Thursday 30 November 2023

The Dusting of White Powder

In the flatlands of northeast Cambridgeshire at Windmill sidings there’s been a bit of snow overnight. Part time Morris dancers, Cyril and Edgar, enjoy the warmth of their engine as they potter about pushing wagons full of Brussels sprouts here and there, and sometimes there and here. 

The ancient windmill which hasn’t been used for at least 200 years is lovingly maintained by the locals, alas not in working order, for it is far too close to the railway. But because this is the remote Fenlands of East Anglia it is regularly used for all sorts of pagan rituals, many involving naked antics, green dye, scary dancing with jingle bells attached to bodily extremities. And of course huge amounts of cider and ale. Remember, what happens in the Fens, stays in the Fens. 


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Wednesday 29 November 2023

Regular Wednesday

 A regular Wednesday at Combwich station. Featuring several of our regulars, that’s why today is ‘Regular Wednesday’, it also being a Wednesday. Clever eh? 

Barry Bullhead is striking a deal selling a crate moonshine with local pub landlord and hairdresser Shamus O‘Shampoo. Retired wrestler, boxer and altogether top bloke Driver Gaylord Grip poses in his ‘hello ladeeees’ position. Meanwhile Deliberation Dave is deliberating over the state of the locomotive screw coupling, wondering why it’s in such a state. Some grease might help he thinks, but what type? He ponders. 

Waving Wayne is doing what he does best, in fact the only thing he does, whilst Colin looks on from the comfort of the brakevan veranda. Rumour has it his wife kicked him out a couple of weeks ago, so he’s taken up residency in the van, for it’s spacious and warm with the excellent stove within. 

But finally, everyone’s favourite Bob Geeza cat is nowhere to be seen, fear not, he will be around and most likely posing in another photograph not too far away because that’s what he does best. Oh there he is in the next line…. 


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Tuesday 28 November 2023

Mamiya C33

Another camera from my collection. A Mamiya C33 which was made sometime between 1965 and 69, here sporting a waist level and Porroflex finder - the latter for eye level viewing. The lens is somewhat more recent. 
I bought it for a song back in 2004 when film cameras suddenly became worthless overnight and digital finally started to become affordable and a genuine alternative to film. Hopefully electric cars will do that at some stage. That’s a story for another day though. 
It replaced a C33 I had in the early 1990s which was stolen when I lived in an attic just off Clapham Common in one of those big Edwardian houses. I’m surprised the burglars found their way up there. That was my Quasimodo era, which followed on from being a cherub. 

I’ve been holding back putting film through it due to fungus in the taking lens. It tends too take hold in the aperture chamber part, maybe because moisture and spores can access that section more easily. 
As recommended having purchased hydrogen peroxide and ammonia to clean the glass, I removed the lens from the camera and unscrewed the rear optic cluster (an easy job). And much to much surprise the fungus wiped completely away with a lens cloth and a few blows with a puffer bottle to eject any dust.
To get to the glass element the other side of the leaf shutter, I locked shutter open on B at full aperture and performed the same task. A little nerve racking, but the cable release has a good locking screw. Reassembly took 2 minutes. 
The lens is simply pristine now. I think I was lucky, but I’m sure those nasty chemicals can be used for household chores, and of course if I’d had to use them the glass elements would have had to been completely removed from the lens prior to soaking. 
This will be the next camera to have a roll of film put through it once I’ve replaced the light seals later today. A 15 minute job, and as always, click on the images to enlarge.

Hot Tempers & Heatwaves

Back in the olden days, we’re led to believe it was always summery and because camera film was so slow, most only went out in good weather. Though as a kid, I remember that it was mostly overcast in the 1970s, apart from the summer of ’76. That year stands out, not because of the summer-long heatwave and water shortages, but because my stroppy uncle shouted at me for flushing the loo after only doing a number one. He was always stroppy though, even when it wasn’t a heatwave, so that incident was just another excuse for a shout.

Here we have the local bus held at the gates at Catcott as light engine, Templecombe’s 4631, recently allocated due to that there evil Western Region taking over much of the former S&DJR trundles through. 

This rather cruel closeup shows up the limits of the diecast model bus, the plastic moulded windows fitting rather crudely into the metal shell. But to be honest at normal viewing distance it looks pretty okay for a model which probably dates from 20 or 30 years ago. 


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Monday 27 November 2023

Not Monochrome Monday & Goldfish Ponds

In the land of the inch high at Moorewood Colliery, the management have been keen to introduce a little colour on Mondays to brighten up the dull autumn days. 

However Notebook Clive and Deliberation Dave aren’t to keen to the arrival of the colourful morning workers’ train. Knowing that locomotives with faces tend to be incredibly smug or devious, or even worse a creepy nefarious blend of the two with narcissistic ideas of being on children’s television. Meanwhile, Deliberation Dave simply thinks that the train won’t remain looking that clean for very long. 

Clive consults his notebook in the hope that he has instructions on how to remove the face from the engine. Having confirmed that it’s made from fibreglass, he’s come to the conclusion that it will make a good solid waterproof liner for his new goldfish pond if placed in the ground face down. 


 Every little helps …

Saturday 25 November 2023

Time Slip Saturday - Templecombe

Templecombe station back in March 1984. It was a bit of a murky day I recall. The reason for my visit was to take some photos of the closed Somerset & Dorset line which interchanged here. This photo of a Class 50 hauled Waterloo to Exeter service slowing for the station was taken from the safety of the public foot crossing should any Nasal Nigels be having a health and safety fit. I can hear the shrill squeals of “Mummy mummy, I saw a strange man on the track” as they clutch their sticky Lima Deltics for comfort in their musty pockets. 

Templecombe station closed along with the S&DJR in March 1966 as part of a master plan to get people into their cars, because much like today, those in power had their fingers in all sorts of pies only of benefit to themselves. But then in October 1983 a successful local campaign saw Templecombe reopen with the signalbox here also becoming the ticket office. That probably upset a few at The Ministry of Misery in that there London. 

I’ve been messing about a lot with neg scanning recently with my 20 year old Epson and somewhat newer mirrorless and DSLR cameras. The results are great from the scanner considering its vintage, but a DSLR or mirrorless has the edge when pixel peeping - or more accurately film grain peeping. But when using a digital camera for capture of 6x6cm square negatives you only use part of the sensor, unless you want a 35mm frame shaped crop. So this shot is the result of an experiment taking two exposures filling the frame fully (one of the top part of the neg, then the other of bottom) and then using the automatic ‘Photomerge’ tool in Photoshop to assemble the image taking full advantage to the sensor size, and of course nice big negative. 

Original pic taken on my late 1950s vintage Rolleicord 5a, Kodak Tri-X 400. Digitised with my Nikon Z5 and a 55mm Micro Nikkor, illuminating the neg with my film era lightbox. The neg to positive conversion, and grade happening in Photoshop.


 Go on, you know you want to….

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Under Fiery Skies

In the south of the UK we had a quite spectacular sunrise this morning. Young hearts, Deidre from the butter blending department at the Bason Bridge creamery and farmer George are up bright at early to watch the morning goods from Evercreech potter about in the small goods yard at Catcott Burtle under fiery skies. Being young loves, you’d have thought they’d still be in bed having a bit of rumpy-pumpy, but for them this is the next best thing, the huffing and puffing engine also being hot and sweaty. 

On the left we can just see Waving Wally, brother of Waving Wayne and Waving Willy. That’s him in the cab of the Sentinel steam lorry waving at Deidre, George and the engine crew. Like his siblings, Wally has been waving nonstop ever since he was 2 minutes old. 

Family mealtimes are quite messy with everything flying about due to the waving, porridge making a particular mess when it sets solid on the ceiling, making it particularly difficult to remove due to Wally, Willy and Wayne’s mother being only 4ft 2 inches tall. She’s tried to get her boys to clean up, but they just make even more of a mess. 


And finally, you can chip in to buy 3 straight jackets to make mealtimes in the Waving household less messy

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Ivan’s Bentley

A blustery November Tuesday down at the canal wharf sees average-photographer Ivan Locksmith and Barry Bullhead watch Bath shed’s LMS 2P rumble through. This is quite a rare occurrence, because 40564 is the only one still allocated to Bath, all the others having been turned into razor blade and Austin Healey Sprites. 

Ivan is a bit of a fan of celebrated above-average photographer Ivo Peters, and has just bought an almost identical Bentley to Ivo’s, but Ivan’s is not nearly as shiny. He preferring to grow stuff that he can smoke in his huge greenhouse rather than polish cars. And anyway, I imagine Ivo probably has ‘staff’ to do such menial chores. However Ivan did get Nasal Nigel to take this photo so he and his new car could feature. Don’t worry, Nigel was under strict instructions to only the press the shutter release and not touch the lens, bellows or any of the controls, including cocking the shutter - though Nigel was rather hoping he’d be allowed to do that bit

And finally, next to The Pedant & Armchair we can see love-hearts Deidre and George waiting for the pub to open. We’ve not seen so much of them recently, for they have been rather involved with each other out of the public eye. 


Ivan’s camera needs a professional deep clean after Nasal Nigel touched it, you can help here

Monday 20 November 2023

Monochrome Monday

Monochrome Monday! 

 There appears to be some kind of exchange in between The Pedant & Armchair and the colliery. Probably to do with the price of cod or why the beer in the pub is always awful. We'll probably never know - but the little people were in just the right place to grab a still. Click!
By the way, this is a real monochrome photo taken on B&W film dunked in the developer by yours truly and then slapped in the scanner. I used my old Nikkormat FT2 with a 55mm Micro Nikkor and a roll of Ilford FP4. I took a couple of shots, this one at f4 and another one at f22. I decided on the f4 image, preferring the narrow depth of field as a change from the regular and possibly slightly tardy 'get everything in focus style' style.

Saturday 18 November 2023

‘Revitalising Tonic for the Anaemic Elderly’

A lovely summer Saturday morning in August at Catcott Burtle crossing, as Waving Willy, husband of crossing keeper Daphne Dando waves the Evercreech Junction to Highbridge goods through whilst she cooks a delicious fry-up. 

This turn is normally hauled by a ‘Bulldog’, the S&DJR nickname for a 3F 0-6-0 tender loco of S&DJR/Midland origin. The ‘tender’ for Class 37 fanatics, is separate to the engine and is used for carrying coal and water - not because the engine is sore and bruised because it had a fight with some buffer stops. Though that does happen from time to time if the brakes fail on the steep run down from Coombe Down Tunnel into Bath Green Park Station. Which is in Bath by the way, and quite close to a park. 

Brakevan aficionados will notice the former GWR 6-wheeled brakevan still in GWR livery, this is because it’s been stuck doing the daily goods turn between Bridport and West Bay for years and years carrying shingle and pickled winkles. But having finally escaped the doldrums, will likely soon be repainted and re-numbered in that of British Railways. 

You’ll notice Clive in the veranda, he’s unofficially guarding a stash of recently bottled moonshine heading for Highbridge market, it being cunningly labeled as ‘Revitalising Tonic for the Anaemic Elderly’. It will sell out within minutes, because Highbridge is not the most exciting of places. 


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Friday 17 November 2023

High-Vis & Traffic Cones.

A dull misty autumn morning at Fountain Colliery - it’s Front End Friday again!

Harry the Hammer has eagerly awaited the arrival of the empty coal wagons and unreliable locomotive for hours. And of course as usual it’s almost the end of his shift. It’s always near the end of his shift as regular readers will know, irrespective of the time of day of night, or any time in between. 

There will almost certainly be something he can whack with his hammer, if only to check for cracked wheels. If all the wheels are okay, he’ll simply whack harder. Sadly his parents never let him have a wooden toy toolkit as a child. He has issues. 

Meanwhile high-vis Harold watches the locomotive and train grind to a halt. Note his fetching orange jacket, of which he has many, one for each day in fact. He likes anything orange, including oranges, though he’s not too keen on fruit, but he does have one of those new fangled plastic traffic cones, in florescent orange of course. Rumour has he nicked it from the new M4 motorway they’re building near Chepstow. 


Thank you those who support these posts from time to time…

Thursday 16 November 2023

Film, it’s the New Vinyl

A few weeks ago for the price of a small round of drinks on FleaBay, I picked a late 1950s Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 from some chap reducing his collection of vintage cameras who lives on some remote island somewhere between Scotland and Iceland. 

There were many variations of this camera over the years, on what is effectively a pre-war design. The one featured here has an f4.5 Nova Anastigmat 3 element design, of which the results definitely give a vintage vibe, especially to the out of focus areas away from the centre of the frame - the geeks call it ‘bokeh’, which I have to say is the most horrible term. I pronounce it ‘bokkeh’, but noticed that the posher YouTubers say ‘bouquet’ as in a bunch of flowers. 

Back in the day I did all my own processing and printing, and in recent times have been going through my old negatives digitising them. I’m must admit that I’ve been getting rather hooked and amazed at the detail and tonal range captured on them. With often negatives that didn’t yield great results printed 40 years ago now positively shining when scanned and then edited in Photoshop. And of course any blemishes can be removed in seconds, unlike in the old days when I had to use diluted Indian ink and a tiny brush, or heaven forbid scraped with a scalpel to removed black dots due to dust in the camera. 

With the success and enjoyment scanning old negatives, I’ve been keen to produce some new material, and after a little lab processing and scanning from new photos taken to exercise my old Nikons and Rolleicord have decided to develop my own negatives again. The pics here being my first results since the early 1990s. 

It’s rather like riding a bicycle, and of course your never forget that smell of fixer under the fingernails. And it costs a fraction if you do it yourself, though winding that first roll of 120 film onto the processing spiral did fill me with fear - but there again it did all those years ago. But I never did lose a roll. 

I won’t be printing again though, I have enough old prints stuffed into envelopes in boxes that will ultimately end up in landfill I’m sure, so I’m happy to embrace ‘hybrid’ analogue/digital photography - and of course I can always get the occasional digital print made, which to my eyes look every bit as good as traditional wet prints but without blacking out windows and making a mess. 

Most local camera shops no longer sell processing gear and chemicals, but a quick Google will find several online suppliers who appear to offer far more choices these days than I ever recall back in the day. I think shooting film has become the new vinyl, or to beer fans, the photography equivalent of some groovy craft beer in a wacky colourful tin with all sorts of ingredients that will make most old school CAMRA members shudder.  

The more practical types will probably say ‘why’ when modern digital cameras if used properly yield such great results? 

Why do we walk when we could drive, why do we paint a picture when we can grab a photo and pop it through a ‘painting’ app, why go to the pub rather than sit at home? For me it's the process and the journey as much as the final result. Sure modern digital photography is wonderful - I embrace it fully, I have to for the day job. But it's a very sterile process, and for me increasingly dull and possibly a little too easy. I also hate the fact that modern cameras are ultimately disposable items, with a lifespan of only a few years. Whereas a film camera, if properly looked after will last a lifetime. If not longer. 



Zeiss Nettar 75mm f4.5 Nova Anastigmat 120 folding bellows camera

Ilford HP5 plus 400, developed in D76 1+1 for 13mins. 

Epson 4870, Photoshop CC 2023. 

Location, Guildford UK. 


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Wednesday 15 November 2023

Six Feet Under

Barry Bullhead from the Ministry of Misery and Doug, West of England Grave Digger Championship winner, 1955-58 watch the the Frome goods trundle through. 

Doug has spent the last couple of hours packing ballast under the watchful eye of Barry Bullhead, Barry being a time and motion man amongst his other more nefarious activities. But he should be careful, because Doug has the ability to put him 6 feet under without trace in under 90 seconds. 

For those unfamiliar with this location, or certainly from this angle, the building to the left is the side of The Pedant & Armchair pub with the line to the right going up into Polbrook Gurney Colliery. 


Thank you those who support these posts from time to time…

Tuesday 14 November 2023

Tiddles the Fibreglass Cat

As I look out at the late autumn morning thinking that winter is just around the corner, a quick rummage through my back catalogue produces this summery one. 

Here we have the service from Bridgwater arriving at Combwich, the Bridgwater line being former GWR (it’s confusing, I’ll dig out a map one day) usually producing a train to reflect such. 

Bob Geeza Cat’s half brother, Fibreglass Tiddles surveys the scene from the comfort of the gangers’ trolley shed. He loves that spot, because the ageing felt roof is always nice and warm, even though he’s made from 60% fibreglass stuffed with crushed wood fibre insulation. 

Between you and me, I’m not sure he’s a real cat, but purely a decorative ornament to keep rodents at bay, because he’s not moved from this spot for getting on for 17 years now. And of course Bob being a cheeky cat loves nothing better than a good yarn, he being a bit of a Geeza cat. 


Producing this level of drivel requires lubrication…

Sunday 12 November 2023

Half a Lifetime Ago

Fresh from the time machine, taken by me when I was a cherub. The level crossing at Dunbridge Railway Station on the Romsey to Salisbury line grabbed on the 25th of June 1984. Very much an everyday scene, with motor vehicles being as interesting as the railway. 

Apart from trees and of course train and cars, not too much has changed if Google Streetview is anything to go by. Those trees grow so quickly, but I suppose 40 years is actually quite a long time. But to me doesn’t feel so long ago, which is slightly worrying because I’ll have been pushing up daisies for quite some time 40 years from now, unless I have my head preserved in jar and powered by a battery as in one of those scenes in Futurama. 

I’m pleased to see that the pub still trades with sadly so many being lost in recent times. It even has a skittle alley, that’s definitely a rarity in this day and age. 

I’ve included a cropped in version of the main photo so the various numbers can be easily read, for I know that such gets a few of you all excited and will make your already squeaky voices go up an octave.


Friday 10 November 2023

Don’t Ask For a Tutorial

Not quite fully front end Friday. 

Digging through my archive this one popped up, sorry, I can’t create a new photo everyday, I do actually have a life, contrary to what many might think who’ve never met me. But, on TV we have repeats all the time - with certainly in the UK at least ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’ and of course the entire back catalogue of 007 James Bond movies competing for the most repeated films ever on TV. 

This one passed in front of my lens around 10 years ago, and is the result of messing about with the various ‘motion blur’ tools within Photoshop, of which there are many. Of course if I had a long enough powered bit of track I could do something like this for real in-camera panning with a slow shutter speed, and probably several takes. But it is what it is. And anyway the photo plank used here is only the length of a yard of Peco flexi-track, which just so happens to be a yard long, or just under a metre, whatever that is. 

In Photoshop, use of ’normal’ motion blur was used for the overall image (but less in the middle), and ‘circular’ motion blur for the wheels. And of course a bit of patience working on the different areas. Don’t ask for a tutorial though, but I’m sure if you’re really interested you can find plenty of ‘how doos’ on that World Wide Web thing.


Thank you those who help keep these posts regular

Thursday 9 November 2023

Titfield Thunderbolt Thursday

Titfield Thunderbolt Thursday 

Barry Bullhead and Terry Tuttle-Thomas Smythe are impressed by the new paint job applied to the ancient carriage - it looking just like in ’that film’. 

With built in bar, comfy cushions (the bare wooden benches are very uncomfortable) and open verandas, it will almost certainty be a success drawing in fans of ‘that film’ who want to role play the characters and stars who featured in the Ealing Studios’ comedy. 

Meanwhile, Colin standing over next to the engine is hoping that it won’t rain, for he struggled to get exterior gloss enamel paint in the required colours and had to resort to interior emulsion paint. 


Producing this level of drivel requires lubrication…

Wednesday 8 November 2023

Polluted Pond

Wednesday morning by the polluted pond. At the rear of the pub, Deliberation Dave and Ned Notebook negotiate a deal for a few jars of moonshine - this might take some time. 

Meanwhile Little Jim on the footplate rumbles past Eddy Ballcock and Barry Bullhead checking flangeway clearances. Just another busy day in my rose tinted parallel universe of olden times.

And finally, the apples are huge this year, must be the polluted pond.


Producing this level of drivel requires lubrication…

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Bristol 1984


Highgrove St, Totterdown 

A few more pics from the time machine. Bristol November 1984 mostly in the Totterdown area. Almost 40 years on, many of these scenes are unrecognisable now. 

Location in Bristol unknown 

Highgrove Street, Totterdown 

Highgrove Street, Totterdown 

Highgrove Street, Totterdown 

Oxford Street, Totterdown. This is now a bakery. 

Location unknown. Do you know where in Bristol?

Monday 6 November 2023

Monochrome Monday

It’s a dull and damp November Monochrome Monday deep in The Forest. There has been some engineering further down the line, and a ballast train from the overrunning weekend engineering has arrived unusually hauled by a Class 20. It has arrived at the colliery to run around its train of ‘Dogfish’ ballast hopper wagons before returning the Lydney. For the number crunchers, it’s 20064 ‘River Sheaf’, and apparently a bit of a celebrity locomotive in spotterdom. 

The wagon on the left has been parked up here at the colliery all weekend, after suffering a fault with one of its brakes, however it’s now been fixed by Malcolm the Mallet using a mallet of course, for that is the only tool he owns. The wagon will be attached to this train and head for Lydney shortly. 

That’s Malcolm looking a little cold standing next to the offending wagon, but with his work done for today, he’ll be heading over to The Miners for a jug or three of finest whilst warming up next to the pub’s open fire. 

You can buy Malcolm a beer here

Saturday 4 November 2023

Gone all Titfield

Saturday morning down on the docks. And it looks like everyone has gone Titfield Thunderbolt mad. The little people have even managed to put a train together much like the one in the celebrated film. 

Barry Bullhead and Terry Tuttle-Thomas-Smythe are keen to sell their illicit booze on the train which has a fully fitted bar, so here they are striking a deal with Colin who is a bit of a pushover. Sorted. 

Deliberation Dave is eyeing up the wonderful paint job on the coach, the fetching colours being in the half price sale at Brian & Quentin’s Hardware in Bridgwater, locally known as ‘B&Q’. 

And finally Hubert the conversational Latin speaking horse has been promised a ride in the brakevan. And if he clenches tightly, he should just about be able to get through the door and enjoy the journey from the veranda as he mutters “Utinam spatium mihi habeas, stricta tene, ego ingredior!”


Producing this level of drivel requires lubrication…

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Dreary Daniel and His Drewery Diesel

Dreary Daniel and his Drewery diesel pull a short rake of empties out of the canal wharf siding before reversing up the 1 on 20 grade into the colliery on the right. It’s one of the steepest unassisted gradients apparently, but just a handful of wagons isn’t really an issue, for the wagons going up are empty. 

Really wet days can be slightly more of a challenge, especially when water and oil form a really slippery buttery emulsion which limits things to only 3 empty wagons going up. But coming down with anything up to 10 fully loaded wagons can be quite exciting, for even with the locomotive wheels locked the train will continue slide on its own. But that’s half the fun, for otherwise Daniel’s life is a little dull, he being a keen stamp collector and hobbyists tile-grouter on his days off. 

In the past there was talk of building an aerial conveyor to transport the coal from the colliery to the wharf, but these days there is unlikely to be any further investment. At Polbrook Gurney Colliery the coal seams, like many of those in the Somerset coalfield are very thin, erratic and difficult to mine, so it’s likely that the colliery close soon. 


Producing this level of drivel requires constant lubrication…