Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Witches of Wansford

Saturday night was Halloween with Thomas at Wansford, and I went down as general factotum to help out here and there – my task was mainly to get the 150 odd participants on and off the special train at Wansford and Yarwell, then generally hang around; something I excel at.

After a thoughtfully provided fish n’ chip supper, I manned the ticket barrier to greet the arrivals, and I have to say the effort and time put into costumes – both adult and children – was incredible.  The station had been decorated by Jayne and her ever hard working team and certainly looked the part.

Thomas took the train through the haunted tunnel, and of course we really laid the ghost-who-lives-in-tunnel on thick and got huge cheers, ooohhh’s and general screaming from the carriages, although this had more to do with Jayne’s broomstick and Eddie’s backside rather than supernatural occurrences.

On arrival at Yarwell we got everyone off the train and those of us on duty were handed a Chinese lantern and told to set it off.  And how do we do that?  “Take it out of the plastic bag and set it on fire,” was the ever-helpful response.

Upon opening the plastic bag, I discovered that inside it I had a paper bag.  No, sorry, I stand corrected.  An orange paper bag with some string and cardboard in it, and some crudely applied black paper eyes and a mouth.  It was a pumpkin paper lantern. It wasn’t just an ordinary pumpkin paper lantern.  It was an incredibly cheap and naff pumpkin paper lantern that even Poundland felt that they were overcharging for.  By around 99p.

Eventually I managed to set mine on fire, although as Angie helpfully pointed out, setting fire to the outside wasn’t going to help much.  I’m not sure that I agree …

Chinese lanterns that you simply light and send soaring over the 
Nene Valley in an artistic and dramatic manner.  
Ours were nothing like this.

All ten lanterns eventually got lit and sent on their merry way.  One made it as far as the nearest carriage and crashed; four made it over the train and landed in the trees which presented the possibility of a lineside fire nearly in November (a first for any preserved line) whilst the remainder took off in spectacular style and sailed away into oblivion before landing on a Mondeo in Nassington and trashing the paintwork.

Now that we’d established a level, everyone got back on the train and returned to Wansford.  All passengers were helped to disembark so that they could go for food, party games and storytelling.  That was me done as I don’t do party games or story telling, except to my boss who wanted an explanation about the dent in the back of the artic I used on Friday.

So, I went and got the camera, as I fancied a night shoot around Wansford station.  Naturally I tried taking pictures of Thomas, but I needed a 30 second time exposure to capture the lighting, and no one could manage to keep out of the viewfinder for that amount of time.  The longest uninterrupted shot was 15 seconds, so that will have to do.

Away from the Halloween shenanigans there were some good opportunities, the best one being as Thomas shunted the coaches out of the station.  I managed to create this image of a train speeding through Wansford Station at night, which I particularly like.

As the party wound down I sought out the three resident witches who had been doing the entertainment, food and  - pretty much everything really.  Mavis, Jayne and Pat had really got into character and were only too happy to pose for photos.  Well, they’re certainly different from my usual models I have to say, and they did have a tendency to fondle their brooms that made the photo session look more like an audition for a porn movie rather than a children’s party.  Jayne’s face lit up when she found she had a broom to straddle, and getting her to pose motionless for a long exposure shot wasn’t going to happen.  She seemed to be thoroughly enjoying some questionable antics with a broom between her legs.  I shall say no more.  Happy Halloween!

 Getting the evil eye from Witch Pat

Jayne enjoying her prop way too much.

Sunday was the final running day of the 2010 season; so I went down to do booking office.  It was a dull, wet day and rather quiet, although as I had company in the booking office with Geoff, plus Liz and Percy next door in the shop, the time passed quickly and pleasantly enough.  I popped out to take a shot of the last train of the season departing Wansford on the final run – we were using Austerity No. 22, which made a fine sight heading down the line for Peterborough.

Well, that’s the season done.  Since joining the Nene Valley in February I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of something that manages to be interesting, rewarding, friendly and often wacky as my posts have shown.  I enjoy going down most weekends, have made many new friends as a result and come across a lot of very pleasant people both on and off the trains.

The railway takes a break from passenger service until the Santa Specials start on 28th November, although much behind the scenes work by the unsung hard working teams such as loco maintenance, Signal & Telegraph, Permanent Way, Carriage and Wagon etc continues unabated out of the public eye.  There is a special train next Saturday in connection with a fireworks display at Ferry Meadows, and I’m planning to be on it – so the story continues…

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Fowler Play at Ferry Meadows

It’s been three weeks since my last visit to the NVR, unless you include the lingerie photoshoot for the calendar project, so it was great to go back after such an unusually long gap on Sunday – in full TTI uniform, not lacy skimpies I hasten to add.  The season closes next Sunday, so this was my penultimate turn of duty for the year, other than a couple of one-off special events I’m popping down for.  The year seems to have positively flown by since I joined the railway back in February.

Sunday’s timetable was the easy three-train schedule, with Thomas in steam between Wansford and Yarwell as it’s the school holidays, and 4F 44422 back in service working the main service down to Peterborough.  Although chilly, the skies were crystal clear, and bright sunshine brought out the crowds – better than some summer running days, I noticed.  All three trains loaded well, so there was plenty to keep the star team busy – Eddie and myself on TTI duty, Matt as Guard and Laura adding glamour and some down to earth commonsense in her usual manner as trainee Guard.  With Stephen on the bar I was guaranteed a decent cup of coffee – it takes a long time to train people how to make a drinkable cuppa, but the effort pays off in the end.

The atmosphere on board the train was good, and the day was only marred by some idiots who decided to get off a train at Ferry Meadows after it had been waved off and was already in motion – this despite a 5 minute dwell time as we loaded a large group of people and all their accompanying baby buggies, prams, bikes, toys and nappy changing bags and a fridge freezer.  Okay, I made that bit up.  They didn’t have any nappy changing bags.

Next weekend is the finale of the season, with Thomas's Halloween Party on Saturday night.  I’ve been roped into helping out with this event, and although the NVR props department has run out of scary masks, Jayne assured me that I don’t need one.  “Just come as you are dear; your face will scare the living daylights out of anyone.”

It’s that sort of kind, warm-hearted appreciation that has kept me going back to the NVR week after week!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Playing Catch Up

An experimental night shot of D1062 taken during War Weekend in September.  I liked the idea enough to go and buy a shutter release cable; so much simpler than holding my breath!

As I have a couple of days off work due to a recent wisdom tooth extraction that ended in a hot balloon taking up residence in my mouth, I’ve been using the time to catch up on things at home.  I've even found time for some sleep - until the painkillers wear off, at least.

For the first time in many months I’m not spending a weekend down at the NVR as I have commitments elsewhere.  However, I still managed to fit in a trip during the week as part of a photographic assignment for a lingerie shoot that I covered here.  During the shoot I was pleased to run into Paul, who writes the informative blog ‘A Personal View of The NVR.’  Paul is based in Carriage & Wagon maintenance and generally works on the railway during the week – consequently we’ve never actually met.  He was working on one of vanfit wagons that has kept him occupied for some time, so I strolled over for a chat while Sian was away getting changed between shoots.  It’s always pleasant to meet a new volunteer on the railway and put a face to the name, particularly when you’re following their work through blogs and can see the progress with each visit.  Without such things, few people would ever get to know what happens in different areas of the railway to the one you work in yourself.

I'm sure you've spotted it already - but just in case you're not paying attention, Paul's Vanfit is second from left, partially hidden by the post.  Other interesting features in this picture are the rusty oil drums, lots of chain and the clever juxtaposition of the signal in relation to the shed.  Anything else I've missed?

I’ve added galleries to my Steamy Scenes website so that everything should now be up to date.  I still haven’t got captions done, and all I’ll say is don’t hold your breath.

Some time ago I uploaded a new video entitled The Blue Train.  I was busy and forgot to blog it, but essentially it took the premise of The Orient Express and covered a grand European rail journey.  In Cambridgeshire, owing to budgetary requirements.  Mostly filmed during the heatwave in June, there are some striking and colourful scenes in the film.  I’ve used the music before in an early film, but make no apologies for a second outing as it suits the concept and the actual train very well.

On Saturday I’m back at a model railway show as I’m demonstrating for Ten Commandments.  I can’t say that I’m overly excited at the prospect, as I had to turn down a paid photographic shoot for a 16th birthday party because the dates clashed.  Beards, bellies, BO and bullshit.  Bring it on!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Rainy Days & Diesels

October already!  Where has the year gone?  It barely seems a few weeks since I joined the NVR and began life as a working volunteer at the Diesel Gala in March – and now here I am, a seasoned veteran officiating at the autumn diesel gala, which is the final big weekend event in the railway’s calendar.

The gala ran for three days, and I worked Saturday and Sunday on the trains as TTI.  Overall the atmosphere was pretty good, although there was the usual lack of manners and politeness that accompanies these events – in marked contrast to steam and family days.  This was particularly noticeable after last week’s 1940’s event where everyone was open and friendly.  The diesel crowd, by and large, stick their heads into Nikons and timetables and generally ignore everyone else around them unless they are part of their particular clique.  They also resent being asked to show tickets on board the trains, but the reason we ask to see them is that the diesel followers are notorious for resenting having to pay to travel on the trains in the first place – hence the need for regular inspections!  Also, because they insist on leaving one train at a station and then jumping aboard another train to go back behind a different loco, they come across several roving TTI’s during the day – but as we may not have seen them before, we don’t know that, “I’ve shown you my ticket a dozen times already.”  C’est la vie.

That aside, things went rather well.  We had a dazzling selection of motive power to hand, from class 08 up to 66 with pretty much everything in between.  Highlights of the gala depended upon personal preferences, but for me the class 52 Western D1062 Western Courier in maroon livery topped the bill, with 50135 Ark Royal close behind.  The Hoover was adorned in Loadhaul livery, which of course it never carried, so I wasn’t expecting to be impressed.  In the event, however, the loco actually suited this scheme far more than some liveries it did carry in BR service.

Three rakes of coaches were pressed into service, and being the NVR, we did this in our usual quirky fashion.  Set 1 was a five-car Mk1 rake – nothing unusual there.  Set 2 consisted of the four DSB opens plus the Belgian sliding door coach.  This vehicle was, of course, incompatible with the DSB’s so had no through corridor connection.  Set 3 was the most eclectic rake of the lot.  Normally we’d use the Wagon Lit set, but this is away earning a living on a filming contract.  We could have hired in a set of coaches, but we’d sooner do things our way.  So we got the non-operational twin-car DMU, coupled it up to two spare TPO coaches and stuck a Mk 1 TSO on the end.  Passengers were permitted to travel in one TPO, which is fine if you don’t want any light or even a window to look out of.  There was also only one seat, as this was the stowage vehicle!  Let’s just say that ticket inspections in this vehicle were quick and easy …

Not quite as it may appear!  A very rare chance to 
photograph the terminally ill DMU in passenger service - sort of.

Thanks to great teamwork on behalf of the loco crews, yard staff and signalbox, we kept the intensive service running pretty much on time for all three days.  Ironically the only real slip up came on Saturday night when we ran a single rake of coaches on two Wansford – Peterborough and return trips as Beer-Ex trains.  The Western was at one end, and two 37’s at the other.  Although plenty of NVR staff would ride these trains on an off-duty basis, I’d volunteered to stay on duty for these services as I don’t generally drink so wasn’t bothered about signing off and having a pint.  What I was really after was some nocturnal photography to try out my new shutter release cable, and planned to ride the trains, photograph them back at Wansford then do a night time shoot around the depot.  What could possibly go wrong?

I soon found out.  The Western failed at Wansford.  Not a total calamity with a dozen replacement locos lying around the place, but the logistics conspired against us.  In order to stick a new loco onto the front of the train, the whole consist had to be shunted out of the station.  You can’t shunt with passengers on board, so everyone had to be turfed off.  And who do you think got handed that enviable task?  The only idiot still on duty, that’s who.  The compartment coaches weren’t so bad; stick head in, announce the bad news and run away.  The TSO was a different matter.  Located immediately behind the recalcitrant loco, this coach was full of diehard Western fans who wanted some good nocturnal Maybach thrash accompanied by a pint.  Or five.  Telling them that the loco was knackered was one thing.  Chucking them off the train was another, especially as the weather, which had been very kind all day, had now turned and was chucking it down.  People were not happy.  People let me know they weren’t happy.  I felt about as popular as a ham sandwich in a mosque.

At length Control took control and chucked 50135 on top of the Western so that we could finally get going.  And when we got going, we went in fine style.  I took an executive decision not to do a ticket inspection for health and safety reasons as I would have been a Christian entering a TSO of well-oiled lions.  Some things are best left alone.  On arrival back at Wansford it was really pouring down, and I reluctantly cancelled my photoshoot around the depot.  I did manage some nice station shots, however, as I could work undercover and experiment with timings to get the best results.  In this respect the rain actually helped out, as the wet platforms provided some reflections that illuminated the station and added to the overall scene. 

It could almost be Plymouth and The Night Riviera.

The rain continued all day Sunday, varying between heavy downpours and very heavy downpours.  Passenger numbers were lower, and working the trains was a lot easier.  It also meant that I had the chance to do a spot of photography, including legging it out of Wansford so that I could get a lineside shot of the Western in action, as opposed to station and yard shots.  This picture was worth the inevitable soaking that resulted from my mad dash – the things I do for pleasure.

D1062 leaving Newquay for Paddington in '65.  I wish!

We received some good feedback about the gala via the various relevant forums that deal in such matters, or so I’ve been told.  We were praised for the choice of locos, running the advertised service, providing the locos that we said we would run and keeping it all together.  I felt that it was a big improvement over the Spring gala, and overall the mood seemed better and less intense.  

And so that pretty much brings the Nene Valley season to a close.  We’re still running up until the end of October and round off with Thomas having a spooky Halloween evening.  This is followed by a Fireworks Fiesta on 6 November before preparations commence in earnest for the Santa Specials to complete the year.

The rain hammers down at Wansford - not readily visible here, but the full set 
of larger images should shortly appear in Steamy Scenes photo galleries.

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