FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Blood, custard and a splash of mud

Posted in East Grinstead, England, Horsted Keynes, Sheffield Park by folkestonejack on February 26, 2014

The prospects for a photo charter on the Bluebell Railway in late February did not seem terribly encouraging given the horribly wet start to the year, so it was more than a little surprising to turn up at Sheffield Park to find a beautifully clear sky and all the promise of a good day on the lineside. The forecasts looked pretty rubbish for the week as a whole, so this was more than a little lucky…

Black Five 45231 with the Blood and Custards

Black Five 45231 with the Blood and Custards

The motive power for the photo charter was to be Black Five no. 45231 (without her nameplates) which has been on loan at the Bluebell Railway since 22nd October 2013. Today’s run was expected to be the last steaming of the privately owned locomotive, as things stand, before the loan finishes in March 2014 and provided an opportunity to see her with two sets of stock that she would be unlikely to haul normally – the “blood and custard” liveried Mk1 coaches and the BR era P-Way wagons.

Our day began with the Black Five on the “blood and custard” set with some glorious sunshine to get things rolling, making our way up to Horsted Keynes by mid morning where we switched to the P-Way wagons for a couple of runs past Great Oddynes. My tastes have always been a little biased towards freight and industrial scenes, so this was just marvellous to photograph – even if it did mean standing in mud soup! The condition of the field was certainly confirmation of just how incredibly saturated the land in southern england is at the moment.

After this brief switch, we returned to the “blood and custard” set for the run up to East Grinstead. We had the entire line to ourselves for the day and were privileged to be the first photo-charter allowed to use the extension. This gave us a marvellous opportunity to get some shots from Hazleden which is normally “out of bounds” to photographers. The number of good locations on the extension are limited but this spot was definetly worth the trip up the line.

Black clouds begin to gather at Hazleden

Black clouds begin to gather at Hazleden

Photographers are normally cursed by the sun disappearing at the wrong time, so the beauty of a photo-charter is the ability to call the locomotive at the moment the sun seems set to appear. There is quite an art to timing the arrival of a loco to match a short break in cloud cover and this skill proved to be a necessity as the clouds steadily built up through the morning. Nevertheless, our luck with the weather seemed to be holding pretty well – rain only arriving after we had returned to Sheffield Park for a short lunch stop.

Black five and BR era P-Way wagons

Black Five and BR era P-Way wagons

In the afternoon we focused on the stretch of line between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes, mostly using the BR era P-Way wagons and travelling between locations in the Queen Mary brake-van. The various pools of water along the line provided some interesting opportunities to attempt shots with the locomotive reflected in the water, although this worm’s eye view of the word necessitated an embrace of the muddy ground that few of us relished!

Playing with reflections

Playing with reflections

The weather gods had been incredibly kind to us and even the sudden delivery of a hail storm mid-afternoon was not enough to put us off our stride. Indeed, the sight of our P-Way train beautifully lit against a backdrop of black skies was one of my favourite moments of the day. So simple but incredibly effective.

After hail and rain, back to sun...

After hail and rain, back to sun…

Our day finally ended with a glint shot at Freshfield Bank which I kind of fluffed, but in a day of rich photographic opportunities it was impossible to be disappointed! All in all, this was a terrific photo-charter, brilliantly organised by Jon Bowers. Thanks to all the crews and signalmen for making it possible for such a wonderful day to work to its fullest potential.

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