoyed seeing a young boy in a buggy getting excited by the passing freight train and, once on the Goblin service to Gospel Oak, hearing the ticket inspector having a laugh with him and his mum whilst scanning Oyster cards.

I used to joke with my train-spotting friends that West Hampstead was the hub of the railway universe – “Everything goes through West Hampstead”. A slight exaggeration of course, but the North London Line crossing the Midland Line always resulted in a good mix of locomotives back in the day. Things have changed a bit since then. The mix of locomotives has decreased with most trains being hauled by the ubiquitous class 66 locos but the volume of freight has increased a lot. The station on the Midland line has been renamed by adding the word Thameslink – it helps to differentiate between the three West Hampstead stations. West Hampstead Thameslink didn’t normally see much freight in the 1970’s – an occasional train of fuel tanks to the diesel depot at St. Pancras. Now, with constant construction in the city, sand and cement workings to Churchyard Sidings are a daily occurrence. I caught 66070 rumbling through on a train of sand for Tarmac from Acton. Around lunchtime the sun went in, the rain started and the temperature dropped to low single figures… Time to go home!

At the end of May with Summer just around the corner I went to North Sheen. The weather was much warmer – mid 20’s Celsius and no coat required. This time I used Thameslink through London to Denmark Hill and then London Overground to Wandsworth Road where I spent an hour or so photographing passing trains. This station is pretty good for freight and the Overground staff are very understanding of railway enthusiasts 🙂 The view to the north of the station includes Battersea Power Station – currently bereft of its chimneys – but no longer are the famous gasometers visible, having been demolished over the past few months. Photos taken, I moved on to North Sheen using the Overground to Clapham Junction and Southwest Trains from there.

The reason for my trip to North Sheen was the opportunity to photograph a steam locomotive. Mainline steam running was not very common back in the 1970’s / 80’s – probably too soon after getting rid of steam for BR at the time. Also, the preservation network was probably too ‘amateur’ to countenance the running of their locomotives on the mainline amongst the daily traffic. A few carefully selected routes like York-Scarborough and the Settle and Carlisle were commonly used – minimal risk to the normal travelling public! Times have again moved on. There are steam tours on the mainline all over the country most weeks of the year although a preponderance of them are still to be found north of the home counties. One regular around London is the Belmond British Pullman which is the train I was at North Sheen to photograph. This year A1 Pacific 60163 ‘Tornado’ is the scheduled locomotive, taking over from 35028 ‘Clan Line’. 60163 is an example of another change over time – the railway preservation movement can no longer be viewed as ‘amateur’. Tornado is a totally new build member of the A1 class constructed by the finance and determination of a very ‘professional’ group of enthusiasts. She will not be the last new build either as other projects are underway to reintroduce classes that went to the scrap yard without any members being preserved. It is unfortunate that economics will play a significant role in which classes are selected – the new builds will have to haul passengers on the mainline to make money. And the possibility that diesel types which missed out on preservation might also be recreated is not even a glint in the preservation movement’s eye yet.

Enough of my blathering…

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