Bodmin & Wenford Railway

I am partial to a heritage railway. You might have noticed that with my trips to the Swanage Railway, the Bluebell Railway, and the time I took a walk just to see 60163 Tornado go past. There’s a lot to love of course – the lovely details of a steam engine are great to photograph, especially in monochrome, and the sight of a steam train chuffing plumes of smoke in the countryside is a classic photograph. There’s often old artefacts around and about a heritage railway station too, full of interesting textures and surfaces. Luckily there’s heritage railways all over the country, with various trains to see and ride.

So of course, whilst we were on holiday in Cornwall in 2018, we figured it was worth taking a trek over the county to see the steam railway in Bodmin. And before you ask, yes: these photos were shot in 2018, edited during lockdown in 2020, and are being posted in 2023. Another reminder I didn’t want about how quickly the last five years have just disappeared.

Being five years ago there won’t be much recollection so we’ll just be focussing on the photography. Which is probably for the best if I’m honest.

On steam that day was 4247.

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 100, 28mm

And as is proper, the staff were dressed in traditional, period-accurate clothing.

1/640sec, f/4, ISO 100, 100mm

To emphasise the oldness of it all, I put some of the images through Analog Efex Pro to make them look a bit more old-fashioned.

1/250sec, f/4, ISO 100, 35mm

Some of those textures I mentioned at the start: these old milk jugs.

1/1250sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

Something else I’m partial to when photographing railways, new or old: the perspective lines when shooting along a platform (this one has been put through Analog Efex too).

1/400sec, f/4, ISO 100, 92mm
1/80sec, f/8, ISO 100, 24mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 100, 32mm

I am also partial to a lot of the machinery and mechanical detail of a steam railway. From the mechanism of the wheels to the valves and gauges of the driver’s cabin, I love how they look, especially the textures and details when they’re dirty.

1/50sec, f/4, ISO 250, 60mm
1/160sec, f/4, ISO 100, 75mm
1/320sec, f/4, ISO 100, 105mm

Some of these textures come from the old tatty luggage. My parents used a suitcase like the one at the top of this pile until well into the 90s.

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

Eventually we got on the train for a ride.

1/1000sec, f/4, ISO 400, 24mm

On board there were still some amazing perspective shots and textured surfaces to be had.

1/40sec, f/4, ISO 500, 45mm
1/80sec, f/4, ISO 500, 32mm

We rode the railway to the other end of the line, and then alighted to get some more photographs of the railway at work. Unfortunately, whilst the volunteers generally kept themselves dressed in a way appropriate for the age of steam, they still afforded themselves some modern luxuries. So whilst at first glance this image might look largely accurate – he’s even drinking his tea out of a lovely metal 60s mug – you’ll probably soon notice the massive anachronistic digital watch.

1/160sec, f/4, ISO 320, 50mm

Although his tea mug was a lovely shade of green.

1/125sec, f/4, ISO 320, 105mm

There was also the opportunity to get a few more mechanical shots of inside the cab.

1/25sec, f/4, ISO 250, 58mm
1/30sec, f/4, ISO 250, 105mm

At this end of the line, there were a lot of opportunities to get some perspective shots of the trains, this time with some engineers at work.

1/640sec, f/4, ISO 100, 55mm
1/400sec, f/4, ISO 100, 95mm
1/250sec, f/5, ISO 100, 180mm
1/320sec, f/4, ISO 100, 67mm
1/640sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm

On the train back I snapped a few shots of the trackside scenery.

1/160sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 100, 40mm

When we got back to Bodmin, the signal box was open for viewing.

1/320sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm
1/640sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm
1/15sec, f/4, ISO 100, 32mm

It also allowed for a slightly more elevated view of the train on the platform.

1/400sec, f/8, ISO 100, 24mm

As you can see, I had the sense back then to shoot at f/8 to get more of the train in focus – an example of the sort of thing I’ve started to forget over the last few years of not shooting so much.

One of the other textures you find a lot around heritage railways is old advertising signage. Most of it was metal signs so over the decades they’ve usually picked up a bit of patina or rust making them far more interesting.

1/160sec, f/4, ISO 100, 45mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 100, 35mm

Right at the end of our visit, we left the station itself, and headed towards one end of the car park, where we could get a bit of a look at the train yard I photographed from the train earlier.

1/320sec, f/4, ISO 100, 24mm
1/320sec, f/4, ISO 100, 82mm
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 100, 88mm
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 100, 55mm

That was the end of this trip to the railway. It was also the last thing we did on our 2018 trip to Cornwall, but thanks to the odd way I’m releasing things there’s plenty of images still to come from that holiday, once I figure out how to categorise them.

We’ve also been back to the Bluebell Railway since as well, so there’ll be more steam train photos too at some random point in the future.


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