Sunday, 13 September 2009

Thomas to The Rescue

Saturday morning dawned with a swirling mist around Grantham. Fantastic – I was off to the Nene Valley Railway again, and didn’t really need this. But not to worry, ten miles down the road the morning sun was burning the mist away to reveal a beautiful cloudless and sunny sky. Photographic conditions were perfect. I was heading to the NVR as it was their big gala day, entitled simply ‘1968’. The idea was that the railway would be celebrating the final year of steam traction as diesels took hold, so a varied day was on offer. In addition to an extensive passenger service, they’d also be running the Royal Mail TPO set, plus demonstration freight trains. It was the latter that piqued my interest, as I needed some footage of old style freight trains for another filming project. Combined with everything else, it promised to be a good day.

This notion ended on arrival at Wansford Station, where a small notice over the gala posters explained that due to the non-availability of the visiting locos, the event was off until October. Instead, there would be the usual off peak one-train-in-steam service. Oh, brilliant. This news had certainly broken very late in the day, as I’d been on their website quite recently. I was now in a quandary - what to do? Well, it was a lovely day; I had all my stuff and pack-up with me, and the bike was in the car ready for the Ferry Meadows and Peterborough filming sessions. Therefore, I could do some cycling around the Country Park, and photograph the odd train as it went by.

So off I went to Ferry Hill to park up and take to my two wheels. It really was a great day for cycling, and I rode up and down seeking out potential locations for a future visit. I also spent some time around Overton Lake, home of Poshboatz, and took some early morning pictures as the lake came to life. At Peterborough Nene Valley station, the wagons were parked up, so I filmed them with a view to working them into the project one way or another.

I stuck around the park for the first two runs, these featured regular but very photogenic 73050 City of Peterborough working the crimson and cream Mk 1 set. Then I decided to head back to Wansford, as I could do with a nice station arrival piece of film; something I’ve not yet managed to do. On arrival at Wansford I was able to get some great footage of 73050 running round the stock in quite a complex move that involved Thomas the Tank Engine working the Wansford to Yarwell section of the line and back.

73050 duly left for Peterborough once again, and I was left with two hours to fill. How to occupy myself became abundantly clear, when someone high up (even higher than Gordon Brown) decided that Thomas could do a bit of shunting around Wansford. An old oil tanker was detached from a freight train, carted off somewhere and dumped. Then Thomas coupled up to Deltic D9009 Alycidon, and shunted it from one depot road to another in a series of interesting moves that looked good on film – and the sight of diddy Thomas dragging a Deltic round looked pretty incongruous, I have to say! Then the tanker was returned to the siding from whence it came. The full story about Thomas's shunting day will be told in my other blog in a different style.

Thomas had his big face on throughout the day, of course, but by always filming bunker first, I was able to get plenty of seemingly industrial steam age shunting shots that actually suit my purpose just as well, if not better, than the planned freight trains. I was glad I’d decided to stay and make a day of it!

I’d planned to capture the arrival of the next passenger train and then go, but with a cloudless sky it seemed a waste, so in the event I stayed for every service – hiking off down the Nene Way to come across this particular spot where I took a nice piece of film as the train ran by.

All in all, it was a great day, and despite my initial disappointment, it turned out to exceed my expectations from the gala itself in some respects. Not only do I have some industrial freight shots, I have the bonus of City of Peterborough from some lovely unspoilt lineside locations, and the station arrival shot. And not to mention all the exercise from walking and cycling.

Now, in the past, I may have mentioned the odd mild criticism about the use of Thomas on non-kiddy days. So it’s only to fair to redress the balance on this occasion, seeing as it was Thomas who ..... I can hardly get the words out … saved the day.


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