I got wind in August that a steam train was going to be running a Saturday loop around South London, giving people lunch on an old steam train. Even better, the loop would run through Twickenham, so we could pop down to the station and see a steam train passing through. This is the sort of semi-spontaneous photo opportunity I’ve not had in a while.
60163 Tornado is actually one of the newest trains operating in the UK – it was completed in 2008, after an eighteen year project to build a replica steam engine. It now spends its time doing tours across the country – and you may have seen it a few years ago racing from London to Edinburgh against a Jaguar and a Vincent Black Shadow in one of Top Gear’s epic races.
There was nothing quite so exciting or glamorous this time. My information gave us an estimated time the train would be passing through Twickenham but I had no idea how accurate it was, so we arrived a little over five minutes early just in case, expecting to see a number of people waiting to see a steam train. I knew which direction the train would be coming from, so I set up camp at the end of one of the platforms, leaving a few lines between me and it so I wouldn’t find myself too close, and waited, hoping my information was correct.
It turns out, my information was accurate to the minute – and nobody else was expecting to see a steam engine chugging through a mainline commuter station on a quiet Saturday afternoon.
As this was one of those very short-lived photo opportunities, there wasn’t much time to play about – I just fired off a bunch of shots as it passed by, trying to get a few different types of shot despite not having opportunity to move from the spot I’d picked at the end of one of the platforms. In playing about in post, I’ve monochromed a number of the images, as the day was a bit grey and as a result the light a bit flat – despite this, I do still like the colour versions. The green livery of the engine is something to behold.
The black and white versions look the part, though – this is a proper, old-school looking steam train, despite its youth.
My wife always has wondered why, on the occasions I talk about buying a train set (something simply don’t have the space for currently, sadly), I talk about getting one set in modern times rather than the age of steam. This helped her understand: with a modern setting, I can run both new trains and the beautiful steam engines, calling the runs with the latter ‘heritage’ or some such. But I can’t have one set in the 1950s and then run a Eurostar through it because that would be an anachronism, which is the sort of thing that would really bug me.
As the Tornado got closer I opened up the shot a bit to get more of the surroundings, such as this set of admittedly quite modern signals – which I again processed in both colour and monochrome.
The next couple of shots that followed were a total accident. I had the camera set to overexpose by about a full stop for some portraits I’d been shooting at work earlier that week, and had forgotten to change it back for shooting the train. As the train came past, the relative lack of light shortened the exposure time to an extent that motion was obvious – but the end results are pretty neat.
The train continued through Twickenham Station. As it passed the platform you could get a sense of scale of the Tornado’s main drive wheels.
It then became clear just how much the Tornado was dragging. Carriages upon carriages of people enjoying a nice lunch on a rail excursion passed by behind the engine. This shot was taken after quite a few had passed us – and there was still plenty more to go.
All in all, a very brief but enjoyable photo op. I’m now keeping an eye out for any future excursions of the Tornado or any other steam train – preferably in a more photogenic location next time. I’m sure at some point we’ll actually end up as passengers.