Which active interest came first in me, photography or railways, I cannot now remember. It was possibly the former, although it probably rekindled the earlier of my interests which, as with most of us, started when very young. I spent school holidays at Newark and my earliest railway impressions were of apple green Pacifics and Atlantics at Kings Cross, with the occasional thrilling glimpse of a silver A4. It was always essential to arrive early so that time could be spent at the end of the platform wondering what would emerge tender first from the gloom of Gasworks tunnel to take us North.
Eight years ago I bought a 35 mm camera and immediately I was involved in a hobby which was potentially all-absorbing. I took endless photographs of trains, mostly too soon or too late, out of focus or with the wrong shutter speed. But my attempts at some sort of composition, combined with improving negative and dark room techniques, started to produce a few prints, which pictorially, were acceptable. A benevolent and tolerant British Railways produced Iineside passes which improved my scope but the diminishing number of steam locomotives, of increasingly grubby countenance, operating under English weather conditions, increased the odds against getting a good picture to an unacceptable level. It is amazing how the one single cloud in an otherwise cloudless sky obscures the sun just as you are about to record the picture of a lifetime!
Little by little, while I still took conventional photographs I also experimented with other ways of recording impressions of steam locomotives. Running sheds and stations became the biggest source of picture material. I found in such locations the necessary movement and human activity to make photography exciting, both pictorially and journalistically.
Everyday steam has disappeared from the English scene and out of it all, I have a few photographs of something which probably made a greater contribution to the social and commercial prosperity of this country than any other invention. I hope that these photographs impart some of the enjoyment I have had from my camera and the subject.
|Paul Hocquard 1. Shunting at Newmarket was performed by a real live four-legged horse, Charlie, until the end of 1966. He is seen here at the head of a horsebox in May 1966.|
|Paul Hocquard 2. Stoke Shed, No. 48729 and the coaling plant.|
|Nuovo! Paul Hocquard 3. Along the platform on a Sunday morning in March 1967, at Bradford Exchange.|
|Paul Hocquard 4. No. 45000 heads a fitted freight through Carnforth in July 1967.|
|Nuovo! Paul Hocquard 5. Finale. An LSW 4-6-0 being cut up, Eastleight works yard, August 1963.|
Colin T. Gifford
Decline of Steam
Ian Allan, London, 1965
Wigan, Worksop and Walsall are not generally recognized as places of beauty, There is, however, as much appeal to the aesthetic senses in an industrial area, as in any other locality. One could be forgiven for thinking that the ideal railway picture can only be taken at Shap, Sonning, Sapperton and the like, or on a rural branch line, provided, of course, that the sun is behind the photographer. A picture can always be made whatever the situation and given favourable conditions the possibilities are almost unlimited.
What are favourable conditions? They are not necessarily sunshine, clean engines, and picture-postcard scenery. The sea wall at Teignmouth may require sunshine to be in character, but mist and fine rain enhanced the line that traversed the Pennines from Barnard Castle to Penrith. Sheffield without its industrial haze would be as incomplete as an engine without exhaust. A grubby' ROD' is as appropriate at the head of a coal train as is a shining 'Deltic' on the 'Queen of Scots'. These are conditions I would favour, but any combination of motive power, location and weather is a challenge to the photographer. The main obstacles are those which he may impose upon himself, arising from an inability to cope with the circumstances prevailing.
Yet unforeseen circumstances can often transform what might have been a mediocre shot into a real picture, by that element of luck; conversely there is always 'the masterpiece' that failed to materialize because of that same unexpected factor. But not knowing what will happen next is a continual inspiration to me.
If he wishes to take full advantage of what his subject may offer, the conscientious observer must be in touch with it whenever possible. The railway photographer is fortunate in this respect for he can both travel on and photograph his quarry and I think it necessary that he does so in order to obtain a complete and realistic pictorial record. There is as much to be seen in and around the station as elsewhere, and those who travel by means other than rail deprive themselves of numerous photographic opportunities [condivido pienamente, ndr].
To many, the railways are a collection of numbers or machines, often divorced from their environment. Others including myself, think of them not as an entity, but as one with their surroundings. They are an integral part of our country and way of life, which, to a degree they have made; they operate day and night in all types of weather, conveying anything, be it battery chicks or road vehicles (their active competitors), from Penzance to Wick or Hastings to Holyhead.
It is not surprising that the railway has such a universal appeal. There can be little doubt that the heart of this is the fascination of the steam engine, a machine of definite character, each one possessing a personality of its own. The diesel, and, to a lesser extent, the electric locomotive lack the animation of the steam engine, but steam is not the only living part of the railway world, and when it disappears from regular service, those who love railways should still find sufficient variety and compelling atmosphere to stimulate their interest.
The decline of steam is not echoed by those interested in railways, whose numbers are increasing. Never have so many cameras been at work, recording the railway scene. Books on the subject appear more frequently, society membership grows steadily, and platform ends accommodate larger numbers of 'spotters'. It might well be that the threatened extinction of steam is the impetus. The magnetic pull of the obsolescent acts as an incentive to those dedicated to the preservation of the things we love, whether active or static, and as time passes, we shall become increasingly grateful to them.
Colin T. Gifford
|Nuovo! Crumlin Viaduct.|
|Nuovo! Saunderton next stop.|
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