Friday, April 17, 2009

High tech in 1896

click photo to enlarge
A newspaper article I read the other day decribed how, when the journalist was standing on a gleaming new London station platform surrounded by shiny high-tech, high speed trains, the eyes of everyone were turned upon an old steam engine that was waiting to take passengers on a mainline pleasure trip. The engine in question was 70013 Oliver Cromwell, that was built in 1951 and holds the distinction of being one of the last four steam engines to be used by British Rail before diesel and electric took over entirely in 1968.

Given the relative newness of that particular engine it isn't surprising that it is still in use, hauling rail enthusiasts and the nostalgic on trips around the network. What is more surprising is the age of some of the other engines that undertake this work. The other week, during a few days in Norfolk, I dropped in on the preserved North Norfolk Railway at Sheringham. My introduction to this line was last year when I took this photograph of a C.B. Collett-designed engine of 1924, numbered 5224. On my recent visit I managed to snap the only surviving Class 27 of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, number 1300, that was built in 1896. It was on loan to the Norfolk line, and was busy taking people up and down their scenic route by the sea. This is by no means the oldest working steam engine to be seen in occasional use today, but looking at its functional shape, sturdy build, and gleaming paintwork, not to mention the evocative sound of its smoke and steam, there is no wonder that people retain (or acquire) an affection for these ancient leviathans. When I visited the station the following day a small diesel railcar of 1950s vintage, for all its smooth "modern" charm, was attracting considerably fewer admirers.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 13mm (26mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On